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The TV legend spent more than 35 years as one of the nation’s most beloved interviewers before he retired in 2007. On his eponymous show, he delved into the life stories of Hollywood celebrities and those reaching fame in the UK. Sir Michael, now 85, concerned viewers of BBC Breakfast this week after he appeared “terribly frail” during a chat with Dan Walker. The ITV star, who recently released the book Like Father, Like Son, admitted his disappointment over never getting the chance to interview Frank Sinatra.
When asked who was his “holy grail”, the “one you never got on your show”, Sir Michael uttered the US singer’s name without pause.
He described the My Way crooner as “the greatest artist or singer of any man or woman in the 20th Century” and described him as “wonderful”.
The TV star admitted that he had met Sinatra once but their encounter, which he hoped would help him to land an interview, didn’t go as intended.
On the Scandinavian talk show Skavlan last year, Sir Michael said that he “tried very hard” at a party in Los Angeles but failed.
He said: “When I met Sinatra, [musician] Sammy Carr said ‘Meet Mike Parkinson, he does a great talk show’… all that sort of thing.
“Then I wandered around, Sammy went off somewhere else, I wandered around but didn’t know anyone but me and Frank Sinatra.”
Around half an hour later, Sir Michael decided to go and went up to the singer in a final bid to get him on his show.
He recalled: “I said, ‘I’m leaving now Mr Sinatra, but it was nice to have met you and hopefully I’ll see you in London’.
“He said, ‘Sure thing, David!’, I thought ‘I’ve really made a mark here.’”
Sir Michael laughed as he revealed Sinatra’s confusion and soon after received a touching comment from his interviewer Fredrik Skavalan.
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He told him: “Then I have to say Michael, that you are my Sinatra. Thank you so much for being here tonight.”
In a breakaway from the star’s traditional technique of interviewing celebrities, Sir Michael delved into his own demons on the show.
He revealed he had battled with alcoholism and it was Mary, his wife of 61 years, who convinced him to stop drinking by telling him he “looked ugly” while under the influence.
The star gave insight into his close relationship with his “very good friend” Manchester United legend George Best and also admitted that he pitied TV interviewers today.
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Sir Michael said: “When I said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen my next guest is Fred Astaire!’ they had never seen Fred Astaire in life, they had only seen him on the big screen.
“They didn’t have Facebook to find out all about him and would get to know all about the man… that’s a big difference.
“I feel sorry for interviewers today because there’s no mystery, there’s nothing to unravel.
“I had a story which I could pick at and tell and hold their fascination hopefully but today they know the story, ‘Entertain me, tell me another joke, I’ve heard that one before’.
“It’s very difficult indeed, I had the best of it without a shadow of a doubt and I’m glad I’m not doing it today, I had a cakewalk to all of these people.”
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