Paul O’Grady, the renowned British TV broadcaster who rose to stardom as drag queen Lily Savage, has died. He was 67.
According to the Associated Press, Andre Portasio, the comedian’s husband, said that O’Grady died “unexpectedly but painlessly.” O’Grady suffered numerous heart attacks in the early 2000s.
“His loved ones, friends, family, and all those who cherished his humor, wit, and kindness will be deeply missed,” Portasio stated.
O’Grady was born in 1955 in Birkenhead, England. O’Grady, who used to work as a care worker in Camden Town, had his acting debut as Lily Savage in the 1980s.
O’Grady’s Savage, who wore a big platinum blond wig, dramatic eye shadow, and crimson lipstick, immediately became a fixture in London’s stand-up scene, notably the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Lily Savage was more than simply a quick wit and foul-mouthed jokes. O’Grady used his drag queen image to advocate for LGBTQ rights and the AIDS pandemic.
O’Grady turned his talents to television in the 1990s. The comic welcomed a range of visitors as the host of “The Lily Savage Show,” including Elton John, who paid tribute to O’Grady on Instagram.
“Thank you for bringing so much joy into the world, Paul,” John wrote on Wednesday. “You went to areas no one had before, and we will greatly miss you.”
O’Grady’s TV credits include hosting stints on game programs “The Paul O’Grady Show,” “Blind Date,” and “Blankety Blank,” and he received the BAFTA Award for entertainment performance in 2005 for his self-titled talk show.
O’Grady began hosting ITV’s “Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs” in September 2012, highlighting the work of the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an animal rescue charity.
“I’ve always had a thing for animals,” he said on “This Morning” in 2019. “They’re all animals.” “I’m completely enamored with them.”
O’Grady discussed the “happiest” event of his life, his greatest fear (“seeing a rat swimming in my toilet”), and his brushes with death in a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian published in November 2021.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, O’Grady said, “I don’t care because I won’t be here.”
O’Grady is survived by his wife, Portasio, and a daughter from a prior relationship.