Sir Michael Parkinson’s son has said he feels his family has to allow the public’s mourning for the broadcaster to subside before they can “remember him as a dad and as a husband”.
The veteran TV presenter, known for his intimate interviews with the world’s biggest celebrities, including Muhammad Ali, John Lennon and Dame Helen Mirren, on his famous BBC chat show Parkinson, died last month at the age of 88.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast on Friday, the broadcaster’s son, Mike Parkinson, spoke about his memories of his father and the insecurities the broadcaster experienced in his career.
Reflecting on the scale of tributes after his father died, he said: “We didn’t expect the kind of outpouring, we didn’t expect what happened. I mean, not just here but in Australia.
“I mean, Australia, there was a golf course he used to be a member of and they put the flag at half mast. Remarkable kind of gestures like that.
“And I have said previously that it’s a very difficult situation to be in as a family because you do actually feel that you should step back for a while and just let the public mourn the man that they lost in the sense that you don’t want to almost step on their toes because they had a particular relationship with him, either through television, radio, through print.
“And in a sense they’re mourning a different person and so we have to, in a sense, keep out what we were mourning and keep it separate and allow that to subside before we’re really able to as a family come together and remember him as a dad and as a husband of 64 years.”
Sir Michael had three sons with wife Mary, whom he married in 1959.
Asked how his mother and family were doing at this time, Mike Parkinson said they are still in a “sense of shock” and admitted he has caught himself wanting to reach out to his father before remembering he can no longer do so.
Throughout the years, Mike Parkinson worked alongside his father which he said provided him with a “very privileged ringside seat” to witness the broadcaster in operation.
“He was incredible to sit with because the one thing about him was he never stopped seeking perfection. He never stopped questioning what he was doing, whether it was right, whether it was correct,” he added.
“And he was demanding of anyone who worked with him. He surrounded himself with people who were talented, people who were gifted and in the end, that was what was most fascinating for me to work with him.”
Addressing his previous remarks that his father suffered from imposter syndrome and “carried with him a sense of working-class guilt” during his career, he clarified: “All I knew was when he came to a show day or came to do anything about having to write a piece he was incredibly bad tempered, which I just thought was a natural thing, but actually… he was nervous, he was worried.
“When I began to work with him, I realised that it was all about insecurity, not doubtfulness but insecurity from the point of view that he wanted to get everything right and he wanted to do things to the best of his ability and that manifested itself in questioning himself all the time and wondering if he’d done the right thing.”
He added: “When I did a couple of interviews, particularly with John Wilson (on BBC Radio 4’s Last Word), we did talk about the imposter syndrome that he suffered from, I think you can make a bit too much of that.
“I think to a certain extent, yes, he was concerned about his upbringing. But I have to say, throughout his working life, the one place that he absolutely adored working at was the BBC.
“And I’m not just saying that because I’m on. It was a crucial wellspring for him and he was a fierce defender of it until his last day.”
Sir Michael came from humble beginnings – born in South Yorkshire in 1935, and growing up in a council house in Cudworth, near Barnsley.
In November last year, the broadcaster appeared on BBC Breakfast alongside his son to chat about his career and his latest book release.
Mike Parkinson revealed that after the show they went to literary event the Hay Festival and then a book signing, which was his “last public appearance”.