Leslie Dennis Heseltine (born 12 October 1953) is an English television presenter, actor, and comedian. He presented Family Fortunes from 1987 until 2002.
Leslie Dennis Heseltine
12 October 1953
|Occupation||Presenter, actor, comedian|
(m. 1974; div. 1990)
(m. 1995; div. 2003)
Dennis was born Leslie Dennis Heseltine on 12 October 1953 in the Garston suburb of Liverpool. His mother worked in a factory while his father, who worked in a betting shop after serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, was listed as a football player on the books of Liverpool FC but did not play for the first team. He lived in the suburb of Speke for a while and attended the Stockton Wood and Joseph Williams primary schools, before going on to attend Quarry Bank High School upon passing his 11-plus, by which time his family had moved to the suburb of Childwall. He had a weekend job in the men's clothing store Burton while in school, and started as a stand-up comedian in working men's clubs.
Early work and Family FortunesEdit
As a comedian, Dennis performed in social clubs all around the northwest of England. He was given his earliest opportunities in his home city of Liverpool, later crediting husband-and-wife theatrical agents Stuart and Dorene Gillespie (who had themselves been a successful variety act) with discovering him in his autobiography. His debut radio broadcast was in 1971 on Stuart's BBC Radio Merseyside series Variety Time (the programmes were taped in front of a live audience in Merseyside clubs). In 1974, he won the ITV talent show New Faces and appeared on numerous light entertainment shows. He almost became the first contestant ever to score the maximum 120 points on New Faces, but had to settle for 119 when Tony Hatch gave him 9 out of 10 in his final mark, drawing derision from the rest of a judges panel that included fellow Liverpool comedian Arthur Askey.
In 1982, Dennis joined as one of the teams on Russ Abbot's Madhouse and The Russ Abbot Show before forming a comedy partnership with fellow impressionist Dustin Gee, which in turn led to a series of their own, The Laughter Show. Following Gee's sudden and unexpected death in January 1986, Dennis carried on The Laughter Show as a solo performer and became the third host of Family Fortunes for a 15-year run between 1987 and 2002. It was at a recording of an episode of Family Fortunes in 1997 that Dennis was surprised by This Is Your Life.
When a contestant on Family Fortunes gave a particularly silly answer to a survey question, Dennis would sometimes say, "If it's [the answer] up there, I'll give you the money myself!" His Liverpudlian accent famously led him to pronounce "myself" as "meself", which soon made the sentence his catchphrase. This backfired on an episode where a contestant was asked to "name a way of toasting someone" and the contestant answered "over fire", which matched with "grill" for £12; according to an anonymous source, Dennis made good on his promise and provided the prize money himself."
Dennis' stage work includes Amos Hart in Chicago and Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl in the West End. He has starred in Skylight at the Water Mill Theatre in Newbury, Mr Wonderful at the Gateway Theatre in Chester, and Misery at the Coliseum Theatre in Oldham. He also appeared in Just Between Ourselves and co-starred alongside Janet Suzman in Cherished Disappointments in Love at London's Soho Theatre. He co-starred with Christopher Cazenove and John Duttine in a national tour of 'Art' and as Norman Bartholomew in Anthony Shaffer's dark comedy Murderer at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. He later starred in a hit season of Neville's Island at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Dennis appeared as Mr. Fulton in High School Musical 2 on a UK tour from August 2009 to February 2010. He toured in Hairspray as Wilbur Turnblad alongside Michael Ball, Brian Conley and Michael Starke – who alternated the role of Edna Turnblad. He starred in the touring production of Legally Blonde The Musical in 2012, playing the role of Professor Callahan.
In 2017, Dennis played the role of Uncle Fester on the UK tour of the musical production of The Addams Family. The production starred Samantha Womack and Carrie Hope Fletcher and was produced by James Yeoburn and Stuart Matthew Price for United Theatrical, Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment and Music & Lyrics in association with Festival Theatre, Edinburgh.
