Glenn O’Brien

  • birthday suits for different parties.

    THE MOST ARTLIKE PRINT ADVERTISEMENTS seem to be those appearing in smallish, upscale, arts-oriented magazines like Interview and Details. These publications are the totems of an advantaged minority community, one that is bonded by a shared image language. Art is the grammar and rhetoric of this language; advertising and fashion are its vernacular and dialects.

    But in advertising directed at an art-worldly mobile community, frequently all that separates the advertisement from editorial art is the barest signifier of intention. A small logo in the corner of a photo may be all that removes it from

  • flogging firewater through intoxicating images. And the critic makes himself available.

    THERE'S AN OLD STORY, which may be apocryphal, that the Guinness Company of Dublin once retained Brendan Behan, then Ireland’s most eminent living poet, to write a slogan for their famous stout. According to the story Behan accepted the assignment for a nominal fee and asked that the company send over a few cases of the product for him to sample and come back and see him in a few days. In a few days the Guinness representatives returned. Behan did not answer their knock, but the door was open and they let themselves in. The floor of the flat was covered with empty stout bottles and with Behan

  • the good, the bad, and the smelly.

    AS OUR ADVERTISING YEAR draws to a close, I have a few observations about trends in advertising over the last season.

    The City of New York may soon have one of the toughest antismoking laws in the country, banning tobacco fumes in most public places and requiring that restaurants set aside 50 percent of their seating for nonsmokers. Already, if you light up in an elevator you do so at the risk of prosecution. But it’s still possible to enter an elevator wearing dangerous levels of perfume or cologne, gagging fellow passengers with impunity. And if it weren’t bad enough that noxious scents remain

  • Advertising

    AN OLD MAN STANDS IN a glass booth, like the one used to shield Adolf Eichmann during his Nazi war-crimes trial. Behind him stands a jury in similar booths. Although the architecture of the room is distinctly neoclassical, the booths are lit by tubes of blue neon, giving the scene the mixed feelings of high tech and the Dark Ages familiar to fans of the director Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner. The old man says, “I’ve already told you, it was all going to work out somehow. There was even talk of an amendment. But no one was willing to make the sacrifices. I’m afraid you’re much too young to

  • Extrasensory perception.

    HEAVY-METAL SINGER OZZY OSBOURNE was sued recently by the parents of a 19-year-old boy who shot himself to death, allegedly while listening to Osbourne’s song “Suicide Solution.” John McCollum was still wearing headphones when his body was discovered, and the song “Suicide Solution” was the last cut on the last album side McCollum listened to. Osbourne claimed that the song was about the horrors of alcoholism. The McCollum family’s lawyer claimed that the song was intended to induce teen suicides; in dismissing the case, California Superior Court Judge John L. Cole commented that there was no

  • Advertising

    STAR SEARCH IS THE LATEST in the ancient line of amateur talent contests. The amateur hour is a radio and television tradition, from Major Bowes through Ted Mach’s Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts down to The Gong Show. Many viable stars have been discovered through amateur contests: Julius LaRosa, just to name a few. And Star Search has already uncovered the major talent of Sam Harris, the young man with the big voice, in tuxedo and sneakers, who could be the next Wayne Newton.

    Amateur talent contests have remained virtually unchanged. From Arthur Godfrey to Ed McMahon is not

  • the tourist’s industry’s Dramamine against terrorism. Seeing the world through travel ads.

    THE ADS USED TO SAY “See America first.” They’re saying it again. Chevy Chase and his family are probably not going on a European Vacation this summer, they’re probably going to the Hamptons, along with all the other people who aren’t going to Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and of course Turkey.

    I’m not going to Long Island just because it’s safer than the Mediterranean, I’m going because “I ❤️ NY.” I also like negative advertising. Tell me not to buy it and I’ll try it. Give me a glass of your cheapest Italian wine and a couple of Tylenols and put me behind

  • Smoke signals.

    “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: SMOKING Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.”

    Buy some and die. It’s a hard pitch. How do you sell people what has been proved bad for them? How do you persuade people to buy something that might kill them? Do you try to fool them or to help them fool themselves? Tobacco is all the same, but every brand’s image is different. Do you create a language of counterimages and cryptic inversions of meaning?

    In London recently there were billboards everywhere with the image of scissors cut out of purple fabric. Near one corner was the

  • Surrealism with everything on it.

    SOMETIMES YOU LEAVE THE country for a few days and everything changes. I was away for one week and when I came back Burger King had not only found Herb, but it had destroyed him. The man Burger King had been looking for, touted as the only person in America who had never eaten a Whopper, had been converted. Herb was now traveling around America eating the top of the Burger King line.

    When I left the country you could get a Whopper for half price if you went into Burger King and said, “I’m not Herb,” or, if your name actually was Herb, “I’m not the Herb you’re looking for.” At this writing, when

  • Ye’ll tak’ the high road an I’ll tak’ the low road / An’ I’ll be at Le Mondrian before ye.

    “I LOVE YOU ’CAUSE you’re my style.” So goes the latest jeans jingle, affirming in the boldest terms ever the supremacy of fashionable over natural selection. “You’ve got the look I want to know better / You’ve got the look that’s all together,” chant the Jordache singers as the Jordache dancers cavort in a model mating ritual. “When every little bit of hope is gone, Sassons say so much,” croons Elton John on one of the most elaborate blue jeans spot-musicals of all time. Actually, the ad is a retouched rock video: John sold his elaborate “Sad Songs” music video to Sasson, because the assonance

  • Adam Füss

    Adam Füss starts photography over from scratch with his pinhole camera. There is no lens; there is just a tiny aperture and a large piece of film. Füss uncovers the hole for a few seconds or for several minutes, depending upon the light on location. By reducing technology to ground zero, he trans forms technique into something almost physical; he makes the photograph an attitude with endurance. The camera can’t measure anything precisely, so Füss “shoots from the hip.” The pinhole is his remote “third eye,” and he must imagine what it sees as he finds his angle and range and gauges light. The

  • Robert Barnes

    Robert Barnes is an accomplished painter, and this show, a “mid-career survey” including works dating from the mid ’50s to 1984, made it easy to trace his development simply by following the chronology of the gallery walls Barnes’ development has not been in response to the fashions of painting; his works have remained, at all times, outside mainstream art. His earliest work is as finely made as his latest, but for me, this show was bouncing from one formally interesting early canvas to another, then walking into another room, a room of more recently made paintings, and boom. Just what this boom