Due to his heart throb status; it was inevitable that sooner or later Sacha would be asked to appear on films and television. A career lasting fifty years, several films and dozens of television shows marked the course of the man who would become in the sixties the very incarnation of relaxation and an icon of French elegance.
Sacha Distel was above all a man of the music hall, a musician, almost a child of the theatre. The cinema was for him an art acquired far from the spontaneity he valued above all. Television would give him the chance to combine the two sides of his personality: musician and entertainer.
Return to our story: the first meeting between Maritie, Gilbert Carpentier and Sacha took place in the RTL radio studios. At the time Sacha was a guitarist, Juliette Greco’s guitarist. Guitarist ? Without a doubt a bit more, seeing the looks that Juliette threw to the producer who, writing about this interview years later in her memoires: « (...) I can still see her guitarist. What a gorgeous face, eyes, what a smile. I don’t know either where he was born nor where he came from as Piaf sung (...) »
The ’Carpentiers’ had gone on from the radio to the television and Sacha from the status of brilliant guitarist to that of super star. In-between they had sometimes worked together on radio programmes to produce a show with promising potential. On return from a trip to the States, Maritie and Gilbert decided to produce for France an ‘American’ style variety show; which they saw as a show filmed with bow ties, dinner jackets, humour, new duos, sketches, dancers, the whole works. A good idea but who could be the French Dean Martin: an artist capable of singing, dancing, holding together a show, and, if possible, handsome and especially quick on the repartee? Sacha!
The first edition of what was to become a cult programme was to be called « Guitare et copains (Guitar and Friends», a slightly ridiculous name but, was defended by its inventers, as a « working title ». A sort of rough copy. In reality, it was in fact the title of a song by Paul Anka that Sacha had just brought out in French.
This title would come a bit later, whispered by Maritie, because she found it « unpronounceable and so people would make an effort to memorise it ». She was right. The « Sacha Show », was an adventure that today no one would have ever attempted. At first, there was the team. Around Sacha, billed as star presenter: Jean Pierre Cassel, the chic charming dancer with a courteous sense of humour, the truculent Jean Yanne, finally, Petula Clark, stunning talented English singer with her irresistible accent. Then there were the duos. Modern television has never invented anything like it. Each episode of the Sacha Show would have its share of duos. Most of them never seen before, composed and written by a certain... Serge Gainsbourg!
In the wings, the Carpentier couple, the three decades of variety show, orchestrated by the celebrated director Georges Folgoas. The whole thing with orchestra and live!
Ten years of popular television, of quality, and especially never priggish. Everyone appeared: from (friend) Johnny Halliday to Sardou including Mireille, Sylvie, Aldo, Mort Shuman and all the others... The « Sacha Show » went on for ten years (until the middle of the 70’s) one of the favourite French television shows. Stand up comedy ahead of its time, mock interviews, sketches, exceptional exclusive duos (fond memories of Dalida singing with Aldo Maccione or Sacha getting Isabelle Adjani to sing for the first time!) The « Sacha Show » quietly revolutionised television entertainment contributing to the fame of numerous artists.
In 1970 Sacha’s success across the channel pushed the BBC to ask the sexiest of French singers to present a show. In the States, Sacha would also have his own programmes where he showed his ability to play his natural elegance to the full.
Finally, in the 80’s, the French TV channel TF1 asked Sacha to present for a season « La belle vie », an entertainment show mainly inspired by the mythical « Sacha Show ». The television loop had come full circle.
Text : Eric Jean-Jean