90s game show hosts now – tragic deaths, Gladiators fling and First Dates love
15th October 2021

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Picture the scene.

It's Saturday night in the 90s. You're sat around the television waiting and suddenly a familiar theme tune comes on.

Gladiators, Crystal Maze, Blankety Blank, Blind Date – these are just some of the iconic game shows that had you shouting at your tv screens.

You watched the game shows just as much for the presenters though, as much as you did for the show itself.

Whether it was Richard O' Brien playing a harmonica while contestants tried to win a time crystal, or Pat Sharp telling the cameras to "re-run the fun", the shows wouldn't be the success they were without the familiar game show host faces we grew to know and love.

Here we look at where the hosts of popular 90's game shows are now – from first date romance, to rival game shows and tragic deaths.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

Yes, Who wants to be a millionaire really is that old.

While it only seems like yesterday that we heard Chris Tarrant's familiar voice ask us if we wanted to phone a friend, take a 50/50 or ask the audience, the show originally started in 1998.

Chris Tarrant, who was already well-known to viewers from 70s and 80s tv shows including Tiswas, watched as many tried and few succeeded in winning the jackpot.

After the show ended in 2014, Chris Tarrant has continued to appear on our tv screens in programmes including Chris Tarrant: Extreme Railways and has most recently starred in Jo Brand's Classic Comedy Sketches in 2021.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire has since returned to our screens, with presenter Jeremy Clarkson taking the role of host.

Blind Date

Originally beginning in 1985, Blind Date was a staple part of 90's television viewing, with future stars including Amanda Holden even making an appearance on the show.

Blind Date ran for 19 series, and was hosted by Cilla Black until the show ended in 2003, who during her time on the show gave us "a lorra lorra laughs" and made us feel all romantic dreaming of that special someone.

Beloved entertainer Cilla was already no stranger to television, having previously presented Surprise Surprise, but she'll forever be in our hearts as the host of Blind Date.

On August 1, 2015, Cilla Black was found dead at her home in the Costa Del Sol in Spain by her eldest son.

It was revealed that she died following a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke, as a result of a fall.

A close friend of Cilla's told the BBC following her death that the last time he saw her, Cilla had said to him that she was going blind and had arthritis, telling him that her late husband Bobby was "waiting for [her]."

When the show was rebooted from 2017-2019, Cilla's close friend Paul O' Grady stepped in as host.

Gladiators

Gladiators was one of the most popular shows of the 90's, with millions of viewers tuning into ITV on a Saturday evening to see their favourite Gladiators battle contenders in a series of challenges.

From 1992-2000, the programme was hosted by Ulrika Jonsson and John Fashanu, with help from referee John Anderson, with his iconic catchphrases including "You will go on my first whistle, you will go on my second whistle."

Since leaving Gladiators, Jonsson has appeared on the Channel 4 programme SAS: Who Dares Wins in 2021, and has continued to make appearances on programmes including Lorraine, Loose Women, Celebrity Masterchef and a Stand up to Cancer tv special in recent years.

However in a recent interview, she said that her time on Gladiators had led to her marriage breaking down, after catching the eye of a member of the Gladiators camera crew on the dance floor in this new "sexy world" of the show.

She told The Sun, "Nothing happened but I developed feelings for this man and came home a much-changed wife. I didn’t want to be at home.”

It was also reported that she dated Gladiator Hunter for over one year.

Like Jonsson, co-host John Fashanu also appeared on SAS: Who Dares Wins in 2020, and has made regular appearances on programmes including celebrity Total Wipeout and A League of their Own in 2011 and Good Morning Britain in 2018.

His current net worth is also currently estimated a huge £20 million.

Supermarket Sweep

Supermarket Sweep was another staple of 90's daytime tv, hosted by Dale Winton from 1993-2000.

It was recently rebooted for a new series in 2019, hosted by Rylan Clarke-Neal, but generations of viewers have fond memories of Dale as he watched contestants 'go wild in the aisles'.

Following Supermarket Sweep, Dale continued to host game shows including National Lottery: In it to win it from 2002-2016, and Hole in the Wall in 2008.

He even made a cameo appearance in an episode of BBC comedy show Gimme Gimme Gimme, opposite Kathy Burke in 2000.

Dale Winton died aged 62 from natural causes on April 18, 2018, with his entire £2.1 million fortune left to BBC Chief Creative Officer Mark Linsey, whose three children Dale Winton was godfather to.

