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Paul O'Grady

Lily Savage

Lily Savage LiveBorn Paul O'Grady, on the 14th June 1955 in Birkenhead, Nr Liverpool, Lancashire, UK, (All sing: "Fairy across the Mersey..." - Sorry, we just had to!) he was brought up in an Irish Catholic household in Tranmere and attended St. Anselm's College, Manor Hill. Even as a boy he loved dressing up, and never followed normal boys' pastimes like playing football. His one concession to sport was his keen interest in wrestling which in those days was compulsive television viewing every Saturday afternoon. Who could ever forget those great names from that era like Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks?

Although Paul had no misconceptions about his sexuality, he apparently always knew that he was gay, when he was nineteen he had a daughter, Sharyn, by Diane Jansen, who was ten years his senior. Three years later, in a marriage of convenience, Paul married a Portuguese lesbian called Teresa Fernandes. They are now divorced.

In his early days, Paul had many jobs, including working as a civil servant, house cleaning (for, it's said, Cleo Laine!), wood chopping, even assisting in a children's home in Kirkby. In 1977 he packed his bags and went abroad to work as a waiter in a Bar in Manila; a bar which also turned out to be a brothel. Paul has also visited Playa del Ingles, spending much of his time at the world famous drag venue, La Belle. It was in these environments that the seeds of Lily Savage were likely planted in Paul's mind, although it would be many years before Lily would achieve notoriety.

Paul returned to England in the early eighties. Staying in London, working as a social worker, he supplemented his income by doing evening bar work at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a well known gay pub and a golden stepping stone for many a drag act. It was not long before, instead of serving drinks, he was performing a mime act on stage, and taking on the role of compere for the amateur drag nights. To prove he could do far better than many, if not most, of the acts that he introduced, Paul decided to release Lily Savage on the audience there for the first time in 1985. They loved Lily.

Savage was Paul's mother's maiden name; strong, and as a perfect contradiction to the much weaker sounding Lily, it made the name memorable. Lily's character is alleged to be loosely based on someone that Paul had seen in a Sheffield market, although many of her qualities are said to come from watching friends and family members; and the more risqué ones, presumably, from his time in Manila and perhaps influenced somewhat by Alan Ward when appearing at the famous La Belle.

Lily Savage
Lily performed in many pubs and clubs before making it into the theatre. As with many other performers, the Edinburgh Festivals were a major career boost. Finally, the loud-mouthed, platinum beehive blonde with dubious morals became a household name, resulting in appearances at the London Palladium and Royal Albert Hall.

Using the name, Paul Savage, his acting career began as an extra on 'Coronation Street' and in the film 'In The Name Of The Father'. His TV success came from appearances on 'Live From The Lilydrome' in 1995, and Channel Four's 'Big Breakfast'. When a sickly four-week-old puppy was found abandoned on the motorway one day and handed in to 'The Big Breakfast' studio, Paul adopted him, calling him, Buster, and nursed him back to health. The pair have been inseparable ever since. Paul, who has a house near Tower Bridge, now prefers to live in the tranquillity of rural Kent, where he is surrounded by his many and much loved animals, including Buster.

'Blankety Blank', originally a popular BBC quiz show first presented by Terry Wogan, then later presented by the loveable (alas, now departed) Les Dawson, was successfully revived with Lily Savage as the host, and recently transferred from the BBC to ITV. Other television work includes the popular series, 'The Lily Savage Show'. It was following the huge success with the stage show of that name on Blackpool's North Pier with guest star pop singer Sonia, who he became close friends with after their many nights out on the town, that he talked her into becoming Lily's wayward daughter Bunty in the television series. On stage, there were major national tours of the musicals, 'Prisoner Cell Block H', and 'Annie', and two seasons of the Pantomime, 'Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs'.

More recently, even though Lily has become embedded as a British Institution (we've heard that news of the heart attack was spoken of in government circles), Paul has often dropped the drag and appeared as himself on various shows. Paul O'Grady's Orient (2000) and America (2001), to name two, were hilariously enlightening and our star was as camp as ever, albeit unintentionally for some of the time. And who could forget Richard and Judy's farewell (after 13 years) to This Morning television in July 2001 when Paul, as himself again, stole the show with all his funny stories and witty one-liners? Then earlier this year we enjoyed 'Screen Tests of the Stars 2002' where the unfrocked Paul delighted us by embarrassing a multitude of stars when he showed us their screen tests in two fifty minute shows.

Alarmingly, Paul O'Grady suffered a heart attack in April 2002, but fortunately he has apparently made a speedy recovery. He started writing his autobiography just two weeks after his heart attack and says he has been given some tips from author Joan Collins. Jackie Collins is reputed to have given him another piece of excellent advice: 'Darling, just lie about anything and everything.' The book is expected to focus on Paul's long battle with depression, mostly due to overwork it is thought. As early as May, he was out making public appearances again, and had the audience howling with laughter when he gave an impromptu stand-up routine at the British Soap Awards. The BBC, confident of his recovery, have lined Paul up to play a bingo caller in their six part series, 'Eyes Down', due to be recorded in the autumn. (Will they dare: Six and Nine...?!) We understand that there is also some hope that Lily, who was taken ill with the heart trouble the very day before the fabulous opening of Funny Girls new mega-venue in Blackpool and couldn't be with us, may be paying the resort a visit or two later this year. - If you're still on water, gal, all the drinks are on us!

