‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ host Robin Leach dead at 76

Before ‘MTV Cribs’ and the Kardashians, there was Robin Leach’s ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2018, 9:49pm

Robin Leach, the high priest of pizzazz and an early pioneer of reality TV with hit show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, has died. He was 76.

The suave presenter, known for his catchphrase “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” on the 1980s and 90s series, practically invented bling, regaling audiences for more than a decade with stories of lavish living and fabulous wealth.

His son, Steven Leach, said he died in Las Vegas, where he made his home.

Leach had a stroke in November while on vacation in Mexico that led to a months-long recovery, much of which he spent at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio before returning to Las Vegas in June. His son said Leach suffered another stroke Monday.

Leach was widely respected for his deep knowledge and insights on the Vegas entertainment scene, and tributes to the journalist were led by superstar Celine Dion, a Sin City regular.

“Saddened to hear the news that Robin Leach has passed away. He was a thoughtful and considerate man, and a great supporter of the entertainment scene in Las Vegas,” the Canadian diva tweeted.

Leach, who was born in Britain but moved to the US in his 20s, was a celebrity reporter for newspapers and magazines in both countries, including the Daily Mail, People and New York Daily News.

He became a key figure in the nascent reality television sector with the launch in 1984 of the nationally-syndicated Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, which gave viewers peeks inside celebrity homes until 1995.

“They wrote that television had reached an all-time-low,” Leach told The Huffington Post.

“But I looked at the ratings every Monday morning, and I was rubbing my hands with glee.”

He was also an executive producer and occasional writer on the show, and hosted a brief spin-off, Runaway with the Rich and Famous.

In 1999, Leach went to Las Vegas to work with celebrity chefs at the Venetian casino-resort, and made the move permanent, becoming a fixture in the city as he covered the destination’s entertainment and lifestyles for America Online and his own website.

He also wrote for the Las Vegas Sun and, most recently, for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

He made frequent appearances on the celebrity reality TV circuit, hosting VH-1’s The Surreal Life: Fame Games and appearing on the celebrity editions of Wife Swap and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

He was among the founders of the Food Network, selling his equity for a big payday when the channel took off.

Married once and divorced, Leach spent much of his later years in the company of his three sons, Steven, Rick and Greg, and several grandchildren.

“There is this image of a guy in a hot tub, drinking champagne with two buxom blondes,” Leach told the Las Vegas Sun in 2011.

“But that is not the real me. I am a father, and I am a grandfather, too.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press and The Washington Post