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Des O'Connor is one of Britain's best-loved and longest-serving all-round entertainers, who had a string of hit singles in the late '60s, including even a number one single, "I Pretend," in 1968. He was born in Stepney, East London, on January 12, 1932, and was evacuated to Northampton during the Second World War. Briefly a professional footballer with Northampton Town, he joined the Royal Air Force with which he performed his national service. His first job on leaving the services was as a complaints clerk in a boot and shoe factory, but he followed his dream to work in show business and got a job as a Bultin's redcoat entertainer. He appeared in variety theaters throughout the country before his break in television in the late '50s as a presenter for the ITV interlude Spot the Tune. In 1963 he was given his own variety show called The Des O Connor Show. In 1967 he began his recording career, and like his contemporary Ken Dodd, he recorded some comic novelties but it was with his romantic ballads that he gained chart success, firstly with the single "Careless Hands" and the number one hit "I Pretend." He was constantly ridiculed for his blandness and easygoing, laid-back style, especially from his good friends and fellow comedians Morecambe & Wise, although he always took this with good grace. His highest-placed album was also entitled I Pretend, which reached number seven early in 1969 although throughout his career he recorded a total of 34 albums and sold over 15 million records. One of his more popular television shows was Today with Des & Mel, a daytime magazine/talk show with co-host Melanie Sykes which ran from 2002, and at the beginning of 2007 he took over the chairmanship of the daytime quiz favorite Countdown. Up to 2007, he had appeared at the London Palladium a record 1,220 times and appeared at sell-out concerts at the most prestigious venues throughout the world, including the MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, the Opera House, Sydney, the Concert Hall, Auckland, the O'Keefe Centre, Toronto, and the Arts Centre, Ottawa. He fronted a mainstream television program every year between 1963 and 2007, which is longer than anyone else, anywhere. He married his long-term fiancée, Australian singer Jodie Brooke Wilson, on September 23, 2007, his fourth marriage.