As ‘Our Graham’ dies aged 90, FEMAIL reveals the famous faces who went on Blind Date looking for love (and the couple who are as smitten as EVER three decades later)
- Blind Date, which ran from 1985 to 2002, featured Graham Skidmore as a regular
- Amanda Holden, 19, appeared in 1991 and spoke of love for Jack Nicholson
- Presenter Jenni Falconer was matched with 20-stone fish fryer
- Children’s TV presenters Mark Speight and Ortis Deley also appeared on show
His voice was one of the UK’s most iconic on TV shows of the ’80s and ’90s, with millions of viewers tuning into Blind Date every Saturday night to hear his cheerful tones.
However it was announced yesterday that TV legend Graham Skidmore has died aged 90.
Blind Date, which ran from 1985 to 2002, featured Skidmore as a regular fixture where he recapped hundreds of answers given by potential suitors and was known as ‘Our Graham’ on the show.
His co-host Cilla Black would often drop the line ‘well, it’s over to our Graham for a quick reminder’ during the show, treating the audience to a recap of what the contestants said.
Following his death, FEMAIL looks back at the celebrities who got an early taste of stardom on the show, as well as the couples who are still going strong.
Following the death of Blind Date’s ‘Our Graham’, FEMAIL reveals the stars who first found fame on the reality TV show (left, Amanda Holden in 1991, and right, on Britain’s Got Talent)
She’s now one of the UK’s most recognisable TV stars in the UK, worth an estimated £13 million.
But the Britain’s Got Talent judge was a completely unknown 19-year-old when she joined two fellow hopefuls on the ITV show in 1991.
Wearing a black mini dress as she perched on the stool, Amanda got a huge cheer from the crowd after she was introduced and Cilla noted that she had a ‘lorra lorra fans’ in the audience.
She then asked Amanda which famous man she’d like to have a knees up with, to which she responded, Hollywood star Jack Nicholson.
When Cilla questioned her choice, she added: ‘I like to experience mature men’.
Amanda wasn’t chosen by Barnaby to go one a date, but two years later she got her big break on UK TV starring in several episodes of Eastenders.
Roles in Smack The Pony, Goodness Gracious Me and Cutting It followed, before she landed one of her most memorable roles in the South African wildlife drama Wild At Heart with Stephen Tompkinson.
For the past decade, she’s put her acting career largely aside to focus on presenting and being a judge on Britain’s Got Talent.
Amanda, then-19, confessed to liking older men when she appeared on the show and said she’d like to party with Jack Nicholson
Amanda gave the crowd the thumbs up as she received a loud cheer after introducing herself on the dating programme
Amanda is now married to music producer Chris Hughes, the father of her two daughters Lexie and Hollie
Sticking to her word about liking the older man, she went on to meet her husband Les Dennis when she was just 22 and he 38. They were together for four years before marrying in June 1995.
She and Dennis split when news of her affair with actor Neil Morrissey emerged.
Although they were briefly reconciled, they separated in 2002 and were divorced the following year.
Amanda is now married to music producer Chris Hughes, the father of her two daughters Lexie and Hollie.
Last year, she spoke about her love for her husband, confessing: ‘Oh god I really fancy Chris. We’ll be eating dinner in a restaurant, he’ll go to the loo, then I’ll look up, catch a glimpse of a man and think ‘he’s fit’ and then realise ‘f***, that’s my husband! I still fancy him!’
‘He challenges me and I challenge him, and I think that’s the secret to a good marriage.’
Student Jenni Falconer went on a date with dish fryer Dondo Michaelas and although romance didn’t blossom, they remained on friendly terms
Presenter Jenni Falconer, then-19, was a willowy, privately-educated university student when she appeared on Blind Date in 1995, where she matched with Donda Michaelas, a 20-stone fish fryer.
Unsurprisingly, they failed to hit it off after spending four days together in Brittany. Yet for both, that TV appearance with Cilla Black led to success.
