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Glenn O’Brien

Glenn O’Brien on TV Party, New York, 1979. Photo: Bobby Grossman.

IN AN AGE OF TASTEMAKERS, trendsetters, influencers, consultants, and that most pernicious of hybrids, “creatives,” to talk about how cool Glenn O’Brien was is also to acknowledge how diminished this term has become. But O’Brien was very cool, and he achieved this status at a time when the word was still both contested and marginalized. In the remarkable half century since he arrived in New York as a wholesome kid from Cleveland, O’Brien didn’t so much report on culture as actively create it.

I was young enough to know O’Brien’s legendary byline years before I knew him. The downtown scene back in the 1970s was particularly adept at minting its own personalities. Much of the art that was created then is now widely known as a matter of history, but sadly this esoteric social alchemy has not stood the test of time. So it is hard to convey now, but there was a period when O’Brien and

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