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 Shopping Plaza.
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 the street.
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 British Empire.
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 Australia.
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 item.
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.