Early film and TVEdit
Dennis' film debut was in the 1996 film Intimate Relations. He also appeared in the comedy film Large and Wildlife, a short film directed by Nick Allsop. He had previously made appearances on two episodes of Bang Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer in The "Club" sketch, where he played himself.  When he took part in a video-only special of Shooting Stars in 1993, Vic Reeves when introducing him pronounced his name as though it were French, saying "Les Dennis, the French fire engine".
Dennis appeared in the second series of the UK Celebrity Big Brother during the period when his marriage to Amanda Holden was breaking down again – he described his time in the BB House as "not one of his wisest moves", although he went on to finish as runner-up to Mark Owen.
On 11 August 2005 Dennis appeared as a guest star in an episode of the first series of BBC sitcom Extras, written by and starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. In this appearance, Dennis portrayed a fictional version of himself, alongside Gerard Kelly, who played a camp theatre director, the recurring character Bunny. Dennis would go on to say that "you could say Extras changed my life."
He appeared as a guest in August 2006 on the ITV drama series, The Bill starring as a man suspected of murdering his father. Dennis appeared alongside fellow former Russ Abbot performer Lisa Maxwell, who played D.I. Samantha Nixon in the series.
At the 2006 Edinburgh International Television Festival, it was announced Dennis would make a return to the gameshow genre, presenting a new big-money quiz show titled In the Grid for Channel 5. The show debuted on 30 October 2006 and aired for one series. From April 2007, he also hosted UKTV Gold's TV Now and Then quiz show. The same month he guest-starred on BBC One's Holby City.
He appeared on The Friday Night Project as a panellist on "Who knows the most about the guest host?" when Rupert Everett guest hosted. In theatre Dennis guest-starred as narrator in Side by Side by Sondheim at the Venue, London.
In August 2007, he starred in the hit play Certified Male—about the highs and lows of modern manhood—at the Edinburgh Festival. He then toured in The Servant of Two Masters, directed by Michael Bogdanov and at Christmas he returned to pantomime after a ten-year break, co-starring in Cinderella with Hollywood veteran Mickey Rooney at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland, produced by First Family Entertainment.
Dennis's autobiography, Must The Show Go On?, was published by Orion in early 2008.
In April 2008, Dennis toured in Eurobeat Almost Eurovision prior to a West End season in the show. Also in 2008, he narrated the home video clip show on Challenge, Les Dennis's Home Video Heroes, and appeared in the ITV documentary Les Dennis' Liverpool, which was, coincidentally, broadcast a week after BBC Two ran Alexei Sayle's Liverpool, a three-part documentary on the city.
During Christmas 2008 panto season, Dennis appeared as Buttons in Cinderella at the Empire Theatre, Liverpool. The pantomime also featured Jennifer Ellison as Cinderella, and Cilla Black as the Fairy Godmother.At Christmas 2008, Les was featured on the Wombats' Christmas single and video Is This Christmas? in aid of MENCAP.
Dennis was a celebrity player on Alan Carr's Celebrity Ding Dong in 2008; he began the episode by mentioning how the set was a ripoff of the Family Fortunes set, only to have Alan Carr interrupt him by making an "X" with his arms and imitating the infamous "UH-UHH!" sound.
In 2009, Dennis played Herbert Soppitt in J. B. Priestley's When We Are Married at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds and the Playhouse, Liverpool. At Christmas 2009, he returned to the Liverpool Empire to appear in Peter Pan with Fonz actor Henry Winkler and again in 2010 to play the role of Aladdin's brother, Wishee Washee in Aladdin.
In 2011 he again worked with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, with recurring appearances as a fictionalised version of himself in the Warwick Davis comedy series, Life's Too Short. From August 2012, he performed in the play Jigsy at the Assembly Rooms (Edinburgh) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In 2013 Dennis was reunited with Warwick Davis when the pair joined the cast of the West End production of Monty Python's Spamalot at London's Playhouse Theatre. His next theatrical appearance came in an adaptation of Peter James' novella The Perfect Murder".
