How Paul O’Grady found love with husband Andre Portasio after the death of his long-term partner
Tributes are being paid to Paul O’Grady after the drag performer and TV presenter’s sudden death at the age of 67 was announced by his husband, Andre Portasio.
O’Grady, who was best known for his trailblazing drag act Lily Savage and appearances on British entertainment shows including Blankety Blank, died “unexpectedly and peacefully” on Tuesday (28 March) evening, Portasio confirmed in a statement.
Born in Birkenhead, Paul O’Grady rose to prominence on the London LGBTQ+ scene in the 1970s and 80s as the acid-tongued drag queen Lily Savage.
Lily had an eight-year residency at London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where, in 1986, O’Grady was arrested in a homophobic police raid fuelled by HIV stigma.
The comedian and LGBTQ+ icon’s death was announced on Wednesday (29 March) by his husband of almost six years, who said in a moving statement: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.
“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.”
O’Grady’s cause of death is not currently known. The star, who had previously spoken about his health issues, suffered heart attacks in 2002, 2006 and 2014.
Who is Paul O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio?
Andre Portasio was born in Brazil and for years was a professional ballerina with the English National Ballet.
During his time with the prestigious ballet company, performed in shows including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and the The Nutcracker.
Since retiring from professional ballet, Portasio has worked as a ballet teacher and as an arts manager.
Portasio began dating O’Grady, who was 25 years his senior, in 2006.
O’Grady’s previous long-term partner and manager, Brendan Murphy, died in 2005 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
O’Grady was hit hard by the death of his “best mate” and partner of 25 years, telling The Mirror of the physical and mental toll his grief took.
“It couldn’t get any worse”, he said. “I looked like someone who shouldn’t bother coming home from the cemetery. My hair was coming out in cobs and I’d lost two-and-a-half stone. I looked like a hunched-up old man.”
After finding love with Portasio the year after Murphy’s death, O’Grady first publicly acknowledged the couple’s romance in his 2012 autobiography Still Standing, stating that: “Our relationship just crept up on us. It took us by surprise when we were least expecting it.”
When did Paul O’Grady and Andre Portasio marry?
Paul O’Grady and Andre Portasio married in a low-key wedding ceremony in August 2017 after 11 years of dating.
The couple tied the knot in a 30-minute ceremony in the gardens of The Goring Hotel in central London, The Sun reported.
Celebrity guests at O’Grady and Portasio’s wedding included The Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen, EastEnders star turned Labour peer Lord Michael Cashman, and comedian Julian Clary.
O’Grady previously revealed that the key to happy marriage with Portasio was having separate bedrooms and bathrooms.
He told told The Sun: “I remember Joan Collins on my show saying the secret to a happy marriage was different bathrooms. She was right — and separate bedrooms also work a treat. I don’t like sharing a bed.
“What if I want to read? I also have to listen to the shipping forecast before I sleep.”
Paul O’Grady was previously married to a woman
O’Grady married his Portuguese friend Teresa Fernandes in 1977 to stop her from being deported. The pair remained in a ‘marriage of convenience’ for 28 years until 2005, when the marriage was dissolved.
O’Grady had a daughter, Sharon, with friend Diane Jansen in 1974 when he was just 18 years old.
He previously joked to The Sun: “Christ. I’m married to a ballet dancer, I’ve got a daughter, two grandkids and was married to a Portuguese lesbian barmaid. It doesn’t get much more woke.”
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