Paul O’Grady’s best friend Amanda Mealing shares TV icon’s final, funny wish for his funeral

Paul O'Grady Amanda Mealing

The best friend of beloved comedian and drag pioneer Paul O’Grady has revealed that he would have wanted people to have a celebration at his funeral.

The British TV legend, also known as drag icon Lily Savage, died aged 67 on 28 March, and as tributes continue to pour in from fans and stars from the entertainment world, his long-time friend Amanda Mealing has shared how they plan to remember and celebrate his life.

The Casualty star and best friend to O’Grady for the past 35 years told The Mirror: “Whatever happens, Paul’s funeral will be a celebration of his life and it will be full of laughter.

“He just told us to have a good time – he’d hate it if everyone was mawkish and morose. He would just say: ‘I don’t care, I won’t be here! Do whatever you want’.”

It echoes what O’Grady told The Guardian in a 2021 interview. When asked how he would want to be remembered, he simply replied: “I don’t care, because I won’t be here.”

O’Grady’s unexpected death was announced by his husband, Andre Portasio, who said in a statement: “He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.

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“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”

Amanda Mealing (L) and Paul O'Grady (R) in 2004.
Amanda Mealing (L) and Paul O’Grady (R) in 2004. (Getty)

Mealing revealed that there are currently discussions to have two funerals, “a small private one” and “a big one in a very grand place”.

“We’ve also been asking: ‘Can we do something in Liverpool?’ because obviously they very much feel he’s their baby. It’s so difficult,” she added, in a nod to the city O’Grady had a longstanding connection with.

Speaking about her own experience of grief since the news broke, Mealing added: “Over the last few days, we’ve started conversations crying and end up laughing with tears just remembering ridiculous stories!”

She also reflected on how touching the tributes to O’Grady have been, from Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s moment of cheering to the Queen Consort Camilla’s own message of condolence.

“They had a great bond,” Mealing reflected, “but the thing about Savage was that he treated everyone the same, whether you were related to the Queen or a builder. It didn’t matter to him.”

Paul O'Grady Lily Savage
Paul O’Grady, who performed as Lily Savage, has died at the age of 67 (Rex)

O’Grady was a trailblazer in terms of drag representation and trans allyship in the British media, and drag legend RuPaul gave his own nod to the TV icon’s legacy, saying: “A brilliant life, a brilliant career.”

As Mealing pointed out: “He got absolutely everything he could out of it and that is wonderful. He lived 67 lives with the adventures he created in his life and the things he did and the places he would go.

“He did everything he could and he never had regrets.”

The comedian had struggled with his health over the past few decades, suffering two heart attacks and contracting a virus.

Speaking to The Mirror in 2017 he said: “I’m not scared of death at all. It’s the way you die that worries me – that’s the fear. I think I could lie there on my deathbed and say, ‘well I’ve had a good time and filled a book. I’ve done everything I wanted to do’.”

According to Mealing, his wishes were fulfilled, recounting how she told O’Grady’s husband: “This could have happened with him alone in a hotel room on tour somewhere obscure.

“Instead, he was at home in the place he loved with the person he loved. I’m sure he would have said: ‘That’s the way to do it’.”