Television great Michael Parkinson has revealed comedy star Billy Connolly no longer recognises close friends, five years after his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis became public.
Parkinson made the sad admission on British TV show Saturday Morning with James Martin, saying Connolly’s “wonderful brain is dulled”.
The Scottish comedian revealed in 2013 that he was being treated for the initial symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson, who interviewed Connolly many times on his long-running talk show, 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,” he said.
“We had an awkward dinner together because I wasn’t quite sure if he knew who I was or not.
“But we were walking out after the presentation to go down and have our picture taken and he turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders.
“He said to me, ‘How long have we known each other?'”
Parkinson said the comedy star was not sure of the “context” of their friendship, adding: “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.”
“He was just a genius and the best thing that happened to me on the show.”
Connolly, 75, has previously talked about the diagnosis, telling an television documentary: “The doctor said to me ‘you realise this isn’t curable?’ and I thought ‘What a rotten thing to say to somebody’.
“I always thought he should have said, ‘You realise we are yet to find a cure?’, to put a little light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a lot to be said for that.”
Connolly was knighted for his services to entertainment in 2017, as well as his charity work, which involved raising awareness for Parkinson’s disease.
“When I’m in front of people and performing, I don’t give it much attention,” he said at the time.
“And I perform despite it. That’s why I put on the song A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On — just to stick two fingers up to it.
“There’s a whole lot of shaking going on. It’s kind of weird, this instability,” he said.
“The only time it stops is when I’m in bed and then I can’t roll over. I’m like a big log.
“It’s the first thing I think about in the morning because getting out of bed is quite hard.”