Paul O’Grady’s poignant words on death and counting his blessings
Paul O’Grady, the adored TV presenter and comedian who broke out with his drag act persona Lily Savage, has died at the age of 67 – but he once said it would be “amazing” if he made it to 60.
His partner Andre Portasio confirmed in a statement that O’Grady died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening (28 March).
“He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion,” Portasio said.
“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”
O’Grady’s cause of death has not been disclosed, but he had several health issues over the years.
The former 40-a-day smoker had his first heart attack in 2002, a second in 2006, and a third in 2014.
In 2013, the star was rushed to hospital after being struck by angina – chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles. It’s not usually life threatening, but it’s a warning sign that you could be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Earlier that year, he had shared his thoughts on his mortality. “I do count my blessings,” he said, according to The Mirror. “I have had two heart attacks, and if I get to 60 that will be amazing. I don’t fear anything nowadays.
“There has to be an angel out there. They are trying to steer me out of trouble 24 hours a day.”
Talking about the first heart attack, when he was resuscitated in an ambulance, he said in an interview with The Times: “I’d sort of been waiting for it... all our family has died of heart disease.
“But I never thought I wasn’t going to make it. God, no.”
He added: “Everyone asks, ‘Did you see anything?’ No, sorry. Nothing. No heavenly choirs, no light at the end of the tunnel.”
Of the second attack, he said: “I was in Waitrose and it was like an earthquake. I had to sit down by the yoghurt, thinking: ‘I’ll be OK in a minute.’
“I went home to bed, then got up and made ice cream and meatloaf, as I had friends coming.
“It kicked in about 4 in the morning, so I took a painkiller and an aspirin and waited till 9am, when Sean who works for me, arrived.
“I was so white he thought I had a hangover. He nearly had a heart attack himself.”
In 2017, he told The Observer: “We don’t go to doctors in my family, because we don’t want to make a fuss. So my sister’s in hospital at the moment with fluid on her heart and lungs. We were cursed in our family, with hearts.”
He told the publication he had been put on blood thinners after the heart attacks, saying: “When I was in hospital in intensive care, they wheeled in the telly and I was on the news. I said to them, ‘Have I died?’”
Read tributes to the Blind Date and For the Love of Dogs star after his death here.