Tributes have been pouring in for beloved TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady after his husband, Andre Portasio, confirmed he had passed away at the age of 67.
“He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion,” Portasio said in a statement.
“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”
During his highly successful career, Paul hosted a number of game and chat shows – including his much-loved Paul O’Grady Show.
He became a household name and a core part of British television culture, having also presented BBC Radio 2’s Paul O’Grady on the Wireless, Blind Date and Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs, among many others.
Paul was also an LGBTQ+ trailblazer and, in the 1990s, introduced the nation to his drag queen persona Lily Savage.
He repeatedly spoke out in favour of LGBTQ+ rights and helped bring a number of these issues to the mainstream thanks to the huge platform he built throughout his lifetime.
“Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise”
Drag Race UK finalist Kitty Scott-Claus said Paul/Lily “was the first drag queen and openly queer person I ever saw on television back in the 90s. The world today would be a different place without them.”
Peter Tatchell, one of the UK’s most prominent human rights campaigners, praised Paul for being an “admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality and animal rights”.
“Paul was one of the loveliest people you could ever meet,” he added. “Everyone whose lives he touched will miss him greatly, as will those who enjoyed his wit and admired his compassion.”
RIP #PaulOGrady. A brilliant comedian & entertainer. Much admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality & animal rights. He supported my work for decades & was a valued patron of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Paul was due to lead our campaign for a police apology for past homophobia pic.twitter.com/1szMFPa08q
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) March 29, 2023
The UK’s leading sexual health and HIV charity, Terrence Higgins Trust, took to Twitter to thank Paul for being a “strong ally for the HIV community, including performing as Lily to raise vital funds.”
“Thank you for all you did, Paul,” it continued. “Rest in peace.”
Fellow broadcaster Lorraine Kelly paid tribute to Paul in a heartfelt message on Twitter.
“Such sad news,” she said. “Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.”
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
Drag Race UK winner Danny Beard told BBC Breakfast that Paul was “the most important person in British culture for drag”.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who does the job that I do that doesn’t class Paul as an icon,” they said.
“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.”
'I don't think there's anyone who does the job that I do that doesn't class Paul as an icon'
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) March 29, 2023
See how others paid tribute to Paul O’Grady below.
Paul/lily was my first introduction to queer culture and drag. Watching him sat on a stool, in my kitchen as a child knowing that was me, I was being reflected but not really knowing how. A titan in Drag and though I never met him everyone I know who did had nothing but love RIP https://t.co/sCEnyGd0A3
— Divina De Campo stream DECODED (@Divinadecampo) March 29, 2023
We are deeply saddened to learn of Paul O’Grady’s sudden death.
Lily Savage was a beloved resident performer at RVT throughout the 80s and 90s, paving the way for a legion of drag artists.
Paul was a fierce advocate for RVT.
Our thoughts are with Andre and Paul’s loved ones. pic.twitter.com/KTpA1CTMIh
— Royal Vauxhall Tavern (@thervt) March 29, 2023
In the early 90s Lily Savage, Paul O’Grady’s alter ego, ruled the gay scene.
I would go see her Workers Playtime, Thurs evenings at the RVT.
Often the landlords, Pat and Breda would allow a lock in and Paul would hold court, as sharp and funny out of drag as in.
A huge loss. pic.twitter.com/HQmix0ZchH
— Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson) March 29, 2023
I’m sad about Paul O’Grady. I hoped I might meet him one day to tell him what an inspiration he was to me: how I loved gloriously loose & effortless his shows were, how he proved you could be political in a light ent space and that you could do all this & be really, really funny.
— Joe Lycett (@joelycett) 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
Terribly sad news about the untimely loss of Paul O’Grady. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a number of occasions. As funny, generous, and fiercely principled in life as he was on TV. Deepest condolences to Andre and all those who knew and loved him. https://t.co/XZtPMMIfZT
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) March 29, 2023
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.
— Craig Revel Horwood (@CraigRevHorwood) March 29, 2023
Seeing how much everyone laughed and loved Paul O’Grady when we’d watch him on telly when I was kid gave me confidence to be myself when I was ready to later in life. His brilliance that was adored stayed with me. He made me howl with laughter too. What a legend. #PaulOGradyRIP pic.twitter.com/H2BINxu3Ph
— David Carlyle (@davidcarlyle_) March 29, 2023
Paul O’Grady was in the trenches fighting for our community during the HIV & AIDS epidemic, she took drag mainstream, she made our mums howl with laughter and normalised gay people on TV by being utterly vile. I can’t imagine a world without her. A truly brave and hilarious man x pic.twitter.com/Zf5ABmg9J7
— James Barr (@imjamesbarr) March 29, 2023
We’re deeply saddened to learn that our wonderful, kind friend and beloved Ambassador Paul O’Grady MBE has passed away. He will be so dearly missed by all of us at Battersea. Our love and thoughts go out to all of Paul's family and friends at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/hjfwBcu7sz
— Battersea (@Battersea_) March 29, 2023
He ran so we could walk, such devastating news 💔 Rest in power Paul O’Grady aka the icon Lily Savage. You will be missed 🙏 pic.twitter.com/XWNtUgXRor
— Choriza (@chorizamay) March 29, 2023
Paul O’Grady was an extraordinary talent. His humour, warmth and kindness shone through in everything he did. Nobody like him. Absolutely no one. The presenter we looked up to. Thoughts with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/Qbk9ut76ZJ
— Adil Ray OBE (@adilray) March 29, 2023
Seeing Paul as Lily was the first drag queen and openly queer person I ever saw on television back in the 90s. The world today would be a different place without them #RipPaulOgrady
— Kitty Scott-Claus (@kittyscottclaus) March 29, 2023
We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady. He was a huge supporter of dogs looking for their forever homes and his love of animals shone through his charity work 💛 Our thoughts are with his family, friends and dogs at this difficult time. https://t.co/sY12DQgO2S
— Dogs Trust 💛🐶 (@DogsTrust) March 29, 2023