Paul O'Grady

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Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady, April 2009 cropped.jpg
O'Grady in April 2009
BornPaul James Michael O'Grady
(1955-06-14) 14 June 1955 (age 59)
Birkenhead, Cheshire, England
OccupationBroadcaster, actor, entrepreneur, comedian, author, television personality, producer
Years active1988–present
EmployerITV, BBC Radio 2
Known forPresenting:
Blankety Blank (1997–99, 2001–02)
Lily Live! (2000–01)
The Paul O'Grady Show (2004–09, 2013–)
Paul O'Grady Live (2010–11)
For the Love of Dogs (2012—)
Spouse(s)Teresa Fernandes (m. 1977–2005,
Partner(s)Brendan Murphy (1980–2005,
his death)
Andre Portasio (2006–present)
Official Radio 2 show page
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For the Australian footballer, see Paul O'Grady (footballer). For the Australian politician, see Paul O'Grady (politician).
Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady, April 2009 cropped.jpg
O'Grady in April 2009
BornPaul James Michael O'Grady
(1955-06-14) 14 June 1955 (age 59)
Birkenhead, Cheshire, England
OccupationBroadcaster, actor, entrepreneur, comedian, author, television personality, producer
Years active1988–present
EmployerITV, BBC Radio 2
Known forPresenting:
Blankety Blank (1997–99, 2001–02)
Lily Live! (2000–01)
The Paul O'Grady Show (2004–09, 2013–)
Paul O'Grady Live (2010–11)
For the Love of Dogs (2012—)
Spouse(s)Teresa Fernandes (m. 1977–2005,
Partner(s)Brendan Murphy (1980–2005,
his death)
Andre Portasio (2006–present)
Official Radio 2 show page

Paul James Michael O'Grady, MBE (born 14 June 1955) is an English comedian, television presenter, actor, writer and radio DJ. Achieving fame for his drag queen comedic alter ego, Lily Savage, he subsequently became well known for presenting the daytime chat television series, The Paul O'Grady Show.

Born to a working class Irish migrant family in Birkenhead on the Wirral in Cheshire, O'Grady went through various jobs in his youth while moving around England. While living in London in 1978, he first developed the Lily Savage drag act, a character inspired by his female relatives. Touring Northern England as part of drag mime duo, the Playgirls, he eventually went solo as a stand-up comedian. Performing for eight years as Lily at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), O'Grady won a Perrier Award for his comedy act, attracting mainstream attention and presenting television shows Blankety Blank (1997–1999) and Lily Live! (2000–2001).

Moving on from his drag act, O'Grady appeared in sitcom Eyes Down (2003–2004) and presented several travel documentaries. In 2004, he began presenting The Paul O'Grady Show for ITV, but after a disagreement with the company re-launched the show on Channel 4 as The New Paul O'Grady Show (2006–2009). Returning to ITV, he presented chat show Paul O'Grady Live (2010–2011) before stopping to focus on other projects, including presenting BBC Radio 2's Paul O'Grady on the Wireless and ITV's For the Love of Dogs (2012–). ITV revived The Paul O'Grady Show in 2013.

In 2003, O'Grady was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and, in 2006, was listed by The Independent at number 32 in their 101 most influential gay people in Britain. Appointed MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours list for services to entertainment, in 2010, he received an Honorary Doctor of Arts from De Montfort University, Leicester, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to television, radio and the stage.[3]

Early life[edit]

Childhood: 1955–71[edit]

O'Grady's father, Patrick "Paddy" Grady (died 1973),[4] had grown up on a farm in Ballincurry, County Roscommon, Ireland, before moving to England in 1936, in search for work, settling down in the working class area of Birkenhead, Cheshire. His name was changed from Grady to O'Grady in a paperwork mistake when he joined the Royal Air Force; he kept this altered name.[5][6] Patrick married Mary Savage (1916–1988),[7] born in England to Irish migrants from County Louth. Patrick and Mary were devout Catholics and brought up their children in the faith. O'Grady was their third child, born at 7:30 am on 14 June 1955 at St. Catherine's Hospital, Tranmere.[8][9] His birth, over a decade after that of siblings Brendan and Sheila,[4] was not planned; his mother was 39 and discovered the pregnancy only when visiting the doctor complaining of indigestion. O'Grady spent his early life at the family's rented home of 23 Holly Grove, Higher Tranmere, Birkenhead,[10] a house built in a former quarry during the early 1930s; O'Grady remarked that the house was always damp and cold, suffering from "ominous cracks" which "would appear in the walls and ceilings overnight".[11]

"[W]hen I look back on my childhood I have no bad memories. Our family was loving and full of affection. I never knew what divorce was until I moved to London. I was an indulged child and completely protected from anything bad."

