Celebrity TV Host Bobby Rivers Dies at 70 — What Was His Cause of Death?

Allison DeGrushe - Author
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Dec. 28 2023, Published 10:43 a.m. ET

Bobby Rivers
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Television and radio personality and actor Bobby Rivers died on Dec. 26, 2023.
  • A cause of death has not yet been announced, but he passed away in a Minneapolis hospital.
  • Bobby is best known for hosting the Top 5 show on the Food Network and Watch Bobby Rivers on VH1.
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Bobby Rivers, a trailblazing television host, radio personality, and actor, has passed away. His sister, Besty Rivers, officially announced his death on Facebook on Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023.

He was 70 years old.

Details regarding the cause of Bobby Rivers' death are still emerging, but here's what we currently know about the circumstances surrounding the television host's passing.

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Nancy Giles and Bobby Rivers
Source: Getty Images

What was Bobby Rivers' cause of death?

The initial report of Bobby's passing came from Milwaukee's WISN 12 news station, where he notably made history as the city's first Black television film critic back in 1979. Subsequently, his sister, Betsy Rivers, disclosed in a now-deleted Facebook post that he "passed away last night and is no longer in any pain."

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Betsy told The Hollywood Reporter that Bobby had been living in St. Paul, Minn., and died on Tuesday, December 26, in a Minneapolis hospital. She also mentioned that Bobby had suffered a series of mini-strokes and faced a recurrence of lung cancer.

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Many of those who knew Bobby were quick to share tributes on social media, including Whoopi Goldberg.

"All hail this pioneer Bobby Rivers… He brought SO much to the table. R.I.P Bobby," the EGOT winner and current co-host of The View wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of the two smiling together.

Film critic and lecturer Stephen Whitty took to X (formerly known as Twitter) and penned, "Bobby was a very funny, very knowledgeable journalist, and a tireless advocate for more diversity, particularly in the classic film world. (His piece on race and It's a Wonderful Life was a keeper.) I miss him already."

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Turner Classic Movies also remembered the television icon's impact: "We are saddened to hear about the passing of trailblazing television personality Bobby Rivers," the network said on X. "An enthusiastic and knowledgeable film fan at heart, we will miss him sharing his love of the classics with the #TCMParty community and his thoughtful essays on his blog."

Bobby Rivers was an acclaimed television host and film critic.

Bobby, the eldest among three siblings, hails from Los Angeles. During his time at the all-boys Verbum Dei Jesuit High School in L.A., he became the youngest winner and the first Black contestant on the 1970s syndicated show The Movie Game. He moved to Milwaukee in 1972 and graduated from Marquette University, where he majored in broadcasting.

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Launching his career at Milwaukee's WQFM radio station, Bobby initially served as a morning newsman and quickly gained popularity as an on-air personality. In 1979, he marked his professional television debut on WISN-TV, becoming Milwaukee's first Black film critic on television. He was also a contributor on the city's edition of PM Magazine. In 1984, Bobby became a co-host and associate producer of a live weekday show on WISN.

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Following the show's cancellation in 1985, Bobby joined WPIX-TV in New York City as an entertainment reporter. Then, in 1987, Bobby secured a position at VH1, where his impressive talents led executives to offer him his own show titled Watch Bobby Rivers. He interviewed several A-listers, including Meryl Streep and Paul McCartney. Bobby also hosted veejay segments with Rosie O'Donnell until 1990.

He later hosted the syndicated game show Bedroom Buddies before becoming a lifestyle and entertainment reporter on WNBC TV's Weekend Today in New York and WNYW-TV's Good Day New York in 1992.

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By 2000, he became the entertainment editor for ABC News and Lifetime TV's Lifetime Live, working alongside hosts Deborah Roberts and Dana Reeve. After the show's cancellation, Bobby hosted Top 5 on Food Network in 2002.

Aside from his broadcasting career, he explored the world of acting, appearing in The Sopranos and The Onion News Network's video podcast, In the Know. Bobby also wrote about film and television on his blog, Bobby Rivers TV, which he launched in 2011. His final post, dated Nov. 19, 2023, celebrated Colman Domingo's exceptional performance in the biographical drama film Rustin.

Our thoughts are with Bobby's family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.

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