Touching Paul O’Grady funeral details from Lily Savage wig to emotional music

Touching Paul O’Grady funeral details from Lily Savage wig to emotional music

April 20, 2023

Much-loved TV legend Paul O'Grady has been laid to rest in a private service attended by his loved ones and celebrity pals.

The funeral of the comedian, presenter and Lily Savage icon was held at St Rumwold’s Church in the village of Bonnington in Kent on Thursday afternoon, conducted by Reverend Canon Roger Martin.

Paul passed away "unexpectedly but peacefully" on March 28 at the home he shared with his husband, Andre. His cause of death was later revealed as "sudden cardiac arrhythmia".

The service featured a number of touching personal tributes to the late star, who was known for his larger-than-life, cheeky, loving and generous personality.

One such tribute included a bronze statue of his beloved late dog Buster that had been placed on top of a leopard-print throw.

Meanwhile, a photograph of a smiling Paul was centred at the front of the Grade I listed parish church surrounded by arrangements of lilies in a nod to his drag alter ego, Lily Savage.

A young man – believed to be Paul's grandson – was seen next to Paul's daughter Sharon as they entered the church, carrying Lily's ice blonde wig.

Reverend Martin welcomed family and friends including comedian, Julian Clary, actress Dame Sheila Hancock, and the late Dame Barbara Windsor’s widower Scott Mitchell.

The Salvation Army Band played songs such as Tomorrow from the musical Annie – in which O’Grady was starring in a touring production at the time of his death.

Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and comedian Alan Carr were also among the celebrity attendees, as were Lorraine Kelly, Vernon Kay, John Barrowman and Melanie Sykes.

Ahead of the service, during the funeral procession, Paul's husband Andre Portasio was emotional as he rode in the carriage drawn by two black horses and decorated with a wreath of their dog Buster, with one of their other dogs, Conchita, on his lap.

He could be seen wiping away a tear as he travelled with the funeral cortege through the village of Aldington, Kent, ahead of the funeral at St Rumwold's Church, where members of the public lined the streets to show their respects to the TV legend.

It was a very emotional service as the music chosen reflected Paul's long and illustrious career in showbiz from appearances on Desert Island Discs to his long-running BBC radio show.

The service opened with the sound of trumpets before You Gotta Get A Gimmick from the 1959 musical Gypsy, featuring lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, played.

Paul memorably gave a risque performance of the song in character as Lily Savage alongside his best pal Cilla Black and Dame Barbara Windsor, who have both also now passed away, at the 2001 Royal Variety Performance.

The entrance music was Meditation from the opera Thais by French composer Jules Massenet, a dramatic piece written for a solo violin and orchestra.

When he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2003, he chose this as his favourite of all his musical choices.

Later in the service, the song Una Notte A Napoli by the Latin and jazz orchestra Pink Martini was heard. The band were a favourite of Paul’s and he often played them on his BBC Radio 2 show.

This was followed by the theme from British television drama series Upstairs Downstairs, which was featured in a radio special Paul hosted for the BBC titled Lost TV Themes.

Following the eulogy, given by Paul's close friend and fellow entertainer Julian Clary, there was a period of reflection during which Rhapsody Op 43 Variation No 18 by Sergei Rachmaninoff played.

After the commendation came the closing music – Looking For Trouble by Elvis Presley.

In 2015, O’Grady became emotional as he celebrated the life of Cilla Black by playing the track on his radio show, saying she “absolutely used to love” it and it “sums up our relationship”.

Following the service, mourners went to a wake at Port Lympne Safari Park in Kent.


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