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Glenn O’Brien

Glenn O’Brien (1947–2017)

Glenn O’Brien, a longtime contributor to Artforum and famous for his “Style Guy” column, which first appeared in Details and then ran in GQ for sixteen years, has died. Well-known for his association with Andy Warhol’s Factory circle, he also hosted the public-access-channel television show, “Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party”—created in 1978 with Chris Stein from the band Blondie—which ran for five years and featured guests such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne, Klaus Nomi, DNA, the Clash, and Fab 5 Freddy. O’Brien himself had a band, called Konelrad, which he described as a “socialist-realist rock band” and which authored such tunes as “Seize the Means of Production,” “Hardcore Melt Down,” and “I Don't Want Your Germs.”

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended Georgetown University. He later studied film as a graduate student at Columbia University and became the first editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, serving from 1971 to 1974. His regular column, “Glenn O’Brien’s Beat,” ran from 1978 to 1990 and was a touchstone for music criticism of the era and notable for its coverage of the New York punk scene. After Interview, he became the New York bureau chief of Rolling Stone. O’Brien is also credited with coining the now standard title of “editor at large” in the late 1970s, when he was made editor in chief of High Times magazine and avoided their actual offices in order to shake off potential attention from law enforcement.

In 1981, he wrote the film Downtown 81, directed by Edo Bertoglio and starring Basquiat, though the film was only released in 2001, when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. O’Brien was also one of the founding editors of the arts publication Bomb, which recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, and Spin magazine. In the mid-1980s, he became the creative director of advertising at Barneys New York, during which time he penned many articles for his column on advertising for Artforum.

In 1992, O’Brien edited Madonna’s Sex book. He also wrote many monographs and catalogue essays on artists such as Warhol, Basquiat, Richard Prince, and Christopher Wool, in addition to publishing several books, including Soapbox (1998), The Style Guy (2000), the poetry collection Human Nature (2001), and How to Be a Man (2011). More recently, from 2008 to 2009, he served as CEO and editorial director of Brant Publications.

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