The streets of Aldington were lined with mourners on Thursday afternoon (April 20) as friends and family attended a service honoring the late Paul O’Grady.
The legendary presenter – known and loved for his drag alter-ego Lily Savage – died on March 29 at the age of 67. Although his cause of death has not yet been officially announced, he has suffered numerous heart attacks over the years.
On Thursday, O’Grady was buried in the village of Aldington, Kent, where he lived for two decades and died in March. While the service itself was private and attended by the entertainer’s family and friends, including Alan Carr and Jo Brand, the village became a center of remembrance dedicated to O’Grady.
After his husband Andre Portasio encouraged local fans to come by and offer their condolences in person, the crowds preceded a procession that made its way through the village en route to the parish church of St.
Hundreds of mourners, many with their pets to remember O’Grady’s famous love for dogs, lined the streets and gave tokens of thanks to the TV personality.
Aldington Primary School placed a large banner reading “Thank you, Mr. O’Grady,” along with a picture of a dog and large hearts carrying small messages to O’Grady, on railings and walls near its campus.
As the procession passed through the village, O’Grady’s coffin could be seen alongside a floral tribute of a dog wearing a collar bearing the name Buster. Buster was O’Grady’s beloved pet who died of cancer in 2009.
Portasio drove in front of the horse-drawn hearse that carried O’Grady’s coffin, carrying one of his husband’s dogs.
Many of O’Grady’s famous friends were present at the funeral including comedians Brand and Carr, Rolling Stones musician Ronnie Wood, presenter Gaby Roslin, EastEnders Stars Cheryl Fergison, Linda Henry and Scott Maslen, Coronation Street‘s Sally Lindsay and celebrity chef Andi Oliver.
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Human rights activist Peter Tatchell was also at the event, with O’Grady having previously worked as a patron for Tatchell’s foundation.
House of Lords colleague Michael Cashman, a former actor, had told BBC Radio Kent that he would read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 – which begins ‘Shall I compare you to a summer’s day?’. – in service.
“My heart will grieve, but I will smile at the love and the fun,” Cashman said.
In a touching tribute, the Salvation Army band added “Tomorrow” from the musical annie entered the church as mourners. At the time of his death, O’Grady was playing orphanage mother Miss Hannigan on a nationwide tour of the show.
His funeral also included an honor guard with dogs, a nod to O’Grady’s work as an ambassador for the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in 2012. Since O’Grady’s death, the charity has received over £100,000 in donations in memory of him . The presenter also brought five dogs to new homes while filming his ITV series Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs.
O’Grady had one child: a daughter, Sharyn Mousley, born in 1974, whom he fathered with his girlfriend Diane Jansen. Mousley entered the funeral with a young man holding the wig of Lily Savage, O’Grady’s infamous drag alter-ego.
Although O’Grady has considered Kent his home for more than 20 years, he was born and raised in Birkenhead, Merseyside. After moving to London in the late 1970s, O’Grady began developing his Lily Savage character, which consisted largely of traits he had seen in the women he had grown up with.
Savage is frequently cited as an inspiration for British drag artists who have performed in the years since. In the weeks since O’Grady’s death, many have relived the moment she faced police officers raiding the Vauxhall Tavern.
Aside from being a fierce defender of LGBTQ+ rights and an animal lover, O’Grady is remembered by many for his sharp and intelligent sense of humor.
Though his cause of death has not yet been confirmed, O’Grady has been open about his 40-day smoking habit and the heart problems he’s had over the years.
“I’ve had two heart attacks and when I turn 60 it’s going to be great. I’m not afraid of anything anymore,” he said The mirror in 2013. “There must be an angel out there. They try to get me out of trouble 24 hours a day.”
Follow the latest updates on Paul O’Grady’s funeral here.