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Paul O’Grady passed away in his bed with his husband Andre Portasio at his side it emerged today, as grief-stricken friends and family detailed the much-loved star’s final hours.
Avengers actress Linda Thorson, 75, said devastated friends of the couple are supporting Andre, who has been left ‘bereft’ following his partner’s unexpected death aged 67 on Tuesday night.
Speaking to Susanna Reid and Adil Ray on Good Morning Britain today, Linda added: ‘He died in his own bed and his husband was there, he’s only 41 Andre, he’ll be so bereft. We will all be there for you Andre.’
Paul’s producer Malcolm Prince – who the star took to Boom Radio with him when he left BBC Radio 2 – described Paul as being ‘full of life’ when he visited his home just hours before his death on Tuesday, before sharing a touching tribute to his long-time friend and colleague.
Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell also revealed today how Andre texted him at 2.30am yesterday to inform him of Paul’s death.
Speaking in 2013, the icon said he ‘counted his blessings,’ after having two heart attacks, adding: ‘If I get to 60 that will be amazing. I don’t fear anything nowadays.’ He later revealed he had lost family members – including his parents – to heart disease, adding his relatives had been, ‘cursed with hearts.’
Paul O’Grady with his husband Andre Portasio who has been left bereft by the icon’s death. The pair are pictured here together in London in 2018
The last photograph of O’Grady taken three days ago showed the icon posing with a dog in Edinburgh, where he was performing in a stage production of the musical Annie
Paul’s close friend and former BBC Radio 2 colleague Malcolm Prince described him as being ‘full of life’ when he visited the broadcaster’s home earlier on Tuesday. Sharing this photo on Instagram, Prince wrote: ‘Our last photo together Oh how I’ll miss him. My thoughts are with Andre, Paul’s family and friends Farewell my friend x’
Scott Mitchell told The Mirror: ‘I have my phone by my bed and I just happened to press the text.
‘It said Andre, who would never text me, really. And I just knew. He just let me know what had happened.’
Paul O’Grady visited an Edinburgh bar just days before he died
By Paul Smith
Paul O’Grady was all smiles and enjoyed a visit to an Edinburgh bar just days before he died.
Darren Paterson, manager of Planet Bar and Kitchen in Edinburgh, with Paul O’Grady
The star popped in to Planet Bar and Kitchen in the city last Thursday night following a performance of the musical Annie at the Playhouse.
O’Grady had been playing Mrs Hannigan, the main antagonist in Annie, which has been on a UK tour.
Bar manager Darren Paterson was quick to post a snap on Facebook with a smiling O’Grady, with the caption: ‘What a legend! Such a lovely man,’ complete with a red love heart emoji.
And this morning, he paid tribute to O’Grady, saying: ‘I’ll treasure this night and don’t think I will ever meet such a gentleman. RIP Paul x’
After leaving his Sunday slot on BBC Radio 2 in August last year, O’Grady embarked on a schedule that would ‘overwhelm a man half his age’ – despite having to halt work for two months last year after contracting Covid.
Both of his parents died after suffering heart attacks, while Paul had survived two himself – in 2002 and 2006.
But despite feeling he had been forced out of Radio 2, O’Grady never contemplated retirement, despite his health scares.
The last photo of the late TV star and drag act showed him posing with a dog in Edinburgh, where he was performing in a stage production of the musical Annie before his death at 67.
The actor and comedian was seen smiling warmly as he clutched a dog in a photo taken three days ago and shared on Instagram.
Another photo from three days ago shows O’Grady, also known as Lily Savage, posing with a fan outside Edinburgh Playhouse, and a third snap from five days ago shows the star dressed as Miss Hannigan, the main antagonist in Annie, while holding another dog.
He was also set to return to the airwaves next month to host a one-off Easter Sunday radio show on Boom Radio.
Paying tribute, Ms Thorson earlier said: ‘He would have tea with the Queen. She really liked him a lot, and then he’d have the postman for dinner.
‘He was generous to a fault, I’ll never meet anyone like him. He cared about me and I felt that.
‘I can’t believe it, just to hang up the phone and hours later for someone to die, who was so happy, full of life.’
Speaking about his health scares, which included a two-month hiatus last year in which he had to stop filming due to shortness of breath after testing positive for Covid, O’Grady said he lived without fear.
