Paul O’Grady remembered as a ‘force for good’ by famous friends in ITV special

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Paul O’Grady has been remembered as a “force for good” by his famous friends including Carol Vorderman, Julian Clary and Michael Cashman.

Celebrities paid tribute to the drag queen turned TV and radio star during For The Love of Paul O’Grady on ITV on Sunday (9 April) evening, following his death last month at the age of 67.

O’Grady, who started out as a social worker while performing on the London nightclub circuit as the acerbic, platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on 28 March, his partner Andre Portasio said in a statement.

Remembering O’Grady for his activism, Vorderman, 62, said: “He was not only brilliant as an entertainer, he was a force for good.”

Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband added: “He wasn’t just a fighter for the underdog, somebody who was willing to use his platform to speak up for people who didn’t have a platform, didn’t have a voice, but he could do it in a totally compelling way, much more compelling than any politician.”

Actor, politician, and LGBT+ rights activist Cashman commented on a clip of O’Grady discussing Conservative politicians on TV, saying: “He goes into a rant about injustice, naming the politicians and that was bold. He could have been taken off air, but you couldn’t separate him from his principles.”

For The Love of Paul O’Grady also saw those who knew O’Grady remember his compassion for animals, with actor Tony Maudsley recalling how “he used to be feeding sheep at the breakfast table”, while actress Amanda Mealing remembered seeing “a cow in the kitchen eating leftover birthday cake”.

The documentary aired on Easter Sunday (Multistory Media)
The documentary aired on Easter Sunday (Multistory Media)

Throughout his career, O’Grady worked extensively to support south London animal rescue centre Battersea Dogs & Cats Home – both on and off screen – and was well-known for his love of animals.

Elsewhere in the special programme, actor Linda Thorson told viewers of O’Grady’s unique experiences with the late Queen Elizabeth II.

“I know the Queen was very, very at ease with him,” said the 75-year-old. “And he would have tea with her, and the reason that the Queen liked talking to Paul is that so few people knew how to talk to her. Paul could talk to anybody.”

Cashman added: “The Queen loved him. And of course, all they did was talk about animals and farming, and she loved his sense of humour.”

O’Grady, pictured with the Queen Consort, was fondly remembered by his colleagues and famous friends (Multistory Media)
O’Grady, pictured with the Queen Consort, was fondly remembered by his colleagues and famous friends (Multistory Media)

Chat show host Jonathan Ross, actor Sally Lindsay and TV presenter Gaby Roslin also appeared to share their memories of O’Grady during the programme.

Roslin, 58, who found fame co-presenting The Big Breakfast alongside O’Grady as his drag persona Lily Savage, commented: “There’s no-one that’s ever going to be like Paul, and Lily, ever ever ever.”

Following clips of O’Grady interviewing the likes of Lady Gaga, Simon Cowell and Cilla Black, Coronation Street star Lindsay, 49, said: “He was never like a people pleaser, he didn’t give a monkeys who you were, everyone was treated the same. Everyone.”

As the programme drew to a close, a message from former professional ballet dancer Portasio, who O’Grady married in 2017, appeared on the screen, reading: “On behalf of Paul O’Grady, his husband Andre Portasio would like to thank everyone for taking their time to send condolences.

“The family is overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and generosity.”

Additional reporting by Press Association