Paul O’Grady dies aged 67

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

The news was announced by his husband, Andre Portasio, who confirmed in a statement that Paul had died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday 28 March 2023.

Paul started his career as drag act Lily Savage, breaking down barriers to take Lily mainstream and heralding the start of a drag revolution.

O’Grady went on to become a much-loved TV and radio presenter, comedian and actor, and had just completed performing in the UK tour of Annie, starring as Miss Hannigan.

Portasio’s statement said: “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 O’Grady’s death has led to an outpouring of tributes from his friends and colleagues.

Malcolm Prince, his trusted radio producer during his tenure at BBC Radio 2, said in a statement that: “I’m devastated Yesterday afternoon, I popped round to Paul’s for a good old catch- up. Surrounded by his beloved dogs, he was laughing, smiling, and full of life. He was so proud of ‘Annie’, so happy to be back on Boom Radio, and he was looking forward to so many new projects. And now he’s gone. I can’t believe it. We have lost a unique talent – and I’ve lost a dear friend. We were all lucky to have Paul in our lives. My heart goes out to Andre, Paul’s family, and friends. Oh how I’ll miss him.”

<em>Paul OGrady as Lily Savage<em>

West End star Michael Ball said: “Cannot comprehend that Paul O’Grady is no longer with us. Too many stories, too many memories, too many laughs to begin to calculate the loss. An original and mold breaking, gifted, generous, beautiful man. God bless kid.”

Nikolai Foster, artistic director of the Leicester Curve and director of Annie, said in a statement: “Paul O’Grady played the role of Miss Hannigan beautifully, shaping the role with integrity, imagination and nothing but respect for the character. It was a truly humbling experience to rehearse this new production of Annie with Paul, marvelling at his wit, endless stories, compassion and constant ingenuity. I was terrified at our first rehearsal together, as I grew up in awe of Paul’s immense talent and artistry and wanted to make a good impression. Like all great actors, Paul approached rehearsals with a sense of fun and adventure, putting us all at ease, exploring, playing, being brave, open to new ideas. Paul was exacting and had the highest standards, which made us all raise our game. The Annie company had nothing but respect for Paul and we all marvelled at his extraordinary stories and hilarious anecdotes; Paul clearly adored each and every one of them – he genuinely cared about others and we all recognised this and felt it deeply. On a personal note, he was a hero of mine. – A true activist, speaking truth to power, always authentic, standing up for the lives of LGBTQ people and an inspiration to anyone whose life has been touched by HIV/AIDS. My thoughts are with his family, friends and loved ones”.

The human rights activist and campaigner Peter Tatchell said that Paul O’Grady as “one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Everyone whose lives he touched will miss him greatly, as will those who enjoyed his wit and admired his compassion”.

TV presenter Lorraine Kelly said: “Such sad news. Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.”

<em>Paul OGrady and Camilla Queen Consort Photo couresty of The Royal Family Twitter<em>

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, long-standing LGBTQ+ venue in London and where Paul O’Grady forged his drag career as Lily Savage, said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of Paul O’Grady’s sudden death. Lily Savage was a beloved resident performer at RVT throughout the 80s and 90s, paving the way for a legion of drag artists. Paul was a fierce advocate for RVT. Our thoughts are with Andre and Paul’s loved ones.”

The Royal Family released a statement on Twitter, with Camilla the Queen Consort having appeared with Paul last year on his TV show For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, for which he was an ambassador, said that they are: “Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady, who worked closely with Her Majesty in support of @Battersea_, providing lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories.”

Paul O’Grady was made an MBE in 2008 for his services to entertainment.

👤 📅29 March 2023

📷 Main photo: Paul O'Grady. Photo courtesy of the BBC

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