Royal wedding brings out the British -- in America!
There will be pipers piping, ladies dancing, palm trees swaying, medal-decorated chests swelling with British pride -- and a toast, of course, to bonnie Prince Charles and his new young bride on the big day, July 29.
Hold it. Swaying palm trees? Yes, just so. This royal wedding ball, you see, won't be held on venerable British sod, but in good old southern California -- where some 350,000 Britons have hung their caps and set up a cozy home away from home.
Although it's hard to be precise with numbers -- what with tourists who have stretched 60-day visas into longer stays -- there's no missing the British in and around Los Angeles.
They play cricket on the "greens" of Griffith Park. They form charitable clubs with names like Tally-Ho. They hold monthly balls. They get together for a round of whist. They drop in on English-run tea houses and pubs. They peruse their own gossipy tabloid, True Brit. They hold yearly balls -- a Queen's birthday ball every June and a British Commonwealth of Nations ball every October. And they flock to the beach city of Santa Monica in such numbers that the city has been dubbed Santa-Monica-by- the-sea.
"It's fortunate we speak the same language, so we do quite well in the US. Or, one might say, almost the same language," says Myra Butler, who works for the Council of British Societies, an umbrella organization of 32 chapters and some 60 clubs scattered about southern California (with on outpost in Hawaii).
The British Invasion began years ago, 'round about the time Her Majesty's movie star subjects settled into the Hollywood film colony. And, although immigration has slowed in the past decade, they came in large numbers for years -- GI brides, British girls who married American soldiers in World War II; scientists and engineers lured away during a "brain drain" on the British empire; rock stars and movie stars who came to escape oppressive taxes; and nonstars who came to escape the soggy British climate and have a go at "the land of opportunity."
"I love Britain. I love my heritage. But I wanted opportunity," explains Michael Jackson, a local network radio talk show host, whose popular program will begin live nationwide airplay early next January.
"Los Angeles," says Mr. Jackson, who left his native England for America more than 20 years ago, "is the font of new ideas, the marketplace of opportunity. This is society where if you've got something to sell, they'll buy it. There's no hierarchy here to determine the pace of your success."
When really warmed to his topic, he adds with American overstatement and dry British wit, "We are the womb of the gods. We give the world a new religion every month."
But Jackson, who started his views with Prices Charles at a British Consulate reception last year ("Prince Charles was very understanding -- he really listenedm "), refuses to "play the British bit," as he puts it. He has an American wife, and avoids the cricket clubs and pubs because, he says, "I'd rather visit the old sod."
"I sound British," he says of his accent (explaining in an aside that he has not tried to lose it because, "After all, the language is called English"), "but I've become an American."
In that respect, Jackson is unlike many of his compatriots who have settled here and adopted an american life style without abandoning their British pleasantries and trappings.
Some transplanted Britons accuse to members of the British community here of being too clubby ("Rude, isn't it, to come to another country and insist on maintaining your own ways?" comments one). But even if southern California's Britons do tend to stick together, they are by no means exclusive.
Few, if any, local British organizations are restricted to Commonwealth subjects only. According to Myra Butler, 35 to 40 percent of the members of the Council of British Societies are Americans, some of whom are married to Britons, others of whom are just plain Anglophiles.
English tea room customers include famous British actors who drop in for bangers and a cuppa tea, to a young American homemaker, who pounces on a store manager pleading for a better stock of mint sauce.