Photo Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock

You are, are you not...?

Chat show host Russell Harty was as famous in his day as Michael Parkinson, Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton.

His most famous moment probably came in November 1980 when the singer and actress Grace Jones whacked him on air after she took offence at Harty momentarily turning his back on her so as to talk to another guest.

But the good natured Russell took it all in his stride. He was never one to let his own ego overshadow the big-name guests he gently grilled.

Russell’s genial and sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach made for interesting chat: “God had a good day when he gave you your face, didn't he? But is it your fortune or misfortune?” he famously asked Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson.

Other interviews yielded surprising revelations such as Margaret Thatcher’s admission that one of her favourite snacks was a poached egg on toast or Boy George’s claim that he generally preferred a nice cup of tea to sex.

“Russell had the ability to talk to everybody... He would put them at their ease, asking them cheeky questions but doing it so charmingly that he'd get away with it,” said TV producer Humphrey Burton.

The Lancashire-born son of a fruit and veg market trader, Harty won a place at Oxford, where he became a lifelong pal of playwright Alan Bennett. Russell had a brief spell as a teacher – one of his pupils was the late Countdown host Richard Whiteley – before becoming a radio arts correspondent and in 1970, first appearing on TV.

He hosted a broad range of arts and chat shows before his sadly premature death.