Tue | Dec 18, 2018

Robin Leach of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ dies

Published:Friday | August 24, 2018 | 4:26 PM
In this October 17, 2013 file photo, Robin Leach attends the Food Network’s 20th birthday party in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Robin Leach, whose voice crystallised the opulent 1980s on TV’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” died Friday.

He was 76

Leach’s family said through a public relations firm that he died in Las Vegas, where he made his home.

Leach had a stroke in November while on vacation in Mexico that led to a months-long recovery, much of which he spent at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio before returning to Las Vegas in June.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which ran Leach’s columns before he became ill, said he suffered another stroke Monday.

“Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” was Leach’s sign-off at the end of every episode of his syndicated show’s decade-long run that began in 1984.

Leach covered the excesses and sometimes gaudy style of the 1980s, a time before oil billionaires, titans of industry and Wall Street traders gave way to sneaker-wearing tech execs as the world’s richest people.

Leach appeared occasionally on the show, but he and his unmistakable English-accent narrated throughout, taking wishful viewers on tours of mansions with diamond-crusted chandeliers, yachts with Jacuzzis, and champagne that ran to four figures. 

Leach and producer Al Masini coined the catchphrase and conceived the show.

“Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was the core of Leach’s career that spanned six decades and included stints with CNN, People magazine, Entertainment Tonight and the Daily Mail, where he began as a writer in Britain at 18.

In the mid-1970s, he tried out TV as a regular contributor to “AM Los Angeles” with hosts Regis Philbin and Sarah Purcell and found his calling. He became a regular on television’s morning news and entertainment shows, practicing a sort of tabloid journalism that was more celebratory and light-hearted than tawdry.

He often became friends with the celebrities he covered.

Then, in 1984, he landed “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and gained his own fame.

The gaudy show became wildly popular, but never with critics.

“They wrote that television had reached an all-time low,” Leach told The Huffington Post.

“But I looked at the ratings every Monday morning, and I was rubbing my hands with glee.”

He was also an executive producer and occasional writer on the show, and hosted a brief spinoff, “Runaway with the Rich and Famous.”

For the show’s final year, with producers looking to liven up the aging property, he had a younger co-host, actress Shari Belafonte.

The show was retitled “Lifestyles with Robin Leach and Shari Belafonte” but the new look didn’t save it.

Married once and divorced, Leach spent much of his later years in the company of his three sons, Steven, Rick and Greg, and several grandchildren.

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