Paul O'Grady: Cilla's family helped me get over 'shock' of hosting Blind Date

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Arqiva British Academy Television Awards - Press Room - London

Paul O'Grady has told of the "shock" he felt when he first presented the new series of Blind Date, taking over the reins from his late friend Cilla Black.

Black, who died in August 2015 aged 72, hosted the popular dating programme for nearly two decades from 1985 until 2003, and O'Grady is now fronting the revived version of the show.

Despite his initial feeling that he should not be in Black's place, O'Grady said he was reassured by her family and friends that she would have wanted him to be doing it.

The 61-year-old told Radio Times: "It was a shock at first when I heard the music, and they said 'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host, Paul O'Grady'.

"I thought 'This isn't right, it's so synonymous with Cilla, she should be here, not me.'

"I felt like I shouldn't be doing it. It was her show."

He added: "But then I spoke to her sons and lots of people who knew her and they said 'You have to do it, because she'd want you to do it for everyone.'"

O'Grady said that Black was "very down to earth, and very, very funny".

The TV host and entertainer said he and Black bonded because of their working-class background in Liverpool.

"We knew where we were both coming from," he said.

"We both knew what outside loos were. All the stereotypical stuff."

Regaling a story of one of their many foreign holidays together, O'Grady said: "We were in America, and someone said 'What do you do?' and I said 'Oh we're undertakers, it's a family firm, and my sister, Cilla, has just won embalmer of the year', and Cilla would look at me with a poker face.

"It was a hoot because nobody knew who Cilla was, and if they didn't know who Cilla was in the States they didn't have a clue about me. That was the bliss of it.

"Afterwards we'd be laughing in the street."

O'Grady said there is a "definite skill" to being Blind Date's presenter, "because you're not interviewing celebrities, like I used to".

He said: "You're interviewing the public, so they're not as confident. You have to be easy on them.

"I don't send them up because they're sitting there on the stool, and the last thing they need is for me to devour them, so I'm very avuncular with them, I'm very kind. I'm like a brothel madam, really."

Blind Date airs on Saturday June 17 at 7pm on Channel 5.

:: The full interview is in Radio Times, on sale now.