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Bob Holness

Bob Holness, who died today aged 83, was part of the furniture in many homes in the 1980s thanks to his legendary Blockbusters show.

But there was a lot more to the broadcaster than people realise. Born in Natal, South Africa, Holness grew up in Kent after his family moved back to England. He later returned to South Africa as a younger man where he started a career in the media and acting and even played the role of James Bond in a radio play.

In 1961 he returned to the UK and gradually became a recognised face on TV as chairman on BBC1’s Call My Bluff, long before Blockbusters became a huge hit. The quiz, which ended in 1993, featured student contestants answering a series of trivia questions based on the letters of the alphabet.

A regular feature of the show saw Holness trying to keep a straight face despite facing sniggering students asking him: “Can I have a P please Bob?” – a question he claimed never to be fed up with hearing. He said:

“People say ‘Don’t you ever get fed up with it?’ but I didn’t. I loved everything to do with the show so it always got a very positive reception from me, however many times I heard it.”

The arrival of dance drug Ecstasy on the rave scene also saw Holness regularly asked for an E by his student contestants.

One mark of his popularity was the widespread urban myth, believed by many, that Holness played the trademark saxophone solo on the Gerry Rafferty hit Baker Street. It is believed to have been started as a spoof by music paper NME in 1990.

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