He told The Mirror: ‘I do count my blessings,” he said, according to The Mirror. “I have had two heart attacks, and if I get to 60 that will be amazing. I don’t fear anything nowadays.
‘There has to be an angel out there. They are trying to steer me out of trouble 24 hours a day.’
O’Grady also recalled his first heart attack in 2002 during an interview with The Times, when he said: ‘I’d sort of been waiting for it… all our family has died of heart disease. But I never thought I wasn’t going to make it. God, no.’
He added: “Everyone asks, ‘Did you see anything?’ No, sorry. Nothing. No heavenly choirs, no light at the end of the tunnel.’
The TV icon also told The Observer in 2017: ‘We don’t go to doctors in my family, because we don’t want to make a fuss.
‘So my sister’s in hospital at the moment with fluid on her heart and lungs. We were cursed in our family, with hearts.’
This photo of Paul O’Grady was posted by a fan after a performance of Annie in Edinburgh three days ago
Comedian Jenny Eclair said: ‘I was a stand-up and Paul came on the scene as Lily Savage and you were blown back’
Linda said: ‘He was generous to a fault, I’ll never meet anyone like him. He cared about me and I felt that’
She added: ‘He died in his own bed and his husband was there, he’s only 41 Andre, he’ll be so bereft. We’ll all be there Andre’
Paul O’Grady hosted classic TV quiz show Blankety Blank as his alter-ego Lily Savage
Comedian Jenny Eclair joined stars in paying tribute to Paul today, saying he ‘never lost track of his kindness’ as he found fame and success.
She said: ‘I didn’t know him as well as Linda but I found it terribly moving listening to her.
‘I was a stand-up and Paul came on the scene as Lily Savage and you were blown back. Look at this! You can’t compete. He never lost track of his kindness, his genuineness.
‘The people that knew him best, I feel so desperately sorry for them because it’s terribly out of the blue. We all deal with these knocks.’
Former colleague Mr Prince, who worked with Paul on his Radio 2 show, tweeted yesterday: ‘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 (musical) ‘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. 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 friend. Oh how I’ll miss him.’
Their tributes come after there were tears and cheers at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern last night – the London venue where Paul O’Grady first found fame with his beloved alter ego Lily Savage.
Wednesday night’s show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), closer to Vauxhall Bridge and the Oval cricket ground, saw a minute of raucous applause for the much-loved comedian and broadcaster, instead of a typical minute of silence.
He rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic, platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage – a name believed to have been inspired by his late mother.
On Wednesday, RVT host Michael Twaits, told a packed out audience that O’Grady had been ‘an absolute legend of the community’.
He told the audience ‘a trailblazer and a legend has left us’ before leading them in a round of applause for O’Grady.
Linda Thorson began to tear up on Thursday’s Good Morning Britain as she paid tribute to her friend Paul O’Grady after his death aged 67. Jenny Eclair, right, also paid tribute to Paul, saying he ‘never lost track of his kindness, his genuineness’
‘Today we lost one of the greatest drag artists the UK has ever seen, and it is this building, this building was where it happened,’ he said.
‘Eight years of doing solo shows… and also doing shows like tonight, introducing new talent to the LGBT+ scene. Paul O’Grady was an absolute legend of the community.’
He added: ‘It was around raising up the community, and when you move from a stage like this into the mainstream, when you move into breakfast f****** television… and still stay true to yourself, stay true to your queer self, and stay true to your working class roots.’
Pet owners across Britain have been mourning the loss of O’Grady by sharing stories of meeting him and pictures of their own beloved animals.
The TV star had fronted a documentary series, Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs, at the charity’s south London site for 11 seasons, having first aired in 2012.
The Bafta-nominated show which promoted the animal home featured Queen Camilla for an episode in December, which ITV chose to air again last night in tribute to Mr O’Grady.
Britons have now taken to social media to post pictures of their dogs to honour his memory and remember ‘how much he loved animals’.
Paul 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.
His husband Andre praised his ‘humour, wit and compassion’ in a statement announcing his death released just before 3am on March 29.
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
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 debilitating Covid battle that left him unable to work for two months.
In his statement, Andre said: ‘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.’
Paul and Andre were married during a low-key wedding ceremony in 2017.