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Paul O'Grady Autobiography #3

Still Standing: The Savage Years

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Lilian Maeve Veronica Savage, international sex kitten, was born on the steps of The Legs of Man public house, Lime Street, Liverpool on a policeman’s overcoat. Her mother, the lady wrestler Hell Cat Savage, had no such luxuries as gas and air. She just bit down on the policeman’s torch and recovered afterwards at the bar with a large pale ale…

Paul O'Grady shot to fame via his brilliant comic creation, the blonde bombsite Lily Savage. In the first two parts of his bestselling and critically acclaimed autobiography, Paul took us through his childhood in Birkenhead to his first, teetering steps on stage. Now, in Still Standing, for the first time, he brings us the no-holds-barred true story of Lily and the rocky road to stardom…

Paul pulls no punches in this tale of bar room brawls, drunken escapades and liaisons dangereuses. And that’s just backstage at the Panto… Along the way, we stop off at some extremely dodgy pubs and clubs, and meet a collection of exotic characters who made the world a louder, brighter and more hilarious place. From the chaos of the Toxteth riots and the Vauxhall Tavern police raid, to the mystery of who shot Skippy and the great chip pan fire of Victoria Mansions, Paul emerges shaken but not stirred.

Still Standing will make you laugh and make you cry. Some of the stories might even make your hair curl. But it stands as a glorious tribute to absent friends and to a world which has now all but vanished.

432 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 11, 2012

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About the author

Paul O'Grady

17 books103 followers
Paul James Michael O'Grady MBE (born 14 June 1955) is an English comedian, television presenter, actor, writer and radio DJ. He is best known for presenting the daytime chat television series, The Paul O'Grady Show and, more recently, Paul O'Grady Live, as well as his drag queen comedic alter ego, Lily Savage, as whom he performed in various television series including Blankety Blank (1997–1999) and Lily Live! (2000–2001). He also appeared in the comedy sitcom Eyes Down (2003–2004) and presented several travel documentaries.

Born to a working class Irish migrant family in Birkenhead, O'Grady went through various jobs in his youth, including working in various bars, for the civil service and for social services, moving around the country to do so. It was whilst living in London in 1978 that he first turned his hand to drag, developing the character of Lily Savage based upon various female relatives of his.

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5 stars
751 (54%)
4 stars
406 (29%)
3 stars
182 (13%)
2 stars
36 (2%)
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14 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 85 reviews
Profile Image for Gary.
2,548 reviews354 followers
June 11, 2020
This is the second biography by Paul O'Grady I have read and he really does know how to tell a story. This is another entertaining read that will bring a smile to your face as he relates the Lily Savage years. Told in his unique, humorous and endearing style this is a very funny read but tinged with a few moving stories along the way.

When a book opens with a story about a naked dwarf tugging on someone's quilt moaning that they can't get into the toilet because a drunk Snow White has passed out behind the door you know what sort of book you are going to read. The humorous stories keep coming and it is easy to imagine Paul O'Grady telling them in his own genuine way.

A heart warming collection of anecdotes from a man who knows how to tell a story.
Profile Image for Adrian.
8 reviews1 follower
October 1, 2013
I have just finished reading Paul O'Grady's 3rd instalment of his autobiography which has left me with mixed feelings.

I really enjoyed the stories of performing around the UK in various different acts and groups. The tales are set before Lilly found her legs and won the admiration and affection of the Gay scene and the public through his TV shows. I loved the tales of interactions, the put down lines and the description of the dives played. It guaranteed a few looks on the tube because of the smile on my face, or when I laughed out loud. I loved the path of becoming Lilly, finding the courage to go from a mime act to a live act we came to know.

The book details the devastation that was AIDS & HIV during the 1980's. Detailing the heart break of losing friends, the attitude adopted through fear, ignorance and hatred that surrounded this disease. It demonstrated the courage of the Gay community during this time and the courage of the drag acts like Lilly Savage, Adrella and Regina Thong. Through their charity work, they raised awareness, raised money and entertained and try to keep up the spirits of the community at large.

The part of the book that left me with mixed feelings or slightly deflated, was towards the end of the book. You jumped from the 1980's to the present day and recounting trips to China & Tibet, stage show and writing screen plays. I know there is a lot of history in Paul's life but I would of preferred to know about his first big break into TV, the transition from Drag star to one of our popular TV personalities. It ruined the flow of this section of the book and even lost some of it's charm in the telling of a story.

