Few figures on the New York social scene are as ubiquitous (or charming) as Euan Rellie, the Brit-born banker, husband of Lucy Sykes, and veteran man-about-town. So when he sits down with Men.Style.com and shares his list of holiday party tips, you'd be well advised to pay close attention. (After all, he'd better have something to show for his 665 pictures on Patrick McMullan.) After the jump, Rellie's tips on playing the perfect guest and hosting the perfect soirée, including what you should and shouldn't talk about (talking about kindergarten admissions is boring; discussing racism with Spike Lee is dangerous); why people will have more faith in you if you pretend you're British ("there's a spurious credibility that comes from speaking in an accent"); why decor doesn't matter (it's the guest list that counts); and why it's important to make sure lots of pretty girls are there: "Everybody likes pretty girls, from octogenarian aunts to your kids to gay guys to boring married guys." And don't let the grim talk of a recession (including our own) deter you: "When the economy gives you lemons, you'd better be able to twist them into some festive cocktails."
"Pick the most controversial topic and address it in the most delicate manner. Granted, I once made the mistake of getting into a discussion with Spike Lee about racism, but in general, sex and politics and religion are the best subjects. There's nothing that should be off the table; I like to challenge myself by discussing the difficult things. A conversationalist needs a thick skin as well. You need to be able to push the envelope—there's a limited amount of fun you can have discussing the state of the investment banking market or kindergarten admission issues. I suppose in Manhattan, real estate, too. It's frighteningly typical."
When in doubt, gossip
"I've no problem with scurrilous gossip—though my wife, Lucy, tells me to be more discreet. Obviously I try not to hurt people or spread rumors that will hurt them, but generally people with big egos should have those egos deflated, and one way to do that is to talk about them in a sacrilegious way."
"The best party guests? English people. I don't mean to sound vain, but I once coined a phrase, 'Brits are the new blonds.' They're quite good at pretending to be sparkly and have fun. And clearly having an English accent is more valuable in New York than it is in London. There's a spurious credibility that comes from speaking in an accent. I could validly be accused of being a professional Brit in New York, invited around to give the international view. Foreigners in general aren't a bad thing."
"The decor and the extravagance and all that crap—none of it matters. It's only who's going to be there. So you mustn't just invite your friends, invite people you'd like to be friends with. I like tawdry journalists and glamorous fashion people. In the fashion industry especially, you need a couple heterosexuals around, so I try gamely to be helpful in that capacity. Journalists can be scurrilous and hold opinions and be pissy and generally have a story or two. Someone like Jason Binn or Peggy Siegal or Toby Young—professionally controversial types, who can be pushy and difficult and entertaining in equal measure. It's good to have titans of industry, not that I know many. Especially in New York, people love success. 'It's not where you're from, it's where you're at,' to quote Eric B. and Rakim."
Finally, the Golden Rule
"Rule number one for any party: You need at least six or seven very pretty girls—at least 20 percent of the guests in any circumstance, though that's not an upper limit. Everybody likes pretty girls, from octogenarian aunts to your kids to gay guys to boring married guys. Even other pretty girls."