He became famous in the 1990s for his drag queen character, Lily Savage, who he based on his female relatives. O’Grady started performing as Savage at a gay pub in South London and gained a following in the gay community.
He used his character to speak out for gay rights and became a well-known public figure after appearing on various TV shows. O’Grady went on to star in sitcoms, present travel documentaries, and host several TV shows, including The Paul O’Grady Show.
He also wrote books, including a memoir. O’Grady received an MBE for his services to entertainment and was the president of the British Music Hall Society. Let’s proceed with his biography below.
Paul O’Grady Biography
Paul O’Grady was a famous English comedian, actor, writer, and television and radio presenter. He was born on June 14, 1955, in Tranmere, Cheshire, England, and passed away on March 28, 2023, at the age of 67.
Throughout his career, which started in 1988 and lasted until his passing, O’Grady was known for his hilarious comedy, presenting skills, and acting performances.
He was married to Teresa Fernandes from 1977 until their divorce in 2005, and later married André Portacio in 2017. O’Grady leaves behind one child. Let’s check out about his early life, education, and parents below.
Early Life | Parents | Family
Paul O’Grady was born on June 14, 1955, in Birkenhead, Cheshire. His father, Patrick Grady, was Irish, and his mother, Mary Savage, was born in England to Irish immigrants. O’Grady was the third child in the family, with an older brother and sister. He grew up in a rented home in Higher Tranmere.
He attended St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School. Although he did well in all subjects except mathematics, he failed the eleven plus exam, which prevented him from attending a grammar school.
Instead, he attended the Blessed Edmund Campion R.C. Secondary Modern and the Corpus Christi High School. During his time at school, O’Grady had his first romantic encounter with another boy. Despite this, he still believed he was heterosexual at the time.
As a child, Paul O’Grady was a fan of The Avengers and Batman TV shows. His mother enrolled him in the Cub Scouts, but he didn’t enjoy it and left after a month. He was dismissed as an altar boy at a local Catholic church for laughing during a funeral service.
O’Grady then joined the Marine Cadet Section of the Sea Cadet Corps, following in the footsteps of his childhood hero, Popeye. He loved the cadets and joined the Boys’ Amateur Boxing Club on the advice of his captain, which led to a lifelong love of the sport.
He got into trouble with his parents and the police after playing truant from school and burgling a house with friends. His first job was a paper round that he only kept for a week. He saved up from various jobs to buy Mod clothes, and for a time, he became a suedehead.
After leaving school, O’Grady took several jobs, including working at a toilet-roll factory, in a laundry, and as a barman.
He also performed in amateur theatrical productions, including his first drag performance in a club in Liverpool.
In 1974, he moved to London, where he worked as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council.
Career in Drag, Lily Savage | the Drag Circuit: 1978–1984
In 1978, O’Grady began performing as a drag queen in London’s gay clubs, adopting the stage name “Lily Savage.”
He quickly became a popular performer on the drag circuit, and in 1984, he won the prestigious Alternative Miss World contest.
O’Grady also started performing stand-up comedy as Lily Savage and released a comedy album, “Lily Savage Live.”
Residency in Vauxhall: 1984–1992
In 1984, O’Grady moved to Vauxhall, a district of London with a large gay community, and began performing at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
He developed a cult following and became known for his sharp wit and irreverent humor. He also hosted a weekly cabaret night called “The Big Bingo Show.”
Mainstream Success: 1992–1998
In 1992, O’Grady was offered his own television show on Channel 4, “The Big Breakfast,” which he co-hosted with Paula Yates. The show was a huge success, and O’Grady became a household name.
He continued to perform as Lily Savage on stage and released a number of books and videos. In 1996, he won a British Comedy Award for Best Stand-Up Comic.
During this time, O’Grady also made a number of appearances on other television shows, including “Blankety Blank” and “The Bill.”
In 1998, he left “The Big Breakfast” to host his own chat show, “The Paul O’Grady Show,” which became one of the most popular daytime shows on British television.
Television, Blankety Blank, Travel Shows | Eyes Down: 1998–2003
In 1998, O’Grady was given his own comedy chat show on Channel 4, titled “The Paul O’Grady Show”. He later went on to host the popular game show “Blankety Blank” in 2001, which was a revival of the 1970s original show.
O’Grady also presented various travel shows during this time, such as “Paul O’Grady’s Orient” and “Paul O’Grady’s America”. He also hosted the game show “Eyes Down” from 2003 to 2004.
The Paul O’Grady Show | Paul O’Grady Live: 2004–2011
O’Grady returned to television in 2004 with a revived version of his chat show, titled “The Paul O’Grady Show”.
It became a popular daytime program on ITV, where he interviewed various guests and presented musical performances.
The show ended in 2009 but was revived in 2010 as “Paul O’Grady Live”, which was a Saturday night program that aired on ITV. It ran until 2011.
Animal Shows | Blind Date: 2012–2023
O’Grady had a passion for animals and presented various shows related to them. In 2012, he began presenting “Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs”, which was a documentary series about the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. 
It became a popular show and ran for several seasons. O’Grady also presented “Animal orphans” and “Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes”, both of which were related to animals. 
In 2017, O’Grady took over from the late Cilla Black as the presenter of the dating game show “Blind Date”, which aired on Channel 5. He hosted the show until his death in 2023.
In addition to his television career, O’Grady was also a radio presenter. He presented a show on BBC Radio 2 from 2008 to 2010, which was later moved to BBC Radio 4 in 2011. He also presented a show on BBC Radio Merseyside from 1993 to 2002.
Paul O’Grady supported numerous philanthropic causes throughout his life. He became an ambassador for Save the Children in 2008, and for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in 2012, following his work on the show For the Love of Dogs. 
In 2013, he participated in the Pedigree Feeding Brighter Futures campaign with Amanda Holden to provide meals for rescue dogs. In 2014, he appeared in a Dementia Friends TV advertisement campaign to raise awareness about the disease. 
In 2015, he became a patron of Orangutan Appeal UK after working on the show Animal Orphans, and in 2016, he won the RSPCA’s Animal Hero Awards for his outstanding contribution to animal welfare.
On 28 March 2023, Paul O’Grady passed away unexpectedly but peacefully at the age of 67. His husband, André Portasio, announced his death, and tributes from friends, colleagues, and fans poured in, including messages from Lorraine Kelly and Peter Tatchell. 
O’Grady’s death marked the end of a career that spanned over four decades, during which he became a beloved television host, comedian, and entertainer. Throughout his career, O’Grady hosted several popular television shows, including Blankety Blank, travel shows, and Eyes Down in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He then went on to host The Paul O’Grady Show and Paul O’Grady Live from 2004 to 2011, which cemented his status as a household name in the UK. He also presented animal-themed shows, such as For the Love of Dogs and Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans, and even hosted a reboot of the classic dating show Blind Date in 2017.
Despite his success on television, O’Grady also had a successful career on the radio. He hosted shows on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4, and his distinctive voice and wit made him a popular radio personality.
O’Grady’s legacy is not only his contributions to the entertainment industry, but also his commitment to charitable causes, particularly those related to animal welfare, which earned him admiration and respect from fans and colleagues alike.
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