TV chat show star Paul O’Grady paid a visit to his home town to launch a new exhibition dedicated to the costumes of his alter ego, Lily Savage, and he spoke exclusively to JMU Journalism about life as Lily.
Since her retirement in 2004, one of the country’s most famous drag acts may have disappeared but her clothes are now taking centre stage. Eleven costumes worn by Lily Savage are now proudly on display for the first time at the Walker Art Gallery and The Museum of Liverpool, as part of the city’s ongoing Homotopia Festival.
Meeting a crowd of excitable fans at the exhibition launch, Paul said: “I’m so delighted and so proud of the exhibition. When I look at the outfits I just see agony, but they are so well made so come and see them. I just can’t believe how fabulous they look on display and that I actually used to fit into them.”
The Birkenhead born TV presenter arrived in Liverpool
by train and joked that it had taken him "two hours’ to walk
over to the art gallery". He said: “I really love being back in
Liverpool, you won’t believe the time it took me to get here
from Lime Street, just gabbing to everyone on the way.”
Talking about why Lily had been so successful and
loved nationwide Paul told JMU Journalism: "I think people
were shocked, Lily had the shock factor.
"A lot of people thought everyone from Liverpool was like
her, but I was just playing up the Scouse humour. I used
to talk a lot about TJ’s and the wireless, and I think the
recognition made people laugh. I reminded people
of their nan’s or aunties.”
He also revealed why Lily loves the city so much and
the reason why she moved away: “I think she loves the
men, but I think she’s disappointed that there are no
sailors around for her.”
The 56 year-old grandfather-of-two, who was looking extremely smart in a pin-stripe suit, attended the launch at the Walker Art Gallery along with his family. His daughter Sharyn said: “I really am proud of the exhibition, I’m delighted to see everything on display.”
The much-loved Scouser now lives on a farm near Ashford, Kent, but revealed that Lily is not the animal lover he is. He told JMU Journalism: “God no, she couldn’t cope, she wears animals or eats them. She did have a whippet called Queenie, and she also had Buster. That’s when me and Lily started to come together as the same person. But you can’t imagine her mucking out can you?”
But will Lily ever come back onto our TV screens? Paul said: “No, forget it. As soon as HD TV came in Lily went out. You won’t be seeing her on your TV screens anytime soon. But she will be doing panto next year in London. I’d love to do panto up here, but the Empire has never offered.”
'Savage Style: Costumes From Lily’s Wardrobe' will run until 19th February.
EXCLUSIVE by Erin McLoughlin & Camilla Cole
More JMU Journalism stories
Paul O'Grady with one of his favourite Lily costumes; Camilla and Erin with Paul; Lily's Leopard frock