In recent days, the art, music and, not least, fashion worlds have all mourned the unexpected passing of Glenn O’Brien. The dust of his life path, even before one read his men’s style writing, kicked up many different clouds that each could qualify him as a style icon, worthy in fact of the most florid and flamboyant epithets of praise I know. His many public incarnations, beginning at the birth of Pop Culture as a product of Andy Warhol’s Factory, earn him the appellation protean: constantly adapting, indeed ahead of the curve. O’Brien’s acid wit rarely fueled a poison pen, but deserved the term epigrammatic. And his ability to marry and convey different conflicting views and inspirations made him a contrarian in the best possible way, a true original.
Many of the necrologies currently scattering like grave dirt mention O’Brien’s vast, varied, and immensely entertaining CV: his debut as a clean-cut kid who by his admission was one of the two people brought in to edit Warhol’s new magazine Interview because they weren’t effed up on drugs. (Warhol famously said everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame; coincidentally I always thought Interview took 15 minutes to read, but at least they were a fun 15 minutes, more than I can say about almost any other publication.) His days hosting the anarchic public access cable show TV Party (which he created with Blondie’s Chris Stein) welcoming in the bright lights of the postpunk generation; his stints as “Editor at Large” of High Times, a title he claimed to have invented in homage to the legally suspect area of the magazine’s avowed subject; Creative Director of advertising for Barneys New York; columnist for Artforum; and a long tenure as The Style Guy for the defunct Details and, until a few years ago, GQ, which has become even more irrelevant since his acrimonious departure. Thence to Maxim, as the Axe Body Spray of men’s magazines tried to rebrand. Latterly, he launched a new show on Apple TV called Tea at the Beatrice, where over sedate afternoon tea at Graydon Carter’s Beatrice Inn he hobnobbed with personalities from art and fashion as diverse as Gisele Bündchen (whom the NYT in its amnesiac idiocy is now calling an “influencer”) to the artist, provocateur and posturer Shepard Fairey, whose college-town Andre the Giant shenanigans influenced me indelibly.
… A Very Bastille-Day Narrative, The works of Thomas Robson, an Artistic Provocateur, subverting and re-contextualising imagery with dramatic visual
interventions, defacing paintings. His work directly addresses ideas of appropriation, inspiration, and originality. This is exactly why it feels like a narrative that, intemporal, fits both sides, of how one could sense, suffer-or-rejoice, what this day is all about, for Monarchists or for Republicans. To some, it is the beginning of Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity. Yet if, to all those who thought so, I wish they pondered where did go that Fraternal impulse I wish they could define where the Equality adapted, since apparently, it was never adopted. This is precisely why, Freedom, is a choice that apparently remained unchosen.