Des is back on stage
IF, like me, you grew up watching Des O'Connor having regular giggling fits on his sofa in front of Hollywood's finest, TV legends or clubland's comics, then you probably have a soft spot for him.
For more years than he cares to remember he has been doling out wholesome entertainment with the air of a practical-joking favourite uncle.
From those years when he gamely suffered endless Morecambe and Wise cracks, through to the game shows and the chat shows, Des has been a part of our entertainment furniture for decades and thanks to that irrepressible warmth he has made himself indispensable.
Des heads to Carmarthen's Lyric Theatre on Wednesday at 7.30pm for a one-man show, and as ever it will be an unscripted affair.
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He isn't complacent, but doing what he does barely feels like work, he says.
"Spending two hours on stage being with people, hearing their stories and seeing what happens is the most enjoyable part of what I do," he adds.
"Put it this way — I have never had a job. Having a job is when you say to yourself, 'What time is it? I've got to get up and go to work. What time do I finish?'
"Real work is being in Afghanistan putting your life on the line for your country. What I do is fun."
That sense of fun is what makes Des irresistible to the camera and the audience.
"I love what I do and I have been doing it for so long that people see me as one of the family. What could be better?"
One of the advantages to being an old pro is that you can be relaxed and none-too-rigid about the format of your live shows too.
"I have a wonderful pianist with me for the live shows, but one of my favourite parts is when he goes off for a break and I ask if anyone in the audience wants to come up to accompany me.
"People assume it is set up — that there is a plant in the audience, but there never is.
"Sometimes we have a concert pianist in the theatre and sometimes I get a piano player who trained at the Les Dawson school of piano playing.
"But whatever they are like, I sing along. It is fabulous."
He might make it sound easy, but Des is no shirker.
Not only is he in his 80th year and still putting in the hours on TV, but this year has seen him turn in hundreds of performances as the Wizard in Andrew Lloyd Webber's reworking of the Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium.
It is a show his youngest is a big fan of.
"I don't have any grandchildren. They have been outlawed," he says.
"But I have just come back from Disneyworld with my son Adam, who is eight. And the world needs to look out because there is another O'Connor who can sing, dance and he's funny.
"He said to me the other day, 'I wish I was a glowworm, I never would be glum. Because how can you be miserable when the sun shines out your bum?'
"What a thing to say!"
With a clutch of grown-up daughters too, Des chats happily about his children and he clearly revels in the young lad.
"I was at Adam's sports day the other day and the headmistress called me over and said, 'Des, it is so good of you to volunteer'.
"I said yes. What have I volunteered for exactly?"
She said, 'You are in the dads' race'.
"I said is there a granddads race?
"But I nipped behind the hedge to do some warm-up exercises and there next to me, doing his, was a 6ft 4in Adonis, who happened to be Lynford Christie. He lives just down the road from me.
"I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his child so I let him win."