Paul O’Grady death: Star refused doctors’ orders to give up smoking

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Paul O’Grady death: Star refused doctors’ orders to give up smoking

Paul O'Grady refused doctors' orders to give up smoking and insisted he was 'absolutely fine' while discussing his Covid health scare in an inter

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Paul O’Grady refused doctors’ orders to give up smoking and insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ while discussing his Covid health scare in an interview just a week before his death aged 67.

The comedian and TV presenter, who rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic and platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage before becoming a household name, died last night.

His cause of death was not immediately known, but O’Grady – who was ‘gasping for breath’ in his interview last week – is known to have suffered multiple health scares, including three attacks – in 2002, 2006 and 2014 – and kidney failure. 

He also used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day but said in 2020 that he had given up alcohol

Following his death, legendary pantomime dame Christopher Biggins revealed today that he had caught O’Grady smoking despite the star having been ordered to stop for his health. 

Paul O'Grady in the musical Annie where he played Miss Hannigan to great acclaim. He is pictured in the show at Newcastle Theatre Royal on March 7, before it moved to Edinburgh

Paul O'Grady in the musical Annie where he played Miss Hannigan to great acclaim. He is pictured in the show at Newcastle Theatre Royal on March 7, before it moved to Edinburgh

Paul O’Grady in the musical Annie where he played Miss Hannigan to great acclaim. He is pictured in the show at Newcastle Theatre Royal on March 7, before it moved to Edinburgh

O'Grady rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic and platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage

O'Grady rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic and platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage

O’Grady rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic and platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage

Gone: This is believed to be the last picture taken of Paul O'Grady, at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday, March 25. He is pictured with a dog called Frankie who appears in theatre shows

Gone: This is believed to be the last picture taken of Paul O'Grady, at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday, March 25. He is pictured with a dog called Frankie who appears in theatre shows

This is believed to be the last picture taken of Paul O’Grady, at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Saturday, March 25. He is pictured with a dog called Frankie who appears in theatre shows

Paul as Lily Savage on Blankety Blank

Paul as Lily Savage on Blankety Blank

Paul as Lily Savage on Blankety Blank

Paul as Lily Savage on Blankety Blank

Paul O’Grady hosted classic TV quiz show Blankety Blank as his alter-ego Lily Savage

Paul O'Grady, pictured last week, was playing Miss Hannigan in a theatre production of Annie. He is pictured with Mela the dog, one of the Edinburgh Playhouse dogs, on Thursday, March 23

Paul O'Grady, pictured last week, was playing Miss Hannigan in a theatre production of Annie. He is pictured with Mela the dog, one of the Edinburgh Playhouse dogs, on Thursday, March 23

Paul O’Grady, pictured last week, was playing Miss Hannigan in a theatre production of Annie. He is pictured with Mela the dog, one of the Edinburgh Playhouse dogs, on Thursday, March 23

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, the star, 74, said he and his close friend Cilla Black tried to convince Paul to quit the habit years ago, but he laughed it off. 

‘He’d been told that he couldn’t smoke anymore, but the fact that I had to tell him and then we just cried with laughter,’ Biggins recalled.

‘He just thought, to be crude, ”f**k it”, I’ll just go with it. He was one of those people. He did suffer with his health a little bit but he was just incredible.’

O’Grady also revealed in 2015 how he swallowed a lump of cannabis in Thailand and washed it down with a can of Coca-Cola to avoid years in jail. 

Last week, the late comic that he was ‘gasping for air’ when performing Easy Street in a stage production of the musical Annie.

O’Grady, who played Miss Hannigan in the production and performed on stage as recently as the weekend, described himself as ‘no chicken’ and talked about spending ‘two months being breathless and tired’ after falling ill with Covid while filming in Malta.

Asked on BBC Radio Scotland last week how he was doing ‘health-wise’, he said: ‘Oh, I’ve had everything chucked at me. I’m absolutely fine, touch wood. I’m OK. I think my last disaster was when I caught Covid last year. We were filming in Malta and I only got one day’s filming done. The next thing I was in a hotel room for nine days.

‘But getting over it was the worry. I was a good two months being breathless and tired. To tell you the truth, I thought, ‘I’ll never work again in this state. I can’t.’ But I’m back in business.’

O’Grady was also asked about Annie, in which he appeared in Edinburgh last week, and joked: ‘Don’t take the elderly for granted. I’m no chicken. I’m 67, I’m 68 this year, and I’m rocking around with Miss Hannigan doing Easy Street gasping for air.

‘The last time I was in Annie was 28 years ago. It’s strange coming back after so long. But Hannigan is such fun. Because you can play her pure evil, but I don’t. I play her for laughs, because she’s either drunk or hungover. Either way she’s mean.’

Today, O’Grady’s close friend and radio producer Malcolm Prince revealed he was ‘laughing, smiling and full of life’ just hours before his death – which the star’s husband Andre Portasio said happened ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’.

O’Grady was hailed as a ‘trailblazer’ for breaking into the mainstream broadcasting landscape with his alter ego and for his charity work around animals and Aids.

Mr Prince, who worked with O’Grady at both BBC Radio 2 and Boom Radio – an independent station aimed at Baby Boomers – said he was 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.’

