Sir Billy Connolly’s wife has blasted Sir Michael Parkinson for claiming that the comedian was no longer able to recognise him due to failing health.
Pamela Stephenson Connolly labelled the former chat show host a “daft old fart” after he said her husband’s brain had been “dulled” amid his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson, 83, described an “awkward dinner” he had with his close friend Connolly, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2013.
Mrs Connolly, 68, insisted the 75-year-old comic was “doing great” and insisted Parkinson didn’t know anything about the current state of his health.
Venting on Twitter, she wrote: “Mike Parkinson is a daft old fart - doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Billy’s doing great and still funny as hell.”
Later Connolly responded directly to Parkinson’s comments and said the veteran broadcaster was wrong to suggest he couldn’t recognise him.
He said: “I would recognise Parky if he was standing behind me - in a diving suit.”
Both of their comments were backed up by a statement from production company Indigo Television, who have made documentaries with Connolly and are currently working with him on a series where he tours around Scotland.
They said: “We have been busy filming with Billy over the summer and can report happily that he’s on top form – as sharp and hilarious as ever.
“We were speaking with his wife Pamela Stephenson only today and she is pretty sure that Billy has no more problem recognising old friends than anyone else of his age who has lived abroad for years.”
Referring to the “awkward dinner”, Indigo Television said Connolly’s family disagreed with Parkinson’s version of events.
They added: “The GQ Awards must be the event Sir Michael is talking about – it was a couple of years ago in 2016 and Sir Michael presented Billy with an Inspiration Award.
“Pamela said that she and daughter Cara were at the dinner and remembers from the night that Billy turned to her and Cara immediately and said ‘oh good – there’s Parky!’”
Speaking on ITV’s Saturday Morning with James Martin, Parkinson said: “The sadness of Billy now is that wonderful brain is dulled.
“I saw him recently – he’s now living in America – and it was very sad, because I was presenting him with a prize at an award ceremony.
“We had an awkward dinner together, because I wasn’t quite sure if he knew who I was or not.”
He added: “To know someone as long as I knew and loved Billy it was an awful thing to contemplate, that that had been taken from him in a sense.”
In 1975, although already famous in Scotland, Connolly became a massive star across the UK when he appeared on BBC’s Parkinson show.
He said it “changed my entire life” and the two became instant friends, with Connolly appearing on the talk show 15 times over the years.