Paul O'Grady.[12]

Attending St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School, O'Grady excelled in all subjects but math. Hoping that he had a good future ahead of him, his parents budgeted to send him to a private school, the Catholic-run Redcourt, but his grades dropped. Failing the Eleven Plus exam, to his mother's dismay he was unable to enter a grammar school, instead attending the Blessed Edmund Campion R.C. Secondary Modern and the Corpus Christi High School,[13] where O'Grady experienced his first homosexual encounter, enjoying a brief romance with another boy, although still assumed he was heterosexual.[14]

A fan of the popular television series The Avengers and Batman,[15] he was enrolled in the cub scouts by his mother, but he hated it, leaving after a month. An altar boy at a local Catholic church, he was dismissed after laughing during a funeral service.[16] Then joining the Marine cadets, he later commented that he was following in the footsteps of his childhood hero, the cartoon Popeye.[17] Enjoying the cadets, at the advice of his captain he joined the Boys' Amateur Boxing Club, developing a lifelong love of the sport.[18][19] Playing truant from school, he got into trouble with his parents, and subsequently with the police after burgling a house with three friends.[20] O'Grady's first job was a paper round that he kept for a week,[21] and through this and other jobs he saved up to afford Mod clothes, for a time becoming a suedehead.[22]

Early adulthood: 1972–77[edit]

Leaving school aged sixteen, O'Grady obtained a job in the civil service, working as a clerical assistant for the DHSS at their Liverpool office; he commuted in from his parents' home. Supplementing this income, he worked part-time at the bar of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) club in Oxton.[23][24] Called for a disciplinary hearing at the DHSS and accused of incompetent behaviour and tardiness, he resigned.[25] Obtaining a job at the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Virginia Water, Surrey, aged seventeen, O'Grady moved there; appalled at the working conditions, the management accused him of stealing, which he denied.[26] Promptly returning to Birkenhead, he worked at the RAFA club, increasingly socialising within the Liverpudlian gay scene, attending meetings of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality and working at gay bar the Bear's Paw; this was kept a secret from his parents, to whom he was not "out of the closet".[27] With best friend Tony, O'Grady regularly travelled to London to socialise with Tony's friend, the classical music conductor John Pritchard, becoming very fond of him.[28] Experimenting, O'Grady had casual sex with a friend and colleague, Diane Jansen;[29][30] she became pregnant, news which O'Grady discovered in the same week that both his parents suffered heart attacks; his mother recovered, but his father died.[31][32] Following the birth of his daughter, Sharon Lee Jansen, on 16 May 1974, O'Grady agreed to pay £3 per week towards her upkeep, but refused to marry Diane, recognising his homosexuality.[33][34]

Briefly working as an assistant clerk at Liverpool Magistrates' Court, O'Grady subsequently worked as a barman at Yates's Wine Lodge, supplementing the income with the occasional night at the Bear's Paw.[35][36] Realising this wage was insufficient to support both himself and his daughter, he travelled to London, lodging in Westbourne Green, but found only poorly paid work as a barman. In London, he began associating with drag queens, particularly a couple who used the stage name of the Harlequeens. Although making friends in the city, O'Grady was homesick and returned home.[37] Employed as an accountant in a FMC Meats Merseyside abattoir, he then gained employment at the Children's Convalescent Home and School in West Kirby, a home for disabled and abused children; he worked here for three years.[38][39][40] Entering into a relationship with an older man named Norman, O'Grady moved into his house in Littlehampton; their relationship was strained, both cheating on one another, and it broke apart.[41]

Moving again to London, he rented a flat in Crouch End and began busking with a friend in Camden Town before obtaining a job as a physiotherapist's assistant at the Royal Northern Hospital.[42] Made redundant by public sector cuts, O'Grady took up a job at a gay club called the Showplace, befriending Portuguese lesbian Theresa Fernandes; in May 1977, they legally married to prevent her deportation, although eventually lost contact, only gaining a divorce in 2005.[43][44] Taking up jobs as a cleaner and a waiter at private functions,[45] he began working for Camden Council as a peripatetic care officer, living in with elderly people or dysfunctional families which had a lasting effect on him for many years to come.[46][47]

Career in drag[edit]

Lily Savage and the drag circuit: 1978–84[edit]

The entrance to the Black Cap pub, where O'Grady first performed as Lily Savage.

