With his infectious smile, loveable charm and fashionably loud suits, Dale Winton will be fondly remembered as the TV phenomenon that invited teams to “go wild in the aisles” with novelty inflatables crammed into their trollies.
For as much as he was the household name fronting ITV’s hit gameshow, Supermarket Sweep, he was also the man who swept his way into the nation’s hearts.
This week, tributes were paid to the Jewish prime-time presenter, who died aged 62.
“A lovely, warm, kind, sensitive, generous soul with a touch of naughty,” wrote Davina McCall. “One of the kindest men you could ever meet,” lamented Jewish singer and Blue band member, Antony Costa, while Duncan Bannatyne described him simply as “the great entertainer”.
Winton seldom spoke publicly about his Jewish roots, but was more revealing in his 2002 autobiography, Dale Winton: My Story, which has now been republished.
Born in Marylebone, London, in May 1955, Winton was the only child of Garry Winner (later changed to Winton), a Jewish furniture salesman and Sheree, a glamorous, blonde-haired actress, who converted to Judaism.
The age gap between his parents was of remark: his mother was just 17, while his father – described by Winton as “a bullish man with a fiery temper” – was in his 40s when they met.
Within the year the pair married and Sheree was just 19 when she had Winton.
He was named after actor Dale Robertson, star of the cowboy series Wells Fargo, of which Sheree was a fan.
The family lived first in Ivor Court, Baker Street, before moving to St Margaret’s Road, Edgware when Winton was 3.
He fondly recalls: “We shared the drive with Mrs Marks, an old lady who was always complaining. Once, when the drive was being tarmacked, I had great fun jumping all over the sticky mess before it had dried and all hell broke loose next door.
“I remember Mrs Marks emerging from the house wielding a broom and quite clearly at the end of her tether. Even as a child I obviously felt the need to express myself – and make my indelible mark!”
Winton briefly attended Rosh Pinah, before transferring to Lee House School in Hampstead and later as a boarder at Orley Farm, a prep school for Harrow.
His memoirs also refer to his Russian-Jewish paternal grandparents, who had eight children and lived in Linden Lea, Hampstead Garden Suburb. He recalls his grandmother as a formidable woman.
“My most vivid memory of her is of a very large, typically Russian-looking matriarch presiding over the kitchen at mealtimes, with all her daughters gathered around her.
“Several of these, Myra, Hazel, Jill and Rita, got married, despite the fact that, for some extraordinary reason, their mother was always threatening to cut them out of her will if they did!”
By the time Winton neared his teen years, his parents’ marriage had begun to unravel, but Sheree nevertheless insisted that Winton completed his barmitzvah.
“Mum always had a great sense of what was right and wrong,” he wrote. “Having converted to Judaism herself, she had made sure I attended Hebrew classes at school every Sunday and had always brought me up to embrace the wonderfully strong values of Jewish family life.”
He learned his Torah portion phonetically and recalls the day of his bar mitzvah, when tragically his father – now in failing health – passed away the very same morning.
Winton writes: “The idea, then, was that I should do my bar mitzvah in the synagogue with one other boy whom I didn’t know from a bar of soap, then go with my tallis, cappel and the book, and read it to Dad in the hospital.
“On the day of my bar mitzvah, half the congregation present on one side of the synagogue included my family and my father’s sisters, and the other half was the boy’s family.
“Having read my bar mitzvah phonetically and got away with it, what I couldn’t understand as I stood there, very pleased with myself, looking out at the congregation, was that his half were looking joyous and my half were looking very upset – and crying.
“The good news, it seemed to me, was that I had managed to do the bar mitzvah; the bad news was that it didn’t look as if it had gone down too well. I was bewildered.
“It wasn’t until I left the synagogue that I understood what had happened. Taking me to one side, Mum kissed me and congratulated me, and made it very clear that she was very proud of me but then, putting her arm round my shoulders, said, ‘Dale, I have something sad to tell you. Your father died earlier this morning.’
Tragedy struck again when just days after he turned 21, Winton discovered his mother, who he adored, had died after taking an overdose.
While his personal life was blighted by setbacks, he went on to find success in his professional life, first as a DJ on the London club scene, before getting his break as a presenter on Supermarket Sweep.
He hosted the show from 1993 to 2001, and was involved in a 2007 reboot.
From there, Winton – who revealed he was gay in 2002 – moved onto prime-time shows including The National Lottery’s In It To Win It and went onto host his own Christmas specials, as well as celebrity guest shows.
In recent years, the once prolific star kept a low profile, revealing in 2016 on Loose Women that he had secretly battled depression after going through a difficult break up.
He is fondly remembered by those closest to him, including Paul O’Grady, his friend of many years, who said Winton would be “missed by many”.
He said: “When I think of Dale, I think of Mr Showbiz. Out there, giving it all, with a big smile and the tan.
“He always insisted on getting that glow. He really embraced being in the public eye and absolutely loved it.”
My Story by Dale Winton is published by Arrow Books, priced £9.99.
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