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

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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

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