Flowers and messages left at the Kent home of TV presenter and comedian Paul O'Grady today

Flowers and messages left at the Kent home of TV presenter and comedian Paul O'Grady today

Flowers and messages left at the Kent home of TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady today

Mr Prince, his radio producer, said O'Grady was 'looking forward to so many new projects'

Mr Prince, his radio producer, said O'Grady was 'looking forward to so many new projects'

Mr Prince, his radio producer, said O’Grady was ‘looking forward to so many new projects’

Paul O'Grady's close friend Malcolm Prince tweeted this photograph of the duo together

Paul O'Grady's close friend Malcolm Prince tweeted this photograph of the duo together

Paul O’Grady’s close friend Malcolm Prince tweeted this photograph of the duo together

O'Grady's next appearance in the tour of Annie was due to be in Southampton on April 24, before further shows in Liverpool in June, and then Wimbledon and Bristol in November

O'Grady's next appearance in the tour of Annie was due to be in Southampton on April 24, before further shows in Liverpool in June, and then Wimbledon and Bristol in November

O’Grady’s next appearance in the tour of Annie was due to be in Southampton on April 24, before further shows in Liverpool in June, and then Wimbledon and Bristol in November

The royal family’s official Twitter account paid tribute this morning, posting an image of O’Grady with Camilla, after they worked closely in support of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The post 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.’

Camilla will be sharing her sympathies with O’Grady’s family privately in due course, Buckingham Palace added.

Mr Prince 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.

O’Grady was playing Miss Hannigan in the musical while it tours around Britain – with his last performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse as recently as Saturday night.

His next appearance in Annie was due to be in Southampton on April 24, before further shows in Liverpool in June, and then Wimbledon and Bristol in November.

Theatregoer Jude McKerrecher tweeted today: ‘Sad news about the death of Paul O’Grady. Saw him in Annie as Miss Hannigan at Edinburgh Playhouse only last Thursday. Wonderful entertainment and performance, the audience loved him.’

Another, Ali Payne, tweeted: ‘Saw Paul O’Grady last week in Annie @edinplayhouse. He was magical – as always. Such sad news.’ And a third, Fiona Fraser, said: ‘He was fabulous in Annie last week as Miss Hannigan – a role he reprised after 25 years.’

Other fans lamented that they would not get to see him in Annie, having booked tickets for future shows. One, Kerynne Lola, said: ‘Shocked to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady especially as I just booked my ticket to see him in Annie in June.’

Another tweeted that she was ‘supposed to be seeing him in Annie next month’, while a third said: ‘Had planned to see him in Annie. Gutted.’

A spokesman for the Edinburgh Playhouse told MailOnline today: ‘We are deeply saddened by the news of the sudden passing of much loved actor, comedian and TV personality Paul O’Grady.

‘We have many wonderful memories of him. From his early days with Lily to his most recent visit last week, in the musical Annie where he played Miss Hannigan to great acclaim. 

‘He was warm, funny and kind, always making time for staff members and of course the office pups. Our thoughts are with his husband, family and friends at this difficult time.’

David Lloyd, co-founder of Boom Radio, told MailOnline: ‘Paul loved his radio – and it suited him so well. Following the Easter show, we had every expectation that he would have started a more regular commitment with us later in the year. 

‘Many of our listeners are already asking if we will re-run his Christmas Day show on Easter Day. It may well be the most fitting tribute to a broadcaster who was at the top of his game.’ 

O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio, who married him in 2017, praised his ‘humour, wit and compassion’ in a statement announcing his death released just before 3am.

O’Grady became a household name in the early noughties, known for his wit and love of animals, and hosted a string of television programmes including his self-titled daytime chat show, The Paul O’Grady Show, which began airing in 2004.

He also took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, to host the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017. And he fronted Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.

A tweet from the Royal Family account today paid tribute to O'Grady and his love of dogs

A tweet from the Royal Family account today paid tribute to O'Grady and his love of dogs

A tweet from the Royal Family account today paid tribute to O’Grady and his love of dogs

Shock: TV star Paul died 'unexpectedly but peacefully' on Tuesday night, his partner said, aged just 67

Shock: TV star Paul died 'unexpectedly but peacefully' on Tuesday night, his partner said, aged just 67

Paul O’Grady in ITV’s Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs At Christmas in December 2019

Paul O'Grady's death was announced by his partner Andre Portasio, who he married in 2017 (the couple are pictured here at the Royal Opera House in London in 2018)

Paul O'Grady's death was announced by his partner Andre Portasio, who he married in 2017 (the couple are pictured here at the Royal Opera House in London in 2018)

Paul O’Grady’s death was announced by his partner Andre Portasio, who he married in 2017 (the couple are pictured here at the Royal Opera House in London in 2018)

The father-of-one’s cause of death wasn’t immediately known, but he had previously spoken of surviving heart attacks in 2002, 2006 and 2014, and also kidney failure.  He also had a debiltating Covid battle that left him unable to work for two months.

Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid today recalled an interview with O’Grady when he spoke about suffering heart problems.

She said on the ITV programme this morning: ‘I remember he told us about those [health issues] when we interviewed him on the sofa about having a heart attack, cardiac arrest and leaving it before telling a doctor, almost like he didn’t want to bother anybody about it.’

O’Grady married Portuguese lesbian barmaid Teresa Fernandes in 1977 to stop her deportation. They divorced in 2005 and he wed ex-ballet dancer Mr Portasio in 2017. 

Decades earlier in 1974, he had his only child, a daughter called Sharyn Mousley, with his dear friend Diane Jansen. O’Grady is also a grandfather to Sharyn’s son Abel, who was born in 2006 and is now aged 16, and Sharyn’s daughter Halo, born in 2009.

