Celebrities pay tribute to Paul O’Grady, who has died 'unexpectedly' aged 67

The iconic TV star who rose to fame in the 80s as drag Queen Lily Savage went on to host Blankety Blank and For the Love of Dogs - to name but a few of his entertainment shows

Paul O'Grady portrait and split layout with Paul O'Grady as drag queen Lily Savage
(Image credit: Getty)

Celebrities lead tributes to Paul O'Grady, a much-loved presenter and comedian who has died 'unexpectedly' aged 67.

The legendary TV star, who has had a glittering career, from playing alter-ego drag queen Lily Savage to hosting prime-time TV shows including 90s game show Blankety Blank, The Paul O'Grady Show and For the Love of Dogs, passed away suddenly on Tuesday afternoon (March 28, 2023).

Paul O'Grady's husband Andre Portasio, who he married in 2017, released a heartfelt statement to announce the star's 'unexpected' death. It reads, "It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.

"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."

And since then, celebrities have been sending their condolences and sharing their fondest memories of the star.

Piers Morgan put, "RIP Paul O'Grady, 67. A wonderfully warm, mischievous, hilarious guy with a sublime natural talent for broadcasting and making people laugh."

Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall simply said, "Our hearts are broken. RIP Paul." 

Paddy McGuinness, wrote, "Paul O’Grady let me stand in for him on his chat show over 15 years ago. He was always supportive, kind and just great to be around. Paul started in the pubs and working men’s clubs but finished has an icon of British TV. I’ll miss him very much. Rest in peace Paul."

Lorraine Kelly shared, "Such sad news. Paul O’Grady - funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man."

While Craig-Revel Horwood tweeted, "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."

Carol Vorderman tweeted, "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?" followed by a broken heart emoji.

And Charlotte Hawkins, put, "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 For The Love of Dogs supporting Battersea. Such a loss & gone too young."

Paul, who had most recently been touring with the musical Annie, in which he played Miss Hannigan, quit his BBC Radio 2 show last year confirming he quit because it was the 'right time to go' after 14 years at the station .

BBC Radio 2 shared, "We're incredibly saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Paul O'Grady. Paul was a brilliant broadcaster and incredible comedian. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. We’ll miss you Paul."

Paul's last Instagram post shared some tragic news of his own, revealing that Tom Tom, one of his beloved pigs, had been put to sleep after being diagnosed with a tumour. At the time he uploaded sweet clip of his pet and captioned it, "Got back from a week in Newcastle playing Miss Hannigan in Annie to find that Tom Tom, one of my pigs had been put to sleep.

"I knew it was coming as he’d been diagnosed with a tumour but even so it’s awful when you lose a pet. He was the cheekiest of the gang and one of the other pigs who was obviously very fond of him is now depressed and gone into mourning and there’s those who say that animals don’t have feelings.

"On a lighter note I’m thoroughly enjoying playing Hannigan again after so long especially with a truly amazing and lovely cast. Next stop Edinburgh."

Paul's long-time radio producer Malcolm Prince had visited the star on Tuesday afternoon and described him as "laughing, smiling, and full of life".

Mr Prince posted on Twitter, "He was so proud of Annie, so happy to be back on Boom Radio, and he was looking forward to so many new projects.

"And now he's gone. I can't believe it. We have lost a unique talent - and I've lost a dear friend."

Heart Radio host and TV presenter Amanda Holden added, "Woken up to this sad, sad news. I loved Paul. He was brilliantly opinionated, searingly sharp and very funny… I love our conversations… I can't quite believe it. Thoughts with Andre and their family."

Three photo layout L-R Paul O'Grady and Cilla Black, Paul O'Grady and husband Andre Portasio, and Paul O'Grady and Amanda Holden

(Image credit: Getty)

Paul was born in Birkenhead, on the Wirral, Merseyside in 1955. His mother Mary was thought to have inspired his drag queen name 'Savage' as it was her maiden name before she married his dad Patrick Grady.

He spoke out about LGBT issues and campaigner Peter Tatchell described the presenter as a "much-admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality and animal rights".

Paul's cause of death has not been revealed but he suffered a health scare in 2013 and had two previous heart attacks in 2002 and 2006, with the latter requiring a stay in intensive care.

In 2017 he presented newly-rebooted show Blind Date, taking over from his late dear friend Cilla Black.

You can watch just some of his best Blind Date moments in the clip below...

He won numerous awards for his work, including a TV BAFTA, British Comedy award and NTA for his chat show The Paul O'Grady Show and was given the ultimate honour when he was made MBE in the 2008 Queen's birthday honours for his services to entertainment.

Details of Paul O'Grady's funeral are yet to be confirmed.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)