TV presenter, comedian and drag star Paul O'Grady has passed away, aged 67.
The sad news was confirmed by the star's husband Andre Portasio, who revealed he passed away "unexpectedly but peacefully" last night (March 28).
"It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening," Portasio said (via BBC News).
"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."
O'Grady originally rose to fame with his drag alter ego Lily Savage, gaining a following in London's gay scene in the 1980s, where he spoke out for LGBTQ+ rights and marched against section 28.
He said that Savage was inspired by numerous relatives, and wrote in his memoirs: ""I wanted to get up there but be larger than life, a creature that was more cartoon than human."
O'Grady achieved mainstream success as Savage in the 1990s, performing regularly at the Edinburgh Fringe, hosting The Lily Savage Show for the BBC, and presenting daytime and primetime shows from The Big Breakfast to Blankety Blank.
In 2004, O'Grady retired Lily, joking that she was at "a convent in Brittany", but brought her back for a cameo in Paul O'Grady's Little Cracker, which aired in 2012.
He fronted The Paul O'Grady Show on ITV between 2004 and 2006, before it moved to Channel 4 until 2009. It came back in 2013 for two years, though was presented by guest hosts when O'Grady suffered a health scare.
In more recent years, the presenter has hosted the award-winning Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs, which led him to become an ambassador for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Two of his dogs, Buster and Olga, made regular appearances on The Paul O'Grady Show.
Battersea's chief executive Peter Laurie described O'Grady as "a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres".
O'Grady also hosted a short-lived Blind Date revival on Channel 5, and had a Radio 2 show, which he exited in 2022 after 14 years. He had recently been appearing in a UK tour of Annie as Miss Hannigan.
Since the sad news broke this morning (March 29), a number of tributes for O'Grady have poured in, including from Lorraine Kelly, who called the star "funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man."
"Paul O'Grady was one of the nicest and kindest people I've ever met," Vernon Kay added. "Always a joy to be around and obviously, so much fun. He will be missed. Telly and friends have lost one of the best….RIP."
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, RuPaul's Drag Race UK series 4 champion Danny Beard praised Paul and Lily's impact on drag culture, saying: "I don't think there's anyone that does the job what I do that doesn't class Paul as an icon. Paul was a trailblazer."
They went on to describe Paul as "the most important person, I think, in British culture for drag, for the queer community. So this is a real, sad loss today."
Danny added that seeing Lily on television meant that "to grow up and see that let me know that that's okay, and I can be that, and be happy in that.
"I think Paul changed people's minds on what gay people were, on what drag queens were, and people fell in love with the person beyond the persona... he's just touched so many people, and I think by humanising people, and connecting with people, that means we can relate to people.
"And by relating to people, we're breaking down barriers and stereotypes."
Many more have shared their tributes online:
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
So sad to wake to the news that Paul O’Grady has died. He was a true comedy great and his twinkly,mischievous presence will be missed by so many. RIP dear Paul.
— Les Dennis (@LesDennis) March 29, 2023
Oh no, 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 @RealPOGDogs supporting @Battersea_. Such a loss & gone too young 😔 pic.twitter.com/N8ckS1ZRsc
— Charlotte Hawkins (@CharlotteHawkns) March 29, 2023
Quite shocked and saddened to wake up to the news of Paul O'Grady passing. #RipPaulOgrady. A funny man, with incredibly quick wit, who made millions laugh.
— Martin Lewis (@MartinSLewis) March 29, 2023
So sad to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady - a lovely lovely person x
— Aled Jones (@realaled) March 29, 2023
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