HIS character Lily Savage was larger than life but Paul O'Grady led a rather eccentric existence too – even describing it as a 'real-life Corrie plot'.

The TV host and comic passed away aged 67 "unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday, according to his husband of six years Andre Portasio. 

Celebrity friends including Amanda Holden, Lorraine Kelly and Piers Morgan have led tributes to the late star today – as well as the Queen Consort Camilla.

And Paul O'Grady certainly packed in a lot into his life – from a 28-year 'marriage of convenience' he forgot about to a chilling encounter with a serial killer.

Paul's toughest week

Paul was born in Tranmere to working class parents Patrick O’Grady and Molly Savage, who put him through staunchly Catholic schools. 

After leaving school he began to question his sexuality and worked shifts in a local gay bar. 

Read More on Paul O’Grady

Paul O’Grady’s friend reveals touching details of his last day alive

Paul O’Grady’s heartbreaking final post days before he died

He began sleeping with his close friend Diane Jensen , who was nine years his senior.

He wrote in his 2008 autobiography At My Mother's Knee… And Other Low Joints: “I kept my gay side from her at first, reluctant to come out to her, though things might have turned out less complicated later on if I’d been honest about my sexuality in the first place. 

“The fact was I was unsure of what my true sexuality was, still experimenting with both sexes, unable to make up my mind which bus to get on.”

He had kept any inklings of being gay from his parents – and at age 17 his mother and father both had heart attacks in the same week. 

Most read in Celebrity


Eighties pop icon rushes wife to hospital after her 'heart went mad'


Inside the late Paul O’Grady's marriage to husband Andre Portasio


A look at the life of the late Paul O’Grady's husband Andre Portasio


Inside Paul O'Grady's countryside home he shared with his husband and pets

While Molly recovered, his father passed away, and in the same week Diane broke the news she was pregnant. 

He recalled her breaking the news: “‘Paul?’ It was Diane. ‘How are you?’ ‘Well, me dad’s dead and me mother’s at death’s door. Things couldn’t get worse, really.’ I could hear her sobbing at the other end of the line.

‘Oh, God, they could and they have,’ she said, catching her breath. ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I’m pregnant. You’re going to be a father.’”

His only daughter Sharon was born in 1974 and Paul committed to paying £3 a week in child maintenance. 

He tried to move to London to earn more cash and made friends with drag queen The Harlequeens. 

But he soon became homesick and returned to Birkenhead where he met Lily’s legendary sister Vera – in reality a drag performer named Alan. 

Paul took up a job in a local abattoir FMC Meats, where he worked in the accountants office. 

He described a highlight of his time there as when a pig escaped and somehow ended up on a bus. 

He said in his book The Devil Rides Out: “Somehow it managed to climb the stairs and get up on to the top deck, knocking an old woman over. 

“Poor things must’ve been terrified, the pig and the pensioner.”

Run in with Moors murderer

Paul jumped from job to job taking up a role in a home for disabled and abused children before moving back to London to work as a physiotherapist’s assistant. 

He told how he brought ice to one patient who was recovering from knee surgery, but was quickly ushered away by nurses who described her as “evil personified”. 

He wrote: “Consequently I felt short-changed at the sight of a dark-haired middle-aged woman chatting affably to two women prison guards, swigging tea and swinging her legs as she sat on the end of the bed.

"‘Hello,’ she sang out cheerily, fixing me with dead eyes that belied her tone. ‘Have you come to look at my knee as well then?’

He added: “It was Myra Hindley.”

Public sector cuts bit and Paul was made redundant – so took up a job in a gay club called the Showplace in 1976. 

Here, he befriended the barmaid – a Portuguese lesbian named Theresa Fernandes.

But she dreaded returning to her staunch Catholic parents in Portugal. 

He wrote: “Theresa’s work permit was about to expire and she was dreading having to return to Portugal and face the numerous suitors that her mother, unaware of her daughter’s true sexuality, had lined up as possible husband material.”

He popped the question and they got married. 

He wrote: “Vera, resplendent in a mint-green double-breasted suit, and Theresa’s latest girlfriend, a beautiful Swede called Inga, acted as witnesses.”

He told how that night they both had to report for work so he took a couple of amphetamines to keep him going after a boozy wedding breakfast. 

'I had no idea we were still married'

After 28 years, they divorced when Paul’s ex boyfriend and manager reminded him he had a wife. 

He told the Mirror: "I had no idea we were still married until my manager Brendan said: ‘If anything happened to you, everything would go to your wife. It’s like a real-life Corrie storyline.”

Paul then started working for Camden Social Services – and became inspired by a woman called Rita whose children he had looked after. 

Inspired by slovenly and promiscuous Rita, he then began performing as Lily Savage at the Black Cap in Camden, according to his 2010 autobiography. 

After his first performance, a drag act called Regina told him to get a better name.

“‘If you’re considering getting an act together I’d drop the name," he was told. "Lily Savage is all right for a bit of camp but no one is going to take an act that sounds like an old scrubber seriously, dahling.’”

But despite nay-sayers, Paul soon rose to fame through his act, working as a compere and eventually fronting his own shows. 

As a big name on the circuit he befriended celebrities like US drag performer Divine and Ian Mackellen.  

In the mid-Eighties, he met gay sauna manager Brendan “Murph” Murphy who became his boyfriend and manager. 

With Brendan’s help, Paul’s first TV role was on the Bill but his major breakthrough was replacing Paula Yates on The Big Breakfast.

This was followed by The Lily Savage show and a £1million two-year deal to host Blankety Blank in 1998. 

Meteoric rise to fame

By 2002 he started presenting travel shows. He battled a bout of depression then suffered a heart attack. 

After filling in for Des O'Connor on Des and Mel in 2004, he was given The Paul O'Grady show which ran on ITV and later on Channel 4 for seven years. 

Paul was forced to slow down when he suffered his second heart attack in 2006.

In 2005, Brendan – now his ex partner but still his manager – died of brain cancer two days before Paul’s 50th birthday. 

He had been looking after his manager at his Kent home – and found him a hospital bed from the Holby City Props department. 

He told the Mirror: "When we finally got him home to my house, we asked for a nursing bed to be installed. A very nice hospice lady told us that she'd order one, but it would've taken weeks to arrive and we didn't have weeks. In the end we got one from the Holby City props department.

"All the money in the world couldn't make anything work faster. I hate to say it but we couldn't even get him a bottle to p*** in.''

He later repaid the favour by starring as a cancer patient in three episodes of the medical soap. 

He added: “Murph and I were like brothers – joined at the hip, thick as thieves.

"It transcended any sexual relationship we'd had. This was a partnership. A double act, Emma Peel and Steed, Laurel and Hardy.”

In 2012, he began fronting Battersea Dog and Cat home docuseries For The Love Of Dogs.

Filming was only meant to be for six days but Paul stayed on as a volunteer for six months.

In 2017, he married his partner of 15 years, former English National Ballet star Andre Portasio, at the Goring Hotel in Central London on insistence of his mate Julian Clary.

Paul said: “Julian put the seed in my head. He said, ‘I’ve got married. You should’.

"And he’s right, then you protect your partner. If anything happens to me, he is pro­­tected. It makes sense.”

Read More on The Sun

People are only just realising what Asda stands for

Susanna Reid speechless after Anthony Joshua’s bizarre antics in GMB interview

Source: Read Full Article