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Michael Schanze: His touching life story

Michael Schanze has disappeared from the TV spotlight. A portrait in the documentary series “Lebenslinien” explains the background.

Showmaster legend Michael Schanze celebrates his 75th birthday on Saturday (January 15th). In his honor, Bayerischer Rundfunk is showing the portrait “Michael Schanze – Today I would have time for myself” in the documentary series “Lebenslinien” on Monday (10.1., 10:00 pm). The film also tells of the less known, tragic sides of his life.

The beloved father dies

Michael Schanze grew up as the older of two sons in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg. His mother Ursula (1924-2017) came from East Prussia, his father, the musician Arthur Schanze (1910-1956), from Silesia. As “father-son”, as Michael Schanze describes himself in the portrait, he enjoyed the time together. “That was one of my favorite places. Whenever my father played the piano here, then I was always down below,” he said when he visited the former family apartment about the pianist with his own orchestra – “Arthur Schanze string orchestra” – on Bayerischer Rundfunk.

Michael also shared a great love for sport with Arthur Schanze: Among other things, he remembers a secret sailing excursion at night with a full moon on Lake Starnberg. “He was just a hero, a hero.”

When Michael was nine years old, his father took his own life – “unexpectedly and without a farewell letter he leaves his family,” said spokeswoman Ulrike Kriener (67), the voice from the off, summarizing the great childhood tragedy. And Michael Schanze says: “On December 20th, I still remember that I said goodbye to him and he said goodbye to us in the kitchen […] I just said goodbye, like so often […] The only thing that wasn’t so easy was that he didn’t come back then, also because I was such a father-son. And then all of a sudden he was gone and life changed rapidly for us. “

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The mother of Michael and his brother Christian, who was seven years younger than him, now had to earn money for the family and work during the day. She got a job at the reception of the Bavarian Radio. From then on Christian lived with a befriended family in Munich during the week, Michael came to the strict boarding school in Windsbach, 200 kilometers away, and only returned home during the holidays. There wasn’t much left of the sheltered childhood and he was infinitely sad, says Schanze.

After two years his mother took him back. While she works, he now had to take care of his five-year-old brother. The two boys were supported by members of their father’s former sailing club. They spent their time there from lunch onwards.

From early success to popular show master

A turn towards “great times” began for Michael Schanze as a teenager. In addition to sport, music was his main talent – he had received musical training in the Windsbach boys’ choir. And so, at the age of 16, he founded his first band, the “Quater Deck Combo”. A little later, the three high school students made it to the noble hotel “Kaiserin Elisabeth” on Lake Starnberg as a permanent house band – “that was a great time,” he remembers in the film. Band bassist and actor Daniel Friedrich (born 1949, “Out of the blue”) also raves about the “bandleader qualities” of the “girl swarm” Michael Schanze, who is two years older.

During one of their appearances, a producer caught the attention and brought Schanze into the studio. “Suddenly I was a pop singer” – at the age of 21. From 1972 he then led his own personality show “Would you have time for me today?” In 1977 he started with the quiz show “1, 2 or 3” and the famous “Plopp” finger as a children’s entertainer – and wrote German television history with it.

Michael Schanze’s personal archive in the basement contains countless video cassettes with his hit shows from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and the walls are full of souvenir photos with the celebrities of his time. The fact that the archive is located in the basement was a conscious decision: “I just don’t want to live in the past” – he spends most of his life upstairs, says Schanze.

His picture book family falls apart

Shortly before his big breakthrough, he met his great love and future wife Monika in the early 1970s. The couple later went to France, where no one knew them. “We fell in love again. And in this new mental constellation there was suddenly room for children,” he recalls. In 1980 their first son was born. Michael and Monika married three years later and became the parents of twin boys in the same year. For the public, the Schanzes were a picture book family – “that was also very important to me”.

While the last broadcasts of his wedding show “Flitterabend” (1988-1995, ARD) were being broadcast, Michael and Monika’s marriage broke up in the mid-1990s. “Life as I had planned it was crumbled for me,” summarizes Michael Schanze. The marriage was divorced in 2000. It may have taken him a little longer than others to say goodbye to his family plan, he admits. At some point, however, it became clear to him that he had to do something different now. “The decision to turn our back on television when things are going well wasn’t exactly a popular decision,” said Schanze.

In the middle of this phase, the sporty man faced another major challenge. In 2003 he had a serious skiing accident and had to wear a brace for months. “It was a disaster because I compensated a lot with the sport […] That pulled my psyche, my soul down, “says Schanze. During this time he also” disastrously broke up “.

His brother becomes even clearer: “Everything is broken for Michael: his job, his family and his body,” he sums up. And he adds: “Of course people can point their finger at him: ‘Oh, the hill has gotten thick.'” On the other hand, Christian Schanze, with reference to the tragic family history on his father’s side, sees “an unbelievable life’s achievement” as emerging from such a crisis fight back out.

The theater star and the positive side of his weight gain

Michael Schanze has reinvented himself, plays angular and nasty roles in theater classics and is satisfied with his new life, which he also owes to his weight gain. Because only then would the theater makers begin to take him seriously. “I actually do more than before, only theater is just not a mass medium. And we also live in a society in which, if you don’t see television, people believe that it doesn’t exist anymore,” he explains a misunderstanding.

He now lives alternately in Cologne and Munich with the Rhinelander Uschi, who has been his partner for a few years. He raves about her culinary art in the portrait and says: “I am a connoisseur. I will no longer get hungry in my life and I don’t want to be one either.”

And when he sits at the piano at the end of the film and works on a children’s musical, it can be clearly seen again: the touching, good-mood face with which he played his way into the hearts of the audience for so many years.

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