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Farewell Cilla Black, there's a lorra lorra people who are going to miss you

By Alex Diaz

Gloria Hunniford has revealed her shock at the death of "national treasure" Cilla Black after the entertainer died suddenly at her home in the south of Spain.

Northern Irish broadcaster Gloria had seen her friend just two weeks ago at another friend's barbecue, and called her "a true icon".

Former pop star and television presenter Cilla, who lived in Estepona on the Costa del Sol, was 72.

Cilla - who had hearing problems and arthritis - reportedly died overnight after flying to Spain with her son Robert.

"Two weeks ago today we were at a mutual friend's barbecue and I just can't believe it, really," said Gloria.

"Cilla had little niggly things that were wrong with her, like her eyesight, hearing and a bit of trouble with her knee and walking - but then anybody over 70 will recognise all of those.

"But there was nothing that day only two weeks ago that would have suggested that she had anything that was life-threatening."

Fellow Northern Ireland broadcaster Eamonn Holmes said her death marked "another passing of a legend". "Always loved being in her company," he tweeted.

"Condolences to Robert and family. She was a national treasure."

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who is in Los Angeles, said: "Such a shock to hear about Cilla's passing. She was a lovely girl who infected everyone with her great spirit. From first meeting her as a cloakroom girl at the Cavern in Liverpool, to seeing her many times since, she always had a fun-loving dignity that made her a great pleasure to be around.

"She had a fine distinctive voice and was always a bit of a laugh. It was a privilege to know and love her."

Former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr said: "I just heard the news Cilla Black has left us. She was a good friend we will all miss her. Peace to Cilla, peace and love to the family R&B xxx."

Sir Bruce Forsyth said he could not believe that Black had died at 72, as he still thought of her as a "kid".

The TV presenter and entertainer said that Black was loved by everyone and had the "common touch".

Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White in Liverpool, Cilla had said she would die happy if she passed away before illness could rob her of being able to enjoy life.

As the much-loved star approached her 71st birthday last year, she said that 75 might be an OK age to die.

She became one of the nation's favourite entertainers after transforming herself from a successful singer in the 1960s to the frontwoman on shows such as Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.

An associate of The Beatles and their manager Brian Epstein in the early 1960s, she scored two number Ones in 1964 - Anyone Who Had A Heart and You're My World - as well as enjoying many other hits, before going on to concentrate on TV.

She hosted more than 500 editions of her programmes and was the first woman to have a prime-time chat show on BBC1.

Singer Sir Cliff Richard said he will dearly miss his "outrageous" friend, who was "full of heart".

Fellow presenter Christopher Biggins, who starred alongside Cilla in Surprise, Surprise, said: "She was a wonderful friend. She was someone who was a life force, she loved to laugh and loved to enjoy herself"

Lord Grade, former executive chairman of ITV, said a once nervous Cilla soon gained a natural confidence in front of the cameras and went on to become an "enduring family favourite".

He told Sky News: "She always felt like a friend in your living room when she was on TV. A magical lady."

Cilla's life was portrayed in an ITV biopic last year, which followed the story of the typist's rise to fame.

Cilla, which starred Sheridan Smith and pulled in more than seven million viewers, propelled the singer briefly back to the music charts with Anyone Who Had A Heart.

Smith said she was "absolutely devastated to hear the tragic news about Cilla. She was so kind and helpful to me, it was a privilege to play her."

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