Thursday 8 December 2016

The gentleman playboy...

Published 14/05/2011 | 05:00

Gunter Sachs, who committed suicide at his chalet in Gstaad last Saturday aged 78, was a multi-millionaire German playboy, scion of the Opel motor dynasty, European bobsleigh champion of 1958 and the third husband of Brigitte Bardot.

  • Go To

Known in his heyday by the nickname 'Sexy', Sachs, who boasted of "never having worked a day in my life", was one of Europe's most energetic playboys. Over many years, he was a constant feature of the international gossip columns.

Having achieved celebrity status after a relationship with Soraya Esfandiary, the former Queen consort of the Shah of Iran, Sachs first met Brigitte Bardot at San Tropez in May 1966.

She was drinking champagne with friends in a bar when she spotted the handsome German with striking blue eyes: "I thought he was magnificent," she recalled.

"I was hypnotised... he had the same Rolls as me! The same model, the same colour. In fact, the same everything!"

The next day, Sachs paid for a helicopter to fly over her Cote d'Azur home, La Madrague, and shower it with thousands of red roses. "It's not every day that a man drops a tonne of roses in your yard," she later wrote.

The couple wed two months later in Las Vegas with the help of US Senator Edward Kennedy, who organised the ceremony and lent them his private Learjet. The bridegroom wore a black mohair blazer over white flannel trousers, a white silk shirt open to the waist and Gucci loafers without socks.

They honeymooned in Tahiti and Sachs introduced his wife to his powerful and wealthy friends: the surrealist painter Salvador Dali; French presidents Charles De Gaulle and Georges Pompidou; Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild; Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco; and the Shah of Iran (who seemed to harbour no ill feelings).

But it became clear that Sachs had taken on more than he had bargained for when, a few days after their honeymoon, Brigitte became involved with the pop singer Mike Sarne.

In 1967 she and Sarne took leading roles in the film Two Weeks In September, the story of a woman torn between two lovers -- an obvious allegory of her marriage to Sachs.

She was still married to Sachs when she met the singer Serge Gainsbourg. The couple became lovers and he wrote several songs for her, including Je T'aime Moi Non Plus, which they recorded together. To spare Sachs's feelings, the single, with its famous erotic sighs and groans, was not released and Gainsbourg later re-recorded it with his new girlfriend Jane Birkin.

Few were surprised when, after three torrid years, Sachs and Bardot divorced in 1969.

Sachs, who always denied being a Lothario ("Playboy, moi? I would rather call myself a gentleman") remained on good terms with his ex-wife, observing that, "A year with Bardot was worth 10 with anyone else."

Ten years after their divorce, he gave her a diamond, later valued at 1.2 million francs, to thank her for having asked him for nothing during their marriage.

Gunter Sachs was born on November 14, 1932 in southern Germany. His mother was the daughter of Wilhelm von Opel; his father was Willy Sachs, owner of Fichtel & Sachs, a manufacturer of ball bearings and one of Germany's biggest automobile suppliers.

Willy Sachs, a Nazi Party member and honorary SS officer during the war, was arrested by the American military after the war but eventually released. He shot himself in 1958.

The same year, Gunter's first wife Anne-Marie Faure, died during a botched operation.

Gunter trained as a mathematician and economist, but had no need to work for a living.

Instead, as a young man he became a sportsman, then a documentary film-maker and photographer, also making his mark with surreal photographs and female nudes.

He became fascinated by astrology and in the 1950s founded the 'Institute for the Empirical and Mathematical Examination of the Possible Truth of Astrology in Relation to Human Behaviour'.

By the late 1950s, Sachs was a popular figure on the Riviera, where he was known for his enjoyment of dressing up (at one bash he appeared in the full uniform of Kaiser Wilhelm, attended for some reason by a bagpiper) and his generosity to friends.

The Greek socialite Taki Theodoracopulos visited the Monte Carlo casino with him in 1960.

"Have some of my action, I plan to break them tonight," Taki recalled Sachs saying. "I took 25pc. He lost 160m old francs, which was $320,000 at the time. He came into my cabin that night, kissed me on the forehead and told me to take my time paying him." The debt was never repaid.

From 1969 until his death, Sachs was chairman of the St Moritz Bobsleigh Club.

In 1997, he published a book, The Astrology File: Scientific Proof of the Link Between Star Signs and Human Behaviour, the result of years of research carried out at his astrological institute.

In it, he claimed to have found significant connections between star signs and individual lives "way beyond what is explicable through mere coincidence".

Sachs explained in a note that he had shot himself because of what he defined as "no hope illness A", which some speculate was Alzheimer's.

Sachs married three times. He is survived by his third wife, the Swedish former model Mirja Larsson, by their two sons and by a son by his first wife.

Indo Review

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in this section