Jenni put her Spanish, Italian and Management Studies degree course at Leeds University on hold to concentrate on her TV career after the show.
She then joined ITV as a reporter on the current affairs show 3D before presenting the consumer programme We Can Work It Out.
Jenni put her Spanish, Italian and Management Studies degree course at Leeds University on hold to concentrate on her TV career after the show
But it was landing a job on GMTV’s Entertainment Today in 2000 that proved to be her breakthrough.
Now she is a regular presenter on This Morning where she is the resident travel reporter.
Now a mother to Ella, her daughter with husband James Midgley, Jenni is also a presenter on Heart Fm and has modelled for Ultimo.
When Cilla died in 2015, she tweeted: ‘Just heard the heart-breaking news about Cilla. She gave me my break in TV & I’m forever grateful. We met many times, a truly lovely lady.’
Donda says he was also offered TV contracts after Blind Date but realised that he was happiest frying fish and now earns £50,000 a year from his business.
Now a mother to Ella, her daughter with husband James Midgley, Jenni is also a presenter on Heart Fm and has modelled for Ultimo
Jenni went on to find love with her now husband James, and the two have an eight-year-old daughter, Ella (pictured in 2021)
The Big Brother star appeared on the final series of the show in 2003, but was visibly unimpressed when the screen went back to reveal Lee, 20, a welder from Berkshire.
She then decided to swap for Alex, 20, a student and rugby player from Hertfordshire.
But on her return she complained that he had a tiny amount of chest hair, which did not meet her standards for impeccable smoothness, while he criticised her for being too fussed about her hair and make-up.
Before she found fame on Big Brother, Nikki Grahame had the tricky task of picking a potential date when she appeared on the show looking for love
Her meltdowns and her tearful ‘who is she?’ rant went down in Big Brother history (pictured in 2010)
It wasn’t the last we saw of Nikki, as she exploded onto our screens in 2006 when she took part in Big Brother.
Her meltdowns and her tearful ‘who is she?’ rant went down in Big Brother history, as well as her on-screen romance with fellow housemate Pete Bennett, who suffered from Tourette’s.
Their relationship only lasted for one month outside the house but the pair remained on good terms.
After Big Brother, she bagged her own reality show, Princess Nikki, which saw her attempt to keep various jobs.
She also appeared on a slew of shows including Celebrity Scissorhands, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Weakest Link, and a Channel 4 poll named her the 12th most ‘written about’ person of 2006 in the UK.
She went on to write two autobiographies, detailing her struggles with anorexia.
In April last year, it was announced she had died at the age 38 – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment.
It is believed that the star, who rose to fame after appearing on the 2006 series of the hit reality show, was released from hospital in Devon a day before her death.
In April last year, it was announced Nikki had died at the age 38 – just one month after her friends started a GoFundMe page for anorexia treatment
A statement on the GoFundMe page read: ‘It is with great sadness, we have to let you know that our dear friend Nikki passed away in the early hours of Friday 9th April.
‘It breaks our hearts to know that someone who is so precious was taken from us at such a young age.
‘Nikki not only touched the lives of millions of people, but also her friends and family who will miss her immensely.
‘We would like to request privacy at this difficult time, while Nikki’s friends and family process the sad news. Full details will be released as and when we know them.
‘All donations have been greatly appreciated and it was heartwarming for everyone including Nikki to see how much she was loved.’
The children’s presenters first ever TV appearance was on Blind Date in 1995 at the age of 22.
He’s since enjoyed a successful and varied career as a presenter, moving from children’s TV shows such as Live and Kicking and the Smash Hits Roadshow to hosting The Gadget Show on Channel 5.
Ortis has also tried his hand at acting with a brief appearance in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Remembering host Cilla as the person who gave him his break into TV, he thanked her for the ‘memories’ in a touching tweet when she passed away.
