Belfast Telegraph

Holmes leads celebrity tributes for 'borderline genius' comic Freddie Starr after death at 76

Freddie Starr hugs fan Kathleen Kinnard during a visit to Belfast in 1981
Freddie Starr hugs fan Kathleen Kinnard during a visit to Belfast in 1981
Freddie Starr in more recent years
Performing in 1973
With George Best in 1976
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes was among a host of celebrities who paid tribute to comedian Freddie Starr (76) after he was found dead in his Spanish home.

The This Morning co-host recalled his last ever conversation with the late comic and singer who rose to fame in the 1970s.

"The last time I saw him was at the Oxford services station on the M40," he told his wife Ruth Langsford.

"We pulled out and I was putting petrol in my car and he was at the other side of the pump putting petrol into his Jeep, I think he was driving and we had a bit of a conversation there.

"It was probably the only sensible, normal conversation I've ever had with him."

Eamonn wholeheartedly agreed when Ruth described Starr as being "quite hard" to interview.

"He was different - there's no doubt about that," he replied.

The father-of-six was found dead by his carer at his townhouse in the resort of Mijas on the Costa Del Sol on Thursday.

Des O'Connor led the tributes to the "borderline genius" who became a regular on O'Connor's chat show after some memorable appearances. "At his best, Freddie was borderline genius," the entertainer said. "Always unpredictable, he could create mayhem in a TV studio with his wacky, unique humour."

Merseyside-born Starr was the singer with Merseybeat band the Midniters until 1965. He rose to national prominence following his appearances on talent show Opportunity Knocks which he won six times.

While he did enjoy chart success with his number nine single It's You, it was his 1970 Royal Variety Performance impersonation of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger that made him a household name and launched his successful TV career.

Russ Abbot, who appeared in Starr's Variety Madhouse comedy series in 1979, described the stand-up as a "loose comedy cannon" as he credited him with helping launch his own career.

"A natural funnyman and hilarious," he added.

"He was hugely popular in his day, unique in his unpredictability and bursting with a talent not seen before or since."

Fellow comedian and friend Bobby Davro believes he might have been one of the last people to speak to the man who had "funny bones" while he was in Spain last year.

"I got in touch with him, I got hold of his number and phoned him up," he told Good Morning Britain. "At first he didn't really feel like talking and then he called me back."

When Davro asked Starr if he wanted to meet up for a cup of tea he was told "no, I've not been too well".

TV personality Les Dennis said the fellow Liverpudlian was "so exciting to watch live" as he remembered him as "a true clown who could also sing like Elvis".

Comic Jim Davidson hailed Starr as "the greatest" on Twitter.

In 1994 he tasted success off the stage when his horse Miinnehoma - ridden by Northern Ireland jockey Richard Dunwoody - won the Grand National.

But he was perhaps best associated with a sensational tabloid headline printed on the front page of The Sun in 1986.

"Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster," it read. The fabrication was devised by the late disgraced PR man Max Clifford.

Starr's manager broke the news on his Facebook page as he paid tribute to the "greatest comedian of all time" who was adored by fans for his eccentric and unpredictable behaviour.

Many of them flocked to social media to say farewell to "such a funny man" and "one of Liverpool's all time great comedians".

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