In Depth

Cilla Black: 5 things you didn't know about the showbiz icon

Tributes pour in for the pop star and TV presenter, who died at her home in Spain at the age of 72

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Celebrities, politicians and fans have been paying tribute to the late singer and television host Cilla Black, who passed away at her home in Spain aged 72.

Sir Cliff Richard led the tributes to his close friend and showbiz legend. "I will always think of her as outrageous, funny, incredibly gifted but above all full of heart," he said. "She was a very special person, and I have lost a very wonderful friend, I will miss her dearly."

Black, famous for her role as a presenter on Saturday night shows Surprise Surprise and the much-loved matchmaking show Blind Date, was the highest-paid woman on TV during the 1980s and '90s.

She was awarded an OBE in 1997 and honoured last year with a special Bafta award for her contribution to television, but there are some things you might not know about the Scouse icon.

Her stage name came about in an unusual way:

Born Priscilla Maria Veronica White to a father who worked at the docks and a mother who ran a market stall, she was told by teachers that she would be "suitable for office work". After a brief stint as a typist, she began singing and performing in local pubs and clubs in Liverpool. But it was only after a misprint in a music paper that she changed her stage name to Cilla Black and began a successful pop career, the BBC reports.

She outed an undercover journalist on Blind Date:

Nicola Gill, a 27-year-old writer for Cosmopolitan magazine, bluffed her way on to the show, but was quickly rumbled by Black, who lectured the young journalist in front of a live audience. "You don't work as a temporary secretary," Black said. "I know for a fact that you're actually an undercover journalist and you've robbed somebody of coming on a proper blind date."

She got the Blind Date job because she was "sexless"

Producers initially refused to launch the show because it was littered with sexual innuendo and considered too risqué, but they changed their minds when it was suggested that the good Catholic Liverpudlian would help "keep it clean". She gave the impression – "unusually for the '60s music scene – that she was more likely to opt for cocoa with her mum after a gig than a beer with a Beatle", says The Guardian. Black recalled the moment ITV producer Alan Boyd called to offer her the job: "I've thought of an idea how to pass it by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. I thought 'who is the most sexless person on television?', and I thought of you!" he said. 

She hated selfies:

Unlike her friend Ringo Starr, Black never refused to sign autographs for her legions of fans when out in public, but she did have one pet hate: the selfie. "I don't like the selfie because it's too close. There ain't no people with arms long enough to do a selfie of me."

She had only one regret:

In a career that spanned more than five decades, Black said she had only one regret: not breaking the US. Despite appearing alongside the Beatles on the influential Ed Sullivan Show numerous times, her career never took off across the pond. "Now it wouldn't be any problem but in them days you had to live there to be a success, so I was a wuss. I bottled out and I was homesick and I came home," she told the BBC last year. The decision allowed her more time with her children and husband Bobby Willis. The couple were inseparable and reportedly never spent more than three nights apart from each other.

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