Dressed in thigh-high leather boots and an anaconda-length fur stole, drag queen Lily Savage had more hair than Marie Antoinette and was a fierce sight.
Any member of the public who displeased her could be subjected to terrifying threats – ‘Don’t make me go up there and break my leg. Because I will rip your head off. . “.
The rest is not printable. Her fans laughed and begged for more.
However, Lily’s creator, comedian Paul O’Grady, who died suddenly Tuesday at the age of 67, was a soft-hearted man, a loyal volunteer at Battersea Dogs Home, where he was known for his inability to resist adopting the fugue.
Before his career in entertainment took off, he worked as a caretaker at Camden Social Services in North London, providing respite for families caring for Alzheimer’s patients or mental health issues.
Lilly launched her own path as a chat show host: Before Graham Norton and Alan Carr built their careers on camp with celebrities, O’Grady was grilling the stars on a leopard-skin double bed on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast.
Lilly launched her own path as a chat show host: Before Graham Norton and Alan Carr built their careers on camp with celebrities, O’Grady was grilling the stars on a leopard double bed for Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast
He went on to front his own daytime show, after standing in for Des O’Connor – but turned it off, claiming he hated celebrities. Most of them, he said, were like ‘a relative you felt obligated to visit: don’t mention this, don’t mention that. Well, what are we going to talk about? the weather?’
But he was also hopelessly drawn to fame. His closest friend was Cilla Black, and his eulogy for her at her memorial service in 2015 was hilarious and heart-wrenching.
Another close friend was Queen Consort Camilla, who took his outrageous teasing in large part. At a 2005 fundraiser for South Asian tsunami victims, shortly after Charles and Camilla’s wedding, he declared: “It’s time to get her married — he’s been rocking it for the past 40 years.” Fortunately, neither of them were present.
He was such a notorious villain at A-lister venues that Mick Jagger revealed that he had to warn Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to stop hanging out with O’Grady. Meek said there were three things the Stones should avoid: “Drugs, booze, and Lily Savage.”
Both sharply different sides to his personality stemmed from his working-class upbringing in Birkenhead after the war. The third of three children, he was born in 1955 when his mother, Molly (whose maiden name was Savage) was in her forties: “I have been described as the last kick of a dying horse.”
Another close friend was Queen Consort Camilla, who took his outrageous teasing in large part
His closest friend was Cilla Black, and his eulogy for her at her memorial service in 2015 was hilarious and heartfelt.
I got a review saying: If Donald Duck had been born in Birkenhead, smoked 60 capstans at full strength a day, drank a bottle of whiskey and inhaled helium, this is what he would look like.
I don’t believe in marriage. Why buy a book when you can join the library?
After the poll tax riots, the police came and knocked on my door. They said, “We’ve got a video of you running down Oxford Street.” I doubt it very much, I said. You can’t run when you’re pushing a stroller with two washing machines and a TV in it.
I was just on the Wirral for my sister’s wedding. It’s a very big occasion in Liverpool, to form the fairway. Usually stay tuned at the bus stop.
Never use this perfume, Impulse. In advertisements, men give you flowers if you spray them on yourself. I tried it, I was chased down the street by Trivid.
“My microwave is broken at the moment. I can’t take it back to the store, because I can’t find the receipt. Which is unusual, because I wasn’t talking about it.”
Hello Magazine wanted to tour and visualize my home. On My Body! I’m sorry, they don’t go over my litter liners.
I hate that word, “celebrity”. I call them “turns”. “Celebrity” – makes it look like you smile a lot and hang out with Bonnie Langford.
His father, Paddy Grady, was an Irishman who moved to Liverpool in the 1930s and joined the RAF when war broke out. A misspelling of his name turned him into O’Grady, and it stuck. The family scraped together enough money to send Paul to a private Catholic primary school, “a waste of time because it is (run by) the Christian Brothers”. All they did was talk about religion and hit us.
He viewed his childhood as “completely engrossed and sheltered”, surrounded by strong women. “They were all funny,” he recalled in an interview last year. My Aunt Chrissy was smart about buses. She was very charming, a big blonde.
They were all very flexible, which was the other thing. Aunt Chrissie left Buses and got a job as an off-licence manager. Two guys came up: “Here’s a stick raised.” “I’ll open the safe for you, darling,” said she, and came out from behind, and got a brush and stroked them. That’s what they were.
His life changed at the age of 12, when he saw the musical Gypsy, starring Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood, about stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. The double seed and showbiz magic blossomed. At the same time, he discovers his ability to make his classmates laugh.
