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‘I can’t bear Drag Race – that’s not drag!’: 9 iconic (and often savage) Paul O’Grady quotes

“I am not bothered about sex, money, or fame, I just want a mongoose."

By Emily Maskell & Jamie Tabberer

Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady has died at the age of 67 (Design: wiki/ITV/Jack Pengelly)

Rest in peace, Paul’O Grady: the TV icon died “unexpectedly but peacefully” yesterday at the age of 67, it has been revealed.

Also known by his tough-as-nails drag alter ego Lily Savage, the star had just days ago finished touring the musical Annie, in which he played Miss Hannigan.

A cause of death has yet to be shared for the chat show host, whose screen credits include The Paul O’Grady Show and Blankety Blank.

Paul’s husband Andre Portasio confirmed news of Paul’s passing in a statement today, saying: “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.”

Here, we pay tribute to a screen icon who never minced his words; from sex to drag to animals, these are our favourite Paul quotes ever.

On not giving a f**k

“Do you know what my advice for gay men is? Stop giving a fuck. I mean, really. I’ve got friends in their 30s – ‘I’ve got to go, I’ve got to be up at half-six to go to the gym and get on the treadmill.’ I say: ‘That used to be used as torture in Victorian prisons. Oscar Wilde, the poor bugger. He was on that, and you’re volunteering? You’re paying £175 for this?’ I swim every day and I like to walk. But as for going into some bloody gym and eyeing each other up… It’s all about body, all about appearance. I don’t give a fuck anymore. My hair’s white as ashes, I’m not dyeing it. Nothing’s ‘lifted’. I can’t be bothered. And there is this pressure on gay men about the body. It’s all about how they look. You could be Goebbels inside, a piece of shit, but it wouldn’t matter as long as you were standard issue Action-Man.”

In a 2020 interview with Attitude

Paul on RuPaul’s Drag Race 

“I can’t bear it. No, really, I can’t. That’s not drag! It’s all about shading and contouring your face now and being like supermodels. […] In my day we had the likes of Phil Starr, who was a glorious comedian… we had Marc Fleming, Auntie Flo, Mrs Shufflewick. We had great comedians in drag. This new brigade who just parade around going, sashay, shantay – that’s not drag to me.”

As per an interview for BBC Radio 4 Extra’s Gay Britannia

Paul on his health – and the time his heart stopped beating after a heart attack

“I do count my blessings. 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. […] Everyone asks: ‘Did you see anything?’ No, sorry. Nothing. No heavenly choirs, no light at the end of the tunnel.”

As per a historic interview with The Mirror

Paul on what he wanted more of out of sex, money, and fame

“I am not bothered about sex, money, or fame, I just want a mongoose. A wild baby mongoose took a shine to me in Namibia, and I fell in love.”

As per an interview with The Guardian

Paul on ageing

“I think 65 is a state of mind – until I look in the mirror and realise that the state of mind has been lying to me all day!”

As per Metro

Paul on young gays’ relationship to HIV

“I think it’s this attitude: ‘Oh, it’s an old queen’s disease,’ which it isn’t at all. We all know this. But I suppose when you’re out of your mind on chemicals and you’re down Vauxhall under the arches and Prince Charming comes through the smoke machine, all caution goes to the wind. And it shouldn’t really. It’s still a danger. We don’t want another epidemic.”

As per an interview with Attitude in 2010

 Paul on the Tories

“I can’t live under this bloody government any more. I am going to get a house on the Lido in Venice. I have paid a fortune in tax and I will say: ‘You can have that mate’. What I am going to do in a house on the Lido in Venice when I can’t speak Italian and hate pasta, God only knows. But I can’t live under this Conservative government, this coalition. That is why we have to vote Labour, we have to get Ed [Miliband] in, we have to make changes.”

As per a rally in London

Paul on his rise to fame

“It’s never ceased to amaze me, how I got here. Sometimes when you sit and have a think, as I do about three in the morning when I’m writing, I might make a cup of tea and I think, how weird: me arriving at Victoria Coach Station with hardly any money, to this. How did I get here? I feel like I’ve stepped through the looking glass, I really do. I never take it for granted.”

As per an interview with Reader’s Digest

Paul on Lily Savage

“Drag wasn’t fashionable. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was always offered TV things at four o’clock in the morning. They were terrified of me. I couldn’t get on Richard And Judy or anything. Of course, when I did go on it, they realised I was sensible. I wasn’t swearing. I had a daytime head and a night-time head, a gay bar head and a theatre head.”

As per The Scotsman