Leach in 1991.
Photo: Donaldson Collection (Getty Images)

Robin Leach, the British TV host whose distinctive voice and wealth-worshipping catchphrase “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” made him the subject of innumerable parodies during his ‘80s heyday, has died. Leach had been hospitalized since November 21, when he suffered a stroke while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas. John Katsilometes, a columnist for Leach’s employer The Las Vegas Review-Journal, broke the news to the public, saying on Twitter that Leach had suffered a second stroke on Monday, at which time he was moved to hospice care. He was 76.

Leach was born in London in 1941, and got his first real newspaper job at the age of 15, five years after he began writing weekly dispatches about the goings-on at his all-boys school for a local newspaper. By the age of 18, he was the Page One editor at the notorious Daily Mail, and at 22 he moved to New York, where he worked for the New York Daily News, Ladies’ Home Journal, People, and the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid Star, and founded a short-lived pop music magazine, Go. By the early ‘80s, he had transitioned to TV, and was one of the first on-air correspondents when Entertainment Tonight launched in 1981.

Leach got his own syndicated celebrity fluff program, Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous, in 1984. The show, which featured voiceover from Leach as he toured the opulent residences and extravagant luxuries enjoyed by celebrities and other obscenely wealthy members of the monied classes, epitomized the “greed is good” ethos of the decade, and Lifestyles—and Leach himself—soon became cultural phenomena. (In case you were wondering, he was indeed a fan of Donald Trump, the epitome of everything Lifestyles celebrated.) He appeard in several films as himself, and was lampooned by everyone from Saturday Night Live to Sesame Street, which aired a recurring parody segment called Lifestyles Of The Big And Little:

Leach loved his career, and continued to work and live relatively modestly even after becoming a household name. He moved to Las Vegas in 1999, where he used his celebrity connections to help launch the Food Network. In 2016 he took his last regular gig writing a column covering lifestyle and celebrity news for the Las Vegas Review-Journal; in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the gig, he said, “There’s no point in retiring because there’s no fun in retiring. I won’t hang up the Gone Fishin’ sign.” His last published piece for the paper was an interview with Suzanne Somers about her memoir Two’s Company that ran on November 26 of last year. 

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His legacy lives on in shows like Cribs, shoutouts in hip-hop songs, and, in a twist even he never saw coming, the White House.

[via THR, Las Vegas Review-Journal]