One of Britain’s most well-known drag queens and presenters, Paul O’Grady, has opened up about the reality of life on the gay scene during the height of the Aids crisis, for the second episode of Attitude’s landmark podcast series ‘Attitude Heroes’.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, we’re interviewing 12 of our all-time heroes who’ve changed the face of LGBT life for people in Britain and around the globe.
In his most revealing and intimate interview ever, Paul talks about exploring his sexuality on the gay scene in 1970s Liverpool, his experience of the Aids epidemic of the 1980s, and the anger that continues to drive him today.
Recalling life and loss as the dark spectre of Aids hung over the gay scene, he says: “It horrified me, especially with close friends because they had what was called ‘the look’, that’s how it was termed then, with big eyes and teeth that started to get bigger, and you’d know.”
He continues: “And the bravery of these men, who’d try and make light of it, and then they’d crack a little bit… And a week later they’d be in hospital and a week later they’d be dead. It was that quick in the early days.”
Discussing the generational difference when it comes to HIV and the fear – or lack thereof – surrounding the virus, 61-year-old doesn’t hold back.
“When you hear about these poz parties… it makes me really angry,” he says. “Because what we fought for is being thrown back in our faces.
“I’d slap them round the gob if I was there, no problem. I’d get hold of them round the throat and slap them right round the mouth.
“I’d say, ‘You’re pissing on the graves of all my friends with that attitude’.”