Cilla Black's oddest TV moments: Celebrating the Queen of Saturday Night on the small screen

27 November 2023, 15:05

Cilla with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Cilla Black was as well-loved for her barmy TV moments as she is her stellar pop career.

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Cilla Black was a bona fide pop superstar in the 1960s, recording hits written for her by the actual Beatles and produced by George Martin, as well as her own take on Burt Bacharach/Hal David numbers and others.

While she kept on singing, in her later life she seamlessly transitioned into a TV mainstay, dubbed the Queen of Saturday Night for her presenting on light entertainment shows like Blind Date and Surprise Surprise.

But it wasn't just her slick presenting skills that viewers tuned in for when they were watching Cilla.

The UK singer of 'Anyone Who Had a Heart' had a knack for knocking out some absolutely remarkable TV moments.

And eight years after her death in 2015 at the age of 72, fans of social media have recently been sharing memories of some of those memorable scenes. We've rounded up our favourites here.

  1. Cilla confronts a journalist on Blind Date

    Undercover Journalist on Blind Date

    We had to start with this.

    When "secretary" Nicola Gill appeared on Blind Date, she wasn't just hoping for a lovely date and fun holiday – she was actually an undercover journalist for Cosmopolitan looking for a scoop on the show.

    But the researchers had done a diligent job, and rather than just not air the programme, Cilla actually confronted Nicola on the show itself, as she sat on the couch with her chosen date Paul Mankelow.

    "Well Nicola, I have to say I've got more than a little surprise for you." Cilla said.

    "'Cause I know what you're at and I feel awfully, deeply saddened by this. You don't work as a temporary secretary.

    "I know for a fact that you're actually an undercover journalist and you've robbed somebody of coming on a proper Blind Date.

    Cilla Black at the Blind Date auditions
    Cilla Black at the Blind Date auditions. Picture: Getty Images

    "You work for Cosmopolitan magazine...It's just a shame you tried to pull the wool over our eyes... but you didn't!"

    As Nicola wrote in the eventual magazine feature: "Paul looks stunned. I feel sick. The studio is spinning. The audience is booing.

    "All I can do is keep smiling, mumble about the fantastic time I've had and wait for this TV hell to end.

    "When the filming is over though, Cilla is sweet as anything. 'Sorry chuck,' she says. 'We found out about it two days ago, so we had to do that. I hope you understand why. You've done brilliantly'."

    It's a must-watch TV moment, albeit one you must-watch-through-your-fingers.

  2. Ciilla quits Blind Date live on TV

    Cilla Black quits Blind Date live on air

    Sticking with Blind Date, Cilla's departure was a shock TV moment for the ages.

    "Hello and welcome to this very special live show," Cilla said at the top of the programme.

    "And you know what, ladies and gentlemen, it is a very special live show because this is going to be my very, very last series of Blind Date."

    It turns out that Cilla had learned that there was a big chance that the show was likely to be axed amid falling ratings and unsuccessful changes, the most egregious surely being the axing of "Our Graham".

    So she took matters into her own hands, and off-screen footage of the producer admitting to the audience that he didn't know Cilla was going to make the announcement is met by the amazing sound of Ms Black chirping up with "Surprise Surprise!". Amazing

  3. Cilla does 'Eye of the Tiger' at a leisure centre

    Titch:Surprise, surprise Cilla Black

    Cilla Black visits Bransholme, just outside of Hull, to give a Surprise Surprise to Jean, who fundraises for a local boxing club.

    That's all well and good, but we somehow end up with Cilla singing Survivor's 'Eye of the Tiger' as she gets her gloves on and knocks a fella clean out.

  4. Cilla introduces us to the magical meal of an orange rubbed with an OXO cube

    Cilla Black and her childhood Oxo Cube memory (2006)

    Everyone has a favoured childhood food... something that evokes a Proustian rush of delight and gets your mouth watering when you just think about it.

    Angel Delight? Viennetta? Mum's roast dinner?

    Well, Cilla's chosen speciality is a little different.

    "I help myself to an orange and I help myself to an OXO cube," she begins, and we can't quite believe what we're seeing.

    Cilla slices the orange in half and rubs each portion with the stock cube.

    John Prescott eats an orange covered in Oxo in a tribute to Cilla Black - News Thing Interview

    "Doesn't that look fabulous?" she asks as she shows the camera the culinary monstrosity before taking a bite out of it.

    In a video clip, she recalls the memory of being forced to confess to the sin. It turns out the OXO was beef, and she had her hideous snack on a Friday – a no-no in Catholicism.

    Ten Hail Mary's later she was absolved... though probably not by any chefs who heard about it.

    Amazingly, after Cilla's passing former politician John Prescott was cajoled into an orange rubbed with an OXO cube on TV in her honour.

  5. Cilla serenades the kids with 'All Night Long' at Christmas

    Cilla Black - All Night Long

    We. Have. No. Words.

  6. Cilla does Carly Simon's 'You’re So Vain'

    Cilla Black - You’re So Vain (Cilla 1973) (HD 60fps)

    While the other videos on this list are either genuinely shocking or knowingly bizarre, we also had to include what appears to be an entirely straight cover of Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain'.

    Well, we say entirely straight. Cilla's performance among a load of black tie clad dancers also manages to achieve the highest level of camp we've seen this side of Cilla's beloved pal Paul O'Grady.

    As one wag put it on X/Twitter, "Don't know if Cilla Black performing You're So Vain is high art or a war crime."

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