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All Manuel and good for Sachs; Until a few years ago, Andrew Sachs was simply Manuel to many, the charmingly hapless Spanish waiter from Seventies sitcom Fawlty Towers. More recently, he was the man at the centre of voicemail scandal 'Sachsgate' but, he tells KEELEY BOLGER , he is now putting all that behind him.


UNTIL his late 70s, Andrew Sachs was often stopped and asked about his role as Fawlty Towers' Spanish waiter, Manuel. Despite the fact the series finished in 1979, it remained a firm favourite, often being repeated on TV.

Touring around UK theatres reading poetry in the early Noughties, Sachs would usually be prompted to drop in 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."

More recently, his fictional alter ego has been somewhat overshadowed by other events - the unfortunate, and cruelly-named, 'Sachsgate'. The 2008 scandal saw presenter Jonathan Ross and comic Russell Brand upset Sachs' happy home life by leaving him a series of "cursing, jeering" prank voicemails, alleging that the actor's granddaughter had been in a sexual relationship with Brand.

The public were outraged by the messages, Brand and Ross were heavily criticised (Brand eventually resigned from his BBC slot, Ross was briefly suspended and the Beeb was fined by Ofcom) and, six years on, Sachs and his family are still distressed by the "hurtful mayhem".

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.

A private man, part of him wanted to keep as much distance as possible from the scandal, but he says: "I can't ignore the whole subject, sadly it wouldn't go away if I tried."

At the time of the fallout, his beloved wife 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. They have three children. "She looked at (the) television and saw me standing outside our house talking to journalists."

Such things were hard for the "happy family" to bear.

"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."

Manuel Booth, and in Fawlty " Melody was furious about the intrusion on her family.

"She is still very angry with them (Ross and Brand), quite understandably, really. But anyway, life is good."

In writing his autobiography, he wants very much to put the "mayhem" behind him and focus on his and Melody's future.

Sachs had a happy, if tumultuous, childhood. Born Andreas Siegfried Sachs in 1930, he spent the first eight years of his life in Berlin, with his Jewish father Hans, Catholic mother Katharina, older brother Tom and "even older" sister Barbara.

But the joyful atmosphere at home wasn't matched outside their four walls. With the Nazis coming into greater power, the family knew staying in Germany would be dangerous.

"We kids were half Aryan and half Jewish, so we couldn't really be known as Jews," remembers Sachs. "We were not welcome in Nazi Germany when Hitler came to power. My father was very much affected and in fact, was arrested."

Fortunately Katharina, a "tough woman" who "hated Hitler", rallied the family's friends, among them a high ranking police officer who talked his colleagues into releasing his old associate.

After three months living in London without his family, Hans, was reunited with his wife and children. A friend who had recently moved from Germany helped him find work; he was an insurance broker by trade.

It could be a rather depressing tale to recount, but Sachs has much gratitude for how life panned out.

"I have, in many ways, had a lucky life," he reflects. "But I've had to work at it to get it going, plodding along and doing it and doing it, as well as I can. Sometimes that works and sometimes it works better than other times. Anyway, life is good."

I Know Nothing: The Autobiography by Andrew Sachs is published in hardback by Robson Press, priced PS20. Available now


Andrew and wife Melody on their wedding day

Andrew as Manuel with Connie Booth, John Cleese and Prunella Scales in Fawlty Towers

Andrew Sachs and inset, his memoir, I Know Nothing
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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