EXCLUSIVE Pictured: Paul O’Grady with his Portuguese lesbian barmaid wife who was secretly married to the star for 28 years after they tied the knot in 1976 to stop her being deported
- EXCLUSIVE: Paul O’Grady wed Theresa Fernandes as work permit was expiring
- The late star actually forgot they were married, and only divorced her in 2005
This is the Portuguese lesbian barmaid that Paul O’Grady was secretly married to for 28 years.
Pictured with his arm draped over her shoulder, kind-hearted Paul wed pal Theresa Fernandes when her work permit was due to expire – and she faced having to leave London return home to Portugal.
The pair worked together at north London gay bar The Showcase in the seventies before he found fame as Lily Savage.
Paul said one night Theresa told him about her visa situation and how she was dreading doing back to Portugal where her mother, who was unaware of her sexuality, would have a line of male suitors ready for her.
So he proposed. Their wedding in 1976 in was a low-key affair, but Paul said that they were never in a relationship and described as a ‘marriage of convenience’.
Paul (left) wed pal Theresa Fernandes (far right) when her work permit was due to expire
Late star Paul O’Grady, who died yesterday aged 67, pictured in September 2022
Bizarrely, Paul actually forgot they were married, and only divorced her in 2005 – nearly three decades later.
He said: “I had no idea we were still married until my manager Brendan said, ‘If anything happened to you, everything would go to your wife. It’s like a real-life Corrie storyline.’
Kind-hearted Paul revealed that one of the reasons he wed Theresa was to thank her when she stuck up for him with a particularly rude customer at The Showcase.
The pair were working behind the bar one night when all hell broke loose as a known trouble making lesbian woman – identified only as Jake – walked into the venue.
Pictures form Paul O’Grady’s book ‘The Devil Rides Out’ shows him holding his daughter and his wife and best man on his wedding day
Writing in his book ‘The Devil Rides Out’ Paul described how Jake had walked into the pub and demanded a ‘large dark rum from him – but he ignored her and she then swore at him shouting:’ Are you f***ing deaf ?’
Paul wrote: ‘Reluctantly I stopped what I was doing and slammed a large rum into a glass from the optic. She snatched the drink out of my hand and threw the money in my face.
‘Before I had time to respond Theresa, the Portuguese barmaid stepped in.
‘Get out bitch,’ she growled at a disbelieving Jake. ‘I said get out. Who do you think you are, throwing money in his face? Now leave before I kill you.’
Paul said: ‘Jake, who nobody had ever stood up to before, leaned across the bar and tried to grab her.
‘Touch me and you’re dead,’ Theresa said, calmly meeting Jake’s furious gaze. ‘I’ll cut your throat.’
Paul O’Grady insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ just one week ago
Paul O’Grady insisted he was ‘absolutely fine’ just one week ago and said he was ‘back in business’ after fearing he wouldn’t work again due to a Covid scare.
Asked how he was ‘health-wise’, he said on BBC Radio Scotland last week: ‘Oh, I’ve had everything chucked at me. I’m absolutely fine, touch wood. I’m OK.
‘I think my last disaster was when I caught Covid last year. We were filming in Malta and I only got one day’s filming done. The next thing I was in a hotel room for nine days.
‘But getting over it was the worry. I was a good two months being breathless and tired. To tell you the truth, I thought, ‘I’ll never work again in this state. I can’t.’ But I’m back in business.’
O’Grady also joked about ‘gasping for air’ when performing Easy Street in theatre production Annie, in which he played Miss Hannigan.
He joked: ‘Don’t take the elderly for granted. I’m no chicken. I’m 67, I’m 68 this year, and I’m rocking around with Miss Hannigan doing Easy Street gasping for air.’
Speaking about the role, O’Grady added: ‘The last time I was in Annie was 28 years ago. It’s strange coming back after so long. But Hannigan is such fun. Because you can play her pure evil, but I don’t. I play her for laughs, because she’s either drunk or hungover. Either way she’s mean.’
‘Jake threw her drink over Theresa and in a flash the normally placid Theresa went for her.
‘All hell broke loose, Jake tried to jump over the bar but was grabbed by Bill the bouncer, Peter the manager and a couple of strong-armed women and dragged cursing out of the club.
‘Crazy bitch,’ Theresa said, laughing, wiping her denim shirt down with a dishcloth. ‘But I had to do something before she killed you.’
‘I’d liked the good-natured Theresa from the moment I met her. She was uber-cool and laid back and was a big hit with the women customers, who all fancied her David Cassidy good looks.
‘She was working in a local hotel as a chambermaid by day, supplementing her income behind the bar of the Showplace by night.
‘Originally from Lisbon, Theresa was under tremendous pressure from her devout Catholic family to find herself a husband.
‘Little did we realise as we swigged our Bacardi and cokes that she was soon to become the future Mrs O’Grady…’
Writing of their spring wedding, Paul said: ‘Theresa’s work permit was about to expire and she was dreading having to return to Portugal and face the numerous suitors that her mother, unaware of her daughter’s true sexuality, had lined up as possible husband material.
‘I listened to her words as we sat drinking in the restaurant on Westbourne Grove that we frequented after work because they sold booze after hours, and on a whim I offered to marry her.
‘People assume my motives were venal. They weren’t. I married her simply because I liked her and wanted to help her out of a tricky situation and for so other reason And so we set a date for May.’
Recalling the big day Paul wrote: ‘It was a curious assortment of people who gathered on the steps of the register office on Harrow Road that morning, 27 May.
‘Big Phil, the jovial Irish lesbian, a woman built like a Royal Marine who made Charles Bronson seem rather fey in comparison; Stella, lesbian of the old school in her fifties, always the perfect gentleman in both manner and appearance, neat and dapper n a three-piece suit an tie, her steel-grey hair cropped close to her head and slicked back with brilliantine, giving her the appearance of a wartime spiv.
‘Both these women had a capacity for booze that would make a gang of slappers on a shag-fest in Malaga appear tee-total.
‘Vera, resplendent in a mint-green double bated suit, and Theresa’s latest girlfriend, a beautiful Swede called Inga, acted as witnesses, with Kate and Angela in matching blue dresses and flowers in their hair attended as bridesmaids.
‘The bride wore a white trouser suit whilst the groom was in his old faithful – the cream suit bought with Norman’s birthday money.
‘The star of the show was undoubtedly Lozzy acting in loco parents as the groom’s mother (the real model having been wisely left out of the equation for obvious reasons).’
Paul added:’ At the end of the ceremony, after the immortal words ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’ had been uttered, the registrar turned to me and said ‘C’mon, you know what to do now, don’t you ?’
‘Pay the fee?’ I replied. No, dear, kiss the bride.’
‘To a chorus of wolf whistles and cheers from the congregation I leaned forward and planed a chaste kiss on the cheek of my blushing bride. I was a married man.’
Paul described how he and Theresa drifted apart a few years after the marriage and that apart from bumping into her in a west London pub a few years later he never saw her again.
He said: ‘We were married for twenty-eight years, one of the longest and happiest marriages in showbiz, until I finally got divorced in 2005.’
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