Paul O’Grady: Comedian and host who rose to fame as Lily Savage

Paul O’Grady became a household name in the early 2000s, known for his wit and love of animals.

The comedian and television personality first rose to fame as her drag queen persona, Lily Savage, in the 1980s and 1990s, before hosting a series of television shows.

His most notable appearance came on his daytime chat show The Paul O’Grady Show, which began airing in 2004, followed by the New Paul O’Grady Show.

National Television Awards 2019 – Press Room – London
Paul O’ Grady with the award for Best Factual Entertainment in the press room at the 2019 National Television Awards held at the O2 Arena in London.

O’Grady took the reins from longtime host of Blind Date and close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, to present the reboot of the show on Channel 5 in 2017.

He also helmed Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award winning For The Love Of Dogs.

Following the success of the latter, which was filmed at the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, he became an ambassador for the organisation.

Last year he was joined by the queen consort in a one-off special episode of For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of the home.

O’Grady’s love of animals was also evident through his other work and in September 2016, he was recognized for his work with animals when he won Outstanding Contribution to Animal Welfare at the RSPCA’s Animal Hero Awards. .

He also hosted ITV’s celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up, and last year said goodbye to his last BBC Radio 2 show after hosting the Sunday afternoon show for almost 14 years. .

File photo dated 2/2/2022 of the then Duchess of Cornwall with Battersea Ambassador Paul O'Grady.
File photo dated 2/2/2022 of the then Duchess of Cornwall with Battersea Ambassador Paul O’Grady (Stuart Wilson/PA)

In 2008, he earned an MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honors for Entertainment Services and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant Kent last year.

She began her career as drag alter ego Lily Savage in the 1970s while working as a roving care officer for Camden Council in north London.

A native of Birkenhead in Merseyside, he toured the north of England as part of the drag duo Playgirls, before settling in a one-man show as Savage which ran for eight years at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

The comedian made a name for himself speaking out on LGBT issues and gained a strong following after being nominated for a Perrier Award in 1991.

O’Grady’s career as Savage took off with television and radio appearances and she was eventually asked to replace Paula Yates as host of The Big Breakfast as Savage from 1995 to 1996.

He was on The Lily Savage Show chat show for the BBC for a short period in 1997 and later that year found success as the presenter of a revived version of the game show Blankety Blank, which ran until 2002.

On stage, she appeared in several stage productions, including versions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Annie, and starred in the BBC bingo hall sitcom Eyes Down from 2003 to 2004.

O’Grady became popular with a whole new audience as the presenter of The Paul O’Grady Show, which aired in a tea time slot on ITV from 2004 to 2005, later moving it to Channel 4 as The New Paul O’Grady Show, where his own production company gained creative control for periods ranging from 2006 to 2009 and 2013 to 2015.

His love of animals has led him to host different styles of shows, including Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans, which aired from 2014-2016 and saw him visit Africa to meet baby animals.

In 2012 his autobiography titled Still Standing, The Savage Years was published.

The National Television Awards 2004
TV presenter Fern Britton, with Paul O’Grady, with her award for Best Daytime TV Show for This Morning, at the 2004 10th Anniversary National Television Awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Speaking when it was published, the TV star recalled the death of her partner of 25 years, Brendan Murphy, in 2005, saying: “Mourning doesn’t happen right away, it hits you after a while, because you have the whole funeral.” and the commotion, then when it dies down, you find yourself alone, with time to contemplate what happened. I thought: ‘I’m alone, what do I do now?’

He also opened up about his health at the time, having had two heart attacks, saying: “The worst thing you can do is sit around and worry. I take pills and have checkups every eight months when they put me on the treadmill. I tell them, ‘Heart attack or not, I’m desperate on treadmills!’

Throughout his career, he has won several accolades, including a TV Bafta, a British Comedy Award and a National Television Award for The Paul O’Grady Show.


Leave a Reply