The Adventures of Euan and Chris Is Brit Banker’s Sitcom-a-Clef

Last spring, a 33-year-old British banker named Euan Rellie got a

call from his old roommate, Chris Weitz, co-director of American Pie . A decade ago, the two men, then in their early 20’s,

had lived in the Police Building on

Centre Street.

“I’m working on a pilot for DreamWorks,” Mr. Weitz said, “kind of

loosely based on our time together.”

“What’s the character called?” Mr. Rellie asked.

“Umm …. ” Mr. Weitz said. ” Euan ?”

“Really?” Mr. Rellie said.

“What does he do?”

Replied Mr. Weitz: “He’s a

British banker.”

And now, Sundays at 9 p.m. on Channel 11, you can see the

adventures of Euan and Chris (renamed “Mike” in the show) in Off Centre , a WB network sitcom

co–executive produced by Mr. Weitz and his brother, Paul. The premise: randy, good-looking Brit and uptight American pal

share posh pad in a celebrity-filled Manhattan building called the Hadley on

Centre. The show has a distinctly late-90’s feel-wild parties, wild women,

wildly bad sex jokes. For example:

EUAN:

You’re being very G.O.P. about this, Mike. In European cultures, love triangles

are an accepted part of life.

MIKE:

So is gonorrhea. [Laughter.]

Mr. Rellie-despite having his TV self described by TV Guide as “the season’s most obnoxious

new character,” and in one episode as having “the sexual morals of a ferret in

heat”-is thrilled about his

pop-culture immortalization. “When the show was first commissioned, he e-mailed

everyone in his Palm Pilot,” said the author Toby Young, who lived with Mr.

Rellie in the West Village in the late 1990’s. Mr. Rellie’s fiancée, Lucy

Sykes, the style director of Marie Claire ,

said: “He’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, ‘Well, have you heard that Chris-Chris Weitz -has written a TV program all about

me ?’ I’m bored as hell . At least

you’ll listen. I can’t anymore. You’ve made his year. His century. His life.”

Why Euan? Friends of Mr. Rellie-a founding partner of Business

Development Asia, a mergers-and-acquisitions boutique -alternately describe the

blue-eyed, spiky-haired Eton and Cambridge grad as having “an insatiable

appetite for life,” being  “charmingly

opportunistic” and “a complete cad.” In other words: perfect for TV. “He’s

pathologically gregarious and totally fearless in any social situation,” said

Mr. Young, who further exposes Mr. Rellie in his book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People . “However famous an actress

or beautiful a supermodel, he’ll ask them out to dinner. He’s incredibly flirtatious. My cousin sat

next to him at a dinner once, and she said it was like sitting next to an

octopus on crack.”

“The guy who plays him [in Off

Centre ] is not as subtle in his charm,” said Susan Welsh, a senior editor

at W magazine and longtime friend.

But, Ms. Welsh acknowledged, TV Euan’s “tactics are pretty much by the

book-like Euan finds himself having dates with three women at the same time,

but he convinces them to sleep with each other and it all works out.

“The classic sad part,” Ms. Welsh said, laughing, “is the reviews

say he’s an obnoxious character, but I think he’s actually very similar in real

life.”

Over lunch at the Great American Health Bar, a health-food diner

near his West 57th Street office, Mr. Rellie tried to play down his recent

Kramerization.

“So as not to sound

self-indulgent, I only watched the first episode,” Mr. Rellie said. “It’s not

very British to stay in every Sunday to watch a show loosely based on you.” (“I

helped him to be more self-deprecating with you,” Ms. Sykes said the following

morning. “It doesn’t last long. He goes right back to it the next day,” she

said, sighing.)

What did he think of Off Centre ? “I found the pilot funny,” he said, alternating between sips of a

strawberry smoothie and carrot juice. But “I’m not surprised the reviews have

been patchy-I mean lousy. And the actor is much

better-looking than me.”

Still, Mr. Rellie admitted that he could recognize himself in

some of the show, but found TV Euan’s exploits (getting crabs, dating

prostitutes, juggling women) to be ” wild ly

exaggerated.”

“I may have affected the air of a rakish playboy, but it’s only

an air,” he said. “I’m a nice, well-mannered young man.”

-Christine Muhlke

THE LOST CLOTHES OF SEPT. 11

Marden’s Surplus & Salvage is an unassuming discount

establishment nestled in a strip mall between an Ames department store and the

Great Wall Chinese Restaurant on the outskirts of Portland, Me. On the Saturday

after Thanksgiving, the store was busy and dressed for the holidays, with

99-cent tinsel displays and a crowd of baseball-capped lobstermen checking out

long-sleeved, tie-dyed N.H.L. shirts. 

