Animal lover and TV host Paul O’Grady has been gracing our screens with his latest series of Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs.
But prior to the Birkenhead-born star’s involvement with the animal rescue centre, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London, he had a fruitful career as a comedian, broadcaster, actor, writer and former drag queen.
Many may remember Paul for his drag queen persona Lily Savage on hit shows such as The Lily Savage Show in 1997 and Blankety Blank on BBC in 1997 before moving to ITV in the early naughties.
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The 66-year-old – who now lives in a farmhouse in Kent – has had a busy life in the entertainment industry but many may not know where his career first began.
Here’s everything you need to know about the TV personality’s career in showbiz and his life away from the cameras…
Paul O’Grady’s career
Paul first started on our screens as the character of Roxanne between 1988 and 1990 in The Bill, he later became known for his drag persona Lily Savage and went on to have a jam-packed career.
Lily had her own TV shows, including The Lily Savage Show in 1997 and hosted the likes of Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast in the mid 90s to Blankety Blank.
In 2004, Lily retired and she hasn’t been seen on our screens since apart from the odd pantomime appearance here and there.
But in 2021 Paul was asked by The Last Shadow Puppets co-frontman, Miles Kane, if he could feature the voice of Lily Savage from an old sketch on his new track ‘Don’t Let It Get You Down’.
Paul agreed to record the voice-over and Lily features in a picture at the beginning of the video and then can be overheard saying: “’I can’t ****** well understand it, if you want my honest opinion. It’s got everything: clear diction, beautifully spoken. You know, it’s topical, you know. It’s up to date.”
Paul’s career did not stop when Lily retired, he went on to host his own teatime chat show, The Paul O’Grady Show, from 2004 to 2015 with some breaks in between.
He would host the series with his dog Buster and later when Buster sadly died in 2009 his dog Olga stood in to help him present the show.
The award-winning chat show was a huge success with fans across the country writing in and many celebrities joining the comedian on his daytime talk show.
In 2012, the Wirral-born presenter started hosting For the Love of Dogs, where he goes round Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London meeting the dogs and sometimes cats that have come in and need rehoming.
In 2018, he was awarded the Special Recognition award at the National Television Awards for his work on the hit ITV series.
More recently the star has hosted a revival of the hit dating show – previously hosted by Cilla Black – Blind Date and also had his own new chat show on Saturday nights on ITV Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up, where some of his celebrity pals would join him in a guessing game.
Has Paul O’Grady got a partner?
Paul is married to former professional ballet dancer Andre Portasi, who is said to be 25 years his junior at the age of 41.
They tied the knot in 2017 at The Goring Hotel, central London in a secret ceremony, with a select amount of guests attending the occasion.
The Mirror reported in 2021 that Paul had got wed thanks to fellow friend, actor and comic Julian Clary who “put the idea in his head”.
“Julian put the seed in my head,” Paul said, ‘I’ve got married. You should. And he’s right, then you protect your partner. If anything happens to me, he is protected. It makes sense.”
Before marrying Andre, Paul was in a 28-year marriage to Portuguese model Teresa Fernandez until 2005.
It was reported they wed in a ‘marriage of convenience’ in 1977 as her strict Catholic family kept asking when she would tie the knot but the pair never had a real relationship.
Paul’s personal life, health and daughter
Paul James O’Grady was born on June 14, 1955 in Birkenhead before finding fame he worked as a social worker.
He has previously revealed he lost both of his parents by the time he was in his early 30s.
In 1974, Paul was still a teenager when he welcomed a daughter called Sharon with a friend called Diane Jansen and now also has two grandchildren.
The TV star has suffered from ill health and had his first heart attack in 2002 and has since had two further attacks in 2006 and 2014.
In 2017, it was reported in The Mirror how then 62-year-old Paul had had to be rushed to hospital mid-filming in New Delhi, India.
He reportedly needed life-saving treatment after falling ill in his hotel room after contracting an infection. He told The Mirror at the time: “I used to think I was invincible, but now I’m running out of lives.”
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list in 2008 and received the award with his partner, daughter Sharon and friend Diane Jansen at his side.
But many fans have recently been calling for the star to be given a knighthood.
Friendship with Cilla Black
Paul and Surprise Surprise host Cilla Black first met on the Parkinson chat show in 1998 and were regularly sighted together at public events and holidaying abroad together.
Sadly in 2015, Cilla passed away suddenly at her home in Spain. Speaking to the Liverpool Echo after the news of her death de Ella Paul had said Cilla was “more like a sister” to him.
Since her death Paul has openly spoken of missing his “partner in crime” and speaking to The Mirror in 2017 he revealed how he missed her being a part of his wedding day.
“She would be over the moon. It was just such a shame ella she was n’t there, “Paul had said at the time,” ella She would n’t have sung. Ella she would never sing in public. If anyone said, ‘Cilla, give us a song’, she’d say, ‘I can’t, my voice is bad, but Paul will’. She wouldn’t get up at a wedding. Ella she never used to sing in the shower or round the house.”
He added: “I remember her as she was. She was up for anything, a great partner in crime.”
When is the next episode of Paul O’Grady’s For the Love of Dogs on ITV?
The next episode will air on Wednesday, January 10 from 8pm. There are only two episodes left of series 10 and the final episode will air on ITV on Wednesday, February 2 from 8pm.
You can catch up on all previous episodes of series nine and ten on the ITV Hub.
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