TV star and comedian Paul O'Grady dies 'unexpectedly but peacefully' aged 67

Video report by Granada Reports Entertainment correspondent Caroline Whitmore

TV presenter and comedian Paul O'Grady has died at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio has said.

The TV star, who was from Birkenhead on Merseyside, died "unexpectedly but peacefully" on Tuesday evening.

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 was close friends with the late singer and TV presenter Cilla Black Credit: Myung Jung Kim/PA

O’Grady was “laughing, smiling and full of life” shortly before his death, his friend and radio producer Malcolm Prince said, as the Queen Consort joined those paying tribute.

Prince, who worked with O’Grady at both BBC Radio 2 and Boom Radio – an independent station aimed at Baby Boomers – said he is devastated by his loss and added in a tweet: “Yesterday afternoon I popped round to Paul’s for a good old catch-up.

“Surrounded by his beloved dogs, he was laughing, smiling and full of life.”

He said that O’Grady, who had been touring playing Miss Hannigan in the musical Annie, had been “so proud” of the role and added: “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. We were all lucky to have Paul in our lives. My heart goes out to Andre, Paul’s family, and friends. Oh how I’ll miss him.”

O’Grady left his Radio 2 Sunday afternoon slot in August last year after almost 14 years, following a schedule shake-up which saw him regularly swapping with comic Rob Beckett.

He and Prince, known to fans as #TeamPOG, appeared on Boom Radio for a Christmas special and were due to return to the station for a one-off show on Easter Sunday.

The Queen Consort has also led tributes to O'Grady after working closely with him in their support of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

The Palace said she is "deeply saddened" at the death of TV presenter whose "warm heart and infectious humour lit up the lives of so many".

She will be sharing her sympathies with Paul's family privately in due course, the Palace added.

The Royal family's official Twitter account paid tribute to O'Grady, posting an image of Camilla with the star.

It read: "Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O'Grady, who worked closely with Her Majesty in support of Battersea, providing lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories."

Tributes have also been paid to the star online:

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

During his career, he 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.

Good Morning Britain's Richard Arnold pays tribute to his friend

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.

In 2011, a lamb called Winston was found dumped in a wheelie bin in Manchester. O'Grady adopted the lamb and looked after it in his own home.

He was recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award for his work for animal welfare.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: "Paul O'Grady's love for animals and the incredible way he told their stories inspired countless families to re-home rescue pets and give them a second chance of happiness.

"The thoughts of all at the RSPCA are with his loved ones and our friends at Battersea at this difficult and sad time."

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.

Queen Consort on a walk with Battersea Ambassador Paul O'Grady and a rescue dog during her visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home centre Credit: PA Images

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.

The official Twitter account of the musical Annie said its cast and crew were “stunned and saddened” by the news.

“An incredible Miss Hannigan and an irreplaceable, hilarious and generous person who we will all miss immensely,” it added.

“Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends at this very sad time."

The production, in which O’Grady shared his role with a rotating cast including Craig Revel Horwood, is currently on a week-long break but bosses said further news would be released in due course.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner paid tribute to O'Grady in Prime Minister's Questions today.

Ms Rayner said: "He was a national treasure and a true northern star. He will be greatly missed."

Paul O'Grady was appearing in the stage production of Annie as Miss Hannigan

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 shot to fame with his alter-ego Lily Savage. Credit: PA Images

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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