Elsewhere, a noisy group of shoppers buzzed around a recently

arrived shipment of fine suits and assorted men’s wear. Spread over a dozen

racks, these clothes had impressive (and authentic) labels: Armani, Gucci,

Hickey-Freeman, Brioni, Zegna, Donna Karan, Hugo Boss. Most of them had

originally been priced at well over $1,000 and reduced by half at another

discount store. By the time they’d hit Marden’s, they were selling for around

$300-a steal, even in Maine.

But there was, one might say, a slight catch. As a friend reached

for a blue three-button Kenneth Cole suit, he noticed that the suit and the

smooth plastic hanger on which it hung were covered with a fine white dust.

Strange, we thought. A few minutes later, he noticed the same thing when he

grabbed a suede Ruffo jacket. Curious, he inspected the tag-and under a slash

of iridescent permanent ink, we spied a barely visible logo, printed in that

trademark swirly script every good New York City shopper knows by heart:

Century 21.

Century 21, of course, is the glorious Manhattan

discount-clothing chain whose flagship store is located just across Church

Street from the World Trade Center site. Though it’s still standing and plans

to reopen soon, the store suffered damage during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack

and has been shuttered in the interim.

To this Century 21 loyalist’s eye, the merchandise at Marden’s

looked to be from Century 21’s main floor and balcony, where many high-end

men’s suits were located. Though the suits appeared in fine shape-nothing a

good dry cleaning couldn’t solve-the dust and inked-out tags gave them a rather

haunted, mournful look. These clothes, needless to say, had been through a lot .

Of course, this feeling was pretty much lost on Marden’s

customers that day, since there was no indication whence the dressy mother lode

had come. An ad in The Portland Press

Herald on Nov. 16 had touted the suits as a “Portland Exclusive!” “Just

arrived!” read the copy. “Over $1,500,000.00 worth of men’s famous name

designer suits, dress shirts, ties & coats.” Then, in big red letters:

“From one of the biggest salvage

deals ever!”

It certainly was some sale. Careful inspection showed that a

Brioni three-piece lightweight tweed originally priced at $2,800 had been

marked down at Century 21 to $1,499. Marden’s was selling it for $750. That

blue three-button Kenneth Cole wool suit, originally priced at $1,100, was

selling for $200. And the Ruffo suede jacket, originally $1,700, was $250.

Still, employees of Marden’s were tight-lipped about the source

of the price-slashed suit deluge. Portland, of course, was a pre–Sept. 11 pit

stop for some of the terrorists. (The local Wal-Mart was Mohammed Atta’s

notorious last stop, and he dined at a Pizzeria Uno not far away.) Given the

heightened sensitivities locally, it was understandable that the store might

not want to give precise details about the origin of the designer threads.

“We’re really not supposed to say anything about that,” a blond

salesclerk told me when I asked her where the clothes came from.

Why not? I asked.

“Because it might hurt people’s feelings.”

Later, on the telephone, a woman named Claudia-the manager of

Marden’s clothing division, who declined to give her last name -wasn’t much

help, either. “I can’t give out any information,” she said. Instead, she

directed the call to the Marden brothers themselves.

John Marden, who owns and runs Marden’s with his siblings Harold

Jr. (Ham), David and Nancy, and their father Harold (Mickey), could not confirm

where the suit collection had originated.

“Contractually, we can’t say either way,” he said, adding that

companies like his could get blacklisted by retailers and insurance companies

for revealing the source of their merchandise.

Still, Mr. Marden did say that when a store goes out of business

or has its inventory damaged, a third party-called a “salvor”-takes over and

brings the merchandise to stores like Marden’s. Calling his company “one of the

top two or three salvage houses in the country,” Mr. Marden added: “We’re

almost like buzzards.”

A telephone recording at the Century 21 corporate office in

Secaucus, N.J., informed callers that the store’s Manhattan location was

temporarily closed, but that the Brooklyn and Long Island stores were still

operational (the company also has an outlet store in Secaucus). A spokesperson

for the company said that Century 21 had not redistributed from the Cortlandt

Street location to its other stores.

“We’re not reselling the merchandise,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s not in the Brooklyn or Long Island or Secaucus locations.”

Raymond Gindi, Century 21’s chief operating officer, said that

the department store’s insurance company, which he declined to name, assumed

responsibility for the clothing in the Cortlandt Street store. He said he

didn’t know where it all wound up.

“I don’t want people to think I’m selling the clothes in Maine,”

Mr. Gindi said. “Century 21 has nothing to do with it anymore. It’s all gone.”

-Rebecca Traister