"Billy Connolly's wonderful brain is dulled,” says Michael Parkinson; comedian's production company says he's in "top form"
Sir Billy Connolly, who has been battling Parkinson's Disease for almost five years, "no longer recognizes his close friends". The Scottish comedian-musician has been suffering from dementia associated with Parkinson's, and his close friend Sir Michael Parkinson admitted that the disease has now started taking a toll on him. Parkinson was in New York to present Connolly with an award recently, and on the ITV show, Saturday Morning With James Martin, he recounted an "awkward dinner" with the 75-year-old comedian.
He 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 awards ceremony. We had an awkward dinner together because I wasn't quite sure if he knew who I was or not."
However, Connolly did place his hands on Parkinson's shoulder when the two walked out of the presentation and got a picture together.
Connolly was diagnosed with the degenerative neuro disorder following his surgery for prostate cancer. He also went public in 2013 about his condition at a Downing Street reception in order to raise awareness about Parkinson's. Connolly had then told, "I have been through the wars. I am getting old. I have had 71 incredible years. I had pneumonia in my twenties but nothing since then. I guess you get your lot. Some have it sprinkled through their life and others get it, whammy at the end." The disorder causes tremors in the body as it immediately attacks the central nervous system that affects movement. It also results in involuntary shaking, stiff muscles, slow movement, and in a few cases the gradual decay of memory and balance.
While speaking about Connolly's condition, Michael confessed that it was difficult seeing an old friend in that condition. He said, "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. He was just a genius and the best thing that happened to me on the show.” Connolly had received the knighthood last year for his service to the entertainment industry and his charity work which also included spreading awareness on Parkinson's disease. He had said, "When I’m in front of people and performing, I don’t give it much attention. 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. The only time it stops is when I’m in bed and then I can’t roll over. I’m like a big log.”
However, producer's at Indigo Television, the production house behind several of the comedian's TV projects, suggested Parkinson did not have the correct impression of Connolly's health.
"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," they said, in a statement issued on Monday.