There are times when a gig as a lifestyle, travel journalist puts you in places you not only never expected to be – but also joints in your own backyard that you didn’t know existed. Both occasions descended upon me recently – brought on by a country’s effort to promote tourism while honoring one of its favorite sons.
That iconic Welsh screen icon, Richard Burton, is back on bookshelves with the release of his autobiography in the form of his personal diaries (“The Richard Burton Diaries” from Yale University Press). So, Visit Wales – the UK bureau that promotes (rather obviously) Welsh tourism – organized a premiere event at the private residence of British Consul-General Dame Barbara Hay in Los Angeles to celebrate the legendary actor and Wales-native with a public reading of the new book.
The stately, official residence hides in plain sight in an expensive, old money LA neighborhood near Hancock Park (just southeast of Hollywood). Looking inside and out like it belongs in London more than Los Angeles (if you don’t count the swimming pool out back), it’s a perfect venue for this UK-friendly gathering.
Burton’s daughter, actress Kate Burton, joined fellow Welsh actors Ioan Gruffudd and Andrew Howard to read diary excerpts from different chapters of the movie star’s life at the special reception.
The Lifetime TV movie, “Liz and Dick,” starring Lindsay Lohan and Grant Bowler is scheduled to complement conveniently the publication of “The Richard Burton Diaries.”
Professor Chris Williams and Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, Professor Richard Davies were also on hand to talk about the late actor’s Welsh roots and the Richard Burton Archives which are housed in the University. Swansea University also holds the Richard Burton Centre for the Study of Wales as part of the Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities.
To assemble the book, Williams took on a 2-year editing project alongside his responsibilities as a professor of Welsh history at Swansea University in South Wales.
In addition to the arrival of the book, Burton is also being honored with his name on a Wales-based initiative – the 3-mile Richard Burton Trail. Surrounded by the Welsh countryside of the Afan Forest Park, the trail is one of Wales’ newest and most popular tourist attractions.
A second trail is due to open this month in nearby Port Talbot, where Burton was raised. In addition to Burton, actors Anthony Hopkins, Michael Sheen and Richard Griffiths all have roots in the seaside city of 46,000.
Visit Wales also looks to promote The Richard Burton Theatre at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Wales’s capital city, Cardiff.