TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady was no stranger to show-stopping pantomimes at Bradford's Alhambra theatre.

The TV star, also known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, was a star in touring musicals across the UK, including Annie and Prisoner Cell Block H at the Alhambra.  

Following the sad news of his death, we're looking back at O'Grady's self-professed love of Bradford - a place he once called home. 

Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus in 1999, Paul O'Grady emerged from his dressing room to speak to our reporter in a loose robe and pink fluffy slippers. 

At the time, he was in the middle of a triumphant, two-week run performing in the musical Annie as Lily. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Paul O'Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs -at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London, in 2004Paul O'Grady performing as Lily Savage, as the Wicked Queen, in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs -at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London, in 2004 (Image: Yui Mok/PA)

"I roared laughing when they asked me to do this show, you know," he said.

"You can't imagine anything more wholesome, can you? It'll be the Sound of Music next.

"We've had an enquiry now about me doing Oliver! next year. I didn't know at first whether they meant Fagin or Nancy. When they said Fagin, I said I'd think about it."

On stage as Lily Savage, he represented the glamour of showbiz. But off-duty, there was nowhere he wanted to be less than the big smoke.

He prefered instead to potter around Saltaire, where he has a flat, and to visit Ilkley to take tea at Betty's.

He also expressed his love for traditional comics like Yorkshire's Johnnie Casson, and his friend and Saltaire neighbour Jayne Tunnicliffe, whose character Mary Unfaithful was a rising star on the 90s comedy circuit.

It was on a previous visit to the Alhambra, with the musical Prisoner Cell Block H, that he slipped out to buy cigarettes and returned having bought a flat in the shadow of Salt's Mill.

"It was just the best thing I ever did. I'm up here now more than I'm in London. It's great. It suits me."

He wasn't a stranger to the district: he'd lived in Slaithwaite and in Leeds years ago, when he was still a social worker.

"People look at you like you're mad when you mention Bradford," he says. "I was at a do recently and Bob Monkhouse mentioned that he had a place in Jamaica. So I said, 'I've got a place in Bradford'. Bit of a conversation stopper, that. But it's a great place, Bradford. So's Leeds.

"When I was 16, all I wanted to do was get out of Birkenhead. So later I went to London and did all the clubs. But as you get older, you think, there's nothing here for me. I don't wanna go discoing every night - I'm too bloody knackered."

O’Grady died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio said on Tuesday evening.

During his career, he hosted The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.

He also hosted ITV celebrity game show, Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up.

Last year he was joined by the Queen Consort in a special one-off episode of For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, an organisation for which he was an ambassador.

O’Grady’s love for animal was well-known, and he had lived in a farmhouse in Kent with Portasio along with a menagerie of animals including four dogs, goats, sheep, chickens and barn owls.

During the coronavirus lockdown, he wrote his debut children’s book, Eddie Albert And The Amazing Animal Gang, which was published in September 2021.

In August of 2022 he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.

O’Grady had been set to return to the airwaves next month to host a one-off Easter Sunday radio show on Boom Radio.