EXCLUSIVE: Christopher Biggins reveals Paul O’Grady carried on smoking despite doctors’ warnings as he shares memories of his pal following his death at 67
- LATEST: Tributes flood in as TV world rocked by Paul O’Grady’s death aged 67
Christopher Biggins has revealed that Paul O’Grady carried on smoking despite doctors’ warnings, as he shared sweet memories of his pal following his ‘unexpected’ death at the age of 67.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, the star, 74, said he and his close friend Cilla Black tried to convince Paul to quit the habit years ago, but he laughed it off.
Paul, who suffered three heart attacks, rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic, platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage, died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio said in a statement.
Paul has been hailed as a ‘trailblazer’ for breaking into the mainstream broadcasting landscape with his alter ego and for his charity work around animals and Aids.
Christopher told MailOnline: ‘I’ve just heard the news. It’s terrifying. Paul was extremely talented. Unbelievably talented.
Emotional: Christopher Biggins has revealed that Paul O’Grady carried on smoking despite doctors’ warnings, as he shared memories of his pal following his death (pictured in 2015)
‘I knew him with Cilla of course and I remember one time we were all, me, Cilla, Cilla’s husband Bobby, Paul and myself were in Spain in Cilla’s house, staying with them.
‘And he was very naughty because he was smoking cigarettes and we could smell it. Cilla said ”you’ve got to go outside”.
‘Do you know what he died of? I think it must have been to do with his heart because he had a problem there.
‘But anyway he shouldn’t have smoked so Cilla said to me: ”Right go and talk to him and say he can’t smoke.” And I had to go and tell him off. And I started off very serious and by the end of it we were crying with laughter. It was just unbelievable.
‘He’d been told that he couldn’t smoke anymore, but the fact that I had to tell him and then we just cried with laughter.
‘He just thought, to be crude, ”f**k it”, I’ll just go with it. He was one of those people. He did suffer with his health a little bit but he was just incredible.’
Reflecting on his own memories of Paul and performances as his drag alter-ego Lily Savage, Christopher added: ‘He was so on the spot, he was incredible, he ad-libbed. I remember seeing him years ago in a gay pub in the EastEnd and just falling in love with him.
‘If someone said, he’s going to be the biggest star in television I wouldn’t have believed it because it didn’t happen in those days.
Wise words: Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, the star, 74, said he and his close friend Cilla Black tried to convince Paul to quit the habit years ago, but he laughed it off
‘But there he was, he was just himself and he became the biggest star ever. I spoke to him last year. We were talking about Cilla, reminiscing. 67 is so young. It’s no age.’
Christopher added that he and Paul both attended Cilla’s funeral in 2015, with the radio star delivering a heart-warming eulogy.
He added: ‘Paul and I went to Cilla’s funeral. If you remember, he was so funny at the funeral. He would want us all to laugh, smile and sing our hearts out for him. I hope to be there. Absolutely.’
O’Grady’s husband Andre Portasio, who married him in 2017, praised his ‘humour, wit and compassion’ in a statement announcing his death released just before 3am.
O’Grady became a household name in the early noughties, known for his wit and love of animals, and hosted a string of television programmes including his self-titled daytime chat show, The Paul O’Grady Show, which began airing in 2004.
READ MORE: Paul O’Grady was ‘laughing, smiling and full of life’ just hours before he died aged 67, his long-time friend and producer reveals
He also took over the reins from Blind Date’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla, who died in 2015, to host the Channel 5 reboot of the show in 2017. And he fronted Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.
The father-of-one’s cause of death wasn’t immediately known, but he had previously spoken of surviving heart attacks in 2002, 2006 and 2014, and also kidney failure. He also had a debiltating Covid battle that left him unable to work for two months.
Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid today recalled an interview with O’Grady when he spoke about suffering heart problems.
She said on the ITV programme this morning: ‘I remember he told us about those [health issues] when we interviewed him on the sofa about having a heart attack, cardiac arrest and leaving it before telling a doctor, almost like he didn’t want to bother anybody about it.’
Portasio said in his statement: ‘It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening.
‘We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss.
‘He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.
Scares: The father-of-one’s cause of death wasn’t immediately known, but he had previously spoken of surviving heart attacks in 2002, 2006 and 2014, and also kidney failure
‘I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.’
The royal family’s official Twitter account paid tribute this morning, posting an image of O’Grady with Queen Consort Camilla, after they worked closely in support of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
The post read: ‘Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady, who worked closely with Her Majesty in support of @Battersea, providing lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories.’
Camilla will be sharing her sympathies with O’Grady’s family privately in due course, Buckingham Palace added.
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