Friday, 6 January 2012
Blockbuster Bob Dies
I am sad today to hear the news that Bob Holness, best known as the genial host of hit quiz Blockbusters, has died aged 83. His family said he "passed away peacefully in his sleep". Holness, who suffered a number of strokes and had been in a nursing home, leaves his wife Mary, three children and seven grandchildren.
His family said: "Iconic television host and broadcaster Bob Holness passed away peacefully in his sleep during the early hours of the morning, aged 83, after his health deteriorated following a number of minor strokes over the past few years.
"Although Bob will be best remembered for being the host of the cult television programme Blockbusters, it should be mentioned Bob was also an accomplished theatre actor and his radio broadcasting career spanned over six decades.
"The famous Pinner resident was beloved by students everywhere for his catchphrase 'I'll have a P, please, Bob'." Holness was born in Natal, South Africa, but grew up in Kent after his family moved back to England. He returned to South Africa as a young man to begin a career as an actor and broadcaster that saw him star in radio plays, including one where he played an early version of superspy James Bond.
In a 2008 interview, he told the BBC: "Well, that just came up through a hole in the floor. I was doing lots of radio plays at the time but I wanted to do something a bit different, so when James Bond came up I ventured in and said yes. I had never even heard of him at the time but it became an amazing part to play and the response from listeners was terrific."
He returned to England in 1961 and became a familiar face on television, but it was roles as chairman of BBC1's Call My Bluff and host of Blockbusters that made him a household name. The quiz, which ended in 1993, featured student contestants answering a series of trivia questions based on the letters of the alphabet. A regular feature of the show saw Holness trying to keep a straight face despite facing sniggering students asking him: "Can I have a P, please, Bob?" - a question he claimed never to be fed up with hearing. The arrival of dance drug ecstasy on the rave scene also saw Holness regularly asked for an E by his student contestants.
One mark of his popularity was the widespread urban myth, believed by many, that he played the trademark saxophone solo on the Gerry Rafferty hit Baker Street. It is believed to have been started as a spoof by journalist Stuart Maconie in music paper NME in 1990.