Mr Portasio said early this morning: ‘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 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.

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.

Paul O'Grady holds his three-week-old grandson Abel with daughter Sharyn by his side in 2007

Paul O'Grady holds his three-week-old grandson Abel with daughter Sharyn by his side in 2007

Paul O’Grady holds his three-week-old grandson Abel with daughter Sharyn by his side in 2007

Paul O'Grady laughs as the Queen looks at a corgi at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in March 2015

Paul O'Grady laughs as the Queen looks at a corgi at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in March 2015

Paul O’Grady laughs as the Queen looks at a corgi at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in March 2015

Paul was pictured last week when it was announced he planned to take his radio show to Boom Radio after departing the BBC

Paul was pictured last week when it was announced he planned to take his radio show to Boom Radio after departing the BBC

Paul was pictured last week when it was announced he planned to take his radio show to Boom Radio after departing the BBC

Paul O'Grady and Queen Consort Camilla during her visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home centre in Brands Hatch, Kent, in February last year

Paul O'Grady and Queen Consort Camilla during her visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home centre in Brands Hatch, Kent, in February last year

Paul O’Grady and Queen Consort Camilla during her visit to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home centre in Brands Hatch, Kent, in February last year

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.

Paul O’Grady insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ just one week ago 

Paul O’Grady insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ just one week ago and said he was ‘back in business’ after fearing he wouldn’t work again due to a Covid scare.

Asked how he was ‘health-wise’, he said on BBC Radio Scotland last week: ‘Oh, I’ve had everything chucked at me. I’m absolutely fine, touch wood. I’m OK.

‘I think my last disaster was when I caught Covid last year. We were filming in Malta and I only got one day’s filming done. The next thing I was in a hotel room for nine days.

‘But getting over it was the worry. I was a good two months being breathless and tired. To tell you the truth, I thought, ‘I’ll never work again in this state. I can’t.’ But I’m back in business.’

O’Grady also joked about ‘gasping for air’ when performing Easy Street in theatre production Annie, in which he played Miss Hannigan.

He joked: ‘Don’t take the elderly for granted. I’m no chicken. I’m 67, I’m 68 this year, and I’m rocking around with Miss Hannigan doing Easy Street gasping for air.’

Speaking about the role, O’Grady added: ‘The last time I was in Annie was 28 years ago. It’s strange coming back after so long. But Hannigan is such fun. Because you can play her pure evil, but I don’t. I play her for laughs, because she’s either drunk or hungover. Either way she’s mean.’

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In August last year he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years, later saying the station’s drive for younger listeners ‘doesn’t make sense’.

And he was performing right until the end – taking to the stage as Ms Hannigan in Annie at the Edinburgh Playhouse. 

In a statement, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home paid tribute to O’Grady as a ‘devoted animal lover’ and a ‘champion for the underdog’.

The organisation’s chief executive, Peter Laurie, said: ‘Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres.

‘Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.’

O’Grady’s contribution to animal welfare was also recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award.

Chief executive Chris Sherwood 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.

‘His tireless campaigning saw Paul recognised with an RSPCA Animal Hero Award for his outstanding contribution to animal welfare, while he once adopted a little lamb, Winston, from us, who had been rescued from a wheelie bin.

‘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’s love for animals 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.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.

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.’

Paddy McGuinness and Gaby Roslin are also among those who have paid tribute to ‘clever and supportive’ O’Grady.

Former Big Breakfast presenter Roslin, who occasionally sat in for the presenter on his BBC Radio 2 Paul O’Grady show, wrote that his death is ‘unbelievably sad news’ and said the presenter was a ‘one-off’ as she posted a picture on Instagram of the star with his dog.

She added: ‘Goodness me we laughed together so much. Our chats lasted for hours and he’ll be up there now nattering away and keeping everyone laughing.

‘This lovely photo of him and (dog) Buster makes me smile and I know he’ll want us all to smile when we think of him and celebrate his life.

Achievements: He was made an MBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours (pictured with with partner Andre Portasio, sister Sheila Rudd and daughter Sharyn Mousley)

Achievements: He was made an MBE in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours (pictured with with partner Andre Portasio, sister Sheila Rudd and daughter Sharyn Mousley)

Paul O’Grady with partner Andre Portasio, sister Sheila Rudd and daughter Sharyn Mousley at Buckingham Palace in 2008 where he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire

Paul and Amanda Holden chat to Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall, outside Buckingham Palace in July last year during a reception for Battersea Dogs Home, which he was closely associated with through his show For The Love Of Dogs

Paul and Amanda Holden chat to Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall, outside Buckingham Palace in July last year during a reception for Battersea Dogs Home, which he was closely associated with through his show For The Love Of Dogs

Paul and Amanda Holden chat to Camilla, then the Duchess of Cornwall, outside Buckingham Palace in July last year during a reception for Battersea Dogs Home, which he was closely associated with through his show For The Love Of Dogs

TV star Paul O’Grady died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday evening, his partner said

Paul O'Grady with Barbara Windsor and Cilla Black at the Royal Variety Performance 2001

Paul O'Grady with Barbara Windsor and Cilla Black at the Royal Variety Performance 2001

Paul O’Grady with Barbara Windsor and Cilla Black at the Royal Variety Performance 2001

In 1974, he had his only child, a daughter called Sharyn Mousley (pictured together in 1995)

In 1974, he had his only child, a daughter called Sharyn Mousley (pictured together in 1995)

In 1974, he had his only child, a daughter called Sharyn Mousley (pictured together in 1995)

‘My love and deepest sympathies to Andre and to Sharon and the family. He was brave and clever and naughty and a dear friend. Sleep tight Savage darling I adored you.’

