British Comedian and TV Star Paul O'Grady, Known as Lily Savage, Dead at 67

O'Grady passed away "unexpectedly but peacefully" Tuesday, his husband said in a statement

Television presenter Paul O'Grady
Photo: Nicky Johnston/TV Times/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Paul O'Grady, a British television host known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, died Tuesday. He was 67.

His husband, Andre Portasio, announced O'Grady's death in a statement Wednesday.

"It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening," Portasio, who wed the comedian in 2017, said in the statement, per BBC.

"He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion," the statement continued. "I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years."

The royal family shared a statement in the wake of O'Grady's death, as the comedian had worked alongside Queen Camilla at the Battersea Dog & Cats Home in London.

"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."

A spokesperson for the Queen Consort said she will be "sharing her sympathies with Paul's family privately in due course," BBC reported.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (R) poses with Battersea Ambassador, Paul OGrady during her visit to Battersea Brand Hatch Centre
STUART C. WILSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The TV personality had been on tour in the U.K. playing Miss Hannigan in Annie at the time of his unexpected death. "I'm thoroughly enjoying playing Hannigan again after so long especially with a truly amazing and lovely cast," he wrote on Instagram March 13 in what would be his final post.

The Annie production team released a statement Wednesday following the news of O'Grady's death. "Everyone at Annie The Musical is stunned and saddened by the passing of Paul O'Grady," the statement read. "An incredible Miss Hannigan and an irreplaceable, hilarious and generous person who we will all miss immensely."

Queen Elizabeth II (L) looks at a Corgi dog as British television presenter Paul O'Grady (2nd R) looks on during a visit to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London
BEN STANSALL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

O'Grady began his career as a drag performer, with his Lily Savage persona gaining traction in the 1980s and ultimately propelling him into both radio and TV hosting gigs.

As Savage, he hosted British morning show The Big Breakfast from 1995 to 1996 as well as the revival of famed British comedy game show Blankety Blank from 1997 to 1999.

His portrayal of the drag persona was groundbreaking in the U.K. at the time. RuPaul's Drag Race UK's reigning winner Danny Beard described O'Grady as "the most important person in British culture for drag," per BBC.

He stepped away from the drag persona in the early 2000s — retiring it in 2004 — and explored broadcast opportunities as himself, including his own daytime and late-night talk shows, as well as a 13-year stint hosting a Sunday afternoon BBC Radio 2 show, which he left in August.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

O'Grady had been most recently gracing British TV screen as host of the award-winning show For the Love of Dogs from 2012 to 2022. He was a well-known animal lover — he kept dogs, pigs and bats, among other animals, at his farm, according to The Guardian — and the show saw him meet the dogs that came in to the Battersea rescue home and trace their journeys toward adoption.

In a special edition of the series, he was joined by the queen consort for one episode last year, marking the 160th anniversary of the rescue organization.

O'Grady had suffered from two heart attacks, one in 2002 and the other in 2006, per BBC, but was reportedly in good health at the time of his death.

Related Articles