Paul has had numerous awards given to him throughout his career, including several 'Entertainer of the Year' awards by Capital Gay; a Perrier Award nomination at the Edinburgh Festival 1991; 'Best Comedian/Comedienne' in November 1997 by the readers of Smash Hits; a Variety Club Paul O'Grady
award for 'Showbiz Personality 1997'; TV Quick award for 'Funniest Person On TV'; 'Best Gameshow 1998' for 'Blankety Blank'; 'Personality Of The Year 1998' at the Scouseology awards in Liverpool; and two National Television Awards, voted for by the public. - If Lily was to take that lot up the Three Balls in the High Street, she'd not have to work the town hall steps for a month! There will be many more accolades to come, we're sure! - Just look after yourself, gal!

2005 Update: Alas, Lily is no more... Paul has proclaimed to the nation in a Parkinson interview (as Lily) that he's donned the wig for the last time (we don't believe a word of it!) and that he now prefers his "more straight" role as presenter and host of the tea-time Paul O'Grady Show. As this is written the brilliant show is in its second very successful season. Paul has achieved something that few others could claim: he's been to the very top as both a man and a woman!


2010 Update: The Paul O'Grady Show ran between the 11th October 2004 and the 23rd December 2005 on ITV, and then in 2006 he took it to Channel 4 where as The New Paul O'Grady Show between 27th March 2006 and the 18th December 2009 he completed a further seven series (making eleven in all), finishing spectacularly with his final ever show. His long-term lover and business partner for 20 years, Brendan Murphy, died of cancer on 9 June 2005, five days before Paul's fiftieth birthday. There was a tribute to him after the first Bustershow of series three. Paul O'Grady collected an MBE from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace in 2008. The stray shih tzu-bichon frise-cross that Paul found as a pup on a motorway and rescued, had to be put down on in November 2009, suffering from cancer. Paul was devastated, having to walk off set during a tribute to the animal. The dog had featured on many TV shows with O'Grady, appearing first on The Big Breakfast Show, and had been honoured with the title of 'best dog on TV' by the TV Times. It is rumoured that Paul is currently in a relationship with the young and handsome Brazilian ballet dancer: Andre Portasio.

Actor - filmography.
(2000s) (1990s)
"Screen Tests of the Stars" (2002) (TV 2 x 50mins) Paul O'Grady - Host Night of a Thousand Faces (2001) (TV) (archive footage) .... Various
Royal Variety Performance 2001, The (2001) (TV) .... Performer
"America" (2001) TV Series (as Paul O'Grady) .... Himself ... aka "Paul O'Grady's America" (2001) (USA: complete title)
"Lily Live!" (2000) TV Series .... Herself
County Kilburn (2000) (as Paul O'Grady)
"Orient" (2000) TV Series (as Paul O'Grady) .... Himself ... aka "Paul O'Grady's Orient" (2000) (USA: complete title)
"Lily Savage Show, The" (1998) TV Series .... Herself
Live Show, The (1998) (V) .... Herself
"Blankety Blank" (1977) TV Series .... Presenter (1998-) ... aka "Lily Savage's Blankety Blank" (1999) (UK: new title)
Closed for Business (1997) .... Woman in Bar
Audience with Lily Savage, An (1996) (V)
Lily Savage Live at the Garrick Theatre (1995) (V) .... Herself ... aka Lily Savage: Live and Outrageous From the Garrick Theatre (1995) (V) (UK: video box title)
"Big Breakfast, The" (1992) TV Series .... 'On the Bed' Presenter (1995-1996)
Lily Savage Live: Paying the Rent (1993) (V) .... Herself/Kitty Kelly
In the Name of the Father (1993) (as Paul Savage) .... Prisoner
Chimera (1991) (TV) (as Paul Savage) .... Donaldson ... aka Monkey Boy (1991) (TV)
Lily Savage Live From the Hackney Empire (1991) (V) .... Herself/Erica Von Savage ... aka Lily Savage Live at the Hackney Empire (1991) (V) (UK: video box title)

Notable TV guest appearances.
"British Soap Awards" (2002) as Paul O'Grady
"This Morning with Richard and Judy" (2001)(their final show) as Paul O'Grady
"Harry Enfield and Chums" (1994) playing "Herself" in episode: "Comic Relief" (episode # 2.8) 3/12/1999
"End of the Year Show, The" (1995) playing "Herself"(episode # 1) 12/31/1995
"Brookside" (1982) playing "Herself" in episode: "Grants Restaurant Opening" 1994
"New Statesman, The" (1987) playing "Marlene Dietrich"(as Paul Savage) in episode: "Hail and Farewell" (episode # 4.4) 12/13/1992
"Bill, The" (1983) playing "Roxanne" in episode: "Information Received" (episode # 1990.31) 4/17/1990
"Bill, The" (1983) playing "Roxanne" in episode: "No Strings" (episode # 1989.28) 4/6/1989
"Bill, The" (1983) playing "Roxanne" in episode: "Personal Imports"

The Trouper:
Paul O'Grady, saying he'd given up smoking and drinking, joked: "Lambert and Butler have had to lay off 200 staff." He claimed he had changed from a "chain smoking, cider guzzling cynic to a "water-drinking, tofu-eating" one. "All this and I'm not on drugs," he said at the British Soap Awards in 2002. "It's the first time I've ever done this job without a spliff. The floor's not moving." According to some, parts of Paul's speech are yet to be shown on television, and are possibly only likely to ever be seen on some future late night 'out takes' programme.


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