O’Grady presented his final BBC radio show in August 2022.

McGuiness wrote on Twitter that O’Grady, for whom he stood in on his chat show more than 15 years ago, ‘was always supportive, kind and just great to be around’.

The Top Gear and Take Me Out presenter added: ‘Paul started in the pubs and working men’s clubs but finished as an icon of British TV. I’ll miss him very much. Rest in peace Paul.’

On Twitter, former BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce wrote: ‘Such shocking sad news about Paul O’Grady. A unique and brilliant broadcaster who brightened the nation.’

He also remembered O’Grady as a ‘terrific communicator’. Bruce, who will present a new mid-morning show on Bauer’s Greatest Hits Radio from April, said: ‘I was always amazed by how easily Paul slipped into the style of radio presentation, because, you know, he was a comedian and an actor, and the two don’t always work together.

‘But Paul came in, and it was as if he’d been in a radio studio all his life.

‘He was a terrific communicator; that was the secret to Paul, he could get his point of view and his personality across just in a few words.

‘And there was an innate kindliness and a lack of nastiness about him, which, you know, the Lily Savage character was pretty harsh but the real Paul – Paul behind that character – was (a) much softer, gentler, kindlier person.

‘And that came over on the radio, I think his radio audiences understood him very well and he understood his audiences.’

No time for ‘wokery’ for Paul O’Grady, says Dominic Raab 

Paul O’Grady would have not had time for ‘wokery’, Dominic Raab has said.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s comments came after Labour former minister Sir Chris Bryant paid tribute to the late drag queen, activist, TV presenter and comedian, saying: ‘I don’t know whether the Deputy Prime Minister ever met Lily Savage or has ever spent a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, but Lily was… I can take him some time if he wants to go?’

As MPs erupted in laughter, Sir Chris continued: ‘Her alter ego Paul O’Grady campaigned acerbically and hilariously for elderly people, for care workers, against oppression of every kind. Isn’t it time we in this country celebrated our naughty, hilarious drag queens and comics of every kind who inspire us to be a better and more generous nation?’

Mr Raab said: ‘I totally agree with him: Paul Grayson was an incredible comic’, before correcting himself saying: ‘Paul O’Grady… but in terms of Lily Savage, I think some of that comedy broke glass ceilings and broke boundaries in a way certainly politicians would struggle to do. So I agree with that.

‘I also think it shows how we need greater, more rambunctious free speech, and we need to avoid the wokery and the limitations on comedy, which I’m afraid both of them would have had no time for.’

However, in July 2020, O’Grady told The Sun about his ‘woke’ life. He said at the time: ‘I’m married to a ballet dancer, I’ve got a daughter, two grandkids and was married to a Portuguese lesbian barmaid. It doesn’t get much more woke.’ 

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In a statement, Lorna Clarke, director of music at the BBC said the corporation was ‘shocked and saddened’ by O’Grady’s death on Tuesday.

She added: ‘He was a much-loved presenter to the Radio 2 audience, and his unique sense of humour, charm and warmth touched the hearts of many.

‘Paul will be hugely missed and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time.’

Ms Clarke said Radio 2 presenters Jeremy Vine and Zoe Ball will pay tribute to O’Grady, who broadcast his last show at the station in August, during their programmes this morning.

Tributes also began to pour in overnight from his other showbusiness friends. 

Carol Vorderman said on Twitter: ‘Paul O’Grady. Already giving them raucous, ripping up the rulebook, mischief making, calling it out, loving hell in heaven.

‘Paul, what are we meant to do without you?’

The former Countdown presenter also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When you were with Paul, and even when you watched him on screen … he was one of those people who just made your blood feel like you were alive.

‘There was every part of you that was alive, and you never knew what was going to happen.’

Vorderman said O’Grady had no fear, adding: ‘He’d be calling out the TV execs way before (Gary) Lineker, when it wasn’t popular.

‘You had to love him for that, he didn’t care – he’d go into the fight, and he’d go into the fight for the good.’

Singer Michael Ball wrote on Twitter he ‘cannot comprehend that Paul O’Grady is no longer with us’.

The BBC Radio 2 presenter added: ‘Too many stories, too many memories, too many laughs to begin to calculate the loss.

‘An original and (mould) breaking, gifted, generous, beautiful man. God bless kid.’

And ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo said: ‘We are fortunate to have had a long association with Paul at ITV.

‘He was a huge, inimitable talent, delighting our viewers through his comedy and entertainment with a warmth, humour and joy that audiences of all generations related to and connected with.

‘He had a profound passion for animals too, which resonated with so many viewers, and For The Love Of Dogs remains one of our best-loved series, and a really special programme for so many.

‘All those who worked with Paul are shocked and deeply saddened at his passing and the thoughts of everyone at ITV are with Paul’s loved ones.’

Channel 4, where Paul O’Grady hosted The New Paul O’Grady Show and The Big Breakfast, paid tribute in a statement that read: ‘Everyone at Channel 4 is shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady.

‘We send our deepest sympathies to Paul’s family and friends.’