While working for Camden Social Services, O'Grady made his first attempt at putting together a drag act, creating the character of Lily Savage; he later related that "I wanted to get up there but be larger than life, a creature that was more cartoon than human. I wasn't sure yet."[48] His debut was on the afternoon of 7 October 1978 at the Black Cap gay pub in Camden, miming the words to Barbra Streisand's "Nobody Makes a Pass at Me" from the show Pins and Needles.[49] Following a holiday to Poland,[50] he visited an ex-boyfriend in Manila in the Philippines. Affording the fare due to a "sizeable tax rebate" from the Inland Revenue, O'Grady found Manila to be a "culture shock", but briefly worked as a barman and waiter at a brothel known as Gussie's Bar.[51][52]

Returning to London, O'Grady moved to Purley and then Streatham with a drag act, the Glamazons. With one of them, nicknamed "Hush", he founded a two-man drag mime act, the Playgirls, although found little work in London. Agreeing to a tour of the North of England, they moved to Slaithwaite, Yorkshire,[53] also accepting a month's work at a club in Copenhagen, Denmark.[54] Living up north, they diversified their act, with O'Grady performing a striptease while wearing a fat suit he named "Biddy", also learning fire eating from a hotel manager in Bradford.[55] Fed up with the poor living conditions, Hush returned to London, leading O'Grady to continue his drag performance as a solo act under the name of "Paul Monroe", a reference to Marilyn Monroe.[56] When his driver, Phil, decided to quit, O'Grady found it too expensive to continue his drag act, moving back in with his mother in Birkenhead;. He became reacquainted with Diane and his daughter.[57] Amid mass unemployment, O'Grady briefly lived off the dole before resurrecting the Playgirls with his friend Vera; initially performing in Liverpool, where they were caught up in the 1981 Toxteth riots, they began touring other parts of Northern England until deciding to quit and return to London.[58]

"I've frequently been asked over the years who Lily Savage was based on and I've always answered that it was no one in particular and she was just a figment of my imagination. The truth, I realise now, is that Lily owes a lot to the women I encountered in my childhood. Characteristics and attitudes were observed and absorbed, Aunty Chris's in particular, and they provided the roots and compost for the Lily that would germinate and grow later on."

— Paul O'Grady, 2008.[59]

Returning to work as a peripatetic nurse for Camden Council Social Services, O'Grady began caring for an old woman who lived several doors down from serial killer Dennis Nilsen.[60] Regularly moving flats, from Vauxhall to Brixton and then Battersea, he was reunited with Hush, and they began performing as the Playgirls again, devising an act based upon the cult film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.[61] At the end of the year, he appeared as an Ugly Sister in a drag pantomime of Cinderella, beginning a relationship with fellow cast member Scott.[62] Moving into the Victoria Mansions flats in Vauxhall, in March 1983 he joined the Equity union, allowing him to take a role in the theatrical adaptation of If They'd Asked for a Lion Tamer at the Donmar Warehouse.[63] The Playgirls gained bookings to appear across London, and also in Amsterdam and Copenhagen; O'Grady and Hush joined with drag artist David Dale to form an act known as "LSD", which stood for "Lily, Sandra and Doris", devising an act that parodied Andy Pandy, they gained bookings across London and in Edinburgh.[64]

Residency in Vauxhall: 1984–92[edit]

In 1984, O'Grady began working as a barman at the Elephant and Castle, a notoriously rough gay pub in Vauxhall; as Lily, he became compere of Ladies Night every Tuesday, where amateur drag acts would perform. As compere, he tried out comedy routines, becoming known for insulting both the acts and the audience, describing it as "one of the best times of my life." Becoming increasingly popular, the show began attracting crowds and he was interviewed by artist Patrick Procktor.[65] After six months, O'Grady transferred his act to the nearby Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) gay pub, whose manager offered him £50 a show over the £15 that the Elephant and Castle paid; he re-opened his show on Thursday nights as "Stars of the Future".[66] In February 1985 he obtained his own council flat in Vauxhall's Victoria Mansions, number 81, moving in with two Persian cats named Dolly and Lucy; his friend Vera would move in and live there for six years.[67] During the mid-1980s, O'Grady met Brendan Murphy, known as "Murph" or "Murphy" to his friends, who was the manager of a gay sauna near the Oval, Kennington; O'Grady began dating him while still in a relationship with Scott, but after Scott moved to New York City, O'Grady's relationship with Murph intensified.[68][69]

O'Grady's alter-ego, Lily Savage.

