The actor and singer on meeting the woman who convinced him to become a British citizen
Twelve years ago I met the most beautiful, wonderful woman I could possibly imagine. Her name is Helen Snell.
She was doing the PR for Deathtrap, a play I toured with in Britain, and we didn’t hit it off initially because I don’t like PR bull***t so I wasn’t one of her favorite clients! She’d never seen Starsky & Hutch and didn’t really know who I was.
But as we evolved I began to see who she really was, and we eventually married on 26 June 2010 in Devon, where her uncle and aunt live. But it was that life-changing moment when we met that led me to another: becoming a British citizen.
I have a long history with England. I’d spent time here as a child, visiting with my parents from Berlin, where we lived for a while.
In 1975, Starsky & Hutch won a Best New U.S. TV Show award here and Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky, and I came over for that—about 5,000 screaming fans greeted us at Heathrow Airport and I was terrified.
Then in the late 70s and early 80s, I did a couple of music tours of the U.K., having had No 1 hits with Don’t Give Up On Us and Silver Lady. I also did a couple of films over here, one on Dartmoor where I caught viral pneumonia.
When I did a series called 6.55 Special in the early 80s, I lived here for a while, and in 1995 Bill Kenwright invited me over to do the play Catch Me If You Can and I jumped at it as I’d always dreamed of doing theatre in England. I’d got so tired of Los Angeles after being there for 28 years, and I loved being here.
I finally got British citizenship in 2004 because I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life here with Helen. To get it, I had to go to council offices in Haringey and be sworn in with 25 other people from around the world.
You can take an oath or swear to the Queen. I took the oath as I didn’t want to swear at Her Majesty! I felt I was then an official whingeing Brit! I tell people I’m both British and American. I can vote in both countries, and I’m proud of that.
I like to be part of a community. I’ve lived in Maida Vale, Highgate, and Hampstead in London, and I’ve got involved in various local organizations.
Helen and I are renting a place in Hampstead at the moment, but looking to buy a house outside the city, maybe in Berkshire.
Britain is beautiful. I like south Devon a lot, the bleakness of Dartmoor. And I like being in a country steeped in history. I return to the States about three times a year as my five sons all live there, though my daughter lives here.
When Paul Michael Glaser and I were filming Starsky & Hutch in the 70s, Princess Margaret once came to meet us on the set because she liked the show.
We took her to lunch and, suffice to say, we didn’t go back to work in the afternoon. Also we were told the Queen Mother once said, ‘I like those boys so much!’ But I don’t think I’ll ever be Sir David, even though I act like it sometimes! The only person I’d care to call me Sir David is my wife, as I call her Lady Helen!
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