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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 11:58 GMT
Tarrant: TV's Mr Millionaire
Chris Tarrant
Millionaire is a hit worldwide
ITV1's Who Wants to be a Millionaire? sealed the success of quizmaster Chris Tarrant.

Tarrant has come a long way since his regular slots on 1970s cult Saturday morning children's show Tiswas.

It was Tiswas that shot Tarrant to fame - and notoriety.

But that came only after stints as a night security guard, a lawnmower deliverer, a bed salesman and a teacher - a "difficult time" in which he slept in a camper van outside the south London school at which he worked.

Tarrant got his first shot at television stardom after bombarding TV stations with letters which read: "I am the face of the 1970s and this is your last chance to snap me up."

Birmingham-based ITV station ATV did just that - and he started work on its evening news show in the early 1970s, interviewing a string of eccentrics.

The anarchic children's show Tiswas followed in 1974, making him a cult figure as the show gradually went nationwide.


Tiswas ended in 1982 but it spawned a shortlived late-night spin-off called OTT - Over The Top - which proved one step too far for viewers.

Produced by Tarrant, it became infamous for its "balloon dance" in which three men danced wearing nothing but balloons.

Chris Tarrant
Tarrant appeared on the BBC show Pop Quiz in 1994

He moved into radio, and in 1987 signed a contract to present his own breakfast show on London station Capital Radio.

Until 1995, he formed a ratings-topping double act with Kara Noble, as millions of listeners across the city tuned in to hear the pair exchange quips and banter each morning.

But Noble quit to join Capital's rival, Heart FM, claiming their partnership off-air was less light-hearted.

Later, the row came back to haunt Tarrant when Noble sold photos to a tabloid newspaper of him lifting up the bikini top of then Capital publicist Sophie Rhys-Jones - now the Countess of Wessex.

Away from radio, he continued his TV career.

He spent the late 1980s and early 1990s on ITV's early morning station TV-am and hosting game and quiz shows.

His distinctive voice was also in demand for advertisements as well.

Things picked up later in the 1990s with the Saturday night ITV quiz Man O Man, before he landed the compere's role in Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 1998.

Despite initially predicting the series would not take off, Tarrant and his partner David Briggs - his former producer at Capital - turned the show into the highest-rating programme on television within a year.

Millionaire, which offers contestants the chance to win 1m by answering 15 questions of increasing difficulty, delivered ratings of almost 18m for ITV.


Away from the camera and the microphone, Tarrant is married to his second wife, Ingrid, and is a keen fisherman.

He turned down the chance to present Millionaire in America - but looks set to continue as quizmaster in the UK.

"The schedule is really gruelling, but I get a huge buzz from it," he has said.

He is still in demand on radio too - in 2001, Tarrant picked up a Sony award for his "unique relationship with his listeners."

With his position at Capital, Tarrant is thought to earn more than 3m a year.

However, with ratings falling at the station, he spent much of 2002 deciding whether or not to stay with the station's breakfast show, after 15 years of early starts.

He surprised pundits by staying on - but many feel he will still leave Capital soon, and his departure is likely to spark a bidding war among rival stations.

Tarrant sticks with Capital
26 Sep 02 |  Entertainment
Tarrant cleared over Scouse joke
10 Jun 02 |  Entertainment

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