Eventually appearing at the RVT three times a week, on Sundays, O'Grady began performing at the Union Tavern, Camberwell, and the Goldsmith's Tavern, New Cross, where he'd often precede Vic Reeves' three-hour show Vic Reeves Big Night Out before leaving to do a show elsewhere.[70] Quitting his council work, he focused full-time on his career as Lily, taking his act across the United Kingdom and also abroad to countries like Israel and Finland.[71] Befriending American drag queen Divine and his manager Bernard Jay, Jay booked O'Grady to appear in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[72]

O'Grady used his act to publicly speak out against the treatment of Britain's LGBT community by the mainstream media, government and police, particularly during the HIV/AIDS crisis that hit the community during that decade. On a number of occasions, police raided pubs that he was working at; he was quoted in the Capital Gay newspaper as calling on LGBT people to riot against their mistreatment.[73] Regularly doing charity fundraisers for HIV/AIDS research, many of his friends died of the disease,[74] while in April 1988 he took part in a 30,000 strong march against Section 28.[75] That year, he performed as Madame in The Scythe of Reason[76] and appeared at the Glasgow Mayfest, where he developed a lifelong friendship with actor Ian McKellen.[77]

O'Grady played a transvestite prostitute informant, Roxanne, in three episodes of The Bill between 1988 and 1990.[78] Just before filming on the first episode, O'Grady's mother died and he proceeded to return her house to the landlord.[79] In 1990 he appeared in the ITV miniseries Chimera as Tony Donaldson, a social worker skilled in signing for the deaf.[citation needed]

Transition to television: 1992–2001[edit]

After appearing at the Edinburgh Festival and gaining a Perrier Award nomination, O'Grady's Lily Savage act became more mainstream and the character became popular on television, making appearances on the ITV daytime programme This Morning and as the 'On the Bed Presenter' on The Big Breakfast. For a few years, O'Grady hosted the game show Blankety Blank as Lily Savage, for the BBC and later for ITV. Performing as Lily, O'Grady also co-hosted the 1996 Smash Hits Poll Winners' Party with Ant & Dec.[citation needed]

Unwilling to portray himself, in 2000, O'Grady appeared in a six-part travelogue series entitled Paul O'Grady's Orient, filmed in Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Bangkok, Bali and Singapore. This was followed in 2001 by Paul O'Grady's America. From 2002 onwards, he appeared less as Savage and more often as himself. In 2002, he presented Outtake TV, a bloopers show, and in 2003, starred as the lead character in the BBC sitcom Eyes Down for two series, as the manager of a northern bingo hall. He also appeared in Celebrity Driving School for the BBC.

There was also a comedy show built around the character, Lily Live! on ITV in 2000. O'Grady also appeared opposite Cilla Black and Barbara Windsor (as Savage) in the 2001 Royal Variety Performance where the trio performed a rendition of "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" from the musical Gypsy. O'Grady also played the role of Miss Hannigan in a touring production of Annie, as his alter ego Savage.[citation needed]

O'Grady retired the Lily Savage character around 2004. He claimed she had "seen the light, taken the veil and packed herself off to a convent in France" but on his TV show, he said, "she's escaped the convent and she's heading towards these shores!". On 23 May 2008, on the 500th edition of The Paul O'Grady Show, guest star Julie Goodyear told O'Grady that Bet Lynch, the character she played in television soap opera Coronation Street, had joined Savage in the French convent. On The Paul O'Grady Show on 7 October 2009, after being prompted by actor Martin Clunes to "bring Lily back", O'Grady said he could not because she had been "bricked up in a chimney" by the Mother Superior of the convent.[citation needed]


The Paul O'Grady Show: 2004–09, 2013–present[edit]

Main article: The Paul O'Grady Show

"I just want the show to be like a party, a group of pals gabbing away about the first things that come into their heads. There are always enough things in life to worry and get depressed about. I want my show to take our minds off all that stuff, even if it's only for a while."

