Manuel was the celebrity, not me
Andrew Sachs is better known as Manuel, the hapless Spanish waiter from the classic Seventies BBC sitcom Fawlty Towers. Then came the infamous Sachsgate. But now as he releases his autobiography he tells Keeley Bolger he’s finally looking forward, not bac
By his late seventies, Andrew Sachs was used to people stopping him in the street or at parties to ask about his role as Fawlty Towers’ confused Spanish waiter, Manuel.
Unbelievably, Fawlty Towers, now considered one of the funniest British comedies in history, finished in 1979 after just 12 episodes. But the sitcom remains a firm favourite and is still shown on TV all over the world today from the US to Germany. The UAE even saw Faulty Towers: The Dining
Experience come to its shores not too long ago, paying homage to the TV series and its famed characters with dinner served by Manuel (albeit it not Sachs) himself.
Touring around UK theatres reading poetry in the early Noughties, Sachs would be prompted to share a few anecdotes from his time on the classic John Cleese comedy. It was a fairly standard request, he notes.
“Though I sometimes minded that Andrew Sachs seemed to have become Manuel, I am pleased to have
been part of television history,” says the 83-year-old actor. Not that he’s griping, mind. “It was Manuel who was the celebrity, not me, and I have John [Cleese] to thank for offering me the role – it certainly changed my life.”
Nowadays, you get the impression Sachs would love nothing more than to be asked about being pummelled by his outraged boss, hotelier Basil Fawlty or whether repeatedly saying, “Que? Que?” irritated him.
But, more recently, his fictional alter ego has been somewhat overshadowed by other events, in particular the unfortunate, and cruelly named, Sachsgate.
The October 2008 scandal saw UK TV and radio presenter Jonathan Ross and comic and actor Russell Brand upset Sachs’ happy home life by leaving him a series of “cursing, jeering” prank voicemails about Brand’s short-lived relationship with Sachs’ granddaughter that were subsequently broadcast on air.
The world was outraged, Brand and Ross were heavily criticised (Brand resigned from his BBC slot, Ross was briefly suspended and the BBC was fined by British independent regulator Ofcom) and, six years on, Sachs and his family still find the “hurtful mayhem” distressing. “I can’t ignore the whole subject,” Andrew says. “Sadly it wouldn’t go away if I tried.”
In an attempt to lay his demons to rest, Sachs has written his autobiography, I Know Nothing. But dragging up the whole affair was “no fun” for the grandfather-of-four and he says part of him wanted to keep as much distance as possible from the scandal.
“It was a horrible time but my interest was in my wife,” says Sachs. “I couldn’t care less about them. I was thinking about my wife and looking after her.” At the time of the fallout, his beloved Melody was in hospital. “My wife was having a hip replacement operation, and so she saw visions of me when she came out of the anaesthetic,” recalls the actor, who has been married to Melody since 1960. “She looked at [the] television and saw me standing outside our house talking to journalists.” Melody was furious about the intrusion on her family.
“My wife got very angry about it all,” adds Sachs. “I didn’t like it and I stood up for my wife but she was much angrier with the two boys, Russell Brand and the other one, than me. She is still very angry with them, quite understandably, really. But anyway, now life is good.”
In writing his autobiography, Sachs wants very much to put the
Having just released his autobiography, Sachs says life has been good to him, but he’s had to work at it
Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross were heavily criticised for Sachsgate
Sachs is best known for his role as Fawlty Towers waiter Manuel
Sachs’ autobiography was a cathartic way of dealing with the Sachsgate scandal