Paul James O'Grady
MBE (born 14 June 1955) is an English comedian and
television & radio presenter, who achieved fame as the creator of comic drag
character Lily Savage
(the "Birkenhead Bombshell"), a vampish
Birkenhead woman. He is noted for his strong Scouse accent and is the
presenter of the television series The Paul O'Grady Show
currently airs on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.
O'Grady was born to Patrick & Mary O'Grady in Birkenhead on the Wirral
Peninsula and lived in suburban Tranmere. His surname should legally be Grady but due to a misspelling by the military, his father stuck with
the Irish alternative.
His jobs have included civil servant, barman for Yates Wine Lodge, office
work in an abattoir, woodsman and a time as an assistant clerk at Liverpool
Magistrates' Court. He has
also worked in a children's home in West Kirby and spent some years as a
peripatetic care officer for Camden council.
In 2003, he was listed in The
Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy,
and in 2006 he was listed by The Independent at number 32 in their 101 most
influential gay men and women in Britain.
In 1977, O'Grady went to Manila where he worked as a waiter in Gussy's
Bar. It was there he got the idea for Lily Savage, his drag alter-ego. He
returned to London in the early 1980s and subsequently achieved fame with
his creation of Lily, initially playing to gay clubs and pubs up and down
O'Grady's Lily was best known at the time for an eight-year residency at
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in south London. As Lily Savage, O'Grady was in
numerous double and treble acts such as 'High Society' with Adrella Peter
Searle, 'L.S.D.' with David Dale and Sandra Hush (David Hunter), The
Playgirls, again with Hunter and The Glamazons with Paul Banks, a former
nurse. O'Grady toured Europe with some of these acts, appearing at Madame
Arthurs in Denmark and various night clubs and theatres in Germany, Finland,
Sweden, Holland, France and Israel.
After appearing at The Edinburgh Festival, for which O'Grady was
nominated for a Perrier Award, the Lily Savage act became more mainstream.
The Lily Savage character first became popular on television, making
appearances on ITV daytime programme This Morning, and as the 'On the
Bed Presenter' on The Big Breakfast. Appearing as Lily Savage,
O'Grady was given several shows, by both BBC and ITV, and although they
achieved reasonable ratings, they weren't the huge hits that either channel
was hoping for.
For a few years O'Grady hosted the game show
Blankety Blank, as
Lily Savage, for the BBC and later for ITV. There was also a comedy show
built around the character, Lily Live! appearing on ITV in 2000.
Performing as Lily, O'Grady also co-hosted the 1996 Smash Hits Poll Winners
Party with Ant & Dec. In a 2006 interview O'Grady stated that Lily Savage
was now living in a convent in Brittany, although on several occasions he
has announced that she has escaped the convent, which was interpreted by
some as meaning that the character is returning.
As well as numerous national tours, O'Grady has appeared on stage in
Prisoner Cell Block H - The Musical, the musical
Annie as "Miss
Hannigan", Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as "the Childcatcher" and in the
pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarves as the "Wicked Queen". He
has been quoted as saying "I seem to be making a living frightening
O'Grady played a prostitute snout called Roxanne in several episodes of
The Bill between 1988 and 1990.
In 1990 he appeared in the ITV miniseries
Chimera as Tony
Donaldson, a social worker skilled in signing for the deaf.
In 2000 he appeared in a six-part travelogue series as himself, entitled
Paul O'Grady's Orient. Shot in Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines,
Bangkok, Bali and Singapore, it was produced by Gavin Hill and Collette
Valentine and directed by Paul Watson. This was followed in 2001 by Paul
O'Grady's America. These were amongst his first major television
appearances out of drag. From 2002 onwards, he has appeared less as Lily and
more often as himself. In 2002 he presented Outtake TV, a bloopers
show, and in 2003 starred as the lead character in the BBC sitcom Eyes
Down for two series, as the vicious yet hilarious manager of a northern
He also appeared in
Celebrity Driving School for the BBC. Since
then, he has had success as the presenter of his own early evening talk
show, The Paul O'Grady Show, on ITV. He won the position after he
stood in for Des O'Connor on the now defunct lunchtime celebrity chat show
Today with Des and Mel.
The Paul O'Grady Show somewhat
controversially ran head to head with Richard and Judy, who are close
friends of O'Grady, and gave him one of his first TV breaks on This
Morning on ITV back in the early 90's.
He has guest starred on
Living's paranormal show,
Live!, after presenter Yvette Fielding was a guest on his show and
invited him on. He holds many awards, and in December 2005 he won the Best
TV Comedy Entertainment Personality category of the British Comedy Awards.
In 2005, he won a BAFTA and is also the recipient of two Royal Television
Society and three National Television Awards.