Paul O'Grady, c.2004[80]

O'Grady stood in for Des O'Connor on an episode of the lunchtime chat show Today with Des and Mel, something that impressed ITV enough that they asked him to stand in for O'Connor on other occasions as well. Eventually, they decided that O'Grady would be a success if he presented his own daytime television show, and so commissioned a series, The Paul O'Grady Show, which first aired on October 2004 in the 5 to 6 pm slot. The show, where O'Grady interviewed celebrity guests, aired at the same time at Channel 4's similar series Richard and Judy, creating a friendly rivalry between the two programmes for ratings. Despite the competition, O'Grady's was a success, and won a number of awards in 2005, including a BAFTA and the award for Best TV Comedy Entertainment Personality at the British Comedy Awards. The show ran on ITV for three series, before O'Grady fell out with the broadcasting company and decided to switch to Channel 4.

In producing the show, O'Grady worked with many of his old friends, including Andy Collins, his warm-up man, whose job it was to "make sure the [studio] audience is relaxed, happy and ready for the main event".[81]

The show gained a devout following, with an "extraordinary hardcore of fans [who] try to be at as many recordings as possible", in many cases arriving at the studio gates two hours before the advertised starting time in order to get the best seats.[82] O'Grady's biographer Neil Simpson commented on the crowds coming to see the show being recorded when he related that "Groups of middle aged women dominate – but they are joined by beautiful twenty-something women with flawless make-up, flash City boys with Louis Vuitton briefcases, hip-looking students out for a good time and pensioners just wanting a laugh in the afternoon."[83] In many cases, fans queuing to see the show had to be turned away because too many had turned up, and for live shows as many as a hundred often had to be turned away.[82]

The fourth series of the show premiered on Channel 4 in March 2006 under the title of The New Paul O'Grady Show. On 24 August 2007, the Daily Mirror revealed that O'Grady had rejected a £5 million deal to return to ITV as the "New Parkinson."[citation needed] Instead, he signed a £4 million deal to remain with Channel 4 until the end of 2009.[citation needed]

"On or off camera it is the brilliant anecdotes about his life and the endless stream of trenchant opinions on the world in general that keep Paul's fans coming back for more."

Biographer Neil Simpson, 2008[84]

On 28 June 2008, O'Grady appeared in the Doctor Who episode The Stolen Earth.[85] In September 2008, he appeared in a 2-hour long show, called Ghosthunting with Paul O'Grady & Friends, filmed in Sicily, with fellow Liverpudlians Jennifer Ellison, Philip Olivier and Natasha Hamilton. On 6 June 2009, the Daily Mirror confirmed that O'Grady signed a new two-year contract with Channel 4 in autumn 2009 to keep his show on air until the end of 2011. However, Channel 4 told O'Grady that his show wouldface huge budget cuts, with his salary most likely halved.[86] On Monday 21 September 2009, O'Grady returned to present the 11th (including ITV series) and final series of The Paul O'Grady Show.[87] On 14 October 2009, O'Grady agreed to an £8 million deal with ITV to host a Friday prime-time chat-show, to rival that of BBC One's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross from 2010, after budget talks broke-down with Channel 4.[87]

On 30 November 2009, O'Grady was a guest presenter on GMTV Limited's GMTV with Lorraine, in celebration of Lorraine Kelly's 50th birthday. He has guest starred on Living's paranormal show, Most Haunted Live!, after presenter Yvette Fielding was a guest on his show and invited him on. Also in November 2009, O'Grady reunited with Yvette Fielding to take part in a 2 part paranormal investigation series called Death in Venice where he and Fielding investigated haunted locations in Venice. The episodes were called "Vampire Island" and "Demonic Doctor".

On 18 December 2009, Channel 4 broadcast the final episode of The Paul O'Grady Show, after 11 series. Guests included in the final line up were, JLS, Beverley Callard, Catherine Tate, William Roache, Linda Thorson, Honor Blackman, Joe McFadden, Natalie Cassidy, Scott Maslen, Kate Thornton and Melanie Sykes.

In the autumn of 2013, O'Grady began hosting a revival of his teatime chat show The Paul O'Grady Show on ITV. The series was produced by his own production company Olga TV filmed at The London Studios.[88][89][90] The first series ran from 11 November to 13 December 2013 and a second series started on 28 April 2014.

