Every Christmas Day, Charlotte and her mum Tracy visit the comedian’s memorial statue in the pier-side gardens in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, Les’s hometown. “On Christmas morning, we dress him up and put a hat and a scarf on to make him feel warmer,” says Charlotte, whose natural charm and ebullience has seen her move from make-up artist to appear on a series of hit reality TV shows. “Then we go to the chippy, have a pint and visit the tree I planted in the grounds of the church where mum and dad got married. At Christmas, we always have a little ceremony for him.” Charlotte has even told her boyfriend, former rugby player Matthew Sarsfield, that if he wants to marry her, he’ll have to ask permission from her dad’s statue. Frankly, there is no doubt that even after death, Les remains omnipresent – the family patriarch.
At their Christmas Day meal, Charlotte, who is a refreshingly frank interviewee, says she brings a life-size cut-out of him to the table.
“Ever since I popped out of mum’s womb, we’ve had this cardboard cut-out,” she laughs.
“Dad used to put it in the window when he went away so no burglars would come in and so we have kept up with the tradition.
“We have Christmas dinner at my sister’s house and we put the cardboard cut-out at the table although it can scare my little nieces.
“But they even go past his statue on the way to school and always say: “Hi, grandad Les.”
Charlotte and her mum keep her dad warm
Les, famous for his facial expressions and deadpan character, made his debut on the talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1967 and became a prominent comedian and game show host on Blankety Blank and was a much-loved Panto dame.
He was a heavy smoker and drinker and, on rare occasions, he wasn’t at work, he would drink and smoke heavily.
Eventually, he suffered a major heart attack, ironically while waiting for the results of a medical check-up with Tracy at a Manchester hospital.
“If I could have said one thing to him, it would have been to stop smoking, eat healthily and not to work as much,” says Charlotte.
Baby Charlotte with dad Les
“He had a bit of a nightmare of a lifestyle and I would definitely have told him to slow down. But dad always lived by the rule that you could die tomorrow.
“His philosophy was, ‘Don’t be worried about living healthily. If you want to get a meal from the chippy, go for it’.”
Charlotte, who has made her own name in showbusiness, jokes that she has inherited her father’s work ethic – and his double chins!
“I feel like I am a reincarnation of him. I love being on the stage and in front of a camera,” she laughs.
Charlotte posted this Father’s Day tribute
I’m not a gym bird. My exercise is picking up a burger to eat and I am well over 10 stone
“He passed his sense of humour and northern charm down to me. I’ve inherited his double chins and his work ethic. I worked non-stop in my 20s as a make-up artist before I landed parts in Ex On The Beach and shows like Celebs Go Dating.
“Now I’m about to star in Celebrity Christmas Come Dine With Me. It can be hard when I get trolled on social media and I get comments like, ‘You’re not as funny as your dad.’ But I reckon he is looking down, pint in hand, saying, ‘Good on ya, girl’.”
In the latest series of Celebrity Christmas Come Dine With Me, Charlotte treats guests, including Debbie McGee, Dick and Dom, and drag star Courtney Act, to a northern feast with a mushy pea soup and festive fish’n’chips for the main course.
Charlotte out on the town
The only problem is that she has never cooked in her life.
She hopes her “carefree charm” will make up for her inexperience in the kitchen.
She admits: “When I was sitting next to Debbie, I was burping at the table but I am like dad and I don’t take life too seriously.
“Me mam always jokingly brought me up to say, ‘A family that burp together stay together’ and I’ve always lived by that motto.
“When I met my boyfriend Matthew, I thought we might only have a couple of weeks together.
“But, three years later, we’ve got a mortgage and we’re both burping!”
Les was married to his first wife, Margaret, from 1960 until her death in 1986 from cancer.
They had three children, Julie, Pamela and Stuart, Charlotte’s half-siblings.
He married his second wife, Tracy, in May 1989.
She was 17 years younger and they had Charlotte in October 1992.
“Mum mostly raised me alone and I was always making cakes with her but I could never really cook.
“Dad preferred to get a takeaway like me. I’ve always been into basic food like pizza, pasta and chips. I’m a chip connoisseur.
“If I went to the gym, I would probably lose a lot of weight but I’m not a gym bird. My exercise is picking up a burger to eat and I am well over 10 stone.”
Les is perhaps most famous for creating the comedy act of Cissie Braithwaite and Ada Shufflebotham, two elderly Northern housewives, played by comic actor Roy Barraclough and himself.
Charlotte admits it’s one of her favourite sketches.
“After our Christmas meal, we get into our onesies and watch dad on TV. All of Dad’s old shows always get shown at this time of year and I feel like he is really with us for Christmas.”
Born in Collyhurst, Manchester, on February 2, 1931 to a working-class Irish mother, as a young man Les travelled to Paris in the hope of becoming a novelist – but instead became a pianist in a brothel.
Charlotte manages to look glam before a night out
That has become the inspiration for a new Sky Arts biopic called Urban Myths: Les Mis.
Written by actor and comedian Steve Pemberton, the cast includes actor Mark Addy, who plays Les in his latter years and Game of Thrones star John Bradley, who plays him as a young man.
Charlotte took Les’s diary and jewellery on to the set to help the cast get into character.
“It’s amazing that they’re recognising my dad not just for his comedic talents. I love Mark Addy and he looks so much like my dad, it’s uncanny,” says Charlotte.
Before his death, Les wrote a 110-page unpublished story of love and mystery, titled An Echo of Shadows, under the pen-name Maria Brett-Cooper, which Charlotte is planning to dramatise.
“We are currently making two plays from scripts that dad wrote,” she says. “One is a comedy set in a joke shop and I’m planning to play the shop owner. I love comedy acting. I feel it’s my forte.”
When she found fame three years ago on MTV’s reality show Ex On The Beach, Charlotte was renowned for her brazen antics.
“Now I’m completely different,” she says. “I’m still ‘fun Charlotte’ but I want to change my image. But you have to start somewhere and I’ve no regrets. I think Dad would have been very proud of me.
“I’ve got a tattoo of his face on my neck so I can remind myself that he has ‘always got my back’.”
Charlotte still takes her dad’s autobiography everywhere.
“I often fall asleep with his book so poor Matthew has to deal with it. It’s hard that dad won’t be around to see me get married.”
Whenever she feels sad, Charlotte always digs out the home video Les made for her before he died.
“In it, he comes to the door and says, ‘By the way, I’m your dad.’ It is so heart-warming but so heartbreaking because you can see how much he loved me. It’s almost as if he knew that he wasn’t going to be around for ever. But I’m so lucky because when I’m feeling down, I can literally put him on YouTube or I can watch the home video and it just keeps me going.”
• Celebrity Christmas Come Dine With Me airs weeknights from December 16 at 7.30pm on E4