Paul O’Grady pays tribute to Cilla Black
Paul O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio announced the devastating news of the Lily Savage star’s death at the age of 67, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Andre confirmed Paul died “unexpectedly but peacefully”, as he spoke of “coming to terms with this loss” alongside the former BBC Radio 2 star’s loved ones.
It comes just a few years after Paul spoke openly about his personal struggles with grief, after he “lost just about everybody I know”.
In a candid unearthed interview from 2015, Paul reflected on the loss of his beloved famous friends, Cilla Black and Jackie Collins, who tragically died within months of each other that year.
ITV’s For the Love of Dogs presenter explained at the time that his life had been rocked by death and loss, despite his admirable attempts to put a brave face on things.
Paul’s emotional words came after, alongside Cilla and Jackie, he had suffered the losses of his friends in the drag community, and his long-time manager and partner, Brendan Murphy, who died of a brain tumour in 2005.
His close friend Paul Cottingham also died in 2014, worsening Paul’s battles with grief.
The TV and radio star told The Guardian of his friends and loved ones: “They’ve gone down like ninepins.”
He added of losing showbiz legend Cilla that her death left him with “regret”.
Paul explained while his eyes welled up with tears: “Regret of a friendship that’s gone. Maybe regret’s the wrong word.
“Sadness, really, because you’ve lost a big chunk of your life. It’s like the fun’s taken away from you.”
Paul admitted that prior to 2015, he had become accustomed to losing his friends due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
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“I’ve been used to it,” he said, reflecting on the living through the epidemic in the UK.
He recalled: “When Aids hit London, it wiped out all of my friends.
“And you’d nurse them as well, and you’d have to break the news to their families, that they’ve got Aids, and the stigma surrounding it at the time … ‘We’ll say he’s got cancer.’ As if that was easier.”
However, in 2015, Paul’s resilience had decreased, as he admitted feeling “battered” by grief.
The star sadly continued: “But, to be honest with you, this year, I feel battered by it. Battered.”
In a statement announcing Paul’s death, his husband said: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.
“We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss.
“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.”
Paul and Andre began dating in 2006 before marrying in the summer of 2017.
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