Dame Esther Rantzen
Dame Esther Louise Rantzen was born 22 June 1940. She presented BBC television series That’s Life! for 21 years which at its height had more than 20 million viewers. She also founded Childline, a counselling service for children.
“If I had been born two generations earlier, my career couldn’t have happened. Two generations later, I wouldn’t have been pretty enough.”
Dame Esther Rantzen was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs. Each guest chooses 8 tracks, a book and a luxury item to take to a desert island. She spoke of her time as the host and producer of BBC series ‘That’s Life!’, the experience of founding Childline and her most recent philanthropic quest: Silver Line, for the elderly.
The first track Dame Esther Rantzen chose to take on a desert island was Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose. In Esther’s words, Edith ‘Sang from the souls of her feet’. It’s true. It’s true.
“Children will always need the capacity to talk to a stranger about something they cannot talk about at home.”
Childline was founded after a 1986 special episode of That’s Life! on child abuse. There were 50,000 attempted calls on its first night. At the time, the conversations were about violence at home. Now they are about anxiety, sadness and depression.
Dame Ester’s favourite track from her selection was Frank Sinatra’s September Song. Frank took singing lessons. Read each song like a poem before he sang it. Practiced. Practiced. And practiced. In order to make it feel effortless.
“Plenty of people know someone to do something with but nobody to do nothing with.”
On a particlarly down day, Dame Esther did what, in her own words, she always does when feeling down: call the Daily Mail. She wrote about her feelings and was inundated with responses. Inspired by the pickup, she founded ‘The Silver Line’, a free, 24 hour helpline for older people. All in all a remarkable woman living a remarkable life.