I Am Legend: Glenn O’Brien

Access granted.

I like talk shows. Afternoons, 4pm lunches watching Oprah, that used to be me. Afterwards, until the window of say 9pm to 1am, there’s not much programming that blurs the lines between informative and entertaining. I look forward to the smartly-written monologues. Thanks Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, and especially Jimmy Fallon for probably the most original way of repackaging news items in his “Slow-Jamming the News” bit. It’s all that I aspire to if I had a career in televised red-eye shifts. I know talk shows first-hand from my short stint in public broadcasting, only as far back as six years ago. Last time I was in the business of broadcasting, it was in college, 2005 when the airwaves were unrestricted through the college’s closed-circuit TV network. The Spot as me and my partner Cast Love called it, was our TV Party, but more as a contemporary to Rap City: The Bassment. Glenn O’Brien and Big Tigger probably would have been proud. If it weren’t for our weekly program, I wouldn’t have found a career in journalism. I thought my interview skills were pretty sharp doing our little TV show, but they still needed improvement by the time I arrived at Complex magazine. Deeper questions, more dynamic subjects, this was print media. I was interviewing on a higher plateau of journalism for young adults.

I discovered a slew of TV Party episodes earlier last year. They opened me up to another generation that was as ambitious as my own. Glenn O’Brien was a purveyor of the music, art and culture defining the 1980s in downtown New York City. He became recognized for his stint as an editor at High Times, and Interview magazine under the direction of Andy Warhol. I’ve been a nerd tracking down pieces he’s written. Take this obscure article from 2006 he penned for Uniqlo’s first lookbook. I get inspired reading his cultural references in what would seem so two-dimensional, like the form and the function of a T-shirt. O’Brien can extract a conversation piece from the designer’s product. I probably wouldn’t have drawn parallels between communism and Mao simply by glancing at a Uniqlo collection of tees. See a sample collection of some of my favorite Glenn O’Brien works and commentary after the jump.


Excerpt from Supreme NY‘s coffee-table book by Glenn O’Brien, published by Rizzoli New York:

“With my eye on Supreme, I noticed that it seemed to be more than a store, it had at least some qualities of a cult. The store would close for installation, just like an art gallery, and then reopen with new merchandise, just like a gallery. But unlike a gallery, Supreme had long lines of customers waiting to get in and they would even camp out overnight. I eventually learned that there was something analogous to art sales going on here; the cats in the queue were there to get limited-edition merchandise. But I couldn’t recall anyone ever camping out for the release of a lithograph.

I also began to notice what was playing on the Nam June Paik-like stack of televisions in the window of the store. You might see some amazing skate footage, or surf footage, or you might see Mohammad Ali fighting. Then one day, there I was in the window. They were playing a DVD of highlights from my old public access show TV Party. Suddenly I felt qualified to enter the store. So did.”

Excerpts from “I Love New York” by Glenn O’Brien for Uniqlo Fall/Winter 2006:

“Today New York is safe and I love New York because I survived it. I love it like a man loves a woman. In other words I have no logical explanation for this love and it’s basically against my will. Love isn’t something you choose.”

“24/7: Sinatra sang about “the city that never sleeps.” It’s a little sleepier than it used to be, since recent administrations transformed Times Square into Orlando, Florida, and created a more wholesome atmosphere for our mid-American visitors, and started cracking down on the wilder bars and late-night clubs, but 24-hour party people still find a way. Somewhere in this town there is a party going on right now, and as the great New Yorker Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Some of us miss poverty and the bargains it afforded and crime and the excitement it afforded, but there’s some anarchy left in the old town yet. You can still find people playing jazz, salsa, or nasty rock live. Ambulances still visit discos.”


Summary of “The Heavy Metal Show” via Brink DVD:

“There were two TV Party Heavy Metal Shows: one taped at the Mudd Club, now lost, and this live studio sequel. At Mudd the TV Party Orchestra featured ten guitars and Charles Rocket on heavy metal accordion. This show, with a “Mock Penis Envy” backdrop by Jean-Michel Basquiat, features a guitar line up of Chris Stein, Lenny Ferrari, Patrick Geoffrois of the Contortions, plus Glenn, Basquiat, Snuky Tate and Walter Steding on guitar and vocals and Bradley Field on electronic drums.”


Excerpt from “Fashion Revolution On Broadway” by Glenn O’Brien via the Style Guy Typepad:

“So today I strolled over and had a look and I was pretty impressed. The men’s cashmere sweaters are $69.95 and they feel great and come in a lot of very strong colors. The women’s version is on sale this month for $49.95. I know people love multi-ply cashmeres, but I think you could just buy three of these in different colors and wear them in layers. They also do the full spectrum in T-shirts, socks, and other basics. I think this place might actually change the way people wear color in New York. And I don’t think any store has changed the way people dressed since The Gap hit with their pocket-tees years ago.”

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