Paul O’Grady death: TV star and comedian dies aged 67

Lorraine Kelly and Piers Morgan among those to pay tribute to the presenter and comedian, who was also known for his groundbreaking drag persona, Lily Savage

Peony Hirwani
Wednesday 29 March 2023 04:09 BST
Paul O’grady Dies At The Age Of 67

TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady has died at the age of 67.

The news was announced by his partner Andre Portasio.

The TV star, also known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday (28 March) evening, a statement shared with the PA news agency said.

Portasio said: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.

“We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss.

“He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.

“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”

O’Grady and Portasio were married during a low-key wedding ceremony in 2017.

(Getty Images)

The presenter had previously made a poignant comment on death and living past the age of 60.

Read the latest tributes and updates here.

During his career, he hosted The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.

O’Grady also hosted ITV celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up.

He took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, as he hosted the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017.

Last year, O’Grady was joined by the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an organisation for which he was an ambassador.

The TV star’s love for animal was well-known, and he had lived in a farmhouse in Kent with Portasio along with a menagerie of animals including four dogs, goats, sheep, chickens and barn owls.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.

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In August of 2022 he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.

Born in Birkenhead, on the Wirral, Merseyside, O’Grady’s mother’s maiden name was Savage – which is believed to have inspired his famous drag alter ego.

He began his career performing as Lily Savage in the 1970s whilst working as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council, going on to tour northern England as part of drag duo the Playgirls.

Many people from the TV industry have paid tribute to O’Grady.

Producer Tom Knight wrote: “Before Drag Race and social media it was rare for queens to break through into mainstream media, Paul was one of the few leading the way and smashing down barriers. Everyone loved him, but he preferred animals. RIP Paul O’Grady AKA the legendary Lily Savage, you will be missed.”

GMB producer James Briggs added: “It’s been one of the hardest stories to produce. I’m beyond gutted that Paul O’Grady has passed away. He was my biggest inspiration both as himself & Lily Savage. Seeing him in the Palladium panto as the evil queen is something I’ll never forget. He will never be forgotten.”

Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie said the home was “joining the nation” in mourning the loss of O’Grady, who helped raise its profile to millions around the world.

“Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres,” he said.

“Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.”

He continued: “Paul had an extremely hands-on approach as a Battersea ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages.

“He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.”

Paul O’Grady was hailed as ‘devoted animal lover’ by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (PA)
Paul O’Grady was hailed as ‘devoted animal lover’ by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (PA) (PA Wire)

Throughout his career O’Grady won numerous accolades including a TV Bafta, a British Comedy Award, and a National Television Award for The Paul O’Grady Show.

He was made an MBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to entertainment and he attended the ceremony with his daughter Sharyn Mousley.

Follow the latest updates as fans and celebrities pay tribute to Paul O’Grady.

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