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Keith Harris, Orville ventriloquist, passes away aged 67

April 28, 2015
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Keith Harris, the entertainer best known for his ventriloquist act with Orville the Duck, has died from cancer at the age of 67. The star, who has a 50-year career in show business, passed away at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning, his agent confirmed.Keith and his famous puppet were hugely popular during the 1980s, and even enjoyed success in the music industry, reaching number four in 1982 with Orville's Song.

keith harris © Photo: Rex

Keith Harris with Orville the Duck

They were invited by Diana, Princess of Wales, to give a private performance at Highgrove for Prince William's third birthday, and at Kensington Palace for Prince Harry's third birthday.Keith had his own BBC One Saturday night programme, The Keith Harris Show, which ran for eight years, from 1982 until 1990. He appeared on a total of five Royal, and Children's Royal Variety Performances.Orville was his most famous creation – an innocent green duck in an oversized nappy, who was relentlessly tormented by Keith's other character, Cuddles the Monkey.Keith continued to perform on stage and in pantomime, and in 2012 appeared in Celebrity Big Brother. Last summer, while on stage in Great Yarmouth, he revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer and was about to start treatment. He was moved to tears when they gave him a standing ovation.The star is survived by his fourth wife Sarah, and his three children, Skye, 27, Kitty, 15, Shenton, 13.

His agent, Robert C Kelly, told the Telegraph: "I spoke to Keith most days whether we had business to do or not. I think I laughed every single time we spoke."Keith was not only a technically great ventriloquist, he was also a gifted mimic and an extraordinarily funny man both onstage and off. Perhaps even rare than that in showbiz, he was a thoroughly decent man, a great friend and a wonderful father and husband. "Despite Keith undergoing long and difficult stem-cell replacement treatment during the summer of 2014 and appearing to have fully recovered, it became clear in January of 2015 that Keith was once again becoming unwell. "Keith visited the oncologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and was told the cancer was in Keith's liver and there was nothing further they could do. "Over the past few months, Keith has enjoyed several holidays to his second home in Portugal, taking walks along the Blackpool sea front and sitting in the park eating ice cream and watching the world go by."

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