Paul O’Grady dead: Tributes pour in for ‘fearless’ and ‘kind’ star after his passing aged 67
Tributes have poured in for Paul O’Grady following the TV star’s death aged 67.
The British TV icon passed away “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday, his husband Andre Portasio said in a statement on Wednesday morning.
ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly led the outpouring of love online as she described the entertainer as “a really special man”.
“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, she added: “I always think dogs are the best judge of character and they ADORED him.”
Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden shared on her social media: “Woken up to this sad, sad news. I loved Paul.
“He was brilliantly opinionated, searingly sharp and very funny. I loved our conversations. I can’t quite believe it. Thoughts with Andre and their family.”
While Carol Vorderman tweeted: “Already giving them raucous, ripping up the rulebook, mischief making, calling it out, loving hell in heaven. Paul, what are we meant to do without you?”
BBC Radio 2 broadcaster Vernon Kay described O’Grady as “one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met. Always a joy to be around and obviously, so much fun. He will be missed.”
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins also remembered the star on Twitter, writing: “Such sad news to wake up to that the magnificent Paul O’Grady has died at the age of 67. What a warm-hearted, hugely talented and funny man he was.
“Plus a dog-lover of course, with his brilliant show [For the love of dogs] supporting Battersea. Such a loss and gone too young.”
Such sad news. Paul O’Grady - funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.
— Lorraine (@reallorraine) March 29, 2023
Already giving them raucous, ripping up the rulebook, mischief making, calling it out, loving hell in heaven
Paul, what are we meant to do without you?
— Carol Vorderman (@carolvorders) March 29, 2023
Former Big Breakfast presenter Gabby Roslin wrote that his death is “unbelievably sad news” and said the presenter was a “one-off” as she posted a picture on Instagram of the star with his dog.
She added: “Goodness me we laughed together so much. Our chats lasted for hours and he’ll be up there now nattering away and keeping everyone laughing.
“This lovely photo of him and (dog) Buster makes me smile and I know he’ll want us all to smile when we think of him and celebrate his life.
“My love and deepest sympathies to Andre and to Sharon and the family. He was brave and clever and naughty and a dear friend. Sleep tight Savage darling I adored you.”
Paddy McGuiness wrote on Twitter that O’Grady, for whom he stood in on his chat show more than 15 years ago, “was always supportive, kind and just great to be around”.
The Top Gear and Take Me Out presenter added: “Paul started in the pubs and working men’s clubs but finished as an icon of British TV. I’ll miss him very much. Rest in peace Paul.”
On Twitter, former BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce wrote: “Such shocking sad news about Paul O’Grady. A unique and brilliant broadcaster who brightened the nation.”
Danny Beard, LGBT+ advocate and winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK season 4, described the late entertainer as “an icon” in a heartfelt and thoughtful post.
They wrote: “I don’t think there’s anyone who does the job that I do that doesn’t class Paul as an icon. Paul was a trailblazer, they were on telly just after the Aids crisis.
“They’ve been the most important person, I think, in British culture for drag, for the queer community.
“This is a really sad loss today... there’s a massive hole missing now.”
Meanwhile, actor John Barrowman wrote that he was “shocked and sad” to hear of O’Grady’s death.
The Torchwood star penned: “From watching him as Lily Savage at the Vauxhall Tavern to sitting with him laughing backstage at West End Bares to being a guest on his @ITV Paul O’Grady show...”
Paul O’Grady let me stand in for him on his chat show over 15 years ago. He was always supportive, kind and just great to be around. Paul started in the pubs and working men’s clubs but finished has an icon of British TV. I’ll miss him very much. Rest in peace Paul. pic.twitter.com/uFNxC6n17d
— Paddy McGuinness 💙 (@PaddyMcGuinness) March 29, 2023
Such shocking sad news about Paul O’Grady. A unique and brilliant broadcaster who brightened the nation.
— Ken Bruce (@RealKenBruce) March 29, 2023
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.
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.
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.
He took on chat show The Lily Savage Show for the BBC for a short run in 1997 and later that year had success as the host of a revived version of gameshow Blankety Blank, which ran until 2002.
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.
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.