Overall I enjoyed the book, it is not as funny as the first book but is better than the second book.
Profile Image for Amanda .
90 reviews
April 13, 2013
I have read the previous offerings from Paul and I think he was right to split his life up like this and be able to tell more stories.

The first two made me laugh out loud but this one didn't. It was excellent though. Of course he has struggled and this book does tell of some of the struggles and his indecision whether to carry on with Lily when things got tough. I have read some reviews and some people felt that it wasn't cheery and as funny as his previous book containing a lot of deaths. Well, he's a gay man in his 50s, his mother passed away and he's lost lots of friends due to AIDS, so I was not surprised and I do believe it has made a lot of people think back to those times and I do remember all the rubbish that was going on at the time.

There were comments that they found it odd that he left the book at his Mum's death but I think its timely because it was after then that he began his TV work starting with The Bill and to go through everything I think we would have been here forever. I do like where he has added a little about 2012 and I am sure we will hear more from Paul. If I had my wish I would like to see Paul write a book containing some stories about him travelling the country as Lily Savage when he was making a real name for himself. That would be hilarious!!

If you want to read this book, go ahead but read the two previous ones first.
Profile Image for Lisa.
337 reviews3 followers
November 5, 2012
Another great book from Paul O'Grady. Frank & honest, you can almost hear him saying it.
Profile Image for Aoife Lennon.
49 reviews46 followers
May 24, 2015
I love Paul, he's so acid with his humour. This book is just as good as his two previous ones. Brilliant - could not put it down! Paul is the best!
Profile Image for Alex.
1 review7 followers
March 22, 2014
Funny and well written, which is a rare thing in a autobiography. Captures London in a time gone by. And who doesn't like a bit of drag?
Profile Image for Tracey.
182 reviews98 followers
June 12, 2018
Another brilliant read. Very sad in places but a good read
Profile Image for Mike Clarke.
399 reviews8 followers
February 11, 2013
Paul O'Grady's third volume of autobiography is tinged with a kind of autumn sadness as so many of the astonishing characters it features are no longer with us. At the same time it's just as sharp, witty and packed with anecdote as either of the previous parts. What sets O'Grady apart from run of the mill ghosted celebrity twaddle is the he's genuinely more interested in other people than himself. So while there's a fine sprinkling of famous pals - Cilla, Beryl, Biggins et al - the stories about ordinary people, his Mum, Auntie Anne, Vera Lalley, Chrissie, Murphy and of course Our Vera, are every bit as observantly funny. It's also a huge nostalgia trip if you're an 80s queen like me, and some of the people and places I knew as well as Paul did. Remembering Rose Marie, a genuine case of so-bad-she's-good amateur drag from halcyon days of the Vauxhall Tavern, an unprepossessing little Irish guy with buck teeth, who was brutally beaten to death on the one occasion he 'got lucky' down the bars, brought a lump to my throat. And just over the page I was roaring at an account of Black Cap doyenne Regina Fong's misadventures with a stolen bicycle in Amsterdam resulting in a rescue by a rubber fetishist who did unspeakable things to the fabled Last of the Romanovs on a houseboat.

It's a lost world which O'Grady recalls with warmth and gusto, and even if you only read this to find out about how his behemoth Lily Savage came into the world, you'll get drawn into a bit of living history. For the drag queens, as O'Grady opines, are the much-maligned bit of the gay entertainment world (despite their huge popularity in our pubs and clubs, the timid London Pride didn't allow them on its main stage till 1990, out of rigid and self-defeating political correctness, and then only Lily owing to her 'post-modern' tag). Yet during a particularly dark and threatening period of our history Adrella, Regina, Hush, the Trollettes and most of all Lilian Maeve Veronica Savage kept us going like a wartime ENSA all of their own, making us laugh whilst simultaneously railing against the police, authorities, religious types and Thatcher, who wanted to beat and cow us into submission and silence.

