10 Moments that shaped the career of Paul O’Grady
2 months ago
Paul O’Grady died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday evening, March 28, his partner Andre Portasio has said.
Paul O’Grady was born in Birkenhead, Wirral. He was well known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, and was currently on tour with the musical Annie – which was set to arrive at the Liverpool Empire on 5 June 2023 for an 8 show run.
Andre Portasio, Paul’s husband, 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.”
Paul and Andre were married during a low-key wedding ceremony in 2017.
ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly tweeted:
“Such sad news. Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.”
Replying to another Twitter user, Lorraine added:
“I always think dogs are the best judge of character and they ADORED him.”
Here’s 10 moments that shaped Paul’s fantastic career in show-business:
Paul’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.
He later settled into a solo show as Savage that ran for eight years at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and made a name for himself speaking out about LGBT issues.
The Big Breakfast
O’Grady’s career as Savage took off with TV and radio appearances in character and he was eventually asked to take over from Paula Yates as The Big Breakfast presenter as Savage from 1995 to 1996.
The Lily Savage Show
In 1998, the BBC produced a six-week Sunday series titled The Lily Savage Show, during which he interviewed guests like Elton John and Anthea Turner.
Blankety Blank is a British comedy game show which started in 1979, two contestants compete, each attempting to match as many of the six celebrity panellists as possible in a series of fill-in-the-blank statements.
Paul, as Lily Savage, presented one of the many revivals of the show from 1997 – 2002.
Paul took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, another Merseyside legend who died in 2015, as he hosted the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017. This revival finally featured both mixed and same-sex couplings.
For The Love of Dogs
Paul had a huge love for animals, and he had lived in a farmhouse in Kent with Andre along with a menagerie of animals including four dogs, goats, sheep, chickens and barn owls.
Last year he 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.
During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.
The book follows 10-year-old Eddie Albert who can speak to animals, and when Eddie is sent to stay with his eccentric aunt in Amsterdam, he discovers that she too has this gift. So begins a breathless cosmopolitan comic crime adventure, as Eddie, Aunt Budge, his new friend Flo.
Eddie Albertis a technicolour cinematic adventure packed full of friendship, animals, action… and always, of course, a wicked sense of humour
The Paul O’Grady Show
His self-titled teatime programme The Paul O’Grady Show aired on ITV from 2004 to 2005, later moving to Channel 4 as The New Paul O’Grady Show.
The programme was a teatime chat show consisting of a mixture of celebrity guests, comic stunts, musical performances, and occasionally viewer competitions. It is also one of the reasons the nation fell in love with Paul’s pet Shih Tzu – Buster.
Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up
Paul and members of the studio audience would ask celebrity guests intriguing questions, scenarios and dilemmas. The guests then line-up in order of how they would answer the question from best to worst, most likely to least likely etc.
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. He attended the ceremony with his daughter Sharyn Mousley.