Paul O'Grady Live: 2010–12[edit]

Main article: Paul O'Grady Live

O'Grady made a deal with ITV to present a new Friday night chat show, Paul O'Grady Live.[91] O'Grady told The People of his desire that the series "will still have dogs and children but I want it to be a bit more adult too."[92] The first series aired for ten episodes from September to November 2010.[93] In October, O'Grady attracted media attention after using Paul O'Grady Live to criticise the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government for their implementation of mass cuts to social services. He called them "bastards" and proclaimed "Do you know what got my back up? Those Tories hooping and hollering when they heard about the cuts. Gonna scrap the pensions – yeah! – no more wheelchairs – yeah! ... I bet when they were children they laughed in Bambi when his mother got shot."[94][95][96] Ofcom received several complaints over the incident,[95] though his Bambi quote was soon after quoted by Peter Taffe at the Socialism 2010 conference.[97] O'Grady also voiced his support for student protesters who had occupied and vandalised the headquarters of the Conservative Party at Millbank Tower on 10 November 2010.[98][99]

"I felt I was part of the PR machine. There was so much interference. They'd want this guest or that guest. Every question had to go through the lawyers. I was just another plug for someone's book or film."

Paul O'Grady on why he quit his chat show, 2012.[100]

The show was picked up for a second series from April to July 2011. A special devoted to American pop star Lady Gaga also aired; O'Grady described Gaga as a "thoroughly decent human being", and labelled himself one of her "greatest admirers."[101] Straight after, O'Grady holidayed in China with Brazilian boyfriend André, visiting Shanghai, Hong Kong and Lhasa.[102] O'Grady found himself caught up in the News International phone hacking scandal when police from Operation Weeting informed him that News of the World reporter Glenn Mulcaire had hacked his mobile phone. Disappointed, he decided not to sue.[103] In October 2011, O'Grady played Mr Slattery in a stage performance of Drama at Inish at the Finborough in Earl's Court.[104] That month, ITV axed Paul O'Grady Live.[105][106] O'Grady stated that ITV had asked him to return for a third series, but that he had refused, claiming that he had had enough of the chat show format.[91][100] He remarked that he had become fed up with the "interference" from the show's producers and the fact that certain guests had appeared on air while under the influence of the illicit drug cocaine.[100] O'Grady later commented that having to interview some A-list celebrities was akin to conversing with a "relative you felt obliged to visit."[107]

Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs: 2012–present[edit]

Since September 2012, O'Grady has presented the hit ITV documentary series For the Love of Dogs, covering life at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.[108] O'Grady commented that he had wanted to do such a show for years and that he took to it with an "enthusiasm that surprised everyone except me." Although scheduled to film at the centre for six days, he stayed as a volunteer for six months.[109] At the end, O'Grady was invited to become an ambassador for Battersea, and a bronze statue of his late dog, Buster, was erected on a plinth at the centre.[110] He also adopted a dog from the home; a Jack Russell-Chihuahua cross named Eddy.[110] The first series averaged 4.07 million viewers, the second averaging 900k more with 4.97 million. The show has won two National Television Awards in 2013 and 2014 for "Most Popular Factual Entertainment Programme". For the Love of Dogs was also nominated for a BAFTA in 2013, but it lost out to The Great British Bake Off.[111]


In early 2013, O'Grady narrated the ITV documentary programme, Me and My Guide Dog following the work of the Guide Dogs.

In April 2013, O'Grady presented a documentary about burlesque act Gypsy Rose Lee, which was part of ITV's Perspectives series.[112] That month, he presented ITV's first British Animal Honours award ceremony.[113][114][115]

On 15 August 2013, O'Grady presented a two-part BBC documentary series Paul O'Grady's Working Britain, which was nominated for a National Television Award in January 2014.[116]

On 16 October 2013, O'Grady presented The One and Only Cilla Black, a 90 minute ITV special to celebrate Cilla Black's 50 years in show business.

In January 2014, O'Grady fronted a three-part documentary series entitled Paul O'Grady's Animal Orphans for ITV, which saw him travel to Africa to meet some of the continent's animal orphans.[117]


Between 2003 and 2004, O'Grady starred in the BBC sitcom Eyes Down, playing Ray Temple - the manager of the bingo hall.