On 23 January 2014, it was announced that Dennis would join the long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street, playing the part of Michael Rogers (later changed to Michael Rodwell after press release), a petty burglar. He began filming on 27 January 2014, and made his first appearance on TV on 24 March 2014. The show's producer Stuart Blackburn said: "Les is a fantastic performer and a real coup for Corrie. I can't wait for him to join the team".
On 18 November 2016, Dennis's character Michael Rodwell was killed off from Coronation Street, after suffering a heart attack and being left for dead by the show's villain, Michael's love rival Pat Phelan.
After Coronation StreetEdit
Dennis has a son named Philip from his first marriage to Lynne Webster, which lasted from 1974 to 1990. He also had an affair with actress Sophie Aldred, which he documented in his autobiography. He married actress Amanda Holden on 4 June 1995. They had a temporary split in 2000 when Holden's affair with actor Neil Morrissey was exposed in the press, before eventually separating in December 2002 and divorcing in 2003.
Dennis met Claire Nicholson in 2005. They were married on 23 November 2009 in Highgate. The couple have two children: a daughter, Eleanor Grace, was born on 24 April 2008. Their son, Thomas Christopher, was born on 14 April 2011.
As revealed on BBC panel show Would I Lie to You, Dennis retains his fingernail clippings for use as impromptu toothpicks.
- The Comedians (1971)
- New Faces (1974) – Contestant/winner
- Russ Abbot's Madhouse (1982)
- The Russ Abbot Show (1982)
- The Laughter Show
- Family Affairs
- Crossroads (revival)
- Family Fortunes (1987–2002) – Presenter
- Wyrd Sisters (1997) – The Fool/Tomjon
- Brookside (2001) – Jeff Evans
- Celebrity Big Brother (2002) – Himself
- Engie Benjy (2002–2004) - Pilot Pete and Astronaut Al
- Extras (2005) – Guest star
- In the Grid (2006) – Presenter
- The Sound of Musicals (2006) – Presenter and performer
- New Street Law (2006) – Guest star
- The Bill (2006) – Guest star
- Hotel Babylon (2006) – Guest appearance
- Saving Planet Earth (2007)
- TV Now and Then (2007) – Presenter
- Holby City (2007) – Guest star
- Les Dennis's Home Video Heroes (2008) – Narrator
- Les Dennis' Liverpool – Presenter
- Fee Fi Fo Yum (2010)
- Life's Too Short (2011) – Guest appearance
- Midsomer Murders (2013) – 1 episode (series 16 episode 1)
- Celebrity MasterChef (2013) – Contestant
- Coronation Street (2014–2016) – Michael Rodwell
- Harry Hill's Alien Fun Capsule (8 June 2019) – Guest
- Birds of a Feather (2020) - Graeme
- "Les Dennis landmarks: Highlights of the Liverpool-born comedian and actor's career". Liverpool Echo. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- "Liverpool Echo.co.uk – Entertainment – ECHO Entertainment News – Comic Les Dennis takes the cast from Disney's High School Musical 2 stage show to meet schoolchildren at Liverpool charity KIND's SEED Centre". liverpoolecho.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Rice, Jimmy. "CELEBRITY KOP CLUB: LES DENNIS". Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
- Les Dennis (2008). Must The Show Go On?. Orion. ISBN 978-0-7528-9096-8.
- Brown, Andrew (10 December 2015). "Les Dennis mourns Dustin Gee, who died after collapsing at panto in Southport". Southport Visiter. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis quits Family Fortunes". Irish Examiner. 16 July 2002. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Needham, Lucy (17 December 2020). "Les Dennis gives verdict on Family Fortunes host Gino D'Acampo as fans beg for a comeback". Daily Mirror. Reach plc. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Jones, Catherine (31 August 2013). "Les Dennis becomes Spamalot royalty". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Lane, Harriet (11 February 2001). "Family Misfortunes". The Guardian. Guardian Media. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Bungled failure". Evening Standard. 16 October 2001. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Billington, Michael (19 November 2004). "Murderer". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Theatre: High School Musical 2 show heads to Wolverhampton and Birmingham". 16 October 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "HAIRSPRAY Announces Touring Cast: Ball, Dennis, Conley And Starke All Feature". Broadway World UK. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis | Legally Blonde Tour". Legallyblondethemusical.co.uk. 30 January 2012. Archived from the original on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- "The Provoked Wife". Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- Omerod, Peter. "REVIEW: Les Dennis shines in dystopian noir thriller Venice Preserved at the RSC in Stratford". Leamington Courier. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis replaces Paul Merton in West End Hairspray | WhatsOnStage". www.whatsonstage.com. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
- "No 2,091". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 15 November 2002. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Bang, Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer". 5 February 1999. p. 130 – via BBC Genome.
