Editor's note: It's the sweaty summer of 1999 and Adrian Grenier is just starting to make it big, starring in the indie film The Adventures of Sebastian Cole and about to break into the teen market with Melissa Joan Hart in You Drive Me Crazy. A big New York newspaper assigns a "Shopping with..." piece, and sends this reporter off with Grenier to get some clothes for a premiere. But the eventual Entourage star is still a little raw '- he's not about to head off to Barney's for an afternoon of shopping. The editors at the newspaper decide that he's not quite big enough yet to befit the high concept of an antishopping expedition to thrift stores, though, so that afternoon slips away into oblivion... until now.
Long-Lost Afternoon"I don't shop," Adrian Grenier says gamely as he's waiting for the L train to Williamsburg where he will do just that. "I haven't shopped in about four years."
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old actor has a premiere coming up for The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, and he could use a new dress shirt. He hasn't had to wear one since he stopped waiting tables about 18 months ago, a week after getting his first starring role in the film.
He certainly wouldn't want to wear any of his clothes from the '80s-themed drama, which is set in rural Dutchess County, New York. The low-budget movie had an even lower budget for costumes ($500 for a prom scene), and most of the cash was spent on Clark Gregg, who plays Sebastian's cross-dressing stepfather. The coming-of-age story is hip enough, but it wouldn't befit Genier's image as a Hollywood up-and-comer to be seen around town in skin-tight powder blue sweatpants and a sleeveless T-shirt with a heavy metal band logo on it.
The clothes were slightly better in his follow-up project, Drive Me Crazy, but still not premiere chic. In that film, a mainstream comedy, he plays a brooding suburbanite who eventually lightens up thanks to the efforts of his next-door neighbor, Melissa Joan Hart. He got to keep his wardrobe as a parting gift and thought he was safe from clothing stores for another few years. But being in the limelight has its demands.
Home Shopping Network
In Williamsburg, Grenier (pronounced Gren-yeah) heads for the first place he always goes when he needs a new shirt. He bounds up the stairs to his second-floor apartment and starts rummaging through his roommate's closet. Said roommate, Damien Paris, a friend since ninth grade at New York's famous LaGuardia High School for music and arts, sees this as normal and critiques his choices.
After picking through a few scraggly T-shirts and pajama tops, Grenier holds up a plain brown button-down shirt that looks almost preppy. "I like this one," he says.
"I tried giving that to you and you wouldn't take it," Paris says, scattering a few obscenities.
"Maybe it didn't fit right," Grenier answers. "I've got big shoulders and you're not as buff as I am. It might have been too long. I like short shirts. I don't like it when they hang down too far.
"I got you a T-shirt just last week," Paris reminds him. It was a birthday present. Grenier heads through the living room to find it. There is a plastic lawn chair for furniture and an ample collection of porn tapes on top of the TV. Wall art consists of cutouts of religious icons and a few of Grenier's pre-pubescent headshots that are aptly defaced.
Grenier is lost in that hazy time between independent film obscurity and becoming a teen idol. He's had small parts in other movies '- the indie Hurricane Streets and Woody Allen's Celebrity '- but little money has come in so far, and he's had even less time to cash in on whatever fame has come to him since January, when Sebastian Cole was at Sundance. People sometimes recognize him, but mostly because he looks like Benicio Del Toro. The Hollywood machine wants him to be a Ryan Philippe type, but he doesn't quite know what he wants, except, he says, "I want to enjoy what I'm doing and feel that I'm contributing something that's serious.
So far, he's not much interested in upgrading his lifestyle. A lot of young stars go for Bohemian hipster looks, but Grenier's is authentic. He lives in a ramshackle railroad flat in Williamsburg, for one thing, not the East Village. His wardrobe is culled from thrift stores in Brooklyn, friends and lost-and-found boxes '- "I think winter wear is communal," he says. "You get some gloves and a scarf from a lost-and-found box, wash them, wear them for a while until you lose them. Then somebody else does the same thing."
Grenier's clothes are well-matched, at least. There are no outrageous colors. But his plain blue T-shirt is worn thin and sports a few holes, and he complains that it doesn't sit right on his shoulders. His second-hand jeans have a muted red stain in the crotch, which he displays with a thrust. "Do I really want to know what that is," he asks. "I like to think some guy was riding along in his car drinking a red soda, he hit a curve and spilled some."
Most of the space in Grenier's apartment is given over to instruments and recording equipment. Genier has an unadorned room roughly the size of his bed, facing the street. Paris puts on one of their band's tracks, a melody much sweeter than one would expect from such an atmosphere. Sweaty in the un-air-conditioned heat and rank with cigarette smoke, the place looks less like a wrecked frat house than the den of a satanic cult.
The Swag Starts Already
Grenier scours under his bed and pulls up a shoe, a Nike hiking boot that looks a lot more sturdy than the damaged New Balance sneakers he's wearing.
"Certain companies like to send me clothes. And I can't give up new clothes, because I don't go shopping, but they end up sitting here, getting lost, because they're not my style," he says. The only gift of clothing he appreciates are the boxer shorts his grandmother buys for him. He finally comes up with the T-shirt his friend gave him, a dark blue number with the logo for Winslow Township Elementary School on it.
Where do you get a shirt like that?
"Jersey," Paris says.
After settling plans for later, Grenier finally heads out for his nice shirt. St. Vincent de Paul's Thrift Store, which is just steps from his apartment, is closed, however. He wanders down the block a bit, past small discount stores. The Friday afternoon crowd is thick and the humidity even thicker. Grenier spies a sorry-looking fern at an outdoor display.
"Maybe I should buy that and rescue it," he says.
A few steps later he worries about the birds in the pet store where everyone chain smokes. He wants to set some free.
Grenier's not at an age yet where he should be thinking about nesting, but he has been thinking a lot about family and saving lost things. He's close with his mom, who still lives in the Harlem neighborhood where he grew up. His biological father, who was never part of the picture, is now becoming the picture. Grenier is in the process of making a documentary, A Shot in the Dark, about getting back in contact with his dad. He filmed a crucial scene the week before on his birthday, when he surprised his father by showing up on his doorstep with a camera crew.
"It's not like he wasn't there. I always knew where he was, but I never had a relationship with him," he says.
Suddenly, a Payless shoe store catches his eye. He looks down at his sneakers. "Maybe I should get some shoes," he says.
At the 10 1/2 rack, he stoops down to check out a find: a pair of steel gray Pro Wings with thick Velcro straps instead of laces. They are ugly shoes for old men, but Grenier is effusive.
"These are the perfect kind of sneakers. You can't even tell who made them. And they're $12.99. But, do you think they can breathe?"
He sticks his hand into a shoe and blows on the exterior to see if he can feel air. No go. He puts the shoes back.
He wanders into a shop filled with candles, incense and religious paraphernalia. An elderly clerk is watching the news and doesn't seem to have time for Grenier.
"Do you have a candle that enhances fashionability?" he asks. The man grunts.
"Does this work for finding things?" Grenier asks as he holds up a tall green candle festooned with Catholic icons. The man grunts again.
Grenier settles on a spray can of the essence of St. Anthony and a bottle of Aerosol de Amor. Total: $6.
"I'm hoping this will get the right creative atmosphere in our place," he says a few minutes later, perfuming Brooklyn with the lemon-lime scent of the saint. Either that, or a cleaning service might work.