Cilla – a once-in-a-generation entertainer

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Once in a while the death of a celebrity brings a nation into mourning.

I often don’t join – not because I’m cold or heartless – but because one has always found grief a very personal emotion.

Public expressions of this kind leave me somewhat uncomfortable, and while others are happy to pore over the life and times of someone they did not know (for I’m sure that public and private personas of the well-known are two very different things) I’ve tended not to comment.

But when news broke that Cilla Black had died last weekend, I was genuinely upset. Upset for the loss of a great British personality, yes, but also for an end to a certain part of my childhood. One that I hadn’t even realised I missed.

In the years before it was the norm to escape the family home at the weekend, Saturday evenings were often spent in front of the box with the folks. No matter what the day had brought, by 7pm we’d be sat together watching whatever ITV had to offer which, for much of my childhood, was Cilla.

A child of the 80s, I’m too young to remember Cilla the pop star, chart-topper and friend to the Beatles. To me, she was the TV presenter with scouse charm, loved by mums, dads and kids alike.

Whether setting up couples on Blind Date, or reuniting long-lost brothers and sisters on Surprise Surprise, Cilla could always be relied upon to bring a little sunshine to Saturday nights. I remember hearing heroic stories of how children had saved neighbours, and watching Ms Black reward them by bringing on stage their favourite pop star.

As awful as it sounds, I spent months wishing someone would collapse in front of me – I was confident I could ring 999, save them, and have Cilla surprise me with a visit from Gary Barlow. Terrible I know. But seven-year-olds often are.

It all seems a long way removed from the Saturday night TV we are subjected to now, when entertainment involves laughing at some poor schmuck who thinks they can sing, and listening to a middle-aged man in ill-fitting attire explain why they’re never going to make it.

Twenty years ago, Cilla made dreams come true. Now we tune in to watch them be shattered.

So yes, while I was sorry to hear that a great lady had passed away too soon, I was also sad to think her style of entertainment had passed along with her too. Cilla was a star, a once-in-a-generation kind of performer.

Let’s hope the next generation are blessed with that kind of entertainer too.