It was reported that his will also asked for his ashes to be interred alongside his mother, who had died in 1976 when the presenter was just 21 years old.

He spoke about his mother's death in his 2002 autobiography, saying "I was heartbroken. That feeling has never fully gone away."

Crystal Maze

The Crystal Maze was an iconic 90s game show, originally hosted by Richard O'Brien from 1990-1993, in his stunning outfits including a leopard print coat, jeans and boots.

Richard O' Brien's eccentric onscreen personality delighted fans, with his hilarious harmonica playing and singing becoming a regular part of the show, which would often distract contestants trying to win a time crystal.

He was already known across the world as the creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, after moving to London in the 60s where he was friends with Mick Jagger's then girlfriend.

Since leaving the Crystal Maze, O'Brien has appeared onstage as the narrator in the Rocky Horror Picture Show Live in 2015, as the voice of Lawrence Fletcher in Disney series Phineas and Ferb from 2007-2015.

O'Brien suffered a stroke in 2020, telling The Guardian that he "didn’t register that something was desperately wrong," when he collapsed on the floor.

The legendary presenter was found by his wife at their home in New Zealand and has since recovered, continuing to work on audio dramas such as The Barren Author, and Disney film Phineas and Ferb: Candace against the Universe in 2020.

In 1993, the Crystal Maze was hosted by Edward Tudor Pole, known for his band Tenpole Tudor and their hit songs including Swords of a thousand men.

In the role, he showed off his punk rock flair in his costume and presenting style, until the series ended in 1995.

After the Crystal Maze, he has continued to act and has appeared in television programmes including Game of Thrones in 2012, the 2007 mini tv series of Oliver Twist and The Life and Death of Peter Sellars in 2002.

He also appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002, but the scene later didn't feature in the film.

Blankety Blank

TV legend Paul O' Grady has been a viewer favourite on our screens throughout the years, and in the 90's, he hosted popular game show Blankety Blank, from 1997-2005.

The show originally began in January 1979 and has been hosted by Les Dawson, Terry Wogan and then Paul O'Grady, as his drag persona Lily Savage, who was loved by generations of fans.

Since Blankety Blank, Paul O' Grady has hosted television programmes including Paul O' Grady: For the Love of Dogs and his own tea time talk show.

However, the popular presenter has also faced health worries in recent years, after suffering from a heart attack.

In his autobiography, Paul O' Grady: Still Standing, the popular tv star revealed that his father died of a heart attack when he was a teenager in 1973, and that in 1988, his mother had also died suddenly of a heart condition.

Paul is still a presence on our tv screens, continuing to entertain audiences on his new programme, Paul O' Grady's Saturday night line up.

Fort Boyard

Model and actress Melinda Messenger hosted adventure game show Fort Boyard from 1998-2001.

After she left the high-octane adventure show, which ran until 2003, she continued to work in television, presenting for programmes including Cowboy Builders and taking part in programmes including Celebrity Chase.

However, her tv appearances took a romantic turn in 2018 when she starred on Celebrity first dates and it was love at first sight after she met fellow star Chris Harding.

The couple dated, but later ended their relationship, with the Daily Mail reporting that Chris Harding wasn't keen on getting married.

Melinda also admitted that she wasn't keen on getting married again, following her split from ex-husband Wayne Roberts in 2012.

While she still works in TV, the star has had a career change and retrained as a psychotherapist, saying on Loose Women in 2010, "I started retraining. I thought, I have children, I have bills to pay. I was working in television and there was no sign of that letting up.

"I thought, I can carry on doing what I'm doing but how painful would that regret be? I made the decision to go for it and I've been practising for the last five years and I can tell you, it's the best thing I've ever done."

Fun House

Fun House was a game show favourite for children and young people back in the late 80s and throughout the 90s on ITV.

The show was hosted by Pat Sharp, who starred in the series alongside twins Melanie and Martina, with Pat saying that the trio still remain great friends over twenty years since the show ended.

However, the show was just as famous for Pat Sharp's mullet haircut, as it was for the challenges, until his wife eventually convinced the presenter to cut his hair.

Talking to the Guardian about his iconic look, he said, "It’s a cool thing to look back on but I couldn’t have it now. I’d look like Joe Exotic."

The legendary presenter also turns 60 this month and since leaving Fun House, can be regularly heard on Greatest Hits Radio and also makes regular appearances at retro music festivals and student union events throughout the country.

  • Gladiators

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