Paul O’Grady pays tribute to ‘sister’ Cilla Black

Paul O’Grady has paid an emotional tribute to the entertainer Cilla Black – saying she was “like a sister”.

The Surprise Surprise and Blind Date host died yesterday at the age of 72, at her home in Spain.

There has been an outpouring of condolences and public tributes to the star – with TV host Paul O’Grady speaking about his deep connection with his Merseyside “sister”.

Paying tribute to Cilla, he told reporters: “We’ve been friends for nearly 20 years. She’s like my sister.

“We had a week together in Barbados at the beginning of the year and I saw her on my birthday.

“I thought she was well. I can’t believe it to tell you the truth… I kept telling her she’d outlive us all. She’s such a strong lady.”

He said that the entertainer had struggled with hearing loss in recent years, making phone calls and conversations difficult.

He said: “It was difficult because she couldn’t hear so it became texting but then we’d manage to get her.”

Cilla – a long-time friend of other openly gay stars – had previously spoken of her iconic status within the gay community.

She said: “I don’t know why I’ve got so many gay friends. I just seem to attract gay men

“They call you a Fag Hag for that over here, don’t they. In America you’re a ‘Fruit Fly’ – I prefer that.”

The star’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed.