The relationship we have with the people on our television screens is one that can be hard to illustrate. More often than not, we don’t know them, we never have and never will meet them, they’re just there on the tele. Yet being so present on something we focus our attention on for hours at a time per day ends up meaning something. It’s why I find myself feeling some type of way at the death of beloved TV presenter Dale Winton, whose death at 62 came as a surprise to seemingly the whole nation.
Born Dale Jonathan Winton, 22nd May 1955 to Jewish father Gary who sold furniture and mother Shirley or “Sheree” as she was known in her acting career (who would convert to Judaism), Dale was to face great struggle through his early years. His parents divorced 10 years on from his birth in 1965. Three years later, on the day of his Bar Mitzvah, his father died. From there, Shirley raised Dale by herself until 1976, where she killed herself by overdosing on the central nervous system depressant barbiturates. As the story goes, young Dale found his mother’s body in her bedroom, with a “Do not disturb” sign on the door.
It feels like a common thing with entertainers, or at least common enough to be noted, that those who come onto our screens with a vibrant energy and a charming charisma had these qualities shaped by such tribulation. Your Jim Carreys, your Mary J. Bliges, many from a wide range of art forms go from traumatic childhoods to extravagant performances, the former seeming so startling when all you’ve known is the latter. Dale’s path from point A to point B began four years before his mother’s death with the occupation of a club DJ, going from Richmond to eventually playing the club circuit in London. From there he went into several radio jobs, including a stint for the United Biscuits Network as well as work in and around the Nottingham area. He once told the Leftlion magazine “Without Nottingham people I would not have a career. And that is the truth. The people of Nottingham made it happen for me”
It was in 1986 when he first got into television on an episode of Pet Watch, a humble start to be certain, but the program that established him as a star was Dale’s Supermarket Sweep, the gameshow where contestants had to answer questions and riddles before trying to grab as many shopping items as they can in a certain amount of time. The show ran from 1993 to 2001 before being revived for a short time in 2007. In many people’s recollections of Dale on social media, they point to Supermarket Sweep as a part of their lives they hold close to their heart. His effeminate charm, his kindness towards others, just how much fun he seemed to be having, it all came to surface whenever he showed up on TV.
I personally knew him best from his hosting of In It To Win It, the gameshow that would play before the lottery numbers for that day were announced. It was here where, as strange as it may sound writing it out now, he became someone who was always around, whose presence I took as a given. I remember that when he grew a beard, it was an event of great importance in my household. My dad and I were knocked for a loop that day.
How simple not only my relationship, but everyone’s relationship with Dale was, makes it more sorrowful that said relationship is now over. Turning on the tele to watch him do a fun quiz before you find out you lost the lottery can no longer be a past time. He’ll no longer pop up on the radio from time to time anymore. His absence is so strange because I don’t know if many of us even considered the possibility.
Dale will be missed. The outpouring of messages from viewers and colleagues alike is enough proof of this. He was an indelible character who came from despair and arrived at stardom, staying true to himself the whole way whether it was coming out as gay in 2002 or revealing his battle with depression in 2016, he was someone who more than anything else regarding his entertainment value, loved what he worked in, and left a legacy that any performer would be proud of.