A Fawlty memory

Cleese lambasted by the 'real' Cybil

The widow of the hotelier who inspired Basil Fawlty has attacked John Cleese for "trashing" her family name.

Cleese has always said that he was inspired to write the classic sitcom following an ill-fated visit to the Gleneagles Hotel, near Torquay, with the rest of the Monty Python team.

He claimed the eccentric owner threw a suitcase over a cliff because he thought it contained a bomb, criticised guests' table manners and refused to book taxis or make wake-up calls.

But now the real Cybil Fawlty, Beatrice Sinclair, has broken almost 30 years of silence at the humiliation to say: "It is cruel, unfair and absolutely untrue.

"My husband Donald was no Basil Fawlty. He was a gentlemen and a very brave man."

"Certainly Donald was a disciplinarian and he couldn't stand fools. But he was not the neurotic eccentric John Cleese made him out to be."

"It's a load of rubbish, but these stories just go on and on being repeated."

Mrs Sinclair, 71, believes the stories stemmed from her husband's reluctance to have the potentially disruptive young upstarts of British comedy stay in their family hotel.

"Donald told me straight away that they should go," she said. "He said they would upset the other guests. But I argued it was good money and we couldn't turn them away."

Mrs Sinclair, whose husband died in 1981, spoke out after a DVD was released in the US detailing the background to Fawlty Towers.

Her family sold the Gleneagles at about the same time the sitcom was first screened, in 1975.

Published: 12 May 2002

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