There should be no sign of this juggernaut stopping - despite the author's protestations that 'three is enough' he really only scratches the surface of life in the big time in this volume, and gives tantalising hints of things that happened after - and we need to know about Robbie Willliams on the Big Breakfast bed, Blankety Blank and what he really thought of Richard and Judy's wine club. As Private Eye said of an earlier O'Grady memoir, 'you start to wonder why all celebrity autobiographies can't be like this.' Well they could start by trying to write them themselves, Jordan, Katona and Rooney please note.
Profile Image for Becky.
673 reviews
December 21, 2012
I have long been a fan of Paul O'Grady and have read his previous two books (At My Mother's Knee & The Devil Rides Out). He always makes me laugh and I love his open honesty. He's not afraid to say what he thinks and I admire that.
This book starts in the years just before Lily Savage came about, Paul spends his time doing drag acts in seedy pubs and clubs with his friends, this book is packed with reminiscent tales of their adventures, successes and failures. With a host of characters that would fit in well with any soap opera you'll be laughing and crying throughout this book.
Written with all of O'Grady's charm and wit this book reads just as if he was talking to you, and offers an in depth look into his world and how he got to where he is today.
This book covers a lot of years of Paul's life however I was a bit disappointed that it didn't cover the years that he did Blankety Blank on TV as that was when I really got to 'know' Lily Savage when I was growing up.
In some ways this book covers some of Paul's sadder years - he goes through a lot of losses and deaths but somehow still manages to remain his determined self.
I'm not a mass fan of autobiographies - I have to be really interested in the person and I have to say Paul O'Grady's are always a joy to read.
He's said that he has only planned for 3 but I hope he does another one.

This book does contain material that isn't suitable for younger audiences including drugs, sex and a bit of violence.
Profile Image for Chris.
259 reviews
January 12, 2013
Not quiet as laugh out loud as O'Grady's other two tomes but as this is set throughout the 1980s and the gay scene is covered with the spectre that is HIV and Aids, that comes as no surprise. There some funny tales but there are quite a few different people dying. It is very sad and poignant when Paul visits Birkenhead when his mum dies and when he eventually has to clear the house out and move back to London. Well worth the read to find out how Lily Savage came about and the various coincidences or bits of luck and sheer hard graft that made him who he is today.

He comes across as an honest, humble workaholic who takes no prisoners and does not suffer fools gladly. I think he would be a fierce and loyal friend and you can't help wanting him to retell a few of the stories that were obviously missed out from the end of the 1980s to the present time and the tale of the theatre version of Corrie that couldn't be told yet for legal reasons.
Profile Image for Heather.
81 reviews8 followers
January 28, 2014
This man is the most talented person every. I have now read all 3 of his books and they are amazing. This one does have a lot of sad moments but so well written.
June 5, 2022
Main story is great but needs editing and tightening up

Really enjoyed this. O’Grady can reel off so many interesting anecdotes, so the main story is a page turner. But it needs cutting down: the introduction is far too long and the last chapter is tacked on. The editor should have got O’Grady to focus on the main story which is of him going from doing mime acts in pubs, to developing Lily, to becoming a live act, to compèring at the Vauxhall, and then finally ending with Lily becoming nationally famous.

The anecdotes and reflections about society and politics around this narrative are great but cutting the introduction and the last chapter, ending the central narrative effectively, and tightening up throughout would really improve this. It would be better if it was tighter, and cut by 100-150 pages.

Honestly it deserves three stars, because of the messy structure described above, but the stories and O’Grady’s strong voice throughout make it a four star book for me. It's still good in spite of the problems, because O'Grady is naturally witty, has led an interesting life, and has an interesting point of view on things. A good read that could have been perfect with better editing.
Profile Image for Laura.
170 reviews38 followers
April 20, 2015
[Same ISBN but with 412 pages as opposed to Goodreads' 352]

The final installment of Paul O'Grady's autobiographical trilogy, Still Standing is predominately about the 80s with some of the 2010s thrown in. Yes it misses the 90s and will probably be a disappointment to those looking for a star sodden kiss-and-tell account full of name dropping; Paul's life in the 90s is probably best summed up by the wealth of video material and print interviews of the time, with any gaps filled in with Paul O'grady: The Biography if you're that keen.

For the most part this book covers Paul/Lily's early career doing the rounds in pubs, clubs, and dives around the country - of which takes up about half - before showing signs of making a success of it. It does get a little repetitive with the amount of venues described but for one this should be expected as every fame story starts from persisting routine, and for the other as always Paul's stories are about the people and what characters they are! Along with the colourful host of drag acts (both good and dire), there are drunken Danes, police raids, a few famous names, and one theatrical queen who could probably rival Liberace when it comes to dramatics.
Yet at the same time it's also incredibly candid about life in the 80s, both as a member of the gay community and someone on the bottom rung of the paypacket ladder. Paul's writing is wonderfully lyrical and speaks clearly with his own voice - not hidden behind ghostwriter or word processor hyperbole - making accounts of events, such partying through the Toxteth riots or a disastrous holiday in Lefkas, highly evocative and humorous. Of course this is equally as heartbreaking once AIDS rears its ugly head, as it is bound to in any work - true or fictional - that deals with the gay community in the 80s.

