WITH their huge personalities, and even bigger laughs, Sandi and Sandra were two of the most-loved stars of Gogglebox before they quit.
Plucked from obscurity in 2013, after a boozy night out for 61-year-old Sandra Martin’s birthday, the Brixton friends’ lives changed overnight.
Unemployed Sandra – who’d “been on benefits for years” – and pub owner Sandi Bogle, 58, suddenly found themselves attending red carpet events and regularly getting stopped for selfies by fans.
Now, in an exclusive interview with The Sun, the pair reveal the amazing way they were discovered, as well as the behind the scenes secrets from Gogglebox.
Discovered ‘legless’ in a pub
Sandi and Sandra were out celebrating Sandra’s 50th birthday at a pub in south London, when their loud personalities immediately drew the attention of the talent scouts.
Sandi laughs: “We were legless, because it was her birthday, so that way you’ve got the full characters of us both together
“It was right place, right time.”
When they were first told the premise of the show – people sitting down watching television – on the night, the pair were extremely confused.
Sandi recalls: “We was a bit tipsy, so we was like, ‘What is he talking about?
“Sandra was just like, ‘Take over, take over, because I don’t understand what he’s talking about. He’s talking rubbish. What is this people watching TV, watching us, watching them? It doesn’t make sense.’”
Sandi and Sandra swapped numbers with the producers and got a call the next day explaining more.
And Sandra couldn’t believe their luck.
She tells us: “They said, ‘All you’ve got to do is sit down, order a big pizza and watch TV.’
“Oh my God, I started to cry. I told the socials, ‘I’ve got a job now,’ and I cried.”
Sandi adds: “We started filming straight away. They just loved our characters and how we worked together.”
As soon as the show was launched in March 2013, it became an unlikely hit.
Following a series of just four episodes, a second, longer series was immediately commissioned, and began in September 2013.
The following year, the show won a BAFTA, and continued to win at the National Television Awards as well.
‘More famous than David Beckham’
And as the show got more attention, the two best friends became celebrities in their own right too, heading to star-studded awards shows and living the life of luxury.
They met the likes of Dame Joan Collins, and even the Queen.
Sandra even tells a story about how fans started to care more about her than David Beckham.
She laughs: “David Beckham was doing a book signing at Waterstones, and there was a long queue with about 300 people.
“I was at the back of the queue, but too many people were coming to me for selfies, so security came and took me inside.
“I then go into the queue near David Beckham, and everyone rushed past him to me instead!”
‘Everything was real’
Sandi insists everything you saw on Gogglebox was real, which is why the show was so successful.
Explaining the filming process, she says: “Producers would come round anytime they needed to film, and set everything up.
“I always used to be at Sandra’s anyway, so it was nothing different from what I used to do before Gogglebox.
“They would just come in, set up the cameras and we just went for it. We was able to just be ourselves as we normally would.”
Gogglebox families are paid for their time on the show, although it varies depending across all the cast – and the stars were all kept away from each other for this reason.
‘Paid more than others’
While Nikki Tapper recently told us they weren’t paid enough to give up their jobs, it was a different story for Sandi and Sandra.
Sandi told us: “You get paid for everything, mostly the takeaways because we ate a lot.
“We could have anything that we wanted, so that was kind of cool, and anything that was left we just called the family up to come and pick up the rest of it, so nobody ever got left out.”
And Sandra claims that, due to being “the star of the show,” she was paid more than anyone else to appear.
“I got more than everybody else, because everybody else was working, but I was on benefits, and I was the best one that was making the show,” she said.
“I got the contract, and they paid my rent, council tax, TV licence, electricity, gas, all the bills you need.
“That left me with about £500 a week to do what I wanted – hair, taxis, nails, takeaways.
“I was living a luxury lifestyle.”
Panic attacks over Sandi quitting
As the girls got more and more fame, the offers started rolling in, and Sandi jumped at the chance to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2017 – leaving Sandra in the lurch.
Sandra recalls how she was so upset when her friend quit.
“It was hard,” she says. “I had a panic attack, thinking I was going to go back on benefits.”
Sandra struggled to find someone to replace Sandi, as she’d lost a lot of her friends due to “resentment,” when she got famous.
And she claims producers weren’t keen on the first pal she found, as she had an American accent.
Sandra’s last resort was her children.
She says: “I rang them up and said, ‘Listen, unless you want me to be homeless, or on benefits, one of you need to get on this bloody show.’”
Her daughter Chanchez Martin joined her – but it only lasted for one series.
Sandra explains: “I didn’t want to talk about Sex in front of my daughter on the TV, and I was also getting a lot of backlash like, ‘Where’s Sandi?’
“I could’ve stayed, they offered me real money, but s*** happens.
“I’m alright now because I raise money for charity.”
Sandra is now back on benefits, and raises money for charity, while Sandi works in pantomime – about to be seen in the Wizard of Oz in Lincoln.
And, despite the setback, the pair are still pals, with Sandra even going to watch Sandi regularly.
Sandi says: “She comes to support me always. After 50 odd years of friendship, you can’t not be friends!
“No matter what we go through, she’s always got a room here for her, and she’s always got a room for me.”
She finishes: “We’re besties. We’ve been through, ups, downs, thick and thin, the worst, the wears, the tears, the bumps, the laughs.
“That’s friendship. You can’t beat that, no matter what.”
Channel 4 has been approached for an opportunity to comment.