On 26 June 2013, it was announced that O'Grady would guest star in three episodes of Holby City beginning on 17 September 2013.[118]

O'Grady co-starred opposite Cilla Black in a non-broadcast pilot for a BBC One sitcom called Led Astray. The pilot episode was recorded on 31 October 2013, but the show was not commissioned for a full series due to the pair's busy schedules.[119][120]

Television credits[edit]

1995–96The Big Breakfast'On the Bed' interviewer
1995The Clive James Show
1998–99, 2001–02Blankety BlankPresenter
1998The Lily Savage Show[121]Presenter
2000Paul O'Grady's OrientPresenter
2000–01Lily Live!Presenter2 series (12 episodes)
2001Paul O'Grady's AmericaPresenter
2002Outtake TVPresenter
2002–06Today with Des and MelGuest presenter
2003–04Eyes DownRay Temple2 series (15 episodes)
2004-05The British Soap AwardsPresenter2 episodes
2004–09, 2013—The Paul O'Grady ShowPresenter13 series
2010–11Paul O'Grady LivePresenter2 series
2012—Paul O'Grady: For the Love of DogsPresenter3 series
2013The British Animal HonoursPresenterOne-off episode
Me and My Guide DogNarratorOne-off episode
Paul O'Grady's Working BritainPresenter1 series (2 episodes)
Holby CityTimGuest appearance (3 episodes)
Led AstrayTimPilot episode
The One and Only Cilla BlackPresenterOne-off special
2014Paul O'Grady's Animal OrphansPresenter1 series (3 episodes)


O'Grady has authored a three-volume autobiography. The first volume, At My Mother's Knee ... And Other Low Joints, was published by Bantam in September 2008. It was given a rare positive review by Private Eye who noted that the book did not fall into the most common celebrity biography traps of being ghost written, settling scores or not sounding like it had been written by its subject. The second volume, The Devil Rides Out: The Second Coming, was released in September 2010. His third volume, Still Standing: The Savage Years, was released in October 2012, with the official launch event taking place at the Cambridge Theatre.[122]

Personal life[edit]

"We used to fight like cat and dog. We were two alpha males vying to be top dog. He was a tricky bastard and I can be tricky too. We'd have real punch-ups. But I'd tell him everything. Suddenly, I was totally on my own. That's when I said, "Lily's going." Because he's always been here with Lily. I thought "I can't do it any more." So she sort of died with him."

Paul O'Grady on the death of Brendan Murphy, 2012.[100]

O'Grady entered into a marriage of convenience with Teresa Fernandes, a Portuguese lesbian, in 1977, in order to prevent her deportation; he gained a divorce in 2005. His long-term lover and business partner of 20 years was Irish television producer Brendan Frank Murphy (4 March 1956[7] – 9 June 2005), who was HIV+ and died of brain cancer at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London,[123] five days before O'Grady's 50th birthday.

In 1974 with his friend Diane Jansen, O'Grady has a daughter, Sharyn, who married her childhood friend Philip Mousley at Liverpool Town Hall on 30 July 2005. O'Grady became a grandfather in 2006, when Sharyn gave birth to a son, Abel. He revealed on his show on 2 December 2009 that he had become a grandfather again as Sharyn had given birth to a girl in the early hours of that morning.[124]

O'Grady divides his time between a London flat and his home in a rural area of Kent, where he grows vegetables and cares for various animals, including dogs, pigs, sheep, chickens and barn owls.[125] He also grows a variety of herbs, having a keen interest in herbalism.[126] O'Grady is publicly known for having had many high profile and celebrity friends, including the late politician Mo Mowlam, actresses Amanda Mealing and Barbara Windsor, comedienne Brenda Gilhooly and singer Cilla Black.[127] Most of his friends knew him under the nickname of "Lily" or "Lil".[128]

Political work[edit]

In April 2013, O'Grady came out in support of the Labour Party and stated his intention to campaign for a Labour victory in the 2015 general election.[129] He lambasted the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government then in power, describing them as "absolutely disgusting. They have no idea what the common working man and woman are doing. They are not in touch with the working classes. They have led privileged lives – they've had public schools and have never been on the shop floor."[129] Condemning Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron as out of touch, he championed Labour leader Ed Miliband as a better alternative.[129] In his BBC One documentary series Working Britain he cites Tony Benn as a personal hero.

