The central section of Greenwich Village, near that haven for nostalgic expats called Tea & Sympathy, has always drawn the English. A 1902 New York Times guide to the 'British Quarter' describes rather unflatteringly the neighborhood's inhabitants: "ruddy, grizzled, thick-necked, opinionated and slangy." We owe this vignette to Toby Young, the famously unsuccessful Vanity Fair writer who parlayed his failure in New York into an amusing book, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, the basis for an upcoming movie starring Simon Pegg and Jeff Bridges.

In a column for London's Spectator, Young mentions the current campaign to reclaim that section of the Village as 'Little England.' American prejudices against British interlopers have come full circle, much like the neighborhood itself. The British journalist in the film is as gauche as the Times found his countrymen.

Toby Young is the son of a peer, studied at Oxford and Harvard, and founded one of the first high-low cultural reviews; but that obviously didn't work dramatically. Toby Young was painfully self-deprecating in his best-selling book; in this trailer for the movie, his upper-class background is almost entirely discarded. He's portrayed as a clueless oik who's plucked from obscurity in a bedsit above a kebab shop by Vanity Fair's Graydon Carter; the ruddy Brits dismissed by the Times a century ago seem positively charismatic by comparison.


Click for one scene from the trailer, in which Young breaks one of the cardinal rules of celebrity journalism, asking an interview subject whether he's gay.