Fawlty Towers

The Following article will be of interest to those of you familiar with the British TV sitcom series – ‘Fawlty Towers’ and is posted here as a timely WARNING… the real life character whom John Cleese so brilliantly portrays … was actually a relative of Graeme’s.


Much Ado at Fawlty Towers

There has been some furore over the release of the BBC TV series Fawlty Towers on DVD. The timing of the wrathfulness by one of the former owners that was the model for Fawlty Towers makes one wonder about the motivation behind it.

Beatrice Sinclair, 87, broke a 30 year silence to defend her late husband, Donald, on whom the character Basil Fawlty was based. She considers John Cleese, the creator of Fawlty Towers, to be “A complete and utter fool.”

Donald and Beatrice Sinclair ran a seaside hotel, The Gleneagles Hotel, in Torquay, when the Monty Python team stayed there in 1970 while filming in nearby Paignton.

Cleese has described Mr Sinclair as “The most wonderfully rude man I have ever met.” He also tells the story about when Sinclair mistook Eric Idle’s suitcase for a bomb and safely disposed of it over a cliff.

“That’s a load of rubbish,” said Mrs Sinclair. “It never happened. There are no cliffs anywhere near the hotel.” The hotel did have a foreign waiter at the time Cleese stayed there, she conceded. “But he was nothing like Manuel, the Spanish waiter in Fawlty Towers.”

Michael Palin, who checked out of the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay after only one night, recorded this in his diary: “Got in at 12:30am after night filming – owner stood and looked at us – Graham asked if he could have a brandy. Idea was dismissed out of hand.”

Palin returned to the hotel to have dinner with Terry Gilliam, the only American in the Monty Python team. Gilliam left his knife and fork on his plate at an angle. Mr Sinclair put the knife and fork together and said, “This is how we do it in England.”

Palin said at the time the Gleneagles Hotel “was the worst hotel in the world,” and that any request seemed to be the “most unforgivable imposition.”

A former employee, Rosemary Harrison, who worked at the hotel as part of a management trainee course, confirmed that Donald Sinclair did behave like Basil Fawlty. She also said that he was unsuitable as a hotel proprietor.

Her sister, Christine Aitken, stayed at the hotel for 10 days in 1973, and said that Sinclair was a grumpy man who turned her vacation into a nightmare. Sinclair cancelled a dance that was advertised in the hotel’s brochure and when guests complained, he dumped a record player in the middle of the dance floor and stomped off to bed.

“On the second night, we were having a drink in the bar with the other guests. Out of the blue at 9:00pm Mr Sinclair pulled down the bar shutters and told everybody to get out because he was going to bed. Most of the people complained but he told them it was “tough.”

Ms Harrison recalled when Sinclair halted breakfast because the waiter had pinched teapots designated for another table.

“He went up and down the tables like a policeman, questioning the guests. He came across a set of teapots at a table for two. He realised that because of their size they were meant for a table for four, and asked the guests for a description of the waiter.”

“He was bonkers. You can see where John Cleese was coming from. Sinclair thought it ridiculous that people wanted to drink at lunchtime,” Ms Harrison said.

Mrs Sinclair turned their home into a family home while her husband was in the navy. Later, he agreed to leave the navy and join her in running the business. “Reluctantly, of course,” she said.

“The Navy had been his life and he told me a million times that he lost his good pension by doing so. I assured him that we would make much more than that pension if things went well – which they did.”

“But now this cruel DVD is being shown in America. I spend a lot of time there and have many friends who might see it. They have made millions out of our unhappiness and I feel Cleese owes me something.”

The question is: What does John Cleese owe her?


Article copied from a website on ‘English Culture.’


Graeme Prince


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