Paul O’Grady, British Comedian and ‘For the Love of Dogs’ Presenter, Dies at 67

British presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady has died. He was 67.

O’Grady’s death was confirmed to the BBC by his partner Andre Portasio, who said the popular TV host died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening.

O’Grady was known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, and had been performing as Miss Hannigan (a role he first played 25 years ago) in the touring musical “Annie,” which ran for a week at the Edinburgh Playhouse from March 21 to 25. (The show is scheduled to travel to Southampton in April. )

On his official Instagram page, O’Grady wrote on March 13 that he was “thoroughly enjoying playing Hannigan again after so long, especially with a truly amazing and lovely cast.”

A mainstay on British television, he was also the host of ITV’s daytime chat show “The Paul O’Grady Show” and Channel 5’s “Blind Date” reboot. A well-known animal lover, O’Grady presented ITV’s “For the Love of Dogs” and was a vocal supporter of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.

Portasio said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening…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,” continued Portasio.

O’Grady was born to a working-class Irish migrant family in Tranmere, Cheshire, in 1955. In the late 1970s, he moved to London and worked at various bars, for the civil service and for social services. In 1978, he developed his drag alter ego Lily Savage, who was based on O’Grady’s experiences with various female relatives.

He performed as Savage throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including an acclaimed eight-year stint at South London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where O’Grady used the platform to speak out for gay rights.

Under the Savage persona, he also went on to host light entertainment shows such as “The Big Breakfast,” “Blankety Blank” and “Lily Live!”

O’Grady eventually began presenting shows as himself, hosting ITV travelogues and “The Paul O’Grady Show.” In 2017, Channel 5 made waves when it announced its reboot of “Blind Date” with O’Grady — a long-time friend of original host Cilla Black — tapped as host. He fronted the show until it concluded in 2019.

A compassionate animal campaigner, O’Grady also hosted “For the Love of Dogs,” which he has led since 2012. The show was set to return for its latest season on ITV in early 2023.

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