For once, there was no shame in being on the B-list: they came from all corners of Hollywood – peaks of fame, foothills of recognition and valleys of forgottenness – to celebrate Britishness.

A female bagpiper in an electric-blue miniskirt summoned the disparate tribe of dames, geezers, toffs and other transplanted Brits to proclaim their success, or mere survival, at a red-carpet gala in west Hollywood on Tuesday night.

It was the launch of BritWeek, an annual series of events co-founded six years ago by Nigel Lythgoe, the Wirral-born producer of American Idol, Pop Idol and So You Think You Can Dance.

“The Brits that weren’t very good at what they did went home and complained about how horrible everything was in Los Angeles,” said Lythgoe, working his way up the carpet. “But those who succeed, stay and love it.” Brits had an inbuilt advantage, he added: “The Americans always think we’re smarter than we really are because we speak good English.”

Behind him, pausing and smiling for cameras, came an eclectic parade of talent old, new and slightly used. “It’s me again!” beamed Jackie Collins, the bestselling chronicler of Hollywood kiss’n'tell, extending a bejewelled hand.

In addition to plugging a new book, about a Russian oligarch kidnapped by pirates in the Caribbean, Collins has regained the rights to, and is re-publishing, The Bitch, which first appeared in 1979 and was made into a film starring her sister, Joan.

Next week, in one of the BritWeek highlights, Collins will interview Piers Morgan, the tabloid editor-turned-CNN talkshow host. “He’s done a great job here. He’s interviewed me twice and been lovely,” she purred. Would she be lovely back? “No,” she laughed. Would she ask about phone hacking? “Ooh. I hadn’t thought of that. That’s an idea.”

Another veteran, the film director Michael Apted, appeared on her heels. The latest instalment of the Up documentary series, which has followed a group of interviewees every seven years since they were children, would soon air, he said. “They’re 56 now. As they get older, they’re taking more control of their lives, and of the film. Which is right.”

Apted’s next feature film will feature Gerard Butler as a surfer of huge waves in northern California. The director shrugged off hype about the British conquering Hollywood. “It’s cyclical,” he said. “The industry is driven by hits, Four Weddings and a Funeral and the like. At the moment, the Brits are not particularly hot.”

Crushing news, had he heard it, to Paul McKenna, who passed by moments earlier. “It’s like London-on-sea here. The Swiss make the best watches, the Italians the best clothes, and we make the best films and shows,” said the hypnotist, removing his spectacles for emphasis. “This is a town full of over-achievers. I feel comfortable here.” If successful his current project – slimming America through a weight-loss infomercial – could seal McKenna’s reputation for miracles.

Looming over everyone, stately and portly in a three-piece suit, appeared the incongruous figure of Jesse Jackson. He came, he said, because of the shared history of the US and UK in overcoming slavery and promoting education. Nonplussed, a TV interviewer tried to steer the reverend to shallower waters. “Um, can you do a British accent?” Jackson gazed back. “No.”

The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigos, sleek and tailored, declared himself an Anglophile: “Hey, I read the Guardian! We have the largest British expatriate community in the US.” LA also boasts the largest community of Brits with great teeth, he could have added, but didn’t.

Trailing in the wake of the famous came the once-famous and the perhaps-again-to-be-famous: Curt Smith, formerly of Tears for Fears, looking fit and tanned and plugging his first film music score, and Peter Asher, the veteran music producer, resplendent in matching blue scarf and shoes, chuffed at having written tracks for Madagascar 3.

The newer arrivals, hopeful that small parts in soaps and mini-series will lead to a break, all professed love for LA but conceded nostalgia, amid the palms and Pacific breeze, for British chips, horseracing and pub banter.

Inside the grounds techno music beat to black-and-white images of a young Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh. Jackie Collins and the mayor scuttled off early, leaving the rest of the 400-strong party to network over stilton, ham and organic chocolate.

Article source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/25/hollywood-britweek

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