He wrote: ‘Just heard the news of Cilla Black’s passing. I owe that lady a lot. Thanks for the memories/opportunity. #RIPCillaBlack ‘
The children’s presenter Ortis Deley’s first ever TV appearance was on Blind Date in 1995 at the age of 22 (pictured)
Ortis has presented TV shows such as Live and Kicking, hosted the Smash Hits Roadshow and fronted The Gadget Show on Channel 5
Former children’s TV presenter Mark Speight was a contestant on the show back in 1989.
Dressed smartly in a tuxedo, the dating hopeful tried to impress Cilla Black by performing his lizard impression.
He later went on to find fame as the presenter of the BBC’s SMart art programme in 1994, which he fronted for 14 years as well as presenting the children’s quiz show See It Saw it where he met his fiancee Natasha Collins.
Blind Date in 1989: Mark Speight pulled his Lizard Face for Cilla as the presenter quizzed the contestants
Presenter Mark fronted children’s TV programmes before his untimely death in 2008 following the passing of his girlfriend
Tragically in 2008, he found his partner’s scalded body in the bath the morning after they had taken a cocktail of vodka, cocaine and sleeping tablets.
The presenter became increasingly depressed and his mental state deteriorated until he went missing on April 7.
Six days later security staff discovered his body hanging from a banister on the roof of a building next to Paddington railway station in central London.
Ed is best known for being a comedian – but his humour didn’t seem to impress the Blind Date contestants when he appeared on the show in 1993
Ed is best known for being a comedian – but his humour didn’t seem to impress the Blind Date contestants when he appeared on the show in 1993.
He wasn’t picked for a date, but he’s since gone on to forge a successful career on television.
He went on to build up a successful comedy career, regularly appearing on BBC panel shows like Mock the Week.
In 2018, during an appearance on the programme, his fellow comedians were stunned to learn of his early TV role.
After Dara Ó Briain pointed out he ‘didn’t get picked’, Ed said: ‘You couldn’t let that go could you!’
Dara added: ‘I’m just saying, you went on Blind Date and failed!’
AND THE COUPLES WHO ARE STILL GOING STRONG TWO DECADES ON…
ALEX AND SUE TATHAM
By the time Alex and Sue were invited to appear on the third series in 1988, Blind Date was a runaway ratings success for ITV.
Alex, who chose a date, was super-confident in front of the cameras, while Sue admits she was a bundle of nerves, perched on a stool behind the screen between rivals Lyn from Middlesex and Kate from Essex.
‘I don’t know why I chose Sue,’ said Alex. ‘She simply sounded very nice – and she was. Our date was to fly off to Ireland for a medieval banquet.
Alex Tatham and Sue Middleton recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary after meeting on Blind Dates
Alex and Sue were the first couple to marry after meeting on the show and Cilla attended their wedding
‘We hit it off from the word go. Even on the plane flying out we discovered we both had exactly the same values in life.’
There followed three years of a traditional courtship, with Sue keeping her job in the West Midlands, while Alex stayed in London to finish his accountancy qualifications.
Alex and Sue married in 1991 in a traditional church ceremony, with Cilla among the guests.
Outside, the church was ringed by 4,000 well-wishers. The wedding ceremony and the reception unfolded in the full glare of the cameras filming a Blind Date special, which was subsequently watched by 17 million people.
The couple have two grown-up children and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in November last year.
The couple have two grown-up children and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in November last year
At the time, the couple told Metro they are still as smitten today as they were back then.
On the year of their Pearl anniversary, Alex and Sue share two children, Emily, 27, and Charlie, 25, and have told how their philosophy is to hold hands and laugh through life together.
‘Thirty years on and we’re still being romantic today,’ Alex said.
‘It was a fabulous evening where Sue and I celebrated 30 years of a wonderful marriage by doing lots of things we love best culminating in one of the best ballets we have ever seen,’ he added, quipping he was thankful their love story didn’t end like Romeo and Juliet’s.
They’ve remained upbeat throughout their lives together and said they’ve learn to ‘laugh through life.’
