Paul O’Grady – The Devil Rides Out: An Autobiography

25 Dec

I’m not a fan of Paul O’ Grady but I am familiar with his female creation Lily Savage. a drag act inspired by his working class roots. I’d read his highly praised autobiography “At My Mother’s knees and other low joints” out of sheer curiosity and at the time, I was not impressed. I decided to follow it up with this second instalment, my expectation was  that it would prove to be more eventful and provide a strong sense of what motivated Paul to enter showbiz.

Instead, what I read was the story of a young man, coming to terms with his sexuality/sexual orientation, managing to father a child at the age of 18 with a young woman whom he did not even love and anecdotes about his experiences of moving from one menial and despised  job to another, in the hope of earning enough money to go out clubbing or drinking in the many gay bars of London.  There were elements of his story that I could relate to. For example, accepting himself as a gay young man, and falling by default into a caring profession.  But, apart from that, it left me feeling that Paul, for all intents and purposes, came across as a bit of a social parasite. I know it sounds harsh but despite his poverty stricken working class background, he managed somehow to socialise with more wealthy and affluent individuls, many unnecessary details were spent on  describing luxurious homes, hotels, flats and bars with so-called “friends” whom he never saw again after some time for irrelevant reasons and conversations which I thought, quite trivial.

This autobiography made me think that Paul was just another “Scene Queen” who managed to cobble together a drag act without any professional training or acting background and happened to have been, to use a cliche, “in the right place, at the right time”.  What does puzzle me, however, is that it appears convenient that Paul, like his fellow comrades Peter Kay and Alan Carr, are not able to recall the “life-changing” Act or performance which changes their destiny or course of action, which I would consider an important element of their story, yet are able to remember more mundane issues or incidents that don’t seem to hold any bearing on their lives at all.

A simple, easy to read autobiography which touches on gay culture in the 70’s and 80’s but does not offer anything new or unusual. This book never really answers any questions and just appears to be random recollections of life events in order to try and make yet another celebrity seem more appealing or interesting than what they really are.

Maybe I am biased but I would say this is an unimpressive account of Pauls’ young adulthood and is definitely a book just for the fans.

The Learned Kat

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