ITV has released For the Love of Paul O’Grady, a new documentary paying tribute to the late icon. Premiering on Sunday, April 9, the production comes less than two weeks after the untimely passing of the 67-year-old, who died “unexpectedly and peacefully” on March 28.
For two decades, the comedian had an acclaimed presenting career on projects like The New Paul O’Grady Show, Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs and Paul O’Grady on the Wireless. He has also been lauded for his LGBTQ+ activism, credited with helping to bring drag into the mainstream through his beloved persona, Lily Savage.
In the film, O’Grady’s incredible success as a television powerhouse, animal lover and trailblazing drag performer is celebrated, with family, friends and famous faces recalling his best and most memorable moments.
“He wasn’t just a fighter for the underdog, somebody who was willing to use his platform to speak up for people who didn’t have a platform, didn’t have a voice, but he could do it in a totally compelling way, much more compelling than any politician,” former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said.
Media personality Carol Voderman expressed: “He was not only brilliant as an entertainer, he was a force for good.”
— 𝓔𝓶𝓶𝓪 💙 (@emma1883) April 9, 2023
When exploring the legacy of Lily Savage, the 60-minute special highlighted her involvement in a Pretty Polly campaign for tights, with audiences stating the contrast between attitudes towards drag today.
“Being reminded that Lily Savage was the face of Pretty Polly tights has taken my breath away. What absolute regressive f**kery we’re concerning ourselves with these days,” one Twitter user commented.
Christ can you imagine the backlash if Lily Savage was the advert for Pretty Polly tights today #ForTheLoveOfPaulOGrady
— Sid 🏳️🌈 (@HertsSid) April 9, 2023
Similarly, in reference to Savage being asked to become The Big Breakfast presenter from 1995 to 1996, fans said they could not imagine the same thing happening in 2023.
“Drag Queens and Gay people were more accepted in the 90’s, we’ve gone backwards couldn’t have a drag queen presenting breakfast telly these days .. thank you Paul for bringin us Lily,” another viewer wrote.
Drag Queens and Gay people were more accepted in the 90’s , we’ve gone backwards couldn’t have a drag queen presenting breakfast telly these days .. thank you Paul for bringing us Lily Savage 🤍 #fortheloveofpaulogrady #PaulOGrady
— ~❀𝒦ℯ𝓁𝓁𝓎❀~🌸 (@kellymew_) April 9, 2023
“There was a drag queen on breakfast television every morning [in the 90s].”
And no one batted an eyelid. #ForTheLoveOfPaulOGrady
— Jason Reid (@JasonReidUK) April 9, 2023
The programme was also praised for featuring a subtle but moving tribute to Brendan Murphy, O’Grady’s business partner, best friend and former lover with whom he spent 25 years. Murphy died in 2005 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and his passing was reportedly part of the reason that the drag persona, Lily Savage, was retired.
As the documentary ended, a message reading “In loving memory of Paul O’Grady MBE,” appeared, followed by “& Brendan Murphy”.
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