After gaining a lot of popularity in the London club circuit during the 1980s, the Lily Savage drag persona went even more mainstream in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, O’Grady paused his appearances as Savage and landed a TV show called The Paul O’Grady Show in 2004, where he mostly appeared out of drag. Nonetheless, O’Grady was still regarded as a legendary queer performer in the UK.
RuPaul, who appears as the main judge and host of Drag Race UK, paid tribute to O’Grady’s career in a tweet that read:
“A brilliant life, a brilliant career.”
\u201cA brilliant life, a brilliant career. #LilySavage\u201d
TV host and Drag Race UK judge Alan Carr also paid tribute to O’Grady in a very emotional Instagram post. Carr wrote:
“I’ve been no use to anyone today. Loved Paul, who didn’t? A true one-off. Having dinner with Paul O’Grady was the closest any of us would get to having dinner with Dorothy Parker or Truman Capote. He would have you literally in hysterics regaling these showbiz anecdotes and quips from Marlene Dietrich to Cilla Black to The Royals to the Disappointer Sisters. It seemed like he knew everyone. He will be missed SO much, my friend asked him recently, ‘Do you think you’ll go to heaven, Paul?’ Quick as a whip he replied, ‘I hope not, I won’t know anyone.’ You legend.”
O’Grady’s passing has been a huge loss for the LGBTQ+ community across the pond. Many queer people regarded him as the closest thing the UK had to a mainstream drag artist like RuPaul, and are now mourning his death.