We really didn’t know Glenn O’Brien very well. Occasionally he would show up at a community meeting if the issue involved Bond St.; predictably opposing gentrification – an anomaly for a neighbor proud to own a Tesla and significant homes in the Hamptons and in Connecticut (not always simultaneously), but certainly understandable given his constituency and indomitable interest in edgy style that spawned NoHo. We were accustomed to seeing Glen O’Brien regularly walking with his son – always engaged in deep conversation or hailing a cab on Lafayette. We were aware that he frequented The Smile often and appreciated the ambiance and welcome at Il Buco. In a 2014 interview with Leandra Medine, of manrepeller.com O’Brien explained his fondness for NoHo: “Well, it’s the easiest place in New York to get a taxi. There’s really good restaurants around here. I actually hate to leave the neighborhood.”
We were proud to highlight his observations in a special piece for the Standard Hotels on hotel culture; and were impressed with his appearance at The Hole Gallery in a retrospective of Area the famous nightlife installation conceived by Eric Goode, another NoHo neighbor, in the mid 1980s. But we cannot match the praise and insights of numerous journalists and publications, who, in spite of some rifts and separations, have published heart-felt remorse that Glenn O’Brien is no longer among us. In the words of Linda Yablonsky of W magazine “Glenn OBrien Could Do Everything Except Live Forever.”
“Driven by his passion for art, music, culture and beauty, O’Brien chronicled some of the more important moments in New York’s cultural landscape beginning in the early Seventies,” wrote Lisa Lockwood of WWD, in the LA Times.
“Before art and fashion were so closely and profitably allied, and back when high fashion and downtown style were separated by far more than just zip codes, he was an early adopter of the blurring of boundaries between high and low,” recalls Véronique Hyland in New York Magazine’s The Cut.
Tagging him a Renaissance man, Rolling Stone offered an extensive account of Glenn O’Brien’s career, which included a stint as the magazine’s editor, here on his journalism:
O’Brien’s journalism works also includes stints at Allure, Details, ArtForm, GQ (as their “style guy”) and Spin, where he was among the magazine’s co-founders in 1985. “I feel like I have written for every magazine there is,” he wrote on his site. O’Brien also edited Madonna’s controversial Sex book in 1992 and worked as a creative director for Island Records in the mid Nineties.
And the most moving tribute of all came from Gentleman’s Quarterly from which Glenn O’Brien, The Style Guy, separated.
“One Last Riff with Glenn O’Brien, the King of New York Cool,” by Will Welch, GQ.com, April 8, 2017
Glenn and I were not speaking when he passed away. Things did not end well between The Style Guy and GQ, and, ever the freelancer, Glenn was deeply suspicious of corporations and the “swinish minions” who work for them, myself included. It’s a little hard to type those words, but they come directly from the “Social Climbing” piece we created together.
So be it. Because of Glenn, I know that feuding with friends is part of adult life. Plus, as Glenn’s status as a downtown legend goes mythical, I’m sure the situation will come in handy one day, years from now, at a party full of young Style Guys aspirants: “Glenn O’Brien? Yeah I knew him. I was once his technical advisor, but we weren’t speaking when he died.
I think Glenn would like that line.