As someone in their 20s I did sometimes have to stop to look up a couple of things, mainly bygone celebrities or products long since abandoned from Tesco's shelves, but this made reading no less enjoyable. Not that I can really complain since a) Paul is in his 50s, and b) since his chat show his target audience is largely middle-aged women. If anything it only added to the feeling that I was less reading a book and instead a transcript of a nostalgic yarn from an aunt or grandparent, the like usually delivered after Christmas dinner once they've had one Sherry too many.

All in all, a fine way to round off the set - not that I imagine you'd be reading if if you haven't worked through the first two, which I highly recommend.
180 reviews23 followers
May 28, 2013
I thought this book was an excellent read and I totally enjoyed it from start to finish.

‘Still Standing’ is the third (and as he says final) in the trilogy of autobiographies written by Paul O’Grady and this one charts his life from the birth of Lily Savage (his drag comedy alter ego) and tracks his career as he (she) tours Britain and parts of Europe non-stop, observing all aspects of life as he (she) goes.

The beauty for me in this book is the way that O’Grady delivers a turn of phrase. I have always found him to be an extremely intelligent, honest and witty bloke and this attitude shines through a style of writing that is vibrantly honest and enlightening. He always makes intelligent reference points when explaining his emotions and this technique is totally golden for me. He continues to come across as such a natural storyteller and a fellow observer of life again here.

The backdrop of this book is also interesting as much at it is sad. O’Grady as Savage started out his career in a range of gay bars and he talks openly about how the AIDS virus all but decimated much of his audience and friendship group. He also makes many references to Liverpool, Birkenhead and touring around the North of England. I loved his account of the Toxteth riots and it only illustrated for me how much he injects humour into everything, even compromising and potentially dodgy situations – I suppose this is what helped to give Lily her ‘edge’ and style.

The one minus point of the book lies with its chronology and organisation and, like other Goodreaders, I found it a little bit perplexing to know that most of Lily’s ‘golden years’ of fame are not included in the book as the main narrative stops just before Lily found her mainstream TV glory. I find this a particular shame as her rise to the top as a drag act in mainstream comedy was quite ground-breaking in the UK. What a pity that some of her exploits have not been charted here (I’m sure there must have been many) – or is this indeed another book (hope so)?

Whatever the case, I loved this read and enjoyed all of the tales from start to finish. I indeed hope that O’Grady does write another autobiography because his writing is beautiful and I sure there is still more life in the old dog yet!

