Jaci Stephen: Excitement at meeting Matthew Rhys sent me flying off my shoes

Way Out West

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Reader, I met him. Finally, after months of suspecting that Matthew Rhys was a hologram that would never materialise in my life, I got to meet him. And not just once, but twice.

The first time was at the King's Head in Santa Monica on Friday, where all the Welsh gathered to watch our national side against France in the Six Nations rugby.

The second was on Saturday, where even more Welsh gathered at the Palihouse Hotel in West Hollywood, to celebrate St David's Day.

And yes, he is every bit as handsome, charming, funny and delightful as everyone had led me to believe. If I were 10 years younger ... (oh, come on, this is the Cougar capital of the world).

I didn't think I was going to make the party, as I fell off my shoes on Friday and have been in agony with a bad back as a result. Weird as it sounds, falling off my Jimmy Choos is something I regularly do. Unlike Victoria Beckham, who negotiates five-inch heels with seeming ease, I have always borne a closer resemblance to the leaning tower of Pisa – a leaning tower of Pisa trying not to spill a pint of lager, to boot.

Sometime between Wales almost getting back into the game, and subsequently losing, I slipped and did my back in. It was probably the excitement of meeting Matthew that sent me flying, but the result was that I spent the whole of Saturday laid up, watching wall to wall Law and Order, in the hope that I would be well enough for the party.

It was by far the best night I have had here so far. Paul McKenna, who has lived in LA for two years, was there. Then Stephen Fry turned up, with an enormous leek in his jacket (others had brought inflatable sheep). I also met Luke Macfarlane, who plays Scotty in Brothers and Sisters, along with Dave Annable, who plays Justin. Lovely, lovely men, both incredibly funny, delightful company, and they each told me what a joy Matthew is to work with.

Many Brits are doing very well in LA, and every week it seems as if there are more of them here. But here's the interesting thing: the ones who are doing really well can't do enough to help their countrymen; the mediocrities can't do enough to hold newcomers back.

I call it the Salieri Complex. Lacking the gifts they recognise all too fully in others, their lives here operate in a circus of paranoia and insecurity. Their ears constantly twitch for news of a meeting with X, Y or Z, that they have been trying for years to accomplish, without success; they clock up failures as "networking", and harbour resentments at others' successes by bad-mouthing. Just like at home, really – only worse.

In the working environment, it is very much a sheep and goats mentality. The real successes – Simon Cowell, Paul McKenna, Matthew Rhys, Ioan Gruffydd, Hugh Laurie, Catherine Zeta Jones (I could go on) – have nothing to prove. They have all achieved success through incredibly hard work, a fair degree of talent, and made their respective marks in the toughest of cities. And what they also have, that the Salieris don't quite get, is individuality.

Nothing succeeds here more than being different. We Brits are instantly attractive because of our accents – they really, really love our accents and think we are all related to the Queen; we also have a quick-wittedness that the Americans really do understand (forget what they say about them not understanding irony – it simply isn't true) but can't quite match in terms of speed. For every funny thing you say, you have to allow for a two-second delay while the Americans wait for the dime to drop. Then, they stare in open-mouthed wonder at the brilliance of your delivery and proceed to tell all their friends that you are the funniest person in the world.

The influx of Brits has been huge the past couple of weeks, as February is "pilot season" here, and actors come looking for that big series that might make their name. But for every Matthew or Hugh, there are dozens of non-starters; most will return to the UK with the shattered dreams that are so much part of the backdrop in this extraordinary, bizarre place.

The Mozarts will rise to the top; they always do. They have the talent, but also the drive, enthusiasm, passion and positivity. The Salieris might reckon it is all down to luck; but as Samuel Goldwyn said: "The harder I work, the luckier I get." The Salieris of this world would do well to remember that.



To read Jaci Stephen's LA diary in full, go to lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

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