On 10 January 2006, in a shock decision, O'Grady decided to defect from
ITV and take his daytime chat show to Channel 4 after ITV apparently
'forgot' to renew his contract. It was said that he had wanted to produce
the series with his own company and had wanted to from the start but Granada
He is still in an ongoing dispute with ITV, regarding the use of props
and studio design for his new daytime chat show. As a consequence of this,
O'Grady has decided he never wanted to work for ITV again and has pulled out
of appearing on a new talent show and was replaced as host of The British
Soap Awards. He was very outspoken in his anger towards ITV for a while
after his move to Channel 4, but less so recently.
On 27 March 2006, Paul O'Grady began hosting his talk show on Channel 4,
now called The Paul O'Grady Show (previously The New Paul O'Grady
Show). It is shown weekdays from 17:00 to 18:00 UTC. and the first
series ended its run on the 16 June 2006. Channel 4's Richard and Judy and
O'Grady shared the Channel 4, 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. slot with each show share
taking 3 months of the Channel 4teatime schedule.
O'Grady retired his Lily Savage character around 2004. He claimed she had
"seen the light, taken the veil and packed herself off to a convent in
France" but recently on his current TV show, he said, "she's escaped the
convent and she's heading towards these shores!", which may signal the
return of the Lily Savage character. Also on 23 January 2007 on his show,
someone wrote in saying is Lily Savage going to be working in a midnight
burlesque club and O'Grady says that there's a 99.9% chance of that
happening, so he could be bringing her back.
However, on the 30th October episode on his show, Lily Savage was one of
10 "smiles" examined by a body language expert. After finding out that it's
Lily, O'Grady covered her up before revealing her again, claiming she's
still in the convent. On 23 May 2008 on the 500th edition of the Paul
O'Grady Show, guest star Julie Goodyear told O'Grady that Bet Lynch, the
character she famously played in television soap opera Coronation Street,
had joined Savage in the French convent.
On 16 March 2007, O'Grady presented part of
Red Nose Day 2007,
where he performed several circus tricks, including fire eating.
The fourth Channel 4 series (7th series when including the three original
ITV series) started on 17 September 2007. On 24 August The Daily Mirror
revealed that Paul had rejected a £5 million deal to return to ITV as the
Instead he has signed a £4 million deal to remain
with Channel 4 until the end of 2009.
On 28 June 2008 O'Grady appeared in the Doctor Who episode
As of March 2009 O'Grady will front a regular radio show on BBC Radio 2
standing in for Elaine Page during her tour.
Despite being gay, he has previously had relationships with women, and
was once married to a female Portuguese friend in a marriage of convenience.
He is now very close to his daughter Sharyn, who married her childhood
friend Philip Mousley at Liverpool Town Hall on 30 July, 2005. His long term
lover and business partner of 20 years was Irishman Brendan Murphy, who died
of cancer on 9 June 2005, five days before Paul's fiftieth birthday. After
the first show of series three of The Paul O'Grady Show, there was a
tribute to him.
O'Grady owns a flat in London, and a farm in Aldington near Ashford, Kent
where his neighbour is Julian Clary. The farm is stocked with 32 animals,
including a flock of geese which O'Grady refers to as the "Geese-stapo" (a
pun on the Gestapo).
O'Grady has a grey Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise crossbreed dog called Buster,
who usually appears on his TV show with him, or occasionally will be
replaced by Paul's other dog, Olga, a Cairn Terrier after whom O'Grady named
his recently formed production company, 'Olga TV'.
He also has another dog called Louie, who only appeared a few times (mainly
due to his bad behaviour), in the first ITV series, before he adopted Olga
live on air.
O'Grady became a grandfather on 26 December 2006, when his daughter
Sharyn gave birth to a son, Abel.
O'Grady is currently in a relationship.
In April 2002, O'Grady suffered a heart attack after weeks of complaining
that he felt unwell. After an emergency operation and weeks of rest,
O'Grady's health recovered and he gave up smoking for two years.
O'Grady went back to his 40-a-day habit after his boyfriend and business
partner Brendan Murphy died in 2005; he had continued to work on the show at
the same time as nursing Murphy. He suffered a second heart attack on 30
June, 2006; again he was
taken to the William Harvey Hospital and into intensive care. He was given
an angioplasty operation before being moved to a cardiac unit. He was
released on 4 July and again promised to give up smoking
. He therefore postponed
the new series of his show from 4 September to the end of the month. The
delayed second series started on Monday 25 September 2006.
In October 2008, O'Grady was appointed MBE in the 2008 Birthday Honours
list for services to entertainment.
In early 2006, O'Grady announced that he was writing his autobiography
which was originally to be released in late 2007, however it took longer to
write than expected. It was later revealed that his story would be split
into two books. Part I (At My Mother's Knee... and Other Low Joints)
was released in the fall of 2008, with the untitled Part II released
in the fall of 2009.
- At My Mother's Knee... and Other Low Joints: The Autobiography
Please update me on Paul. He's a breath of fresh air in a troubled society. Hope he doesn't give up his TV work. If he
wants' a change, how about making a programme based around his animals and farm work!
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