Robin Leach, host of 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,' dies at 76

Television host and columnist Robin Leach died Friday. (Craig Wallace Chapman / Los Angeles Times)

Robin Leach, the veteran television host who titillated viewers with the rarefied perks of celebrity through “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” has died. He was 76.

The famed celebrity reporter died at 1:50 a.m. Friday after suffering a stroke on Monday while in hospice care in Las Vegas, his son Gregg Leach said by phone Friday.

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Leach, who had been hospitalized after a stroke in November, was with family at the time of his death.

“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.,” sons Steven, Gregg and Rick Leach said in a statement to The Times.

“Everyone’s support and love over the past, almost one year, has been incredible and we are so grateful,” they added, saying memorial arrangements would follow.

The English star, who had been working as a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, made a name for himself stateside on the syndicated TV series from 1984 to 1995, always signing off with the catchphrase, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams,” which was continually parroted to indicate largesse and glamour.

During the series’ run, Leach rubbed elbows with the likes of Lana Turner, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Tony Bennett, Karl Lagerfeld, Duran Duran and Michael Jordan.

“There’s nothing wrong with being rich,” Leach told The Times in 2003. “Capitalism can do what governments can’t.”

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TV personality Robin Leach and actor George Hamilton puff on cigars during the James Beard Foundation of New York benefit. (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Leach was born in 1941 and raised in a lower middle-class London suburb, the son of a vacuum cleaner sales executive. He came to New York in 1963 and sold shoes before throwing himself into a career covering showbiz as a newspaperman.

At 18, he became the Daily Mail’s youngest Page One editor. He moved to New York in his early 20s and worked for the New York Daily News, Ladies Home Journal, People magazine and the Star.

On the TV side, he joined CNN’s “People Tonight” show in 1980 and helped launch the syndicated “Entertainment Tonight” the following year.

But it was “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” in 1984 that made Leach a household name — one associated with a proclivity for the finer things.

The over-the-top show, created with “Star Search” and “Entertainment Tonight” producer Alfred Masini, tapped into society’s burgeoning fascination with celebrity and is believed to have paved the way for star-making reality television shows. It also earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for outstanding informational special the year it debuted.

Leach became a celebrity in his own right and later hosted two “Lifestyles” spinoff series, “Fame, Fortune and Romance” and “The Surreal Life: Fame Games” on VH1.

He popped into various entertainment, news programs and docuseries to provide commentary in his later years and also competed on the reality series “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here,” “Celebrity Wife Swap” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

After falling into obscurity for a time, he set his sights in 1999 on the Las Vegas Strip, where he became a local celebrity who mingled with other famous faces while reviewing hotels and restaurants and covering showbiz for the Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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“Las Vegas has gone from being a gaming city to the world's No. 1 resort city,” he told The Times. “My business is resorts, my business is food, my business is TV. The thing that I love about Vegas is, you are within 45 minutes of Hollywood without having to deal with the 405 and state taxes and fees.”

Singer Celine Dion, whose Vegas show has been an attraction for years, said Friday on Twitter that she was saddened to hear the news of Leach’s death and remembered him as “a thoughtful and considerate man, and a great supporter of the entertainment scene in Las Vegas.”

“Now an eternity of champagne and caviar. We’ve lost a dear, dear friend and a wonderful man. Rest in peace Robin Leach,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman said on Twitter.

Leach is survived by his three sons and several grandchildren.

Notable deaths of 2018:

11 a.m.: This article was updated with details on Leach’s life, including his journalism career.

This article was originally published at 9:05 a.m.

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