Paul O’Grady’s daughter opens up about having a renowned drag queen for a dad

Daughter of late entertainer pays tribute to father in moving TV special

Nicole Vassell
Monday 18 March 2024 19:30 GMT
Paul O'Grady: Lily Savage rips into 'lad' culture in resurfaced drag performance

Paul O’Grady’s daughter has shared her heartwarming memories of having a renowned drag queen for a father.

Sharyn Mousley is the only child of performer and TV presenter O’Grady, who died at age 67 on 18 March 2023.

The new ITV documentary, The Life and Death of Lily Savage, tracks the entertainer’s initial introduction to the British public as Lily Savage, his brassy drag alter ego based on hardened sex workers he’d grown up seeing in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

Alongside several of O’Grady’s friends and colleagues through the years, including Ian McKellen, Alan Carr and Graham Norton, Mousley also appears in the film and shares her memories of the star.

One in particular involved his choice of entertainment for her and her friends at birthday party as a young child.

“I was about seven, and I was having a birthday, and my dad said, ‘Oh, I’ve got a great surprise for you!’” she says in the film.

“He swallows this fluid, and then starts fire-eating in my mum’s little flat. And then there was all scorchmarks on the ceiling, all the girls were screaming: ‘Ahh there’s a fire!’ I was mortified!”

Paul O’Grady and daughter Sharyn (Olga TV / Silver Star Productions)

O’Grady continued the show regardless, and Mousley shimmied to show the moves he displayed to his audience. “I’m seven, I wanted like, a clown!” she laughed.

Although Mousley wasn’t allowed to watch her dad as Lily as a child, due to the often explicit nature of his set, she occasionally watched him in character when she was a teenager.

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“As I got older, I went to see Lily,” she said. “It was a lot to take in, because he was my dad at the end of the day! So he’s got six-inch heels on with a massive blonde wig.

“I also remember going to the shop and getting tights for him. The guy would say, ‘Are you coming in for your dad’s tights?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah! Have you got a tan and black?’ That was just normal.”

Sharyn Mousley, Paul O’Grady’s daughter on ‘The Life and Death of Lily Savage' (Olga TV / Silver Star Productions)

In the documentary, Mousley credited her father for being the reason she could recite the words to the 1962 musical film Gypsy at age five. As well as this, she spoke of having fun when left alone in her father’s flat while he was out, performing as Lily, looking in his makeup kits and wearing his thigh-high boots around the home at age 13.

Though O’Grady was gay, he’d conceived Mousley with his friend Diane Jansen when he was 19.

Explaining the nature of her parents’ relationship, Mousley said: “My mum and dad met in the early Seventies. They were just friends, then poof! Sharyn was born.”

“I think he didn’t know if he was gay or straight when I was born, so he liked to just keep everything separate,” Mousley noted.

She also looked back at people asking her whether she felt it was strange that Lily Savage, the famous drag queen, was her father. “I don’t know any different,” she said simply.

The Life and Death of Lily Savage will air on ITV during the Easter bank holiday weekend.

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