- "Bang, Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer". BBC. 29 January 1999. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "BBC Press Office Hotel Babylon Starts Thursday 19 January at 9.00pm on BBC ONE". BBC. 11 January 2006. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Celebrity Big Brother: 16 celebs we are astonished took part". Closer. 12 June 2020. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Lee, Veronica (24 March 2009). "Les Dennis: How 'Extras' changed my life". London: Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 24 March 2009.
- Simon, Jane (25 May 2012). "New Street Law". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Lyn Gardner (7 August 2006). "Marlon Brando's Corset, Pleasance Grand, Edinburgh". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- Green, Kris (19 May 2006). "Les Dennis to guest in 'The Bill'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Five signs Dennis for quiz show". 30 August 2006. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis found Holby role bizarre". What's on TV. 8 March 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Gardner, Lyn (5 May 2007). "Side By Side By Sondheim". The Guardian. Guardian Media. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Press Releases Celebrities run wild to save Planet Earth". BBC. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Cavendish, Dominic (8 August 2007). "Les Dennis in Certified Male at the Edinburgh Festival". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Actor Rooney to make panto debut". BBC. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis' autobiography jumps straight to No. 6". Curtis Brown. 21 April 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Gardner, Lyn (17 September 2008). "Eurobeat". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Cilla panto thriller rocks the Empire". Liverpool Echo. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Christmas No.1". Daily Mirror. 28 October 2008. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Les Dennis shines in When We Are Married". Metro. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Jones, Catherine (5 January 2010). "Henry Winkler praises Liverpool after playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan pantomime". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Miles, Tina. "Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson parties in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Evans, Jim (7 October 2010). "GLP makes giant impression on children's TV". Lighting and Sound International Online. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "Theatre: Actor Les Dennis in cancer musical". Birmingham Mail. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Fletcher, Alex (22 June 2011). "Les Dennis, 'Enders Barry in Ricky Gervais's 'Life's Too Short' - Video". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- "What's On: What's On in Liverpool and Merseyside - Liverpool Echo". www.liverpoolecho.co.uk. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- Hemley, Matthew (1 August 2013). "Les Dennis and Warwick Davis to join the cast of Spamalot | News". Retrieved 9 September 2019.
- Guest (1 January 1970). "The Perfect Murder". Wycombeswan.co.uk. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
- Power, Vicki (21 December 2013). "Midsomer Madness: ITV's detective drama kicks off with a Christmas episode". Daily Express. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Kilkelly, Daniel (23 January 2014). "Coronation Street: Les Dennis joins show as criminal Michael Rogers". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Dainty, Sophie (18 November 2016). "Coronation Street has just killed off Michael Rodwell after Pat Phelan's most shocking move yet". Digital Spy. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Cavendish, Dominic (18 May 2017). "Not even Les Dennis as Fester can save this lifeless musical - The Addams Family, review". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
- Barkham, Patrick (1 April 2008). "Beyond a joke". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
- "Holden and Dennis marriage ends". BBC. 27 December 2002. Retrieved 16 July 2010.
- "Les Dennis marries for third time". BBC News. 24 November 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- "Baby girl for TV host Les Dennis". BBC News. BBC. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2008.
- "Garston TV star Les "delighted" to become Dad for third time". Liverpool Echo. 19 April 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- Greenstreet, Rosanna (3 February 2001). "The questionnaire: Les Dennis". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
| Host of Family Fortunes