'Parky' helps out

By Jessica Elgot, November 11, 2010
Sir Michael Parkinson at the fundraiser with Hillary Isaacs and Niki Leader

Sir Michael Parkinson at the fundraiser with Hillary Isaacs and Niki Leader

Cancer charity Mothers and Daughters has raised £75,000 for new research into a Jewish breast cancer gene by turning the spotlight round onto Britain's most famous interviewer - Sir Michael Parkinson.

As the guest speaker at their Ladies Luncheon at the Grove Hotel, Hertfordshire, 75-year-old "Parky" said he was keen to be there as "a supporter of cancer charities".

Attendees also heard a moving story from Emma Parlons, 39, who had a mastectomy in January and will soon have her ovaries removed after she discovered that the BRCA1 gene she carried made her 85 per cent likely to develop breast cancer.

She told the audience: "As a mother of a six and a four-year-old, I could not just think about myself and if I could do anything to stop getting sick, I would do it. This has been an extremely emotional but also empowering experience. I am sure this new research will save more lives."

Money raised will fund research by Dr Jo Morris at the Institute of Biomedical Research in Birmingham into whether someone with the so-called "Ashkenazi" BRCA1 gene will develop breast cancer. Jews are 10 times more likely to have the gene, which causes breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. The research may prevent women from having unnecessary preventative surgery.

Barnsley-born Sir Michael said before his speech to the 350-strong audience, that his era was "a different time in television". "They are comedy shows, any conversation aims towards a joke, not finding out what makes them tick. It's rather sad. People want to know why a star is there and not them. Why can Frank Sinatra sing like that and I can't? That's fascinating."

"During my show, I had the right to say yes or no to interviewees. The point is being interested in people, whether you like them is irrelevant. Maybe we're too far down the road of cheap celebrities to ever have a serious talk show again."

The charity, formed by Jewish women in 1999, has raised more than £2 million for different cancer projects.

Last updated: 4:56pm, November 11 2010