BritWeek Interview: Anthony Russell

In honor of BritWeek Los Angeles, a festival of all things UK, Native Intelligence will post a series of interviews with three different Brits who reside in the Southland.

russell-final.jpg Starting with Anthony Russell, an author, musician and aristocrat who now resides in Bel Air. Born into a titled family with their own fairy-tale castle in Kent, Mr. Russell shares tales of a privileged childhood in his memoir, Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle. The book is a vivid read about a world resembling "Downton Abbey" described with precise and spirited prose. For example, Russell writes that his mother's "dazzling, alluring forget-me-not blue eyes radiated warmth and kindness, and her personality, though given to moods, was generous and imbued with a contagious sense of fun."

Eventually, Mr. Russell struggled to reconcile his privileged upbringing with his musical aspirations in the 70s but he triumphed in the end to become a seasoned performer.

Below, the writer shares his impressions of his adopted homeland.

Did you write your book while living in Southern California? If so, how did you recall the details of your family's estate in England?

I wrote Outrageous Fortune in Los Angeles and in France where my wife, Catherine, and I spend four to five months each year. All the events and descriptions in the book are culled from memory (including the pram scene outside Harrods aged two!) and needed no recourse to libraries or family records. I used the Web for historical accuracy when it came to corroborating what my English and American ancestors had been up to all those years ago; the origins and size of my Whitney cousins' vast wealth; and the smorgasbord of Russell titles, land holdings, Crown appointments and Parliamentary achievements over a period of some five hundred years.

What do you like about living in Los Angeles?

Everything! The weather, of course. London's gray skies and drizzle used to drive me nuts. Here you work and play under sunny blue skies. I love the 'look' of LA, from Downtown to the ocean. So many totally different neighborhoods seemingly at odds with one another which somehow succeed in forming a cohesive whole. I find the contrast between life in LA and life in France and the UK very stimulating. London and Paris have history, beauty and street life on their side. LA has a unique form of easy living. Life is casual. You dress up, or down, according to taste. It's not a hassle to get around. You go to the movies, park in the same building (for free), have lunch before, or dinner after, all without raising a furrow on your brow. My wife and I are foodie fanatics. We like to eat in the plethora of Japanese restaurants across the city, from Nobu in Malibu to Kiwami on Ventura Blvd. We also like Paiche in Marina del Rey and Hinoki and the Bird in Century City. I write in the morning (and sometimes early in the evening), have lunch with my wife, then we play tennis and have a Pilates session after. Before going home we run the vital errands. Every Sunday we go to the Beverly Hills Farmer's market. We'd never have this kind of schedule anywhere outside of LA - I don't think!

What part of LA makes you homesick for the UK? What do you do to cure any homesickness?

I have never been homesick for the UK. But I really enjoy going back each year to visit friends and family.

So many Brits in LA make their home in Santa Monica. Is that still a popular place for the expats that you encounter? Why do you think they relocate there?

I don't know any Brits who live in Santa Monica, though I believe the place is still alive with them. This could be the tribal element at work. Of course, the UK is a small island with many people living close to the sea. Perhaps those who come here wish to do the same.

Has your accent changed since living in Los Angeles? How?

No. I first came to America in 1976 and I still talk in pretty much the same way as I did back then. My brother thinks he detects a mid-Atlantic drawl from time to time but an LA friend calls that b*ll%$cks. He says I sound "straight off the boat!"

What's your favorite spot(s) to relax or revive in Los Angeles?
At home; with my wife; cooking; drinking fine wine; entertaining; relaxing in front of our favorite shows.

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