HUDSON — Even though he’s about 4,300 miles from home,
British actor Johnny Briggs still can count on a little piece of home
here in West Pasco.
A star of in many movies and TV series, the actor has
become an almost daily regular at Brits British Pub and Eatery, which
opened several months ago at 13706 Little Road, in the Fairway Oaks
Owners Alan and Maizie Gold even named an appetizer after
their famous patron. The Briggsy uses Shepherd’s pie as filling in a
potato skin with cheese to hold it all together.
In fact, Briggs has perched atop a bar stool at all the
pubs the Golds have operated for the past quarter of a century. Brits is
the successor to the long-running Cricketers pub. Many people had
mispronounced the name of the former pub as Cricket-teers, Gold said
with a chuckle.
At 78, Briggs is used to people staring at him. “Is that who I think it is?” He gets numerous requests for autographs.
Briggs splits his time between Hudson and England, in the
area near Bristol, the city where actor Cary Grant was born Archibald
Leach in 1904. Gold and Briggs were born about a quarter of a mile apart
in London, they discovered years later. They’ve been friends for some
25 years now.
“People here are more human” in West Pasco, Briggssaid. “I find it very friendly.”
Nor does Briggs miss the gray skies and numbing cold of
the “horrible” winters in Britain, where the prices of gasoline, a pack
of cigarettes and other items are much higher than in America.
Briggs has appeared in about 50 movies during his long
career. His first film role came in 1948, as a boy of 12, he reminisced.
“Sink the Bismarck” in 1960 and “HMS Defiant” in 1962 were some of his
memorable roles early in his career. He did a film with comedian Benny
Hill, “Light Up the Sky.”
A TV series, though, catapulted him to his greatest fame
for his role of Mike Baldwin on the British soap opera “Coronation
Street.” For some 30 years, Briggs remained a fixture on the series,
until he left in 2006, citing the hectic filming schedule. The emotional
sendoff came in the episode where his character collapsed and died in
Briggs earned a lifetime achievement award at the British Soap Awards in May 2006.
Another honor came in December 2006, when Queen Elizabeth
II made Briggs an MBE, a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the
Actors never really retire, and Briggs has performed in a
smattering of roles since 2007. In December 2012, he appeared in a
“Coronation Street” sketch to raise money for charity.
An avid golfer, Briggs to prefers to spend his free time
now on the links. He’s a big fan of golf titans Arnold Palmer and Gary
Player. He has played golf courses all around the world, except
Briggs appreciates courses here in Florida which seem
well maintained to him. British courses have roughs that live up to the
name. “It’s a miracle if you find it,” Briggs said about a golf ball
lost in the rough on a British course.
But most of all he looks forward to relaxing with his second family at the pub.
The homemade food at Brits also keeps Briggs coming back
for more. Gold says the pub has many secret, family recipes. Fish and
chips is the main attraction, not too surprisingly, Gold says. Customers
can choose from among nine fish dinners. Yorkshire pudding is a popular
Chef Jim Robinson and wife Barb form the “kitchen
partners” at Brits, Gold emphasized. Robinson and Gold first struck up a
partnership 25 years ago.
The kitchen crew goes to great lengths, such as making
their own batter for fish and chips. Cooks follow recipes so meals will
have a consistent flavor.
The décor reminds patrons of England. Many photos fill one wall to pay tribute to the memory of Princess Diana.
“It’s a people business,” Gold remarked about the appeal of running a restaurant and pub.
The Brits pub has special meaning for the Golds. Their
son, Mark, probably would have managed Brits. However, he died at age 49
about four months ago from cancer.
To honor Mark’s memory, the Brits pub designates the
first Monday of each month as Mark’s Monday. The Golds donate 15 percent
of that day’s revenue to the HPH Hospice Foundation.
Call (727) 378-8508 or go online to britspubandeatery.com for more information about the Brits pub.