Glenn O’Brien (1947–2017)

Glenn O’Brien, 2010. Photo: Peter Ross

(after Joe Brainard)

1. I REMEMBER THE SWIGGERS, a group of heavy drinkers and bons vivants, who, before the Millennium, met frequently in Bridgehampton to drink one another under the table. Everyone had a pseudonym: Johnny Walker, Lady Chablis, Dee Bauch, Madame Glugg, Dutch Courage, Teeny Martini, Lord and Lady Hangover. Glenn’s nom-d’ivrogne was Haut Brion, and he could hold his wine. Many’s the time he carried me senseless from the summer lawn to a place of safety.

2. I remember how frequently we discussed our ardent, intellectual, yet terribly visceral lust for Patsy Southgate, both in her youth and in her “mature” phase. I’m certain that one reason Glenn bought that exquisite little Mike Goldberg abstraction (unrecognized at a benefit auction) was to move a few degrees closer to her. We even collaborated on a poetic salutation:

Patsy’s face comes drifting up from 1959
I stroke her cheeks and kiss her mouth
before she absconds with Mike,
dazzling in his new Lagonda,
and loud bespoke check suit,
saluting me as he rolls by,
her head already buried in his lap.

4. I remember around 1990, Glenn’s then wife, the fabulous Barbara Egan, created two life-size Greek-caryatid-style sculptures of Glenn and herself, and how difficult it was to ignore Glenn’s massy wedding tackle when confronted by these two imposing statues flanking the couch. Based on this evidence, it may indeed have been Glenn’s ample package inflating those tighty-whities for Warhol’s genius cover of Sticky Fingers. A rumor Glenn did nothing to discourage.

5. I remember thinking Glenn had too many Basquiats.

6. I remember how, at dinner parties, Glenn’s eyelids would flutter rapidly right before he delivered the perfectly crafted mot juste.

7. I remember Glenn gifting me a pair of Timberlands in perfect condition, and only finding out he had used them to research an article about artificially increasing your height when I cracked my head on the lintel of his kitchen door as I was leaving.

8. I remember how we frequently checked the crowns of each others’ heads, like monkeys checking for lice, looking for that telltale crop circle, that hairless patch signaling the advent of Male Pattern Baldness, a curse that some men find more daunting than ED (whatever that is).

9. I remember my surprise while on a Swiggers’ holiday in Jamaica, when Glenn emerged in the morning wearing tube sox with Adidas slippers. I imagined it was some advanced hip-hop styling, even though it looked more like Eric Goode channeling David Attenborough.

10. I remember driving back at night from Chris Blackwell’s estate in Jamaica because Suzanne X. was too high to drive. I followed Glenn in the lead vehicle, passing a cow engulfed in flames and other nocturnal roadside attractions, when suddenly, not one, but two tires blew out. Glenn was furious at Suzanne for being furious at me for wounding her car. But he was very cool in the dark, even sharing a spliff with the two Rastas who had materialized from the woods like ghosts, offering to “help.” We used the spares from both rentals and made it safely back to Goldeneye.

11. I remember Glenn commanding me to “go at once, and stand not on the order of your going” (paraphrasing the Scottish play, always so erudite, even in an emergency) to retrieve the Richard Prince painting I had rented out for a pittance (with option to buy) to an abnormally shrewd collector, in order to pay that month’s rent. I got it back and reluctantly listened to Glenn’s highly sensible lecture on how to succeed in the art world by at least trying a little bit.

12. I remember Glenn and myself dressing up in authentic priestly garments supplied by the photographer Sante d’Orazio for his series on artists as priests, and wandering along Prince and Mott knowing those Italian ladies who kept asking for our blessing might have crucified us had they realized we were two pagans in ecclesiastical drag.

Glenn O’Brien and Max Blagg, date unknown. Photo: Sante d’Orazio

13. I remember editing Bald Ego with Glenn, when he was eating a lot of Vicodin on account of his Irish teeth, and I was tragically becalmed by Meprobamate™, prescribed by a misguided shrink—the horrid pharmaceuticals made for some interesting editorial collisions, Glenn’s high merging with my low to produce a sublime third “thing.”

14. I remember opening the first issue of Bald Ego and turning to Sante’s steamy photos of Pammy Anderson, and the exhilaration both editors felt at having produced the first lit/art mag with an actual wankable centerfold.

15. I remember chasing the dragon a few times with Glenn, and how harmless it seemed, languidly conversing with the shades of Cocteau and Coleridge.

16. I remember being so jealous that Glenn was doing a book about sex with Madonna and allegedly test-driving certain chapters with her for “research.”

17. I remember walking hung over into Glenn’s house on Narrow Lane one morning in high summer and the stereo was playing Bob Dylan’s new album (Time out of Mind) really loud and there was a pitcher of Bloody Marys and a pile of fresh croissants on the kitchen table and four kinds of homemade jam and Glenn was typing away and quoting himself out loud as he wrote, and life at that moment seemed as full as we were full of our self-regarding selves.

18. I remember when I heard, on a Friday morning last spring, that Glenn had moved on to the next level. I took down Robert Graves’s White Goddess (a mutual favorite) from the bookshelf, lit a white candle, and read aloud the soaring, roaring eleventh-century poem “Battle of the Trees” to Glenn’s hovering spirit. All our petty squabbles and resentments just melted away, and there was nothing left between us but love and art and poetry.

Max Blagg is a New York–based poet, artist, and author whose most recent book, Slow Dazzle (2017) documents his collaborations with artists including Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, and Richard Prince.