'Fawlty Towers' Reopens, Rejoicing in Its Notoriety

Hotel co-owners Brian Shone, left, and Terry Taylor at the reopening.
Hotel co-owners Brian Shone, left, and Terry Taylor at the reopening. (By Barry Batchelor -- Associated Press)
Associated Press
Sunday, September 24, 2006

TORQUAY, England -- The Gleneagles Hotel staged a gala reopening Monday, boasting of its reputation as Fawlty Towers, England's most frightful hotel.

"We decided Hotel Gleneagles is always going to be famous for inspiring 'Fawlty Towers' so, rather than being embarrassed about what has happened, we have chosen to capitalize on it," said Brian Shone, co-owner of the hotel in Torquay, a sedate resort in the southwestern county of Devon.

"You cannot get rid of the spirit of Basil, so you have got to embrace him," said Shone, who said he could become a bit like the John Cleese character, Basil Fawlty, "when provoked."

The Gleneagles is not the building seen in the title shots of the 1970s TV series -- that's the Woodburn Grange country club near London, which burned down in 1991.

Cleese has said the series was inspired by the Monty Python troupe's stay at the Gleneagles in 1971. He described then-owner Donald Sinclair as "the most wonderfully rude man I have ever met."

Sinclair's widow, Beatrice, has called that completely unfair and blamed any trouble on the Pythons. "They didn't fit into a family hotel . . . they kept annoying my husband and were quite insulting," she has said.

Cleese didn't attend Monday's reopening, but Prunella Scales, who played Basil's wife, Sybil Fawlty, was guest of honor. Scales, who had never visited the hotel before, arrived in a replica of the bright red Austin 1100 that Basil thrashed with a tree branch in one episode of the series.

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