An absolute treasure to read. Highly, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Diane.
555 reviews8 followers
May 29, 2015
Not bad. Chronicles Paul O'Grady's years touring the clubs and pubs across Britian and in Europe in drag, the early years of his character Lily Savage who didn't really become famous until after the end of this book. Kind of disappointed that we didn't the the story of "Lily" hitting the big time. It ended just as Mr. O'Grady was starting to get acting jobs in television and subsequent to that, Lily as a phenomenon took off apparently. This is the story of his years as a struggling performer, the people he knew and the "adventures" he had. Good portrayal of behind the scenes on the circuit, though.
Profile Image for Donald.
1,106 reviews9 followers
February 25, 2013
Another great instalment from Paul O'Grady. However I have to agree with the other reviews, this isn't 'The Savage Years', it's more like, 'Rise of The Savage'.
He does apologise in the intro for stretching his 'memoirs' into three volumes already, but there's obviously another few instalments to come.
I don't mind this at all, even as you read, you can sense there's so much more being left out. At least there is genuine storytelling here, not some scant ghost written facts stretched out to a book.
Profile Image for Porl Yates.
12 reviews1 follower
January 11, 2013
Enjoyed it and flew through it in no time. Quite disappointed that just as Paul (Lily) was gaining notoriety and success it jumped forward to 2012 and the Battersea Dogs Home programme.
What about the early appearances on This Morning...? Blankety Blank? The Big Breakfast? The Lily Savage Show and the Bingo sitcom Eyes Down???? All missing and from the final chapter it does not look as if Paul has saved it for, or will indeed be writing another book.
I liked it but of the three "At My Mother's Knee And Other Low Joints"(the first book)was the best.
Profile Image for Charlotte Wills.
12 reviews
August 7, 2013
I love Paul O'Grady and love reading his books. This book is funny and sad yet Paul comes across in his unique, down the earth and straight to the point personality which I find refreshing in this day and age. He talks openly about his troubles and strain of giving birth to the blond bombsite that is the unforgettable Lily Savage and the struggles of living in London during the HIV and anti-gag riots as well as personal tragedy. He will make you laugh, cry and nod your head in agreement. One of the bet autobiographies out there.
Profile Image for Colin.
1,021 reviews16 followers
April 16, 2013
I don't usually read autobiographies, but I have enjoyed all Paul O'Grady's autobiography volumes. Because I am in a caring profession, I really admire him for all the caring jobs he did before he hit the big time. He is authentically caring and loving to all his friends and family. You laugh and cry reading his books. I do agree with some of the other reviewers, that he left a big gap still between late 80s and now. I think he will write another one or two volumes. I don't mind. I can't get enough of him.
115 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2013
This is the third and last(apparently) in his series and unfortunately my least favourite. Now that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, I did but I felt it had lost the heart that was in the other books. Perhaps that is due to the rushed ending, the sudden jump in years seemed odd and left me wanting to know what had happened during that period especially as the previous books contained microscopic detail which really painted a gorgeous picture in the readers mind. Go on Mister O'Grady you know you have another book in you
203 reviews2 followers
December 18, 2013
I love Paul. Not quite sure why, he can be a bit over sentimental, but he wears nice suits and has some cracking pets. But seriously, this is the third and last instalment of his auto bio. The first two were cracking reads. The last one was less engaging. It concentrates on Lily S and I am not actually that interested in drag acts. The ending felt completely rushed. It kind of just stopped dead. There is no mention of life after Lily and as there aren't going to be anymore that is a bit odd. You can hear Paul in every sentence though, which is what you want from an auto bio.
Profile Image for Carol.
14 reviews
November 22, 2012
I really enjoyed this book, however I am disappointed that Paul O'Grady chose to end the story at his Mothers death and not explain how he came to get Lily Savage on the television and to be on the Big Breakfast show and the other television shows he made.
He brought us up to date while managing to miss this important part of his life out altogether thats why it only rates a 4 star and not a 5.
Profile Image for Lisa Bennett.
226 reviews3 followers
May 11, 2013
I feel totally cheated by this book. Its about his struggle to become the tv personality and his climb to get to that point. Then if ends it and jumps to 2012 missing out over a decade of book and proclaiming that basically that's it as it was only meant to be a 3 book deal. This means that unless he writes a 4th book , Im not gonna get to read the story i wanna read which was the purpose of buying the book in the first place. I feel ripped off!
Profile Image for Carla Monsoon.
20 reviews2 followers
January 6, 2013
I am sincerely hoping that Paul writes more books they are highly amusing, thought provoking and make you laugh out loud many times throughout.
This final part of the 3 (so far!!) was just as funy, poignant and truthful as his previous 2, read them quickly as found very hard to put down.
Please make sure you write more Paul, your books are eagerly awaited!
Profile Image for Kate.
117 reviews
January 31, 2013
I'm a fan of Paul's and was keen to read his third offering, which I zipped through quickly. However, I was disappointed that he missed Lily's rise through TV fame out completely. The by-line on the front of the book tells us this is "The Savage Years". By stopping Lily's story where it did, the book failed to deliver as promised. Having said that, it's still a good read, which fans will enjoy.
Profile Image for Caroline.
614 reviews10 followers
January 20, 2015
This final instalment of Paul O Grday's autobiography is perhaps the most poignant. It is the '80s and AIDS rears it's ugly head. Paul, now working as a drag artist has seen many friends struck down by the disease, and a rise in homophobia.
In the midst of all this a star is born....Lily Savage.
I laughed, I cried, I loved this book.
81 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2016
I never tire of Paul o'Grady's writing. One can hear his voice in every syllable and as with the first two volumes, many laugh-out-loud moments. There is much sadness is this book, since it covers the AIDS era and the death of Paul's beloved mother, but as with everything he does, it left me loving him more. The world is a better place because Lily's creator is in it.
Profile Image for Kayleigh.
2 reviews
October 22, 2012
Paul O'Grady's personality and amazing sense of humour really shine through just like his previous books! The way he portrays the characters he has known throughout his life makes you wish that you knew them as well! Impressed once more!
Profile Image for Gina.
48 reviews1 follower
December 10, 2012
It was well written just like he would be sitting with you and telling him his story, it is sad but humourous in places, well worth the read. It is the last in the trilogy and I've enjoyed all of them.
If you like Paul O' Grady read his books, I can highly recommend them.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 85 reviews

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