11 Things You Didn’t Know About Glenn O’Brien
October 13, 2016 by Adam Bennett
There’s a blockbuster talk at the Blanton next Thursday night, featuring a talk show host, an underwear model, a New Wave rock and roller, a haute couture fashion insider, an art critic, a philosopher, an advice columnist, a stand-up comedian, and one of the original members of Andy Warhol’s Factory.
All of these people are in fact a single person: Glenn O’Brien.
What’s fascinating about Glenn O’Brien is that, like Warhol, his interests touch so many diverse media. Even people who love his TV shows or his fashion columns might not know about his art criticism, his poems, or his jam sessions with Fab 5 Freddy.
So here’s an incomplete list of 11 things you might not know about Glenn O’Brien:
- He created and hosted the legendary New York public access show TV Party, featuring a who’s who of early 80s art and punk: everyone from David Byrne to Jean-Michel Basquiat to the Clash. David Letterman called TV Party “the greatest TV show ever,” while George Clinton called it “anarchy Howdy Doody guerilla TV.”
- He currently hosts Tea at the Beatrice on M2M Network, featuring guests from Gisele Bündchen to Baz Luhrmann.
- He wrote the iconic style column in GQ Magazine, “The Style Guy,” from 1999–2015, educating generations of American men on sex, manners, grooming, fashion, and the meaning of life. What’s the difference between a ticket pocket and a fob pocket? How late in the year can I wear white denim? A generation of American men got their answers from Glenn. His style philosophy: “If we’re created in the image of God, do you really want to put on a Steelers jersey?”
- He has also written dozens of essays in catalogues about the leading names in contemporary art: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince, John Baldessari, Tom Sachs.
- Music too? Why not? In addition to the TV Party jam sessions with Blondie and Fab 5 Freddy, his band Konelrad—self-proclaimed as “the world’s first socialist-realist rock band”—played at CBGB and O’Brien produced records and performed with Buster Poindexter, a.k.a. David Johansen of the New York Dolls. He also worked with U2, Pulp, and Willie Nelson at Island Records.
- He’s created some of the most iconic fashion advertising campaigns of the last 30 years, including the Mark Wahlberg/Kate Moss ads for Calvin Klein, the Brad Pitt ad for Chanel No. 5, and the Martin Scorsese-directed Dolce and Gabbana ad starring Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson. He’s perhaps most proud of a Calvin Klein campaign that was prematurely shelved in the 1990s after being criticized by Bill Clinton and parodied by Beavis and Butthead: “to me, that was the highest compliment.”
- He freelances as a stand-up comedian: “Van Gogh painted 73 paintings. 89 of them are in New York.”
- He’s the screenwriter of the Cannes-selected film Downtown 81.
- He’s the underwear model on the album art of one of the most iconic LPs of all time: the Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers.
- Last but not least: he worked closely with Andy Warhol as the editor and art director for Warhol’s magazine Interview. They first met when Warhol read Glenn’s film reviews in the Village Voice. Warhol invited him over to The Factory and ended up hiring Glenn straight out of college to work on Interview.
We’re leaving out Glenn’s poems, the 21st-century reboot of TV Party, his forthcoming book-length history of cognac, Pass the Henny—and a lot more. Don’t miss Glenn’s thoughtful reflections about books and Warhol, shot through with his inimitable dry wit, next Thursday night at the Blanton!