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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 00:47 GMT
Mr Millionaire makes his mark
Chris Tarrant
Millionaire is a hit worldwide
DJ and quizmaster Chris Tarrant has become an OBE in the New Year Honours.

Tarrant, who currently hosts ITV1's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? quiz show, said he was "deeply honoured".

"I do what I do because I love it, but to be recognised for my work both professionally and privately is really humbling," he said.

Tarrant has come a long way since being shot to fame and notoriety with regular slots on 1970s cult Saturday morning children's show Tiswas.

Even 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 firm 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.

Outrageous

Tiswas ended in 1982 but it spawned a short-lived 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.

Gruelling

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.

Tarrant picked up a Sony award for his radio work in 2001 for his "unique relationship with his listeners".

But recently, he announced he was quitting his breakfast show - after years of speculation about his future, which even affected Capital Radio's share price.

Tarrant said he was pleased the "ridiculous" speculation was coming to an end - and explained he was hoping to wind down his broadcasting commitments over the next few years.

But he added: "I have lots of Millionaires to do in 2004 and I'm committed to Tarrant On TV until 2005, so I have a lot of TV stuff."




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