Sir Elton John and It’s A Sin creator Russell T Davies paid tribute to O’Grady after he died "unexpectedly but peacefully" on Tuesday evening.
Queer As Folk creator Davies said on Instagram: "The saddest news. What a star. What a lovely man.
"He was ferocious in the fight against AIDS; he made everyone love drag; he once asked me if he could be in Doctor Who, 'I just want to wear a white coat and carry a clipboard and walk down a corridor saying I think it’s alive, Doctor'."
Sharing a picture of himself and O’Grady in character as his drag queen persona Lily Savage, musician Sir Elton John wrote on Instagram: "Saddening news to hear of Paul O’Grady’s passing this morning.
"A brilliant entertainer, wit, and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and the fight against AIDS and HIV who I was fortunate enough to spend time with including when he hosted @davidfurnish’s and my Stag Party before our Civil Partnership in 2005.
"Thank you for all the joy you brought into the world, Paul. You went places nobody had gone before and we will miss you very much."
O'Grady rose to fame performing in drag as Lily Savage which he based on female relatives.
He performed as Savage in south London for eight years in the 80s and 90s and as his popularity grew he began to use the character to speak out for gay rights.
He also used his new-found fame to do charity fundraisers for HIV and AIDS.
O'Grady also spoke about how many of his friends died due to AIDS-related complications.
He was a vocal critic of both Margret Thatcher's government as well as the current Conservative government.
LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell paid tribute to O'Grady and recalled a smart quip to the police after they raided an LGBT venue where he was performing as a drag queen in the 1980s.
Tatchell, who was close friends with O'Grady, said officers "burst" into London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern wearing rubber gloves as the late comedian was on stage as his alter-ego Lily Savage.
After O’Grady spotted the gloves, which the officers were allegedly wearing due to misconceptions that HIV was contracted through touch, he told them "Oh good, have you come to do the washing up?"
Drag queen Danny Beard told BBC Breakfast O’Grady 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," the winner of the fourth series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK added.
"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."
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