A former showbiz reporter who was once told by entertainer Max Bygraves to blow himself up, has died at the age of 70.
For years Keith Strong wrote a TV column for Sheffield daily The Star in which he regularly baited Bygraves as “talentless.”
After initially taking offence, the veteran entertainer then decided to play along with the running joke.
He sent Keith a box of matches with the message “in case of gas leak, use this,” and also a packet of Paxo, inviting him to use it on himself.
Former assistant editor Peter Markie recalled: “His TV programme notes gave more than one editor sleepless nights”
Other colleagues remember him as “a legend in his own byline” who cut a Bohemian figure in the office, regularly wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the message “Thank God It’s Friday” in an era when most still wore collars and ties.
Keith first arrived in Sheffield in 1966 and for a while worked as crime reporter for the now defunct Morning Telegraph.
He took over the showbiz beat in the early 70s, interviewing a string of big names including the Beach Boys, Four Tops, Four Seasons, Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder as well as British stars like Tommy Cooper.
A drinking partner of Sheffield pop star Joe Cocker, he was instrumental in spotting rock band Def Leppard, and became their unofficial PR man.
He was also a close confidante of the late Sheffield comedienne Marti Caine, who would ring him at her most troubled times.
Keith left the paper on a number of occasions but always returned, and was said by colleagues to have enjoyed “as many comebacks as Sinatra.”
However he finally left for good following the arrival of new editor unused to his ways, and later opened a bar in Tenerife with his wife Jackie, a singer with the Frank White Band whom he met during an interview.
Keith was still not done with journalism, though, and he later edited The Canarian, an English language newspaper on the island.
He leaves a daughter, Philippa, from a previous marriage, and a stepson, Brent.
Keith’s funeral is at Grenoside crematorium at 1.45pm on Monday, October 22 followed by a musical celebration at the New Barrack Tavern, Penistone Road, Sheffield.