Paul OGrady and the death of Lily Savage – age concern, backlash and legacy

Paul OGrady and the death of Lily Savage – age concern, backlash and legacy

Lily Savage became one of television's most popular stars when she shot to fame as the popular cross-dresser and comedienne back in the 90s.

The loud-mouthed, acid-tongued drag queen began presenting the long-running Blankety Blank series in 1998, the year she also snagged her own television series, The Lily Savage Show.

Lily Savage is the creation of beloved TV and radio personality Paul O'Grady, and despite Paul retiring his act as Lily back in 2004, he is still known to millions for the high-haired creation that made him famous.

The star – who is now most known for fronting the often emotional ITV show For The Love Of Dogs – previously opened up about retiring Lily, explaining there were a number of reasons.

Now, as Paul celebrates his 67th birthday (June 14) and almost 25 years since Lily graced our screens, let’s look back at her success and why the star decided to ditch the character…

Age

Paul O'Grady entertained the nation with his quick-witted one-liners and fabulous outfits back in the 90s, and while the lovable Scouser insisted last year that while he “thoroughly enjoyed” his time as the nation’s favourite drag queen, it was time to hang up his hat on the beloved role.

In an interview with The Sunday MIrror, Paul, 66, revealed one of the main reasons for quitting the role involved his age and not feeling up to the time-consuming gig, which involves hours of hair and makeup.

Speaking to the The Sunday Mirror, he said there is "not enough money in the world" for him to be Lily Savage again.

Paul also admitted he can't "be bothered" with having to dress up in her elaborate outfits.

"There’s not enough cash on earth to get me dragged up," he revealed.

“God no. It’s always been, ‘Why don’t you be Lily Savage again?’ Well, because one, I’m too old. And two, I couldn’t be bothered.

“At the time I thoroughly enjoyed it but I’ve moved on. Even in panto I wouldn’t fancy it.”

Cancel culture

Despite calls for Paul to reprise his beloved role as Lily Savage, the TV star spoke out last year saying he would be "cancelled" if he were to revive his foul mouthed drag act in today’s society.

The entertainer says he wouldn’t revive his drag act as he fears he would be rejected by modern TV viewers.

He told The Sun: “People say to me, ‘Would you do Lily again?’ And I say, ‘Good God no, I wouldn’t last five minutes’.

“It’s just the things that she comes out with. It’s a different time now. They probably wouldn’t like the inference that she was a lady of the night — she’d have to say she was a sex worker or just, ‘Worked in hospitality’.”

He hit out at hyper-sensitive people who hit out at others online and attempt to end careers due to being offended.

He said: “It’s censorship, basically. It’s bullying. But you’re anonymous. You’re a picture and you’ve got your profile or whatever and you’re anonymous.”

Paul also argued that social justice warriors who hide behind keyboards don’t actually do anything to confront prejudices or help make the world a better place.

Legacy

The Liverpool personality paid homage to his alter-ego when he donated one of Lily's wigs to the V&A Museum in London for a costumes exhibition and he's amazed at the effort he used to go to to dress up as her.

He told the outlet: “I went up to my loft and found it. It was so heavy and I thought, ‘How did I glue it down and put on all that makeup?’ You just think ‘Ugh!’”

But even without Lily, Paul doesn't think his drag is missing from TV as it's become such a "trend" and he's expecting it to cross over into the mainstream even more, even into places where people are unlikely to expect it.

He told the RadioX: “A lot of men like dressing up in drag – these rugby club dudes. You look at their behaviour and you think, ‘Oh dear.’

“At the moment it is the current trend. We’ll have a drag queen reading the news before much longer."

He added: “Question Time will be hosted by a drag queen. That would liven things up.”

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