'Paul was a true gentleman, the world has lost an iconic treasure'

The star had taken the stage at Edinburgh Playhouse just days before, as Miss Hannigan, the villain in Annie.

Tributes have been paid to TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady, following his death aged 67.

The British drag icon, known for his persona Lily Savage, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening, his husband Andre Portasio said in a statement.

O’Grady had taken the stage at Edinburgh Playhouse just days prior to his demise, as Miss Hannigan, the main antagonist in Annie.

Following the performance, on March 23, he popped into one of the capital’s most iconic gay bars – Planet – for a drink and a chat with the staff.

Planet manager Darren Paterson told STV News O’Grady had been a “friend of the staff for over 20 years”.

O’Grady dressed as Miss Hannigan, the main antagonist in Annie, cuddling a dog in Edinburgh.

“Whilst he was at the Playhouse for Annie, he came to say hi on Thursday night,” he said.

“Paul was a true gentleman to all the staff and customers.

“We are deeply saddened at his passing, the world has lost an iconic treasure.”

The Playhouse joined in paying tribute to the LGBTQ+ icon, recalling some of his best moments on stage in Edinburgh.

A spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the sudden passing of much loved actor, comedian and TV personality Paul O’Grady.

“We have many wonderful memories of him. From his early days with Lily to his most recent visit last week, in the musical Annie where he played Miss Hannigan to great acclaim.

“He was warm, funny and kind, always making time for staff members and of course the office pups.”

A well-known dog-lover, O’Grady was also pictured cuddling a miniature dachshund in Edinburgh, a few days before his death.

The official Twitter account of the musical Annie said its cast and crew were “stunned and saddened” by the news.

“An incredible Miss Hannigan and an irreplaceable, hilarious and generous person who we will all miss immensely,” it added.

Born in Birkenhead, O’Grady rose to fame in the 1990s with his iconic scouse drag queen Lily Savage, going on to present game show Blankety Blank and other light entertainment programmes.

During his career, he went on to host The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.

In August of 2022 he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.

O’Grady had been set to return to the airwaves next month to host a one-off Easter Sunday radio show on Boom Radio.

In a statement, Mr Portasio wrote: “He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.

“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”

ITV presenter Lorraine Kelly described O’Grady as “a really special man” in an online tribute.

“Such sad news. Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise. Will be sorely missed. A really special man.”

The royal family’s official Twitter account paid tribute, posting an image of O’Grady with Camilla, after they worked closely in support of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The post read: “Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady, who worked closely with Her Majesty in support of @Battersea_, providing lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories.”

Camilla will be sharing her sympathies with O’Grady’s family privately in due course, Buckingham Palace added.

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