Paul O’Grady: ‘I’m not worried about sex, money or fame – I just want a mongoose’

Born in Birkenhead, Paul O’Grady, 66, found fame as the drag queen Lily Savage, who became presenter of the TV gameshow Blankety Blank in 1997. After retiring the character in 2004, he was given his own chatshow, The Paul O’Grady Show, which won a Bafta in 2005 and ran until 2015. He has just published his first children’s book, Eddie Albert and the Amazing Animal Gang: The Amsterdam Adventure, and there will be special Christmas episode of his new ITV show Saturday Night Line Up. O’Grady has a daughter and lives with his husband in Kent.

When were you happiest?
When I hit 30 and managed to get a council flat in London. It was in the most terrible state, but it was bliss to have a flat of my own.

What is your greatest fear?
Finding a rat swimming in my toilet.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Twenty years ago, I was on the Blue Train in South Africa, going from Pretoria to Cape Town. The bed was flush with the window and it was hot, so I had nothing on. The train pulled into a station early and I woke up with my bare bum stuck to the window and a sea of faces on the platform staring!

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Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
I had a midlife crisis and paid 70 grand for a Morgan AeroMax which looked just like Cruella de Vil’s car. I was in a permanent state of terror and soon sold it.

Who would play you in the film of your life?

What scares you about getting older?
Being dependent on somebody.

What is your most treasured possession?
The Claddagh ring that belonged to my partner, Brendan. We were together 25 years and when he died, 16 years ago, I got his ring. When I married Andre in 2017, it became a wedding ring.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Just about everything.

Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
I’ve never read any by Jane Austen or the Brontës and I’m not ashamed.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
To work in a dry cleaner’s.

Would you choose fame or anonymity?
Anonymity, because I’m not good with having my photo taken.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
There are a few: my partner, my dogs, my family, my signed photograph from Marlene Dietrich.

Have you ever said ‘I love youand not meant it?
Oh, frequently.

Which living person do you most despise, and why?
Every single stinking member of this lying, self-serving government.

If not yourself, who would you most like to be?
An extremely fit 18-year-old!

When did you last cry, and why?
When I watched a series called Pose. The hospital scenes took me right back to when we were going through the Aids years. It’s the same with It’s a Sin.

How often do you have sex?
Morning, noon and night – I’m exhausted!

What is the closest you’ve come to death?
I had a bad heart attack 20 years ago: I think I slid off the mortal coil for about 30 seconds.

What has been your closest brush with the law?
There was a period when I was doing Lily and constantly in police raids.

Would you rather have more sex, money or 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.

How would you like to be remembered?
I don’t care, because I won’t be here.


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