RIP Robin Leach

Robin Leach, the celebrity journalist and iconic persona of ‘the rich and famous’ died last week after stroke- related complications. He is survived by three sons and several grandchildren.

Born in London, Leach started his career as an entertainment and celebrity reporter at age 18 and wrote for several publications, including the New York Daily News, Ladies Home Journal and People magazine. Yet he was recognized as  a household name when he became as host of the syndicated TV series “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” from 1984 – 1995. The show featured interviews with international celebrities with a particular focus on their homes and luxurious lifestyles. One classic “Lifestyles” episode featured a 120-foot-long limousine with a helicopter landing pad and a Jacuzzi. Leach’s British accent and distinctive cadence became shorthand for ostentatious wealth in the popular culture. He signed off each episode with his signature catchphrase, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

The success of “Lifestyles” also helped Leach build connections with celebrity chefs, which he used to help start the Food Network. Later he was approached by Sheldon Adelson to attract celebrity chefs who might consider opening restaurants at the Venetian.  That plan worked. Leach often wrote about the robust dining scene in Las Vegas and loved discovering the latest over-the-top offerings, which he shared in his dining blog.

Despite his reputation, Leach insisted he was a normal, down-to-earth sort and described his TV persona as a ‘ cartoon character’. In an interview with the New York Times he said,  “That’s not who Robin Leach is. When I wake up in the morning, I wink at myself because I like me — I know who I am. And when it’s time to send the cartoon character off, I just send him on his way.”

Philanthropy came naturally to Leach and he used his connections and celebrity to help local charities and organizations. He was a frequent attendant of the St. Baldrick’s shave-a-thon and donated his speaking fees to the Cleveland Clinic of Las Vegas. “He really believed in helping people,” said Larry Ruvo, founder of the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas. Leach also served as an emcee for various charities in New York City, and donated the money he made from these endeavors to local charities, which helped developmentally disabled people. “He never said ‘no’ to a meeting or conversation about ways to help the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s patients, caregivers and families. Thank you for all you’ve done for us. We’ll keep your memory alive forever,” said the facility.

Unlike Prince and Aretha Franklin who died without wills, it appears (from the lack of publicity) Robin Leach had an estate plan in place. I, for one, look forward to learning more about the legacy he envisioned for his survivors and his charitable causes.