Stage and TV Star Paul O'Grady Dies Aged 67

He was last seen on stage three days ago at Edinburgh Playhouse playing the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie.

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Stage star, presenter and comedian Paul O'Grady has died at the age of 67.

He died "unexpectedly but peacefully" on Tuesday evening, his husband Andre Portasio said in a statement.

"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," Portasio said in a statement.

"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."

Born in Birkenhead in 1955, O'Grady moved to London in his 20s and worked as a social worker for Camden council. He developed his drag act Lily Savage in gay clubs, having started after being asked to step in as compere at "Ladies Night" at the Vauxhall gay pub, The Elephant And Castle, when the person booked has fallen ill.

O'Grady came to mainstream attention in 1991 when he was nominated for the Perrier award, the UK's most prestigious comedy prize, and began appearing on radio and television as himself. O'Grady retired Savage - to "a convent in Brittany" - in 2004.

O'Grady rose to fame in the 1990s with his drag queen persona Lily Savage, going on to present Blankety Blank, Blind Date and other light entertainment programmes.

Later in his career, he went on to host a number of chat shows, and also brought his love of dogs to the screen.

O'Grady has also appeared in a number of films and TV shows, including Coronation Street. He also appeared in the London Palladium pantomimes, Cinderella and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in 2017 and 2019 respectively. He was last seen on stage three days ago at Edinburgh Playhouse playing the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie. He was due to continue the tour on selected dayes around the country.

Writing on Instagram a few weeks ago, after returning from performing in Newcastle, O'Grady said he was "thoroughly enjoying" playing the role again after so long "especially with a truly amazing and lovely cast".

Craig Revel Horwood, who also plays Miss Hannigan on the tour said on Twitter: "I'm in a state of shock this morning, waking up to the news that my gorgeous colleague and friend, Paul O'Grady has passed away. I'm actually reeling in disbelief. He was such a wonderful human being, funny and to the point. Paul, legend, RIP darling."

In 2015, O'Grady was awarded an OBE for his services to entertainment, and in 2018, he was awarded a Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards.

O'Grady is survived by his husband Andre, his daughter Sharon and two grandchildren.

Photo Credit: Steve Punter on Flickr via Wiki Commons

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