Robin Leach, the British journalist who profiled the gilded world of the one percent on the long-running show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, died today in Las Vegas. He was 76. The Washington Post reports that the cause of death was a stroke.
As a young man, Leach spent over a decade covering gossip and entertainment for publications in America and the UK. He joined Entertainment Tonight as a correspondent back in 1981, and spun his coverage into a new show focusing on how celebrities and tycoons spent their cash. As a ground rule, to be featured on this showcase of luxury homes, food, fashion, and transportation, you had to have a net-worth above $50 million. The intro to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous featured multiple glimpses of Champagne being poured into glasses, as well as shots of speedboats, helicopters, castles, and future POTUS Donald Trump striding down a hallway with Michael Jackson.
Leach spoke of his subjects with almost comically bombastic enthusiasm. “I love cliches,” he once told the New York Times. “I love alliteration. On television, you can wrap your tongue around cliches and aggressive verbs.” The host also coined one of the great ’80s catchphrases on his show by signing off with, “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”
Leach’s fascination with flashy displays of wealth fed into a larger culture of greed and status symbol-obsession that permeated ’80s pop culture. He became such a famous hype-man for the world of ostentatious wealth that Leach’s name got dropped in numerous rap songs about living the good life, and companies like Bud Light and the California Lottery used his voice in their ads. As the Washington Post notes, Leach’s influence on pop culture endured long enough to be parodied by two separate SNL cast members — Harry Shearer and Dana Carvey — several years apart.
Arguably his greatest influence on gastronomy came in the form of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook, published in 1991, which featured hearty recipes from Joan Collins, Ivana Trump, Randy Travis, Martha Stewart, and Bruce & Kris Jenner. Leach is on the cover of the book holding a glass of Champagne in front of a table festooned with shellfish, and caviar in a crystal bowl. Quartz’s Annaliese Griffin recently wrote about the brassy spirit of the book:
The food in The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook largely follows the lead from the cover. Lobster, caviar, truffles, veal dishes, and rich chocolate desserts dominate the pages. Even their homey, celebrities-they’re-just-like-us dishes—Ivana Trump and Eva Gabor both share favorite goulash recipes, Randy Travis contributes his favorite fried chicken and buttermilk pie—are all serious rib stickers. No one is talking about heirloom tomatoes or organic anything. In 1991, stars like Gabor and pasta-pusher Joan Collins may have been rich, but they experienced the privation of World War II-era Europe as children, Gabor in Hungary, Collins in England. Special food wasn’t just about exotic ingredients, it was about calories, and plenty of them.
After Lifestyles concluded its 11-year run, Leach appeared on several other gossip and reality shows, including I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and The Surreal Life: Fame Game. In the late ’90s, he became a fixture of the Las Vegas dining and nightlife scene, contributing articles to the Las Vegas Sun and VegasDeluxe.com. In 2016, Leach got his own column at the Las Vegas Journal-Review. “Working keeps me young,” he told the Hollywood Reporter two years ago. “I’m still going strong, and the body lets me know that it doesn’t like doing what I used to do years ago. There’s no point in retiring because there’s no fun in retiring.”
Since news of his death broke earlier today, Leach’s celebrity friends have been sharing remembrances of the journalist on social media. Here are some of the reactions from the people who knew him:
Well good morning everyone , wanted to say good bye to a great man @Robin_Leach who passed away last night. had on many occasions chatted & was interviewed by Robin. A great gentle man who loved people RIP Robin Thoughts & prayers.— Robert Irvine (@RobertIrvine) August 24, 2018
So sad to hear about the death of the wonderful broadcaster and media personality @Robin_Leach He was the life of the party and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” was a great show that placed him indelibly in showbiz history. pic.twitter.com/LerPbekjxk— Joan Collins (@Joancollinsdbe) August 24, 2018
So saddened to hear about the passing of @Robin_Leach he was always kind to me and a friend to Las Vegas businesses I’ve had over the past almost 10 years. I hope you’re resting at your grand chalet in the sky my friend. RIP— Scott Conant (@conantnyc) August 24, 2018
Condolences to the family of my friend @Robin_Leach He will be missed.— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) August 24, 2018
• Las Vegas Gossip Columnist Robin Leach Dead at Age 76 [Eater Vegas]
• Robin Leach, ‘jacuzzi journalist’ and host of TV’s ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,’ dies at 76 [WP]
• Robin Leach, 76, ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ Host, Dies [NYT]
• ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ Host Robin Leach Dead at 76 [CNN]
• Rich People Food Has Changed Radically Since the Early 90s [Quartz]