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Interview: Lesley-Anne Down - I'm such a cheapskate; I use washing up liquid on my hair; FORGET THE GLITZY PARTIES - LESLEY-ANNE DOWN TELLS SHARON FEINSTEIN SHE WOULD RATHER BE AT HOME.

The sprawling house with the swimming pool, tennis courts and manicured grounds has gone. So have the five maids, nannies, gardeners and poolmen, along with the chauffeurs who used to whisk her to the latest Hollywood premieres or the most exclusive Beverly Hills restaurants.

Instead Lesley-Anne Down's home is a rather ordinary four-bedroom house in the suburbs, her car a battered station wagon and her favourite restaurant the Chinese just around the corner.

And the actress who first found fame as Lady Georgina in the TV classic Upstairs, Downstairs couldn't be happier.

Not that her retreat to suburbia has anything to do with a sudden dip in her career. She's making a small fortune in LA in the latest Aaron Spelling soap, Sunset Beach, one of the few successes on Channel 5. No, after two divorces, a $2million child custody fight and a battle with cocaine, Lesley-Anne just wants a quiet life with her baby son, George, and her third husband, cameraman Don Fauntleroy.

"I love where I live now," says Lesley-Anne, lounging on the sofa of her Malibu home. "It's like a little safe place. It's homey, normal and sweet. It makes me feel secure like I've never felt before. We've sacrificed something big and glamorous for something more stable for George.

"I've lived that life in the mansion where there's always someone in your house cleaning, painting, pruning and looking after the pool. It's not your house - you're sharing it with the servants, which is not my idea of a relaxing, cosy life.

"In my neighbourhood, children play on the street and ride their bikes. There are parades, a little market on the corner, a hardware store and a creek where I walk my dogs. I have a four- bedroom-house, and a VW Beetle and an old Mercedes station wagon. For a meal out we go to the Chinese, and I only go to dinner parties or premieres when I'm absolutely forced to because I don't like them. I like to stay at home. My life is Don and George, taking the dogs for a walk and filming Sunset Beach.

"I'm not poor. I have a lot of money and could stop working tomorrow. But I'd go nuts if I didn't work. Even when I get a week off I'm ready to go back. "It's less tiring for me at work than at home. Here, I organise everything, the shopping, the baby, the bills, the decorating, the clean sheets, the meals. But in return I expect something back and when it's not given, I can be very, very bitchy. It's the little things that get me upset. If someone leaves the plates in the sink because they know I'll see to them, I get very angry.

"And when I lose my temper it's pretty extreme. The other day my ski machine wouldn't work so I pulled off one of the skis and beat the machine like crazy.

"I have a very caustic tongue, but I've noticed it only happens three days before my period. Now I put a red flag in the kitchen warning everyone to leave the house."

Yet despite these occasional lapses, Lesley-Anne says she has never been calmer. She puts it all down to Don. They met 14 years ago during shooting of the TV mini-series North And South and have been together ever since. He had loved her from the moment he saw her star opposite Harrison Ford in the film Hanover Street. But their fairytale romance took on the dimensions of a horror story, as both were married.

Lesley-Anne was 27 when she married Exorcist director William Friedkin after a short-lived marriage to Argentinian Henrique Gabriel. Her divorce from Friedkin led to a very messy custody battle over their son Jack, now 17. It ended with them sharing custody.

"I'd met Don a few months before I left Bill," she says. "I had every intention of leaving, but he gave me the strength to do it.

"Don was my drug, my glass of wine at the end of the day. It's very difficult to go through things alone in life. If I'd been alone, I might have fallen apart."

But the main victim of her split from Friedkin was Jack.

"When you spend $2million on a custody battle the amount of damage is very extreme and the one who suffers most is the child," she says. "Jack says a lot of his childhood absolutely sucked. But I've never had any ups or downs with him and we're completely honest with each other. "The custody battle changed me a lot. It made me a much less relaxed, happy-go-lucky person.

"Thank God my marriage to Don is different. I actually like this man. I didn't like Bill at all.

