Drag queen Danny La Rue died last night aged 81.

The entertainer was best known for his impersonations of female celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Margaret Thatcher.

He had lived for many years with his partner and manager, Jack Hanson, until Hanson died from a stroke in 1974.

The star had been suffering from cancer and died at his home after a short illness.

His spokeswoman said: “Danny died peacefully in his sleep just before midnight last night after a short illness.

“His beloved companion Annie Galbraith was with him at their home in Kent.”

Born Daniel Patrick Carrol in Ireland in 1927, the man who would create one of the most famous drag acts of all time started his career in the Royal Navy Entertainments Group, moving into Variety after the war, changing his name to the more exotic-sounding La Rue, which means ‘the street’ in French.

La Rue put his early success down to good genes: “I was lucky that when I was very young I was incredibly attractive – and that’s not vanity talking – I was very slim and I had long jet black hair.”

His female impersonation act hit the big time when, “A man from the paper came to see the show I was in and he asked his companion, ‘Who is that beautiful woman working with all those muscular men?’ and his friend said, ‘That’s not a woman!’”

La Rue became the first female impersonator to star in a musical when he opened in “Hello Dolly!” in 1964. He bought his own nightclub, with regulars including Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dame Elizabeth Taylor.