Glenn O’Brien, writer, editor, and man-about-NYC has died. O’Brien had been combatting a serious illness for years.
He once described himself like this;
“I am a writer, editor, copywriter and creative director. I have also worked as a grocery clerk, demolition man, steelworker, waiter, bartender, convention salesman, needlepoint painter, art director, singer, stand up comedian, and record producer.
I’m a Pisces with Aquarius rising and a Cancer moon. I’m also a Fire Boar and right handed.“
An instantly recognizable art world fixture, O’Brien trained his deadpan wit on art, music, and fashion as an editor and contributor for Rolling Stone, Allure, Esquire, and The New Yorker, among others. He wrote long-running, columns for Interview, Artforum, and at Details and GQ.
O’Brien was born in Cleveland. He spent his college years at Georgetown University, where he became friends with the art writer Bob Colacello. O’Brien told the New York Times in 2015,
“They thought, ‘Let’s get some nice clean-cut college kids who aren’t amphetamine addicts and see if they can run the magazine.‘”
In the 1980s, O’Brien had a public-access television show called TV Party, which was a mix of live music, semi-coherent interviews, skits, and general craziness. O’Brien said,
“The show ran on Channel D and Channel J, and was quite popular with the kids. We lucked into following the Robin Byrd Show for a while, and so inherited an audience of horny guys. We also got a big high school following thanks to smoking a bunch of pot and talking shit.”
Guests over the years included the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Burden, and Robert Mapplethorpe, and musicians David Byrne, Mick Jones, and Iggy Pop. Debbie Harry once stopped by on a pogo stick. O’Brien wrote,
“The show never officially ended. Chris got sick and almost died, I got married and decided I needed to make some money, some people went to rehab, some left town, and some died of AIDS, which had just appeared… We had a good run fucking up television, though. Cursing, getting high, advocating subversion, being party desperados.”
2015 was a busy year for O’Brien. His relationship with GQ ended badly, with him leaving the magazine and its editors assigning a new writer to his column. He was quick to trash their decision in an interview,
“I created the Style Guy, not GQ… Their proprietary attitude toward what I’ve done is not only insulting, but really unoriginal. They could have at least called their replacement the ‘Style Intern.’ ”
That same year O’Brien launched an online show, Tea at the Beatrice with Glenn O’Brien, a low-key successor to TV Party on M2M/Apple TV, in which chatted informally with his art and fashion friends, including Richard Prince, Olivier Zahm, Inez and Vinnodh, and Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, of Proenza Schouler. He also became an editor at large at Maxim.
We had limited interactions over the years but we had scores of friends in common who will mourn the loss. It's a cliché to say they broke the mold, but we aren't likely to get another one like this anytime soon.
Glenn O’Brien was 70.