PAUL PRATT AND ANNA AZONWANNA
Paul Pratt, 51, and Anna Azonwanna, 50, from Wanstead, north-east London, met after both going on the hit ITV show 30 years ago in 1993.
Paul plucked up the courage to propose to Anna on the programme five years later and the couple jetted off to Barbados 12 months after to wed – and Cilla even attended as the guest of honour.
Paul Pratt, 51, and Anna Azonwanna, 50, from Wanstead, north-east London, met after both going on the hit ITV show 30 years ago
The pair were both struggling students when they answered the show’s call for new contestants in early 1993.
Anna, who was studying business administration at Luton University (now Bedford) was the question master while Paul was one of three potential dates.
But he managed to get Anna interested when he cheekily claimed that he would be ‘a tiger because I always catch what I aim for’ when she asked what animal he would be.
The couple returned to ITV screens five years later when Paul decided to pop the question in the studio.
Paul and Anna, who have two children Syrus and Jessie-Mae (left and right), were the final couple to wed after meeting on the show and previously told how new friends still love to hear the story
Paul and Anna tied the knot in 1999, jetting off to Carribean Island Barbados with Cilla accompanying them on a luxury jet.
Paul and Anna, who have two children Syrus and Jessie-Mae, were the final couple to wed after meeting on the show and previously told how new friends still love to hear the story.
In a 2015 interview, Paul said: ‘For the people who we have met since or didn’t know us at the time, it still makes them smile.’
It is currently unknown if the couple are still together.
Blind Date’s ‘Our Graham’ dies aged 90: Iconic voiceover artist Graham Skidmore recapped hundreds of hopefuls’ answers for Cilla Black over the ITV show’s 17-year run
Graham Skidmore was given the nickname ‘Our Graham’ by Cilla Black. Skidmore attended her funeral in 2015.
He was also a voiceover artist on BBC2’s Shooting Stars with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
Before his television career, Graham owned a launderette, a corner shop and did up flats before going on to do voiceover work for Blind Date and Shooting Stars.
‘He might not have wanted to be seen on screen, but he had a celebrity voice – a known voice,’ his son Neil, 54, told The Sun.
Tributes began pouring in for Graham Skidmore, 66, the voice of ‘Our Graham’. on the television programme, ‘Blind Date’, moments after his death was announced
Skidmore is pictured with wife Pauline and children. The beloved voice actor, who suffered from vascular dementia in later life, spent his last years living in Kent
‘He loved it. I do event organising and had a show in London and got Dad to do the voice over. People recognised him straight away.’
He was dropped from the ITV hit show after a 17-year run, with Tommy Sandhu taking his position in 2002.
Skidmore, who suffered from vascular dementia in later life, spent his last years living in Kent.
The son of a Woolworth’s manager, he was born in Birmingham but grew up in London.
His daughter Catherine Johnson, 52, said Graham had wanted to be a doctor, but missed his final exams because of an ear infection – leading him to a career in television as a voiceover artist.
The star tried his hand at engineering after his National Service in the Medical Corps, but discovered he had a great command of his voice when he began singing on the side, eventually trying out musicals.
He shared a home with his wife Pauline in Woodford Green, Essex, for more than 40 years.
Despite his long stint on the show, he said in a 2002 interview with The Mirror that he only met his co-host on two occasions.
‘I never really got the opportunity to know Cilla,’ he said. ‘I was tucked away in a little box saying: “Or will you pick contestant number two?” She said hello when we passed in the corridor but that was it. I’ve never been to her house and I wasn’t invited to the big Blind Date wedding.’
He died on December 27 2021, but the news of his passing was only confirmed on Sunday.
Cilla Black, pictured, gave Skidmore the nickname ‘Our Graham’ during their time co-hosting ITV’s Blind Date. In the show, co-host Black quizzed contestants on their backgrounds with the answers later receiving a recap from Skidmore