Exclusive: Robin Leach on friend René Angélil: 'he was the kindest, gentlest soul I’d ever met'

Entertainment writer Robin Leach has joined in the public mourning of Celine Dion's husband, René Angélil, by sharing with Hello! Canada memories and reflections on his friend, who died this week at 73. "He was a total rarity," says Robin, who became friendly with the couple after they set up shop in Las Vegas in 2003. "I think the most important thing that you noticed [with Celine and René] is that they had the most unbelievable love affair you could ever have been witness to." Here in his own words, the British journalist opens up about his late friend and reveals how he thinks Celine is coping with her terrible loss.

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"I always thought he was the kindest, gentlest soul I’d ever met in show business. He was a total rarity. Celine and René lived for each other. They worked for each other. They were conquerors of the world together. It was more than just their love story that was magnificent, it was their business acumen. René's decision to stage Celine in that theatre at Caesars Palace certainly changed the face of entertainment in Las Vegas. Above both of those two things, as I wrote yesterday in my tribute to him, he was the ultimate gentleman. He was a soft-spoken individual. He taught people how to be respectful and was gentle in the way that he did it. He protected Celine from overworking and yet at the same time organized her life so that she had nothing to ever worry about.

Read more: The couple's celebrity friends share messages of love

I think the biggest gap in Celine’s life is that he’s no longer there with an arm around her. I remember when we went to the opening of Veronic Voices at Bally’s in 2013 and my photographer and I were physically on the red carpet with them. They were still playfully young and in love with each other. You could see it in the way they held hands and he kissed her on the cheek. It was a wonderful, incredible love story. At the same time it was an unbelievable working relationship. She had the deepest admiration and respect for him and he had total admiration of her in terms of her talent and her skills. Together they made a Mr. and Mrs. normal couple. You would never think of them with the glittering furor of Brad and Angelina. It was an ultimate show business love story.

Photo: © Getty Images

I can only imagine that Celine is being a matriarch to her three children and is leaning on her own mother for strength. The difficulty for Celine and the reason why she’s so powerful with what she sings and how she conveys the thought of the song is because each one of those is directed at René. She knew he was going to die but she didn't know when he was going to die. They knew the inevitable was coming. They had made the funeral arrangements. Last night I was told from an executive at Caesars that the funeral and memorial service will be in Montreal at René's request and later, there will be a celebration of life ceremony or service back here in Las Vegas.

Read more: René's sweetest quotes about Celine and fatherhood

She did tell her manager Aldo that she will return to the stage on Feb. 23. To me, that may be the catharsis that she needs to work out her grief. But one can only wonder whether she can summon the strength to do it. Although she says she’ll be back on Feb. 23, I think it’s still a bit of an unknown factor. You have to remember, since the age of 12, René was in every aspect of Celine's life. Life is like a jigsaw puzzle and Celine has removed the one major piece. Now she’s got to put it back together without him.

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