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In later years he was famous for a series of insurance ads with the catchphrase “Calm down, dear!” Prime Minister David Cameron once used the phrase to a female lawmaker in the House of Commons, prompting howls of outrage.

He also founded and helped fund a campaign to erect a London memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty.

Winner had experienced health problems since getting a bacterial infection from bad oysters in 2007. He wrote his final column in December, but refused to say goodbye forever.

“Who knows, after Christmas I might make a comeback,” he wrote. “How many times did Sinatra do it?”

His wife, a former dancer who met Winner in 1957 and married him two years ago, said he was “a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life.”

Monty Python comedian John Cleese said Winner had been “the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends. I shall miss him terribly.”

And TV mogul Simon Cowell said he, too, would miss a good friend.

“Laughter was never far away when Michael was around, and he is someone who the more I got to know, the fonder I got of him,” Cowell said.