Paul O’Grady, the British comedian and presenter known for his trailblazing drag act Lily Savage, passed away Tuesday evening at age 67.⁠ “He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals, and all those who enjoyed his humor, wit and compassion,” his husband, ballet dancer Andre Portasio, paid tribute in a statement.

The husbands became partners in 2005, marrying in 2017 at the Goring Hotel in London. O’Grady shared that he hadn’t considered marrying Portasio until fellow comic Julian Clary mentioned the possibility. “Julian put the seed in my head. He said, ‘I’ve got married. You should.’ And he’s right, then you protect your partner,” O’Grady told The Mirror. “If anything happens to me, he is pro­­tected. It makes sense.”


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The global queer community is sharing an outpouring of memories and gratitude to O’Grady, whose LGBTQ+ activism and representation of drag changed the landscape of British culture. As a television personality rising to popularity in the 1980s and ’90s, O’Grady was featured in numerous game and chat shows, such The Paul O’Grady Show and Blind Date, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning program For The Love Of Dogs. The most iconic facet of O’Grady’s career, however, was his hilarious, foul-mouthed drag queen persona, Lily Savage, whose wild popularity in mainstream media O’Grady used to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ causes in the wake of the AIDS crisis.

A longtime staple of the London gay scene, O’Grady brought visibility to the art of drag and LGBTQ+ culture more broadly, becoming a national treasure through television screens across the United Kingdom. In a BBC Breakfast interview, Danny Beard, winner of the fourth series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, calls O’Grady “the most important person in British culture for drag, for the queer community. This is a really sad loss today.”

In a BBC article, drag artist Copper Topp commended O’Grady’s staunch participation in speaking out against anti-LGBTQ+ police violence and the brutality of inadequate healthcare for HIV/AIDS patients: “It must have been such a hard time to live with that going on. From the police raids in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, to then becoming a primetime TV household name– she was a face for a whole generation of queer people, and she still is.”