Russ Abbot has led tributes to former co-star Bella Emberg after her death aged 80.
Abbot described the comedy actress, who appeared alongside him as Blunderwoman on The Russ Abbot Show, as “a huge comedy talent” and “a woman of immense warmth and generosity”.
The comedian joined former co-star Les Dennis and personalities including Paul Chuckle and Cheryl Fergison to pay tribute to the veteran actress.
In a statement issued to the Press Association, Abbot, 70, said: “It is with a heavy heart that I heard the news about Bella. She was my leading lady throughout most of my career.
“She was not only a great sport but a huge comedy talent. A genuinely funny woman, but most of all a woman of immense warmth and generosity. I count myself very lucky to have worked alongside her.
“She really was a one off. RIP Bella.”
Dennis, who appeared on The Russ Abbot Show, shared a photo of himself with Emberg on Twitter, saying he was “so sad” to lose a “funny, lovely friend”.
Chuckle, real name Paul Elliott, who performed in pantomime with Emberg remembered her as “the funniest fairy ever”, while EastEnders star Fergsion said she was a “lovable and always an inspiration”.
During a television career spanning six decades, Emberg appeared in several hit programmes including The Benny Hill Show, Doctor Who and Z Cars.
However it was her turn as Blunderwoman, the comic sidekick of Abbot’s Cooperman in the 1980s, that she will be best remembered.
In a June 2017 interview with the Daily Mirror she said the role was a boost for her career, but the success of her character became a burden.
She said: “Blunderwoman saved my career – and I still view her as a complete blessing.
“After it ended in 1996 I couldn’t get work. I went for jobs and they’d say: ‘We’d love to hire you but you’re too well known with Russ’.”
Despite her years, Emberg continued to perform, most recently filming scenes for In The Long Run, a Sky One comedy created by Idris Elba, before Christmas.
One of the series’ producers, Charlie Hanson, said Emberg was a “lovely and funny woman” and a “brilliant” actress.