When he strolls through the church, pretending to flash his ankles and laugh during a funeral service, the priest dismisses him as an altar boy. Two faces of his personality was already parting from the company.
After leaving school with poor qualifications, he tried a series of jobs – taking respectable clerical roles behind desks in shipping offices in Liverpool, as well as serving drinks in notorious pubs, such as the Bear’s Paw, a gay pub, and Yates’ pub known for its roughness. Moorfields Wine Inn.
For a few months he was an apprentice clerk at the magistrates’ court, though his red velvet jacket and pink tie caused consternation: “The salary judge inquired wryly whether my job description read court clerk or court jester.”
Serving drinks at Yates wasn’t all that different from Court 3, “the same regular clientele of winos and prozzies have passed through its doors,” he added.
Although he knew from his early teens that he was gay, he had an affair with an older woman, Diane, who worked in the court fee collection office.
She told him she was pregnant, the same week in 1974 that both his parents had suffered heart attacks. His mother survived and his father died. Paul didn’t dare tell his family that he was a father until after the baby was born. He wanted to call the baby gypsy. Her mother refused: “It sounds like a dog’s name.”
They chose Sharon instead. Agreeing to pay £3 a week to support her, he moved to London, hoping to find a more paying job.
Instead, he ends up living with a gay couple, paying the rent whenever he can, doing the chores, as well as keeping busy racing around Camden. I felt like I was begging. . . That is, until people started dropping coins into the lid. There was money in this lark!
Lily never smiled, she never laughed with her tongue wet with acid. Divorced, she never gets tired of telling the public about her useless ex-husband
O’Grady was a loyal volunteer at Battersea Dogs Home, where he was known for his inability to resist adopting strays
He’s told the story of those years in four best-selling biographies, starting with the terrible title At My Mother’s Knee. . . and other lower joints. The books reveal an easy ear for dialogue–he recreates conversations, breakups, screams, and screaming matches with vivid realism.
Throwing himself into the London gay scene before the AIDS crisis hit, he developed his own drag persona. Although he had gentle, almost sweet features, his face faced the hardness of a hatchet when he became Lily Savage.
Lily never smiled, she never laughed with her tongue wet with acid. Divorced, she never gets tired of telling the public about her useless ex-husband. “I’m tired of men,” she would say. I don’t believe in divorce. . . Just kill the bark**ds.
“I tell you what, I can ditch men and become a lesbian.” I know it’s an acquired taste but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
With HIV rampant in the mid-1980s, O’Grady is distraught to see his friends die – and outraged by the homophobic police chase. One night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a gay bar, officers burst in to stage a raid wearing thick rubber gloves to protect themselves from the virus. “Looks like we’ve got to help with the laundry,” Lily joked. The sergeant asked for her full name. “Lily Veronica May Savage” came the reply.
He suffered bouts of depression, following two heart attacks and the death of his longtime partner and manager, Brendan Murphy, from brain cancer in 2005.
O’Grady had a successful ten-season series about his work on Battersea, for The Love Of Dogs
As Chilla strapped on to the number, sparkling hearts blazed across her breasts and below the belt. ‘Mind you don’t sing to yourself,’ Lily sneered, and Cilla exploded. “You said you wouldn’t do it, Savage,” she exclaimed.
She and Paul were known in the nightclubs of New York and London, where they drank champagne a quarter of an hour earlier and celebrated past dawn. After Bobby (her husband) died, she said she sent a guardian angel, except for two hooves and a tail. We go together three times a year. ‘I never loved Barbados,’ O’Grady once said, ‘I never told her that, I went to be with her.
After Cilla’s death, he revives her Blind Date game show, claiming that she left it to him in her will. The pace of recording exhausted him. “No wonder she was on cocaine,” he joked.
By then he had sent Lilly into retirement – claiming at times that she was a nun at a convent in Brittany, and at other times that she worked in an Amsterdam brothel in an “administrative capacity”.
He struggled with bouts of depression, following heart attacks and the death of his longtime partner and manager, Brendan Murphy, from brain cancer in 2005. “After Murphy’s death, I became much calmer,” he said.
With the success of his writing career and a ten-season series on his work on Battersea, For The Love Of Dogs, he’s spent more time on his farm in Kent with his husband Andre (they married in 2017), his six pigs, three alpacas and several dogs.
He once said, “I’m not bothered by sex, money, or fame.” “But a wild little ferret stared at me in Namibia, and I fell in love. I just want a ferret.”