O’Grady broadcast his last show on Radio 2 in August, having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.

Lorraine Kelly spoke of her pain at ‘such sad news’, adding:  ‘Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.’

Replying to another Twitter user, she added: ‘I always think dogs are the best judge of character and they ADORED him.’ 

X Factor’s Joe McElderry was also among the first to react to the shocking news. 

‘I was stood in Paul O’Grady’s dressing room less than 3 weeks ago! He was full of life chatting and being so wonderful as always! So so sad! And such a loss! A true showbiz entertainer! May he rest in peace,’ McElderry tweeted.

Actor John Barrowman said he was ‘shocked and sad’ to hear the news of O’Grady’s death. 

Maggie Kirkpatrick and Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage in rehearsals for the musical Prisoner Cell Block H 'The Musical' at the Queen's Theatre, London

Maggie Kirkpatrick and Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage in rehearsals for the musical Prisoner Cell Block H 'The Musical' at the Queen's Theatre, London

Maggie Kirkpatrick and Paul O’Grady as Lily Savage in rehearsals for the musical Prisoner Cell Block H ‘The Musical’ at the Queen’s Theatre, London

Paul O'Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London

Paul O'Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London

Paul O’Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London

Paul O'Grady after receiving an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University for services to entertainment

Paul O'Grady after receiving an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University for services to entertainment

Paul O’Grady after receiving an honorary fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University for services to entertainment

Paul first found TV fame as 'transvestite prostitute police informer' Roxanne on The Bill, a role he played three times between 1988 and 1990

Paul first found TV fame as 'transvestite prostitute police informer' Roxanne on The Bill, a role he played three times between 1988 and 1990

Paul first found TV fame as ‘transvestite prostitute police informer’ Roxanne on The Bill, a role he played three times between 1988 and 1990

Sharing two pictures of the TV star on Twitter he wrote: ‘I am totally shocked and sad to hear the awful news that Paul O’Grady has died. An awesome talent stretching decades.

Battersea: Paul O’Grady was a ‘champion for the underdog’ 

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has paid tribute to Paul O’Grady as a ‘devoted animal lover’ and a ‘champion for the underdog’ following his death.

The TV star had close ties to the organisation, which praised his ‘razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth’.

O’Grady died unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio said.

Paul O'Grady at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in ITV's For The Love of Dogs in 2019

Paul O'Grady at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in ITV's For The Love of Dogs in 2019

Paul O’Grady at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in ITV’s For The Love of Dogs in 2019

The TV and radio presenter became an ambassador for Battersea in 2012, following the success of ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs, which was filmed at the home.

He presented the show for eleven series, during which time he laid bare his ‘passion for all things dog’, the charity said.

Last year O’Grady was joined by the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of the programme to mark 160 years of the organisation.

In a statement shared with the PA news agency, Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie said the home was ‘joining the nation’ in mourning the loss of O’Grady, who helped raise its profile to millions around the world.

‘Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres,’ he said.

‘Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.’

He continued: ‘Paul had an extremely hands-on approach as a Battersea ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages.

‘He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life. He will be dearly missed.’

O’Grady was given a special recognition award at the 2018 National Television Awards for the impact For The Love Of Dogs had on helping find homes for rescue animals nationwide.

During an interview during the first series in September 2012, he said it was ‘hand on heart… one of the nicest jobs I’ve ever had’ and praised the home as ‘a magical place’.

Ali Taylor, who appeared alongside O’Grady in the series, said the presenter met ‘hundreds if not thousands’ of dogs during his time working with Battersea but never lost his ‘infectious enthusiasm and interest in getting to know them all individually’.

O’Grady also personally rehomed several dogs at his Kent farmhouse.

During the first series of For The Love Of Dogs he took home Eddie, a Chihuahua Jack Russell-cross puppy.

Eddie was joined by Boycie, a shih-tzu in 2014, Conchita, a Maltese in 2015, Arfur, a mongrel puppy in 2017, Nancy, another mongrel puppy in 2020, and Sausage, a wire-haired dachshund in 2021.

Mr Laurie added, ‘Paul loved Battersea so much and we cannot thank him enough for everything he did for our charity and for rescue animals worldwide.

‘We will forever be indebted to him for his endless generosity and support.’

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‘From watching him as Lily Savage at the Vauxhall Tavern to sitting with him laughing backstage at West End Bares to being a guest on his @ITV Paul O’Grady show…’

Vernon Kay said Paul O’Grady was ‘always a joy to be around’ and described the presenter as ‘one of the best’ in an online tribute.

‘Paul O’Grady was one of the nicest and kindest people I’ve ever met,’ he tweeted.

‘Always a joy to be around and obviously, so much fun. He will be missed. Telly and friends have lost one of the best….RIP.’

Danny Beard, winner of the fourth series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, said Paul 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,’ Beard told BBC Breakfast.

‘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.’

And human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘Paul wasn’t just a brilliant comedian and broadcast personality but a much admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality and animal rights.

‘He supported my work for many decades and was a valued patron of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

‘Paul was planning to lead our forthcoming campaign for the police to apologise for their historic persecution of the LGBT+ community. We will miss him. Our sincere condolences to his partner Andre and to all who loved him.

‘Paul was one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Everyone whose lives he touched will miss him greatly, as will those who enjoyed his wit and admired his compassion.’

Tatchell also told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘He was a fierce opponent of the Thatcher government over the tax upon the LGBT plus community, particularly section 28.