Charitable work and animals[edit]

In 2012, O'Grady became a Celebrity Ambassador of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home after recording the first series of his ITV documentary For the Love of Dogs.[citation needed] In 2013, he joined the Pedigree Feeding Brighter Futures campaign, which aims to give a million meals to rescue dogs nationwide.[107][130]

O'Grady also supports Everton F.C. and does charitable work on behalf of the club, often visiting sick children in hospital accompanied by Everton players.

O'Gradys grey Shih Tzu cross Bichon Frise Buster Elvis Savage regularly appeared with O'Grady on The Paul O'Grady Show and was a firm favourite of the viewers. Buster was rescued by O'Grady after being abandoned on a motorway. Buster died on 19 November 2009, at the age of 14, after suffering from cancer.[131][132] A spokeswoman said "Buster had been suffering and in a lot of pain. Putting him down was the kind thing to do."[133] O'Grady would later dedicate the second volume of his autobiography to his canine companion, describing him as "The greatest canine star since Lassie."[134] This came a few days after O'Grady announced on his show that Buster was 'in retirement' after viewers had asked if Buster had been given away, as he frequently appeared on his television show.[132][135] A memorial statue of Buster, which was presented to O'Grady in 2012, can be found at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London.

O'Grady's other dog Olga is a Cairn Terrier who regularly appears on his TV and radio shows. In 2013, it was revealed that Olga had cancer and was having chemotherapy for it which cost him over £8,000.[136][137]

O'Grady adopted a Jack Russell cross dog called Eddie from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, after he filmed a series of For the Love of Dogs. He has two other dogs - Bullseye, a mixed breed and Louis, a Shih Tzu


In April 2002, O'Grady suffered a heart attack after weeks of complaining that he felt unwell; after an emergency operation and weeks of rest, his health recovered and he gave up smoking for two years.[citation needed] O'Grady went back to his 40-a-day habit after his lover and business partner Brendan Murphy died; he had continued to work on the show at the same time as nursing Murphy. He suffered a second heart attack on 30 June 2006;[138] again he was taken to the William Harvey Hospital and into intensive care. He was given an angioplasty operation before being moved to a cardiac unit. He was released on 4 July and again promised to give up smoking.[139] He therefore postponed the new series of his show from 4 September to the end of the month. The delayed second series started on 25 September 2006 and ran over three weeks into January (for the only time in the show's history), due to its 3-week delay start. In November 2013, O'Grady was admitted to hospital after suffering an angina attack and underwent surgery. He missed a week of his chat show, which was hosted by various guest presenters including Vernon Kay and Emma Willis.[140] In March 2014, O'Grady revealed on his BBC Radio 2 Sunday afternoon show that, following his hospitalisation in 2013, it was discovered that he now has an allergy to chocolate. The news didn't go down well with O'Grady.[citation needed]


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Brown, Maggie (15 June 2009). "'Taking a pay cut won't demotivate me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Cable, Simon (10 May 2013). "'It was a nightmare': Paul O'Grady admits he was fed up with A-Lister baggage on his talk shows". Daily Mail (Daily Mail and General Trust). Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Hardy, Rebecca (18 February 2012). "Why did I give up the chat show? I couldn't stand the guests!". Daily Mail Weekend (Daily Mail and General Trust). Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Henderson, Jamie (17 April 2013). "Paul O'Grady's Battersea Dogs Home TV show up for Bafta Award". Wandsworth Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Lawson, Mark (28 October 2010). "Paul O'Grady's socialist fury rant was a rare live-TV shock". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Levantis, Demitri (29 April 2013). "Paul O'Grady calls David Cameron 'Sheriff of Nottingham' over bedroom tax". Gay Star News. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Media Monkey (26 October 2010). "Paul O'Grady takes on the government". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
Media Monkey (4 April 2013). "Paul O'Grady returns with a familiar breed of show". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
O'Grady, Paul (2008). At My Mother's Knee ... and Other Low Joints. London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-05925-8. 
O'Grady, Paul (2010). The Devil Rides Out: The Second Coming. London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-06424-5. 
O'Grady, Paul (2012). Still Standing: The Savage Years. London: Bantam. ISBN 978-0-593-06939-4. 
Simpson, Neil (2007). Paul O'Grady: The Biography. John Blake Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84454-417-2. 
"Paul O'Grady On Showbiz Sex Arrests: 'Whatever Happened To Innocent Until Found Guilty?'". The Huffington Post. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Les Dawson
Host of Blankety Blank
Succeeded by