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11 Apr 2000 | Soul Jazz

Dearly Departed

Robin Leach, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ host, celebrity columnist dies

Robin Leach, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ host, celebrity columnist dies



Robin Leach, a celebrity columnist and television host who famously signed off each episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” with his signature catchphrase of “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams,” has died.

“Despite the past 10 months, what a beautiful life he had. Our Dad, Grandpa, Brother, Uncle and friend Robin Leach passed away peacefully last night at 1:50 a.m. Everyone’s support and love over the past, almost one year, has been incredible and we are so grateful. Memorial arrangements to follow,” said a statement from Leach’s son Steven, which is also attributed to Robin’s sons Gregg and Rick Leach.

Leach moved to Las Vegas in 1999, and spent most of the last two decades chronicling star-studded events around town, most recently for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and for the Las Vegas Sun and publications in the Greenspun Media Group.

“I wanted no other job than to work in newspapers,” he told The Sun in 2011. “I was fascinated by the process of collecting information, talking to people and having the story appear in a paper that would be delivered in your letterbox.”

Born in London on Aug. 29 1941, Robin Douglas Leach knew he wanted to be a journalist when he was just 10 years old. As a student at Harrow County School for Boys, he began sending weekly dispatches about goings on there to the editor of the local newspaper, The Harrow Observer. The paper published the stories, and hired him after he graduated. He was 15.

Later, he left to work at the Daily Mail, where he became the publication’s youngest Page One editor at age 18.

Leach moved to New York in November 1963, just days after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He wrote for the New York Daily News, Ladies Home Journal and People magazine, authoring its first 11 cover stories. He also launched Go, a weekly pop-music magazine and became entertainment editor of The Star.

He broke into television in 1980, joining CNN’s “People Tonight” show. He later helped start the syndicated pop culture TV show “Entertainment Tonight.”

His big break came in 1984 with the debut of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” a program he created with the legendary television producer Al Masini. The syndicated show, which ran from 1984 to 1995, focused on celebrities’ lavish homes and favorite destinations. Many cultural observers point to “Lifestyles” as a turning point that opened the door for other celebrity-centric reality shows, including “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

“I had done a lot of show business reporting in Britain and it was an area of journalism that I thoroughly enjoyed covering,” he said. “The foibles of famous people, their need for applause … that they would be willing in a sense put their life or careers on the line every time they did a show or played a concert or made a film or performed in a play. … There were always stories to be found with those people.”

“The more eye-popping and outrageous, the better,” Leach told, describing the “Lifestyles” approach. “We wanted to make your mouth drop. That was the main effect. One picture was worth a thousand words, so if you had more pictures, the less you would have to say.”

“Lifestyles” made Leach a multimillionaire himself, and he was able to indulge his tastes for crisp linen pants and fine British motorcars. He was featured in publications including the New York Times, was impersonated in a skit on Saturday Night Live and name-checked in the Notorious B.I.G.’s song “Juicy” and “Glamourous,” by Fergie and Ludacris. And he appeared in several movies, including “She-Devil” (1989), “Spring Broke” (2016) and “Maxed Out” (2006). He also gave generously to nonprofits including Opportunity Village and Keep Memory Alive, which raises money to support programs at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Despite his reputation, Leach insisted he was a normal, down-to-earth sort and described his TV persona as a “cartoon character.”

“The cartoon character, that’s not who Robin Leach is,” he told the New York Times in 1990. “And when I wake up in the morning, I wink at myself because I like me — I know who I am. And when it’s time to send the cartoon character off, I just send him on his way.”

The success of “Lifestyles” helped Leach build connections with celebrity chefs, which he used to help start the Food Network. Leach told KNPR that casino owner Sheldon Adelson reached out to him through the network with an invitation to set up a studio at what would become The Venetian. The idea was that Leach could attract celebrity chefs who might consider opening restaurants at the hotel.

It worked. Leach often wrote about the dining scene in Las Vegas and loved discovering the latest over-the-top offerings.

“The support that Robin has given to the food scene here is immeasurable,” chef Rick Moonen, whose restaurants include RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, told the Times in 2014.

“I will never hang up the sign that says ‘Gone Fishing,’” he told KNPR. “My work is my joy, my work is my hobby,” he said.

happy wheels

Bilal Ali

August 24th, 2018

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