High Life

Gunter Sachs’s Mysterious Exit

May 12, 2011

Back in the 60s, just after the film Goldfinger appeared starring Sean Connery, Gunter had the idea to make a spoof of the James Bond movie starring Porfirio Rubirosa as Bond, a Greek billionaire as Goldfinger, and myself as Oddjob. We filmed for three days in St. Tropez, but then a storm blew away all our props. During the famous fight scene between Bond and Oddjob, Rubirosa swung a rifle which hit my elbow full force, breaking my funny bone. The Creole, on which we were filming, went aground, and Gunter got bored and took off with one of my girlfriends, a Chanel model. My elbow hurt too much for me to care about the girl. For years afterward Gunter and I would laugh about that disastrous week, and as it so often happens, we reminisced too much.

So why does a man such as Gunter kill himself? They say that life gets much of its meaning from the fact that it ends. They also say that humans are animals, with no special destiny or future. Old age confirms such pessimism. There is no question in my mind that Germans tend toward depression. They are too romantic, too “inwardly torn” according to Hölderlin, their greatest poet. Although I know nothing of his motives for taking his life, I would say it was a fear of getting very old, coupled with the fact that he spent his life surrounded by youth, and when one gets too old one becomes a comic figure next to the young. And when one survives their old friends, they have to make new ones, and that’s a bore.

I was not a close friend of Gunter’s but we had partied together, had shared women, and had so many common close friends, I was truly shocked to hear of his death. He never harmed anyone, never spoke badly of people, and had a kind of craziness that was lovable. So why did the wrong kind of billionaire kill himself? There are so many others who would be doing a service to humanity by topping themselves. The list is much too long for this space. Rest in peace, dear Gunter; you brought much happiness to many people, and there is no better compliment in life or death.


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