Gay Byrne presents his final 'the late late show' May 21, 1999
After 37 years Gaybo gets on his motorbike with help from U2
VETERAN 'Late Late Show' presenter Gay Byrne was rendered speechless during his final show when the members of U2 presented him with a Harley Davidson bike.
The popular RTE star, who had graced single-channel television land for almost four decades, coining the phrases 'There's one for everyone in the audience' and 'Roll it there, Collette', was finally stepping down.
First aired on July 5, 1962, the show was originally intended as an eight-week summer filler but Byrne quickly won the hearts and minds of the viewing public and it became the world's longest-running chat show.
In its early years it provided a unique and often sole forum for the airing of controversial topics on the influence of the Catholic Church, contraception, abortion, divorce and homosexuality and had much to do with the shaping of the new Ireland that emerged from the 1960s.
It famously prompted Fine Gael TD Oliver J Flanagan to proclaim that "there was no sex in Ireland until Teilifis Eireann went on the air".
The genial host interviewed countless international stars of silver screen and music but he will be best remembered for his more controversial encounters with MEP Padraig Flynn, Annie Murphy, former lover of the Bishop Eamon Casey; Terry Keane, who revealed details of her affair with former Taoiseach Charles Haughey; and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, whose hand Byrne refused to shake.
The surprise gift of the motorbike by U2 prompted him to take to the roads, a factor that was later instrumental in his acceptance of the position of chairman of the Road Safety Authority.
His broadcasting career didn't end with the demise of his role as 'Late Late Show' host and he has since presented occasional series for RTE as well as a regular radio show on Lyric FM.