‘Playboy’ is a term that has been used and abused for nearly a century now, but in its classic sense, it applies only to a very select number, a golden generation. Some were princes, one was a president, and at least a pair were movie stars. Most were men from relatively humble backgrounds who had the charisma and savoir-faire to raise themselves to the heights. Only one of them was a German industrialist, but Gunter Sachs may, ultimately, define them all.
“Playboy, moi?” Sachs once asked a rather presumptuous journalist. “I would rather call myself a gentleman.” He had a point. Though he boasted of “never having worked a day” in his life, Sachs was a great amateur: sportsman, artist, filmmaker, connoisseur and academic, each pursuit taken seriously and pursued with vigour. Yet he was most certainly a playboy, and surely the last of the breed. He flitted between St. Tropez, St. Moritz, London, Paris and Palm Springs, married the greatest sex symbol of his age — the ineffable Brigitte Bardot — and defined a mode of dress, casual to the point of louche and yet still sophisticated, that is still adopted by those who walk in his footsteps. And he did this all so well that he became an icon of style and good living, and beyond that, a symbol of his country’s postwar resurgence.
Certainly, he was no flâneur, lounging on nightclub couches and sleeping through the day. Sachs was a man of action. One of his greatest passions was bobsleigh, for which he was Junior European Champion in 1959. He spent many winters in St. Moritz, where he formed the Dracula Club for private members, and was Chairman of the St. Moritz Bobsleigh Club from 1969 until his death (Turn 13 of the St. Moritz-Celerina Olympic Bobrun was named after him), and Vice President of the legendary Cresta Run. He was so influential in raising the profile of the resort, in fact, that police allowed him to run car races across the frozen lake at night.