Gogglebox's star 'grandfather' Leon dies after a short illness

Leon Bernicoff, 83, was known for his Yiddish phrases and not holding back his fiery opinions


Leon Bernicoff, the much-loved “grandfather” of hit Channel 4 show Gogglebox, has died aged 83.

A statement from the show’s production company said he died in hospital on Saturday after a short illness.

Bernicoff and his wife June were the first members of the public to be cast for the programme – which shows families across Britain watching television – when it started in 2013.

A retired teacher from a Jewish family, Bernicoff was known for his use of Yiddish phrases and not holding back his fiery opinions.

“You're no good as Prime Minister, you fat-faced Tory,” he was once recorded saying of David Cameron. He also described Nigel Farage as a “dickhead”.

The couple met in 1955 but Leon’s parents objected to June’s Catholic upbringing so they kept their relationship a secret for four years.

“Leon was an only son and that caused problems with his family. It was the 1950s. My parents were chapel-going in south Wales so it was not easy,” June told the JC in 2014.

“It was very difficult early on,” Leon added. “But I loved June so much I couldn’t do without her. My father was in the army and was quite religious.

“He eventually came round to the idea of us.”

It was Leon’s Orthodox aunt who helped the couple weather the storm by accepting their marriage and welcoming them for Yomtov meals.

“I always think our girls had the best upbringing,” he said. “They went to shul with their grandparents and then went to the chapel in Wales.”

Tributes were paid to Bernicoff on social media after news of his passing was announced.

“Words can’t explain what you meant to so many people,” his Gogglebox co-star Scarlett Moffatt wrote on Twitter. “From your words of encouragement to me to the little DMs. Leon you were loved by so many. Sending my love to you and all of your family.”

June Bernicoff also tweeted a short message of thanks: “Leon would have loved reading them & hearing how much he was loved.”

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