‘And he was appalled by the levels of police harassment that was still going on right through the 1990s.’

Tatchell added that O’Grady, who was a patron of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, was ‘an incredibly vibrant, warm-hearted person’.

And he said: ‘In my experience, meeting many people who knew him, they all tell the same story: whenever someone was in need, Paul O’Grady stepped in to help.’

It’s A Sin actor Nathaniel J Hall said O’Grady showed everyone ‘how important it is to be bold and to be brave’ as he paid tribute to the presenter.

Hall, who starred in the drama series which explored the HIV/Aids crisis in the 1980s, said: ‘Paul was a dreamboat … He was a kind and compassionate person and his charity work with HIV organisations and dog charities showed that.

‘He spoke out about Tory austerity passionately and you could see his roots and grounding growing up in Liverpool.

‘He showed how important it is to be bold and to be brave, his passing reminds people that life is short, to grab the bull by the horns.’

O’Grady’s former Radio 2 colleague Aled Jones tweeted: ‘So sad to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady – a lovely lovely person x’

Piers Morgan tweeted: ‘RIP Paul O’Grady, 67. A wonderfully warm, mischievous, hilarious guy with a sublime natural talent for broadcasting and making people laugh.’

O’Grady’s long-time radio producer and close friend Malcolm Prince said he was with him just yesterday.

‘I’m devastated’, he wrote in a statement posted online. ‘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 was so proud of Annie, so happy to be back on Boom Radio, and he was looking forward to so many new projects.

‘And now he’s gone. I can’t believe it.’

He added: ‘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.’

Emotional Sally Lindsay says O’Grady was a ‘joy’

Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay, who was close friends with O’Grady, became emotional on Sky News this morning while paying tribute to him.

She said: ‘He was the most wonderful man, he was like a whirlwind, force of nature, funny, sharp wit, but also one of the fundamental things that we connected on, he was a bit of a social warrior as well.

‘He was incandescent at what was going on with the Government at the moment with the corruption and with the cost of living.’

Lindsay added that O’Grady ‘never lost his working class roots’ but he was a ‘joy to have around’. She also said: ‘The world’s a darker place today.’

In addition, she said O’Grady was a ‘warrior for the gay community’ and that he ‘made drag mainstream’, adding that she was ‘very, very honoured to be his friend’.

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O’Grady had previously spoken about battling back to health after heart trouble – typically making light of his brushes with death.

‘Three days after my last heart attack, I was back fire-eating with McFly,’ he said.

‘The heart is a muscle so you have two choices, sit on the sofa and count your tablets all day, or get on with it and get moving – swimming and walking, gentle exercise.’

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’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.

O’Grady’s daughter Sharon was born in 1974, her mother his close friend Diane Jansen. He gave Sharon away at her wedding and was overjoyed when she gave him two grandchildren. 

He and Diane never married but he was wed when he was 22 – to a Portuguese lesbian barmaid who he agreed to get hitched to to prevent her deportation.

‘She was from a very strict Catholic family and was always being hassled by them,  ‘Why aren’t you getting married?’

‘So I said: ‘Come on then, we’ll get married’, and we did. We were married for 28 years.’

He also once told how she ‘looked like David Cassidy’. 

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.

Trailblazer who took his drag act from seedy south London clubs to Buckingham Palace and picked up millions of fans on the way

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

The comedian and TV personality first rose to prominence as his drag queen persona Lily Savage in the 1980s and 1990s before going on to host a string of television programmes.

He was well known for his self-titled daytime chat show, The Paul O’Grady Show, which began airing in 2004, followed by the New Paul O’Grady Show.

O’Grady took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015, to host the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017.

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

Alter-ego: The comedian and TV personality first rose to prominence as his drag queen persona Lily Savage in the 1980s and 1990s before going on to host a string of television programmes

Alter-ego: The comedian and TV personality first rose to prominence as his drag queen persona Lily Savage in the 1980s and 1990s before going on to host a string of television programmes

Paul as Lily in a photo when he hosted Blankety Blank

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

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 the home.

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

He and his partner Andre Portasio lived in a farmhouse in Kent, alongside a menagerie of animals including four dogs, goats, sheep, chickens and barn owls.

Paul photographed at his home for the Big Issue in 1994

Paul photographed at his home for the Big Issue in 1994

Paul photographed at his home for the Big Issue in 1994

O’Grady’s other on-air appearances included as host of ITV celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up.

Last year he signed off from his final BBC Radio 2 show, having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.

He was made an MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to entertainment and last year was appointed as a deputy lieutenant of Kent.

At the ceremony he was joined by Portasio, as well as his sister Sheila Rudd and daughter Sharyn Mousley.

Paul's star rose during the 1990s when he began presenting Channel 4's The Big Breakfast. He is pictured here at the British Comedy Awards in 1997 with Mrs Merton star Caroline Aherne

Paul's star rose during the 1990s when he began presenting Channel 4's The Big Breakfast. He is pictured here at the British Comedy Awards in 1997 with Mrs Merton star Caroline Aherne

Paul’s star rose during the 1990s when he began presenting Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast. He is pictured here at the British Comedy Awards in 1997 with Mrs Merton star Caroline Aherne

Paul James Michael O’Grady was born in Birkenhead, on Merseyside, in 1955 – his mother’s maiden name was Savage.

The name is believed to have inspired his famous drag alter ego Lily Savage, who helped propel him to mainstream success.

