Paul O'Grady's husband opens up on TV star's final day and fight to save him as beloved dog nuzzled his neck

28 March 2024, 08:20

Paul O'Grady and his husband Andre Portasio
Paul O'Grady and his husband Andre Portasio. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Paul O'Grady's husband has opened up on the TV presenter's final day, and his desperate fight to save him after he collapsed.

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The Liverpool-born television star, best known for playing the character Lily Savage, died at the age of 67 in March of cardiac arrhythmia last year.

His husband Andre told the Mirror on the anniversary of his death of how he found him in the kitchen of their Kent home.

He said: "Suddenly, you start remembering where we were, and what we were doing together. It reminded me just how lucky I was to have had him in my life."

Andre said that he was taking a trip to New Zealand "to be as far away from it as possible".

Read more: Paul O'Grady's £15.5m will reveals star left huge sums to pets and treasured animal charities

Read more: Paul O'Grady's cause of death confirmed after 'unexpectedly' passing away at home

Paul O'Grady and Andre Portasio
Paul O'Grady and Andre Portasio. Picture: Alamy

"I don’t want to be anywhere near my kitchen where I found him, and be reminded of what happened,” he said.

"It will feel like he’s coming with me anyway, which is what he would have loved as he couldn’t do long-haul flights as he got older," he said.

"But he would have loved New Zealand, and on the day in question, I will remember him quietly in my own way."

Andre was married to O'Grady for 18 years. He said: "I really thought that when we got married it would be forever. I just didn’t realise that forever would be so short-lived."

Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady. Picture: Alamy

He opened up on their last day together, which was "the most ordinary day."

Andre added: "I’d got up early and gone down to the fields as I was working in the woodland. Paul had come back from touring, so was a little bit tired and woke up really late.

He said of his husband: "Usually, he would stagger down from the bedroom with his hair on end and moaning it was the beginning of the day. He loved a good moan but he had a meeting with his producer, Malcolm Prince, about his radio show and he was looking very smart in a white shirt, and had a good aura. I’ll never forget saying to him how handsome he looked, and him joking back saying f*** off!"

Andre Portasio at Paul O'Grady's funeral
Andre Portasio at Paul O'Grady's funeral. Picture: Alamy

“He was on wonderful form and then we settled down in the living room and switched on the telly to catch up on Kent."

“He always insisted on watching the presenter Sangeeta [Bhabra] – he loved her."

Andre added that his husband left to get some tea, and then he "heard this loud bang."

He said: "Because the house is big and old, I didn’t think of anything at first."

“I walked to the kitchen to start putting some food on, and I started taking things out of the fridge. And all of a sudden, I could see him lying on the floor.”

Paul O'Grady's funeral cortege travels through Aldington

He called the ambulance, and when paramedics arrived, they spent about an hour working on him.

“At one point, they were like ‘yes, he’s breathing,' he said. "I thought the nightmare was gone but it was very short-lived, and very shortly afterwards they pronounced him dead."

Andre added: “The saddest part of this all is that when all of this happened, and as I was trying to resuscitate him, I was trying to keep the dogs out of the room.

“But somehow Paul’s dog Arfur, who is one of his favourites, escaped and he nuzzled his face as he always did on Paul’s shoulder, as if to say ‘wake up’. It was just heartbreaking."

After O'Grady's death, Andre received many letters expressing condolences. He got two letters from Queen Camilla, with whom O'Grady worked in support of Battersea Dogs and Cats home.

Andre said: "Obviously, she’s the Queen of England, but for him she was just Camilla,” he says. “You know, they could talk, and laugh, and just be normal with each other.

"I think probably that’s what she loved about him so much, apart from him being so funny of course. I haven’t replied to her super-sweet letters yet, as I wasn’t sure how to go about it… do I write Dear Camilla or Your Majesty.

"Maybe on the anniversary of his death I will finally write to her."

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