Paul James O'Grady was born in Birkenhead and was brought up in a close knit Irish Catholic household at 23 Holly Grove in Tranmere. He attended St. Anselm's College, Manor Hill, a Christian Brothers school. As a child he loved dressing up - he was never into traditional boys' things like football and the only sport he claims to have ever been interested in is wrestling.
Paul did well in his school exams but didn't go on to University. When he was 19 and working as a clerk in a magistrate's court, he met Diane Jansen, who was ten years his senior and with whom he had a daughter, Sharyn, yet he claims he was gay from the moment he was born and that there are no skeletons in the closet regarding his sexuality.
Stereotyping is one of his pet hates. He claims that the press call him a "drag queen as a term of abuse, like satanist". Three years after his daughter was born, Paul wed a Portuguese, lesbian waitress called Teresa Fernandes in a marriage of convenience.
Paul's many jobs have included a civil servant, cleaner for Cleo Laine, office work in an abbatoir and wood chopper. He has also worked in a children's home in Kirkby and in 1977 he went to Manila where he worked as a waiter in Gussy's Bar which also happened to be a brothel.
It was here he got the idea of Lily Savage. He returned to London in the early 80's, at one stage living in Victoria Mansions on South Lambeth Road, but it would be many years before he would achieve fame as the loud-mouthed, platinum beehive blonde.
Paul was working as a social worker but to supplement his income, he tended bar, earning £7.50 a night, in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. He moved from serving drinks to doing a mime act on stage and then compering during the amateur drag nights. Knowing he could do better himself than some of the acts, he unleashed Lily on to the unsuspecting public for the first time in 1985.
He used his mother's maiden name of Savage and counterbalanced that with the softer Lily. He based Lily's character on someone he'd seen in a Sheffield market although some of her traits are drawn from various family members, in particular his mother and his aunts, Chrissie and Annie, whose antics were chaotic and memorable.
Paul's acting career began as an extra on Coronation Street and in the film In The Name Of The Father. For his early appearances he again adopted his mother's maiden name and was credited as Paul Savage.
His TV breakthrough came from Lily's appearances on 'Live From The Lilydrome' in 1995 and the 'Big Breakfast'. Lily's cult following now became mainstream and her massive appeal ensured further television work in series like 'The Lily Savage Show' and 'Blankety Blank' as well as lucrative advertisements.
Paul quit the bright lights of London for the rural tranquillity of Kent where he was able to surround himself with his much loved animals including showbiz dog, Buster. Buster was left on a motorway when he was four weeks old and brought into the 'Big Breakfast' studio. Paul adopted him and nursed him constantly until he was fully recovered. The pair have been inseparable ever since. Other animals residing at Paul's rural estate in Kent include more dogs, goats, chickens and donkeys.
Throughout his career, Paul has been credited with many accolades. Alter ego Lily Savage even managed a third place in the 1995 Pink Paper Readers' Awards for Man Of The Year, behind Michael Barrymore and Peter Tatchell!
Finally, during 2000, Paul ditched his alter ego and appeared on the small screen as himself, to great critical acclaim, with his travelogue, 'Paul O'Grady's Orient'. It proved that the man was a comic genius and didn't need the wig and frock to get the laughs. A follow-up trip to the United States in 2001 produced 'Paul O'Grady's America'.
In April of 2002 came the shocking news that Paul had suffered a heart attack at his London flat after attending a showbiz party. He was rushed to St. Thomas's Hospital where he underwent a life-saving operation. Thankfully, Paul made a remarkably speedy recovery and was astounded at the number of gifts and messages of support he received from the general public.
He was also given a rousing reception by fellow entertainers at his first public appearance since leaving hospital, The British Soap Awards. Paul gave up the cigarettes, changed his diet and exercise regime and within five months was appearing on the West End stage as the Child Catcher in the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. At the end of the year, he appeared at Manchester Opera House reprising his Pantomime role starring as The Wicked Queen for the third time.
Early in 2003 Paul took part in Celebrity Driving School, a series of television programmes, in aid of Comic Relief, following six celebrities learning to drive. None of those taking part were successful during filming but Paul did eventually pass his test.