Dame Barbara Windsor has said it is “the end of a show business era” as she mourned her friend Sir Bruce Forsyth, who has died aged 89.
The entertainer died at his home surrounded by his wife Wilnelia and all his children following a bout of ill health.
Dame Barbara told the Press Association: “This is the end of a show business era and the last of the truly all round great entertainers that this country has ever produced.
“I am so sad as I was a massive fan and was in awe of his professionalism.
“I was lucky enough to know him and was thrilled to be at his last book launch. He will be so sadly missed by all in show business and his millions of fans.”
She said: “God bless you Bruce and my thoughts are with his beautiful wife Wilnelia who made him so very happy and his family.”
In a statement, Sir Bruce’s manager Ian Wilson said: “It is with great sadness that the Forsyth family announce that Sir Bruce passed away this afternoon, peacefully at his home surrounded by his wife Wilnelia and all his children.
“A couple of weeks ago, a friend visited him and asked him what he had been doing these last 18 months. With a twinkle in his eye, he responded ‘I’ve been very, very busy... being ill!’ Unfortunately, not long after this, his health deteriorated and he contracted bronchial pneumonia.
“The family would like to express their thanks to the many people who have sent cards and letters to Bruce wishing him well over his long illness and know that they will share in part, the great, great loss they feel.
“There will be no further comment at the moment and it would be much appreciated if the privacy of Sir Bruce’s family is respected at this most difficult time.”
Following the news of Sir Bruce’s death, the BBC announced a change to Friday evening’s TV schedule.
A tweet from The One Show account read: “There will be no One Show this evening as @BBCOne will now be airing a special programme in memory of Bruce Forsyth.”
Former Strictly head judge Len Goodman, who stepped down from the role last year, said: “His work ethic, professionalism and charm will be with me forever.”
Sir Bruce’s former Strictly co-host Tess Daly said she was “heartbroken” at his death and she will never forget “his brilliant sense of humour and his drive to entertain the audiences he so loved.”
Strictly’s Claudia Winkleman, who took over from Sir Bruce in 2014, said he was “the King of TV, the Prince of performers and the most generous of people”.
Radio presenter Tony Blackburn praised his former co-star Sir Bruce as a comedian who “didn’t need swear words to get a laugh”.
BBC Director-General, Tony Hall said that “Sir Bruce was one of the greatest entertainers our country has ever known” and that he “defined Saturday night television for decades”.