I, like millions of others, are shocked this morning to learn that Paul O’Grady’s partner Andre Portasio has announced to the world that Paul O’Grady has died at the age of 67. He died peacefully at his home. The Mirror newspaper speculates that he died of a heart attack as it runs in the family with both mum and dad dying of heart attacks. O’Grady had a heart attack in 2002 when he was 47. He was also a chain smoker at 40 a day for years (Benson & Hedges – the two loves in his life he said at the time).
I’m shocked because not long ago I was reading about his departure from BBC Radio Two. He was in effect forced out by the BBC because of his age because the BBC wants to attract young listeners and viewers. He was upset by it and was looking to still progress his enormous career, as I read it.
The point is he was still working and looking ahead. That was the impression we got. Perhaps he was ill and didn’t tell anybody. I’m sure that we are all shocked. He was a great man.
He was witty, outspoken, brave, intelligent and for me, above all else, he loved animals and spoke up for them. He was a voice animals; the voiceless. And of course, a great voice for LGBT rights. He was just an all-round good man. If you love animals that much then you’ve got to be good in my view.
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. – Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
He had a home that was full of animals. He was surrounded by them. He recently adopted a wirehaired dachshund from Battersea Cats & Dogs where he was filming the latest series of ‘For the Love of Dogs’.
The photograph above shows him with “Sausage”. He had an animal farm at his home and on March 2022, it was reported he had five dogs at his home. I can remember when he was living with Buster, a dog that he dearly loved. He announced Buster’s death on his show.
There will be tens of thousands of articles about Paul O’Grady on the news media today. This page will be invisible. Everybody will be offering their tributes to him. And deservedly so.
He was a unique talent. It began with his drag persona, Lily Savage, in the 1970s. But his career flourished well beyond that. It propelled him into TV and radio. He presented Blankety Blank. He had his own show, The Paul O’Grady Show and Paul O’Grady Live in 2010. This is not a full list.
He was a brilliant comedian as well as a very sensible, wise and gentle but also a fearless individual. A great combination. His great character seems to have been rooted in a love of animals; sentient beings who are more vulnerable in general than humans and who need our love. He was obviously sensitive towards the vulnerable.
He worked with the Royal Family particularly Camilla, the Queen:
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. pic.twitter.com/N13aBuBYCm
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) March 29, 2023
Some quotes from admirers
Paul wasn’t just a brilliant comedian and broadcast personality but a much-admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality animal rights. – Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner
A very special man” and “funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. – Lorraine Kelly (ITV)
Saddening news to hear of Paul O’Grady’s passing this morning. A brilliant entertainer, weight, and supporter of LGBT+ rights and the fight against AIDS and HIV who I was fortunate enough to spend time with. Thank you for all the joy you brought into the world, Paul. – Sir Elton John.
Yesterday afternoon I popped round to Paul’s for a catch up. Surrounded by his beloved dogs, he was laughing, smiling and full of life. – Malcolm Prince, the radio producer hours before his death.
When we worked together at Channel 4, Paul O’Grady insisted that new roles on his show were advertised to the local Job Center. He wanted everyone to be able to apply so they could get a break like he had. – Mark Downie a former colleague.
Paul was an inspiring gentleman. He loved his animals, always a great guy to talk to and a real loss for us all. – A neighbour.
Playing music to his dogs
The Times tells us of an amusing story about Paul O’Grady combining his interest in animals and music at home. He took up the ukulele which his dogs didn’t appreciate. He produced a bugle and they vanished. He said: “They vanished, heading to Battersea saying, “Take us back!””