'Mischief-making hell in heaven': Tributes to 'brilliant' Paul O'Grady

‘Already giving them mischief-making hell in heaven’: Stars including Vernon Kay, John Barrowman, Amanda Holden and Lorraine Kelly pay tribute to ‘brilliant’ TV star Paul O’Grady after his sudden death aged 67

  • Paul O’Grady’s ‘unexpected but peaceful’ death was announced overnight 
  • TV and radio stars have paid tribute to a ‘searingly sharp and very funny’ man
  • Paul O’Grady death LATEST: Get all breaking news and updates on our live blog 

Celebrities including Vernon Kay, Amanda Holden and Lorraine Kelly are today paying tribute to iconic drag act and TV star Paul O’Grady after his sudden death last night aged 67. 

O’Grady passed away ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’, his partner Andre Portasio said in a statement at around 3am today.

Paying tribute to the trailblazer with a photo on Instagram, Amanda Holden said: ‘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.’ 

ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly described O’Grady as ‘a really special man’ in an online tribute, adding: ‘Such sad news. Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed.’ Replying to another Twitter user, she added: ‘I always think dogs are the best judge of character and they ADORED him.’ 

Carol Vorderman said: ‘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?’ 

TV presenter Vernon Kay described the star as ‘one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met.’

He added: ‘Always a joy to be around and obviously, so much fun. He will be missed.’ 

Fellow radio presenter Charlotte Hawkins tweeted: ‘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.’

Fellow LGBT+ advocate and winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK Danny Beard described O’Grady as ‘an icon’ on Wednesday.

They said: ‘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.’

Actor John Barrowman said he was ‘shocked and sad’ to hear the news of O’Grady’s death, writing: ‘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…’

TV presenter Piers Morgan added O’Grady was ‘a wonderfully warm, mischievous, hilarious guy with a sublime natural talent for broadcasting and making people laugh.’

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home also paid tribute to the star, who has long been an outspoken supporter of the charity.

A spokesperson described O’Grady as a ‘devoted animal lover’ and a champion for the underdog’.

‘He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.’

His partner Mr Portasio said in his statement: ‘It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening. 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.’ 

O’Grady and Portasio were married during a low-key wedding ceremony in 2017. 

During his career, the TV star hosted The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.

He also hosted ITV celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up. 

Paul O’Grady, as Lily Savage, at home in south London, pictured in 1993

Paul O’Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs -at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Paul O’Grady was a famous dog lover, but treasured all animals as much as the people in his life

Lily Savage, Paul O’Grady’s drag persona, was a trailblazing part of the UK’s LGBT+ community

O’Grady took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, as he hosted the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017. 

Last year he was joined by the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an organisation for which he was an ambassador. 

O’Grady’s love for animal was well-known, and he had lived in a farmhouse in Kent with Portasio along with a menagerie of animals including four dogs, goats, sheep, chickens and barn owls. 

During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021. 

In August of 2022 he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years. 

O’Grady had been set to return to the airwaves next month to host a one-off Easter Sunday radio show on Boom Radio. 

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. He attended the ceremony with his daughter Sharyn Mousley. 

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