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Robin Leach part 1: On celebrity, his career and more (aired 2015)

Robin Leach
Erik Kabik

Robin Leach covered antics celebrities in Las Vegas for several years. He died last week at the age of 76.

Originally aired: April 17, 2015

We're doing a summer series, looking back at some of the interesting people and topics we've talked about on State of Nevada over last several years.

Robin Leach died in 2018 at age 76.

For nearly sixty years, Robin Leach has covered celebrities, the wealthy, and the fascinating people for television and print.

From his stints on Entertainment Tonight to his long run as host of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," he's helped define the way entertainment stories are covered.

Leach started at 15 years old as a reporter for his local paper, forgoing a chance to study economics at the London School of Economics.

“I thought being thrown in the deep end of the swimming pool was the best way to learn the business I really wanted to be in,” Leach said.

At the time, Leach followed the growing pop music scene and wrote about it for several music magazines. However, he missed reporting on a band of four guys from Liverpool, playing their first gig in Hamburg, Germany because his editor didn’t want to send him. 

That band? The Beatles.

He also wrote show businesses stories for magazines and newspapers in Britain.

It was an area of journalism that I thoroughly enjoyed covering, the foibles of famous people.

He came to the U.S. just days after the John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He found empty streets as he walked through New York City on Thanksgiving morning.

Leach wrote the first 11 cover stories of the newly launched People magazine and also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s Star tabloid.

His big break into TV was when he was hired by the then fledgling news network CNN to interview the Academy Award winners for its first Oscar broadcast. From there, network president Ted Turner asked him to host an entertainment news show for CNN, which lead him to help in the launch of Entertainment Tonight.

“The funny thing is nobody had ever specialized in show biz reporting until I came along,” Leach said.

The show that made him a household name in the '80s and '90s was, of course, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Leach became the audience’s gateway into lives most couldn’t even imagine.  Opulent mansions, over-the-top yachts and fabulous resorts all extolled in his trademark accent.

“I walked into places that I would have never believed and I thought that if my mouth dropped and I said ‘wow, gee whiz’ then the audience would say the same thing,” Leach said.

Each show ended with his catch phrase: “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

Leach told KNPR’s State of Nevada that he landed on the catch phrase during “a drunken night in the Caribbean.” He was working on the phrase with a friend, when it all came together.

“We got the champagne wishes then we were stuck. We didn’t know what we were going to say after champagne wishes.

After deciding he wanted some alliteration, they decided on ‘caviar’ and landed on ‘dreams.’

“It was such a perfect five words ‘champagne wishes and caviar dreams.’ And it was such a perfect bookend of the show and summed up what you had just seen the last 60 minutes,” Leach said.

The show is coming back with Nick Cannon at the head. Leach wishes him good luck and has already shot a promotional spot with him.

Leach’s long years covering the entertainment industry has given him access to some of the world’s most legendary stars and moguls. He said he gains access because he loves what he does and makes entertainers feel comfortable.  

“When you eat, sleep and breathe my business and you have this extraordinary passion for it and you’re not there taking pot shots at them and you know their business perhaps better than they know it themselves. They feel comfortable about betraying confidences,” Leach said.

And he has no signs of slowing down – he writes a  daily column for the Las Vegas Sun about the comings and goings here in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

(Editor's Note: This interview originally ran April 2015) 

Robin Leach, celebrity journalist and writer of the Las Vegas Sun's Vegas DeLuxe column

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)