Paddy McGuinness and Gaby Roslin have paid tribute to “clever and supportive” Paul O’Grady who has died at the age of 67.
The TV and radio presenter died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening, a statement shared with the PA news agency via a representative said.
O’Grady, who hosted The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, was also known for his drag queen persona, Lily Savage.
Former Big Breakfast presenter Roslin, who occasionally sat in for the presenter on his BBC Radio 2 Paul O’Grady show, wrote that his death is “unbelievably sad news” and said the presenter was a “one-off” as she posted a picture on Instagram of the star with his dog.
She added: “Goodness me we laughed together so much. Our chats lasted for hours and he’ll be up there now nattering away and keeping everyone laughing.
“This lovely photo of him and (dog) Buster makes me smile and I know he’ll want us all to smile when we think of him and celebrate his life.
“My love and deepest sympathies to Andre and to Sharon and the family. He was brave and clever and naughty and a dear friend. Sleep tight Savage darling I adored you.”
O’Grady presented his final BBC radio show in August 2022, having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.
In a statement, Lorna Clarke, director of music at the BBC said the corporation was “shocked and saddened” by O’Grady’s death.
She added: “He was a much-loved presenter to the Radio 2 audience, and his unique sense of humour, charm and warmth touched the hearts of many.
“Paul will be hugely missed and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time.”
McGuiness wrote on Twitter that O’Grady, for whom he stood in on his chat show more than 15 years ago, “was always supportive, kind and just great to be around”.
The Top Gear and Take Me Out presenter added: “Paul started in the pubs and working men’s clubs but finished as an icon of British TV. I’ll miss him very much. Rest in peace Paul.”
On Twitter, former BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce wrote: “Such shocking sad news about Paul O’Grady. A unique and brilliant broadcaster who brightened the nation.”
Drag queen Danny Beard told BBC Breakfast O’Grady was “the most important person in British culture for drag”.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who does the job that I do that doesn’t class Paul as an icon,” the winner of the fourth series of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK added.
“Paul was a trailblazer, they were on telly just after the Aids crisis.
“They’ve been the most important person, I think, in British culture for drag, for the queer community.
“This is a really sad loss today… there’s a massive hole missing now.”
TV presenter Carol Vorderman, best known for being on Countdown, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that O’Grady “exploded through the daft, made-up rules of society”.
She added: “When you were with Paul, and even when you watched him on screen … he was one of those people who just made your blood feel like you were alive.
“There was every part of you that was alive, and you never knew what was going to happen.”
In a statement, Phil Riley, co-founder of Boom Radio, said: “The response to his last show on Christmas Day on (our station) was enormous- listeners felt that he had popped around to their house over lunch. That was his gift.”
O’Grady had been set to host another one-off show on Boom Radio on Easter Sunday.