"Don is the man I'd been waiting for. He's kind, funny, a great dad and he puts up with me.

"This is the happiest time of my life because at last I have no fear."

Another thing that makes her happy is the success of Sunset Beach in America. Even here, 36 pages of readers' letters on Teletext are devoted to the daytime series and there's a gay bar in Glasgow that runs a Sunset Beach happy hour.

In the soap, Lesley-Anne plays wealthy super-bitch Olivia, a Nineties version of Joan Collins's Alexis in Dynasty. Olivia has a secret affair and a child with her son-in-law and may even have committed a murder.

Lesley-Anne is now 45 and most of the women on the show are half her age. "Buy I don't feel threatened by them," she insists. "I appreciate youth and anyway you can't compete with someone 20 years younger than you.

"I do go to the gym three times a week. But I eat whatever I want and I never want salads. For breakfast today I cooked myself a turkey burger and once a week I watch a video while munching a pile of chocolate and popcorn.

"I haven't had a facelift because I haven't got the guts. I often think I should have my eyes done, but Don tells me to be European and age gracefully."

For the past two-and-a-half years she has kept up a gruelling schedule and filmed more than 640 episodes of Sunset Beach. "We do 22 hours a month. I probably say more in a day as Olivia, than I do as me.

"People run down Sunset Beach because it's not art, but it doesn't pretend to be. I love working on it, but I love coming home to my baby.

"I told my mother that they say having a baby in your forties keeps you young. Well, it keeps you young or it kills you. My mother asked, `What's it doing to you Lesley?' I said, `a bit of both'."Dynasty. Olivia has a secret affair and a child with her son-in-law and may even have committed a murder.

Lesley-Anne is now 45 and most of the women on the show are half her age. "Buy I don't feel threatened by them," she insists. "I appreciate youth and anyway you can't compete with someone 20 years younger than you.

"I do go to the gym three times a week. But I eat whatever I want and I never want salads. For breakfast today I cooked myself a turkey burger and once a week I watch a video while munching a pile of chocolate and popcorn.

"I haven't had a facelift because I haven't got the guts. I often think I should have my eyes done, but Don tells me to be European and age gracefully."

For the past two-and-a-half years she has kept up a gruelling schedule and filmed more than 640 episodes of Sunset Beach. "We do 22 hours a month. I probably say more in a day as Olivia, than I do as me.

"People run down Sunset Beach because it's not art, but it doesn't pretend to be. I love working on it, but I love coming home to my baby.

"I told my mother that they say having a baby in your forties keeps you young. Well, it keeps you young or it kills you. My mother asked, `What's it doing to you Lesley?' I said, `a bit of both'." reakfast today I cooked myself a turkey burger and once a week I watch a video while munching a pile of chocolate and popcorn.

"I haven't had a facelift because I haven't got the guts. I often think I should have my eyes done, but Don tells me to be European and age gracefully."

For the past two-and-a-half years she has kept up a gruelling schedule and filmed more than 640 episodes of Sunset Beach. "We do 22 hours a month. I probably say more in a day as Olivia, than I do as me.

"People run down Sunset Beach because it's not art, but it doesn't pretend to be. I love working on it, but I love coming home to my baby.

"I told my mother that they say having a baby in your forties keeps you young. Well, it keeps you young or it kills you. My mother asked, `What's it doing to you Lesley?' I said, `a bit of both'."Dynasty. Olivia has a secret affair and a child with her son-in-law and may even have committed a murder.

Lesley-Anne is now 45 and most of the women on the show are half her age. "Buy I don't feel threatened by them," she insists. "I appreciate youth and anyway you can't compete with someone 20 years younger than you.

"I do go to the gym three times a week. But I eat whatever I want and I never want salads. For breakfast today I cooked myself a turkey burger and once a week I watch a video while munching a pile of chocolate and popcorn.

"I haven't had a facelift because I haven't got the guts. I often think I should have my eyes done, but Don tells me to be European and age gracefully."

For the past two-and-a-half years she has kept up a gruelling s
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Feinstein, Sharon
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 25, 1999
Words:1686
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