Go Away With … Phillip P. Keene

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
April 25, 2017

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Phillip Keene lived in England, Holland and Miami before moving back to California 20 years ago. The actor is recognizable to television viewers as Buzz Watson, the character he portrays on TNT’s crime procedural, “Major Crimes.” He also played the same role in the long-running Kyra Sedgwick series, “The Closer.”

A fun fact about the actor: He worked as a flight attendant before landing his best known role. To stay in touch with him, follow Keene on Twitter.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. Thinking back to my first trip on a plane, it was in the ’60s on a trip to Managua, Nicaragua. I lived there when I was very young and came back to the United States not speaking English. I loved it. I still remember teasing the bull on our neighbor’s property and then running away as fast as I could. I would chase after a man who drove a cart with wooden wheels, pulled by a pair of oxen, into the jungle. Thank God I never caught him.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I spent my early career as a flight attendant for Pan Am, which allowed me to visit many cities around the globe. I truly enjoyed nearly every place I went, but I would have to say that my favorite place to go is Paris. As the song says, no matter the time of year you find yourself in the City of Lights, Paris is dazzling. I keep thinking, “Next time I go away, I’ll try Italy,” which I’ve somehow missed. But I always end up in Paris, discovering new places to visit. The ultra-fast TGV trains make day trips outside the city a breeze.

Q. Have you ever traveled to a place that stood out so much you wanted to move there?

A. Many years ago, I went to visit friends in Amsterdam and — after three days — found myself so mesmerized with the city, I moved there. I packed up my things and began commuting from Amsterdam to London for work! I can tell you a long story about discovering I had left my house keys in New York just as I reached the front door of my illegal sublet in Amsterdam, but I’ll leave my panic and the rest of the story involving multiple flights to your imagination.

Q. Where have you traveled that most reminded you of home?

A. There’s no place like home, of course, but if you want a laid-back retreat that puts you instantly at ease, going to St. Petersburg (Florida) in February is an awful lot like California. I loved it. There’re a couple of great places to play golf and a beautiful hotel called the Don CeSar that will suddenly make you feel like you’ve wandered back into a refurbished view of early 20th-century grandeur.

Q. What are some of your must-have travel items?

A. I must have a book, or three, or six. I love reading. Also, a suit and tie, a blazer, dressy shoes and pants, so that I can have dinner wherever the mood takes me. I don’t want my wardrobe to limit my restaurant options. Also, on the plane, I take an extra pair of socks and underwear: I have had the awful experience of arriving before my luggage, and these items can make a world of difference the next morning.

Q. What are some good tips for travelers?

A. All of my credit cards are attached to airline mileage rewards, so the first thing I do is try to leverage my way into business class, or even first, for free! I once flew first class to London for five dollars! I’m insanely proud of how little I pay to fly. Also, I have a credit card that gets me free upgrades — if available — at great hotels. So you rent a smaller room and, in the off season, you almost always end up in a suite! And then I tend to make dinner reservations a month in advance, if possible. Some restaurants actually require it!

Q. What’s your best and worst vacation memory?

A. Alas, here I can only answer that my best vacation memory is too personal to share. And I hope yours is, too. My worst vacation memory was going to Greece where I lost my passport and misjudged my time in the sun. My skin burned so badly, I couldn’t even have a sheet on top of me! And the islands were really beautiful, too.

Q. What is the most important thing you’ve learned from traveling?

A. Going from here to there and back again to so many places in my twenties, I began to realize that no matter the country or the circumstances, human beings are more alike than not. Despite differences in language and traditions, when you get right down to it, we all want the same things – a safe place to live, food to eat, clean air and water, a chance to better ourselves and maybe leave the world a little better than we found it. Family is also important, however you define the word. I love seeing how other cultures express their emotions in art, architecture and their version of civilization.

Q. What are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Since I’m a native Californian, it should surprise no one that on summer weekends, as work allows, I love going to the beach. Whether it is Laguna, Dana Point or even somewhere closer by, I love getting on my board and paddling out into the water. I’m not a great surfer by the way, but just being in the ocean changes my whole attitude toward the world. I love the crash of the waves on the shore, especially as I’m drifting off to sleep. On the west coast, just watching the sun melt into the ocean is pretty cool. When I lived in Miami, it took me a while to get used to the idea that the sun was flying up from the water instead of sinking beneath it! In the winter, I love Palm Springs. The truth is, I work so much and it’s so hard to get away anywhere that for weekends, I mostly take advantage of what my home state has to offer.

Q. What is your fantasy trip?

A. If money were no object and I could plan a fantasy trip, it would be to fly around the world for a few weeks stopping at as many countries as I could. If I had to be more specific, I would admit that I’ve always wanted to take the Orient Express. And I know people love taking high end cruise ships around the Mediterranean. Or the QE two between London and New York! If I had that kind of time.

Q. What is your most romantic destination?

A. First, I would have to say, for beauty and shared intimacy and just heart-thumping joy, Èze — which overlooks the sea on the French Riviera. It is like going on a honeymoon, whether you’re married or dating. Then, odd to say it, but New York City is also really romantic! It’s not an obvious choice, but that’s where I spent one of the happiest weeks of my life, and there’s so much to do! If you can’t find romance in New York, then maybe you should consider anti-depressants.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Amsterdam, Paris, New York, Buenos Aires and London. They’re all beautiful and great walking cities where the people are friendly and helpful. A helpful hint — learning just a few words and phrases (like good morning, excuse me, please, thank you) in the native tongue can make a world of difference.

© 2017 JAE-HA KIM


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