The Queen and Paul O’Grady shared ‘lots of laughter and waggy-tailed memories’
The Queen Consort led the tributes to Paul O’Grady, the comedian and entertainer, after he died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at the age of 67.
O’Grady’s death was announced by Andre Portasio, his husband, prompting an outpouring of affection from friends and fans.
Buckingham Palace said the Queen Consort, who worked with O’Grady to support Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, was “deeply saddened” by the news.
The pair shared “lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories,” the Palace said, adding that O’Grady’s “warm heart and infectious humour lit up the lives of so many”.
The presenter had performed in Edinburgh on Saturday, playing Miss Hannigan in a stage production of Annie. He had been due to present a show on Boom Radio on Easter Sunday.
Malcolm Prince, O’Grady’s friend and radio producer, wrote on social media that he had visited him at his home on Tuesday afternoon and found nothing amiss:
A few words…#PaulOGradyRIP pic.twitter.com/kA3Oq0HK3f
— Malcolm Prince (@malprin) March 29, 2023
O’Grady had suffered two serious heart attacks in the past, and a debilitating bout of Covid last year.
However, in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland last week, he said of his health: “Oh, I’ve had everything chucked at me. I’m absolutely fine, touch wood. I’m ok.”
The former care worker found fame as drag queen Lily Savage before becoming a star under his own name, hosting a television chat show, a Radio 2 show and the Battersea series For the Love of Dogs.
Announcing his death, Mr Portasio said in a 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 has a daughter, Sharyn, and a 16-year-old grandson. Residents in his Kent village laid bouquets and dog treats outside his home.
Among those paying tribute was Sir Elton John, who called him “a brilliant entertainer, wit, and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and the fight against AIDS and HIV”.
Lorraine Kelly, the TV presenter, as “funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise”, while the broadcaster Ken Bruce said he had “an innate kindliness”.
Mark Downie, a television executive who worked with O’Grady, revealed that he insisted on new roles being advertised in the local Jobcentre because “he wanted anyone and everyone to be able to apply so they could get a break like he had”.
ITV announced a special programme, For The Love of Paul O’Grady, which will be shown on Sunday night.
Dominic Raab, filling in at Prime Minister’s Questions, praised O’Grady as an “incredible comic” but failed to get his name right, calling him “Paul Grayson”.