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Paul O'Grady

Paul O'Grady

Paul James O'Grady MBE is an English comedian, broadcaster, actor, writer and former drag queen. He achieved notability in the London gay scene during the 1980s with his drag queen persona Lily Savage, with which he went mainstream in the 1990s. O'Grady subsequently dropped the character and in the 2000s became the presenter of various television and radio shows, most notably The Paul O'Grady Show. Born to a working-class Irish migrant family in Tranmere, Cheshire, O'Grady moved to London in the late 1970s, initially working as a peripatetic care officer for Camden Council. Here he developed his drag act in 1978, basing the character of Lily Savage upon traits found amongst female relatives. Touring England as part of drag mime duo, the Playgirls, O'Grady later went solo as a stand-up comedian. Performing as Savage for eight years at a South London gay pub, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), he gained a popular following among the city's gay community and used his character to speak out for gay rights. After being nominated for a 1992 Perrier Award, O'Grady attracted mainstream attention and made various television, radio, and theatrical appearances. As Savage, he presented the shows The Big Breakfast (1995–1996), Blankety Blank (1997–2002), and Lily Live! (2000–2001), earning various awards and becoming a well known public figure. Seeking to diversify his career away from Savage, O'Grady starred in the BBC One sitcom Eyes Down (2003–2004) and presented two travel documentaries for ITV. In 2004, he began presenting ITV's daytime chat show The Paul O'Grady Show. After the network refused to transfer creative control of the series to O'Grady's production company Olga TV, he defected to rival Channel 4 in 2006, where the show was rebranded as The New Paul O'Grady Show, airing until 2009. O'Grady went on to present the late night ITV show Paul O'Grady Live (2010–2011) and BBC Radio 2's Paul O'Grady on the Wireless (2009–present). Additional television shows presented included Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs (2012–present), Paul O'Grady's Animal Orphans (2014–2016), Blind Date (2017–2019), and Paul O'Grady's Great British Escape (2020). Since 2008 he has published several books, including a four-volume memoir. O'Grady was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honours for services to entertainment. In 2020 he became president of the British Music Hall Society, taking over the role from Roy Hudd.
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