Friday 30 January 1998
Most important, the King's Head is where Brits go to find each other. More Brits live in LA than in Scarborough. In fact, southern California has the biggest concentration of Brits living abroad anywhere in the world. And that makes for some pretty interesting tales of reinvention to be told at the bar, such as the story of Kevin, whose name I've changed because I'm not sure if he's told his Mum yet.
Kevin is from Northampton. At home, the 23-year-old used to play football every Saturday and darts every Wednesday, and most nights of the week drank pints as if rationing were about to be introduced. Washing the mud off his football trainers was the closest he came to fashion awareness, and maybe his closest encounter with the kitchen sink also. Girls were for wolf-whistling at, car engines were for revving loudly, and members of his sex who didn't think likewise were "woofters".
What a difference a year of living in West Hollywood, the city's gay neighbourhood, makes.
Of course, there are many tales of Brits reinventing themselves around here. Most often cited is Pamela Stevenson, the former Not The Nine O'Clock News actress who has retrained to become a shrink. And in my apartment complex alone there are two former Fleet Street hacks who are now Hollywood screenwriters. There are lawyers who quit to run restaurants, beach bums who become nannies, bankers who become boat hands ...
In fact, Kevin does much the same work as he did in Northampton: he works in a restaurant. Like so many Brits, he came out on holiday, liked the sunshine and decided to stay on illegally. The difference is that he now wears a lot of floral shirts, and there is a crease in his trousers. He drinks vodka martinis, not pints. He's taken up tennis. And he's not often found at the King's Head; he's more likely to be at Sin-a-matique, a leather-and-lace nightclub on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Ask Kevin what his greatest achievement has been since moving to LA, and he will tell you it was plucking up the courage to tell his flat-mates, a collection of lusty lads from Northampton, that he is gay.
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