The Celebrity Collector
Rex Lee of HBOs "Entourage" collects T-shirts
By Ken Hall
Waiters, waitresses and caterers in the Los Angeles area beware: Rex Lee just
might want the shirt off your back. The Asian-American actor who's parlayed a
recurring role on the HBO series "Entourage" into a full-time gig has been known
to offer cash to anyone who might be wearing a T-shirt he likes well enough to
try and get the wearer to part with it. Waiters are especially
"I've actually done that," Lee said with a laugh from his home in
Los Angeles, on break from third-season filming of "Entourage," the series based
on the actor Mark Wahlberg's early, struggling years in Hollywood. "Whenever I
go somewhere, I like to commemorate the event by getting a T-shirt. If that
means offering a waiter at a Hollywood party $20 to give me his shirt, that's
what I'll do."
Usually, the person is so flattered, starstruck or taken
aback, they'll accommodate Rex's request. But at this year's "Entourage"
premiere party, the T-shirt he decided he absolutely had to have (a nice white
shirt emblazoned with the "Entourage" logo) was on the back of an opportunist.
"He said he'd give me the shirt if I got him a job on the show as a production
assistant," Lee said.
One might think Lee would be able to get the show to
spot him the same shirt for free, but in any case he and the opportunist are
still in negotiations. He isn't sure how his T-shirt collection got started ("I
think I had a collection before I even knew it was a collection"), but one thing
is for sure: Rex Lee, now 27, began collecting T-shirts long before he was a
series regular on "Entourage."
"I've worked many jobs to get to this point,
some of them not so pleasant," he said. "One was at a coffee shop that will
remain nameless, because I really didn't like working there. One year, they
issued everybody red T-shirts at Christmas. After the holidays, there were all
these leftover red shirts in varying sizes. I just kind of kept them. Same with
the shirts they issued for a fruity blended drink."
That job alone accounts
for more than 30 shirts in Lee's collection. The rest were drawn from a variety
of sources. When HBO put him up in Las Vegas not long ago, he made it a point to
pick up a couple of Las Vegas T-shirts. At a Motorola party, he ran into a
friend who offered to give him the shirt signifying the event ("Moto-7"). He
also has T's left over from a clothing store job he once had.
are a big hit with Lee (some are sweatshirts, but many are T's). The one from
Cornell was given to him by a friend who teaches law there. Oberlin College in
Ohio is his alma mater. His sister gave him an orange Cal State-Fullerton
sweatshirt (she's a student there). And he has overseas schools represented,
too: the Sorbonne in France and Oxford University in England.
Lee recalls the
time he bought his first designer T-shirt, at age 18. "This shirt was beautiful,
very artsy looking, and I remember paying $28 for it, which was, and is, a lot
of money for a T-shirt," he said. "I was taking an acting class at the time and
I wore the shirt to class. We were improvising a scene and this other student
grabbed me and without my even realizing it, he tore a large rip in
After class, Lee was talking to his instructor, who said, "I liked the
way you did the scene. It was very realistic, especially when your shirt got
ripped." Lee's jaw dropped. "'My shirt got what!?" he shouted, then he looked
and realized what happened. "I was heartbroken. It was beyond repair." Lee
remembers going up to the other student later on and assuring him there were no
His most expensive shirt? A little less than $100. He was
talking to someone whose shirt he was admiring and (evidently unable to pry it
away from him for a price) learned that it had been purchased at Ed Hardy in
Beverly Hills, a very exclusive shop on Melrose Avenue. "I went there, and none
of the shirts I looked at even had price tags on them. I was prepared, but it
still seemed high."
The story is made funny by the fact that, some time
later, Lee was at a party thrown by "US" Magazine. "They herded all the
celebrities in the back to this room where they were handing out various goodies
from various manufacturers and stores," he said. "And lo and behold, right
there, on this big rack, were a ton of Ed Hardy shirts, all of them free for the
asking. I grabbed about five."
Lee said the most interesting T-shirt he owns
is one he bought at an Erasure concert, at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
"It has a graphic that looks like something out of the medical book Gray's
Anatomy," he said. "It shows a human form with parts of it stripped away. But
it's old-timey, too, with beautiful script writing. It's like the group Erasure
itself very exciting and transcendental."
Despite the fact that T-shirts
from Europe generally "fit me funny," Lee still has several. "I took one of
those 'visit five countries in ten days' tours, and I picked up shirts in
London, Paris, Geneva and elsewhere," he said. "I was also given a T-shirt by a
friend who visited Germany. It was bought at a castle that was once lived in by
a king who was secretly gay. It's a very interesting T-shirt."
last season of "Entourage," part of the story line involved a proposed movie
project involving the Aqua-Man superhero character. Coinciden-tally, Urban
Outfitters, the upscale clothier, was offering an Aqua-Man T-shirt. "Someone
from the show was wearing it, and when I saw it I was like, 'Wear on earth did
you get that shirt?'" Lee said. "Needless to say, I bought one for
Rex Lee was born Jan. 7, 1969, in Warren, Ohio. His father, a
doctor, got the urge to move the family twice the first time to Boston and the
second time to Los Angeles, where Rex has lived since he was nine. His mother
was a homemaker for years, but later on became an accomplished painter and
born-again Christian. Today, she preaches for a branch of the Presbyterian
A math wizard and budding pianist, Lee was accepted at the
prestigious Oberlin School of Music in Ohio. After two years, his interest in
music had crested and he found himself drawn to theatre and dance. After
deciding his "short Korean legs" weren't going to cut it in the dancing world,
he shifted his focus to acting and earned a BA degree from Oberlin and returned
home to Los Angeles.
After working jobs in retail and the aforementioned
coffee shop, Lee finally began landing roles in regional theatre. He co-starred
in the controversial AIDS polemic, "Queen of Angels," as well as the revival of
Charles Ludlam's "Camille" and "Letters to a Student Revolutionary." He acted in
TV commercials, too, appearing in spots for Domino's Pizza, Wendy's, Dr. Pepper
As for television, he had a bit part as a ticket taker in the
program Dave's World in 1994 and didn't appear in another TV show for five more
years. Since 1999, he's had guest-starring roles on numerous shows, including
Son of the Beach, Lucky, Andy Richter Controls the Universe and others. It was
through a friend that Lee heard about the role of "Lloyd" on the show
On the show, Lee plays a funny and engaging assistant to "Ari
Gold" (played by Jeremy Piven, whose character is based on the real-life
Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel). Lee's "Lloyd" was only supposed to be on
the show for four episodes, but his role was so well received that HBO expanded
that to ten episodes. This year, the character was written into the show as a
Other projects Lee has acted in this year include an episode of
TV's What About Brian? (in which he plays Jeremy, a salesclerk); an episode of
TV's Prescriptions (he plays Tommy Ho, a vintage clothing store worker); a part
in the short film Mothers Be Good (a drama by Lynn Moses; Rex's character runs a
yard sale); and the TV comedy Twins (Lee plays Kenny's gay boyfriend).
Lee is also a fan of all things French and Egyptian. Fans of Rex Lee may write
to the star c/o Sharp & Associates, 8721 Sunset Blvd., Suite 208, Los
Angeles, CA 90069.
Rex Lee, 27, was born in Ohio and lives in Los Angeles. He's a regular on the
hit HBO series, Entourage.
T-shirt from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio Rex's alma mater.
Rex models one of the many T-shirts in his vast collection.
This shirt with an "Aquaman" graphic refers to a story line in Entourage that
centered around the superhero.
"Angels in America" shirt, acquired by Rex at the Mark Taper Forum in Los
This colorful shirt came from Ed Hardy, the trendy clothing store in Beverly