O’Grady began his career by performing as Savage in the 1970s whilst working as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council in north London.

He went on to tour northern England as part of drag duo the Playgirls, before settling into a solo show as Savage that ran for eight years at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Paul with Coronation Street's Vera Duckworth actress Liz Dawn in 1997

Paul with Coronation Street's Vera Duckworth actress Liz Dawn in 1997

Paul with Coronation Street’s Vera Duckworth actress Liz Dawn in 1997

The comedian made a name for himself speaking out about LGBT issues and picked up a mainstream following after being nominated for a Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 1991.

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.

On stage, he appeared in various 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.

Paul was given his own chat show, and on a Christmas Special in 2021 he interviewed Dame Joan Collins

Paul was given his own chat show, and on a Christmas Special in 2021 he interviewed Dame Joan Collins

Paul was given his own chat show, and on a Christmas Special in 2021 he interviewed Dame Joan Collins

O’Grady became popular with a whole new audience as the host of The Paul O’Grady Show which aired in a teatime slot on ITV from 2004 to 2005, later moving it to Channel 4 as The New Paul O’Grady Show.

That same year he set up his own production company, Olga TV – reportedly named after his pet dog.

The company gained creative control for stints at Channel 4 running from 2006 to 2009, and 2013 to 2015.

O’Grady’s life-long love of animals also saw him branch out into presenting different styles of programming, among them Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans, which aired between 2014 and 2016 and saw him visit Africa to meet baby animals.

Following work on the show he became a patron of Orangutan Appeal UK.

O’Grady has also authored several books, including an autobiographical series detailing his childhood, the creation of Savage, and his years in the spotlight.

Paul was known for his love of animals and his work with Battersea Dogs Home, which saw him meet the future Queen last year

Paul was known for his love of animals and his work with Battersea Dogs Home, which saw him meet the future Queen last year

Paul was known for his love of animals and his work with Battersea Dogs Home, which saw him meet the future Queen last year

The series is divided into four titles; At My Mother’s Knee…And Other Low Joints, The Devil Rides Out, Still Standing: The Savage Years, and Open The Cage, Murphy.

Speaking following the publication of the third book in 2012, O’Grady recalled the death of his partner of 25 years, Brendan Murphy, in 2005.

‘Grief doesn’t happen immediately, it hits you after a while, because you’ve got all the funeral and the fuss, then when that dies down you find yourself on your own, with time to contemplate what’s happened,’ he said.

‘I thought, ‘I’m on my own, what do I do now?”.

He also spoke about his health at the time, having had two heart attacks, saying: ‘The worst thing you can do is to sit and fret. I take tablets and have check-ups every eight months when they put me on the treadmill. I say to them, ‘Heart attack or not, I’m hopeless on treadmills!”

O’Grady has also penned two other books, including Paul O’Grady’s Country Life, about his love of rural living.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.

Throughout his career O’Grady picked up various accolades including a TV Bafta, a British Comedy Award, and a National Television Award for The Paul O’Grady Show.

‘The village is poorer without him’: Paul O’Grady’s neighbours reveal ‘down-to-earth’ star used to leave drinkers in hysterics on pub trips with Julian Clary – as fellow comic pays tribute to ‘fierce and funny friend’

Residents in Paul O’Grady‘s village today paid tribute to the star and revealed how he and fellow local Julian Clary used to leave fellow drinkers at their pub in hysterics.

O’Grady, who died last night aged 67, lived in a £2.5million home in the village of Aldington, near Ashford in Kent, which he bought from comic Vic Reeves in 1999.

He was a regular in The Walnut Tree Inn, where he would often be accompanied by friend, comedian and fellow villager Clary – and the pair regularly made others laugh.

Neighbours of O’Grady, who shot to fame playing his alter ego Lily Savage, also told MailOnline today that their village was ‘poorer without him’. And the pub landlady said O’Grady would often enjoy a pint of cider or Moet & Chandon champagne.

Also today, Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning and said: ‘Farewell to my fierce and funny friend. I’m going to miss you. #RIPPaulO’Grady.’

Julian Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning, in a tribute to Paul O'Grady

Julian Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning, in a tribute to Paul O'Grady

Julian Clary tweeted a comical picture of the duo this morning, in a tribute to Paul O’Grady

The star suffered two heart attacks, in 2002 and 2006, and was rushed to hospital in 2013 with chest pains so had cut back his visits to the 18th century pub in recent years.

Walnut Treet Inn pub landlady Karen Barrett said O'Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village of Aldington

Walnut Treet Inn pub landlady Karen Barrett said O'Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village of Aldington

Walnut Treet Inn pub landlady Karen Barrett said O’Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village of Aldington

However, he would still shop every other day in the village store – ordering freshly made Cornish pasties – rather than visit the local Waitrose supermarket like other local celebrities.

Linda Harman, a local councillor, said residents there were devastated by the loss.

She said: ‘Like everyone, we woke up to the extremely sad and shocking news that Paul had passed away. 

‘He was a staunch member and supporter of this community who always have his time – and sometimes his money – to support events in the village.

‘Just last summer he judged the local dog show, which he absolute loved. When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub. They were great and very funny as you’d expect, the other punters used to love it.

‘Paul had a couple of health scares, though, and so after that took it a lot easier and cut down on his visits, especially after Julian moved away.

‘Paul was as people have described today, a fabulous, kind, normal person who never once stood on his celebruty status. 

