TV star Paul O'Grady has confessed that he once swallowed a stash of cannabis and washed it down with a can of Coke to avoid what could have been a lengthy jail term. The comedian, 60, took the desperate measure in 1992 when he believed he was going to be arrested in Bangkok airport if he had been caught with the drug at customs.
O'Grady, who rose to fame as drag queen Lily Savage after working as a barman in a London gay bar, makes the revelation in his new book, Open the Cage, Murphy, extracts of which have been published in The Mirror.
Recalling the moment he made the unpremeditated move, he explained that he was spurred into action after his late partner Brendan Murphy revealed he was in possession of the drug, as they prepared to board a flight. Taking into consideration Thailand's strict anti-drug laws, he knew he had no choice.
"I groaned, the film Midnight Express instantly springing to mind – complete with a vision of Murphy and me sharing a rat-infested cell with John Hurt," he wrote. "'You bloody fool,' I said, as I saw to my horror two armed guards walking towards us. There was no sign of a bin and the guards were getting closer.
"There was only one thing for it. Taking it off him I popped it in my mouth and washed it down with the can of Coke I was holding."
The much-loved comic and TV presenter then said that he flew on to Australia "blissfully out of my mind", describing the feeling as "euphoric".
Elsewhere in the tome, which is the fourth instalment of O'Grady's roller-coaster life story, he reveals that after living a life of alcohol, drugs and one-night stands, he got a wake-up call when he had a heart attack. "I grew up overnight. It really did shake me and I've toed the line ever since.
He said: "My clubbing days are over. That dreadful lifestyle I was leading. Out seven nights a week. Out of me mind, smoking, drinking. When you get told by Mick Jagger that you're a bad influence on the Rolling Stones, it's time to put the brakes on and call it a day.
"Ronnie Wood told me that Mick said I was to keep away from the Stones, because there were three things they were not allowed on tour - drugs, alcohol and me!"
Open the Cage, Murphy – Further Savage Adventures is out now.