‘We loved having him here and we are going to miss him a lot.’

When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul O'Grady (pictured in London in 2018) would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub, according to a local councillor

When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul O'Grady (pictured in London in 2018) would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub, according to a local councillor

When Julian Clary lived in the village, he and Paul O’Grady (pictured in London in 2018) would often be seen enjoying a few drinks together in the pub, according to a local councillor

Ms Harman recalled how during the Covid pandemic she had read reports in the news that the star had been struck down with the virus.

Linda Harman, a local councillor in Aldington, said O'Grady was a 'staunch member and supporter of this community'

Linda Harman, a local councillor in Aldington, said O'Grady was a 'staunch member and supporter of this community'

Linda Harman, a local councillor in Aldington, said O’Grady was a ‘staunch member and supporter of this community’

She added: ‘We had a Covid support group at the time and would phone and basically reach out to those who had it to make sure they were ok and to ask if they needed any help.

‘I didn’t know who to reach out to Paul as he was such a big star so I knew that from when I worked in PR, I had his agent’s email. So I emailed the agent and said that we had this support group and if Paul needed anything we were there for him.

‘The agent replied and thanked me for getting in touch but the next thing my mobile rang and it was Paul on the other end of the line, thanking me for my concern and the for the kind offer of support… but added that he was fine and the papers had got it wrong!

‘He was so down-to-earth, warm and friendly, it was like talking to my neighbour.’

Wiping away tears, local pub landlady Karen Barrett said O’Grady popped in throughout his two decades living in the village.

She said: ‘I last saw him last year and he was donating a children’s book he’d written for a raffle.

‘He was an amazing man, so down-to-earth, natural, warm and funny. If you never met him, you missed out.

‘He came in quite a bit when he first moved here. He’d come in with Julian Clary and they were absolutely brilliant. Out of the two, I’d say Julian was the quieter.

Paul Grady was a regular in The Walnut Tree pub in the village of Aldington, Kent

Paul Grady was a regular in The Walnut Tree pub in the village of Aldington, Kent

Paul Grady was a regular in The Walnut Tree pub in the village of Aldington, Kent

‘Paul’s favourite tipple was either a pint of cider or his favourite champagne, which was Moet & Chandon. He also loved oysters.

‘He’d had a couple of heart attacks in the space of four years about 15 years or so ago so he wasn’t such a regular visitor more recently.

‘But he had his 50th birthday here at the pub with about ten friends and when his friend and manager, Brendan Murphy, died, he held the wake here.

‘I’m devastated by the fact he’s gone because we had such great times.

‘One of the regulars, Brenda, who is sadly no longer with us, she asked me to invite Paul to her 60th birthday. She was from Liverpool originally and had had heart problems too.

‘Paul came in during the afternoon and apologised and said he couldn’t stay long but he chatted to Brenda and her friends, bought her some flowers, a card and one of those Nodding Busters he used to have on his TV show.

‘I remember one of my staff asked him if he could wish her mother a happy birthday because she was a big fan and he went in and chatted to her and everyone else like he’d known them all for years.

In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see O'Grady most days

In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see O'Grady most days

In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see O’Grady most days

‘The member of staff thanked him and he said ‘no problem, I’d do anything for Karen’.

‘And he would. My son had cancer a few years ago and unbeknownst to me a friend of mine wrote to him and told him what we as a family were going through.

‘He came in a few days later and left us tickets to see him on stage at the London Palladium to sort of give us a break from everything.

‘More recently, when Covid happened and the pub had to shut, he asked me if I needed any help financially and I was so touched I started crying. But he hated all that and said ‘oh stop’.

‘He’s quietly donated to the local school, to the local Kaleidoscope Trust, he has touched so many lives.

‘I didn’t see him much over the last few years for one reason or another but when I did we’d embrace and we’d talk for ages. He had a way of making you feel like family – even if you hardly knew him.

‘I sent him a Christmas card and wrote him a little message because I hadn’t seen him for a while, saying that I’d become engaged to a lovely man and am due to be getting married this summer and that my life was on the up.

‘He wrote back and said he was thrilled for me and suggested that we should soon meet up again. That won’t happen now of course but I’ll treasure all those wonderful memories.’

In Aldington Post Office, Muttukumarasamy Skandakumar, 66 and his wife Devika would see him most days.

Paul O'Grady would often visit the Aldington Post Office in the village and have a Cornish pasty

Paul O'Grady would often visit the Aldington Post Office in the village and have a Cornish pasty

Paul O’Grady would often visit the Aldington Post Office in the village and have a Cornish pasty

Devika smiled and said: ‘He was a lovely man, we always looked forward to him coming in because he was so friendly and chatty.

‘He loved our Cornish pasties and steak slices and would always buy them for lunch.

‘We last saw him last week just before he we t up to Scotland. He said he was performing in Edinburgh and wanted to get the train but instead was flying because it was quicker.

‘It was the first time in a while where he’d been in as he told us he’d been away, I think to Thailand.

‘But whenever he did come in to the shop and people were starstruck and asked for a picture him, he’d always oblige. He was very good with his fans.

‘He had a caring side too. I recently fell down the stairs and he’d heard about it and was asking how I was and if I was ok.’

Muttukumarasamy added: ‘He was a very popular man in the village. He did a lot for local charities so it’s a big loss. I’m just a year younger than he was. Sixty seven is no age to pass away, my heart goes out to his family.’

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