A brief conversation with Glenn O’Brien
Contemporary Standard’s Gianluca Quagliano recently sat down with Glenn O’Brien to talk about Style, his new book and the industry as a whole. Have a read below and check out Contemporary Standard for more.
Gianluca) Ciao Glenn, I know it may sound naive but: let’s define the word “style” in the words of Glenn O’brien.
Glenn) Style is original expression. It’s the external manifestation of one’s DNA and consciousness. The way you speak, write, dance, dress, swing a sword. The way you wear your hat, the way you sip your tea…all the things Cole Porter listed in his song “You Can’t Take That Away From Me.” Style is what can’t be taken away from you.
Gianluca) I’ve read your book and I feel like I should have done it before. Is there an age in which you become a man? How many steps does it take to be ready?
Glenn) One step at a time, as long as you’re still walking. A boy is becoming a man when he’s learning, when he’s working. I explain it various ways to my son. One is that you’re a man when you have to work, and my son says he’s an artist so he thinks he’s a man already.
Gianluca) Let’s switch topic. I’ve got a few friends working as insiders in the fashion industry and sometimes I notice creativity is the last word involved during the creation process. What is your opinion about the (high) fashion system today?
Glenn) Fashion is commerce, although art is involved in it. In a consumer society creativity is often thought of as curating or DJing, selection of pre-existing things. I see great creativity in certain designers, hairdressers, two or three stylists. Creativity is more common among artists and musicians.
Gianluca) You hosted tv party, a tv show that became cult. What is your opinion about the media today? Would you host a tv show if asked?
Glenn) We need more public speaking, debate, argument, conversation. It’s good if it’s televised or printed. TV Party was a forum that was wide open, a jumble of sense and nonsense, radical ideas and primal urges. Most media today is boring and unoriginal and has a constricting influence on its audience. Media should open up the mind and senses not shut it down. There’s a lot of great stuff on the internet in that people can express themselves without mediation, but the majority is still curating and DJing, selecting things instead of making them. Everyone thinks we live in democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The media controls people, it doesn’t empower them. There are exceptions. On American TV there are a few great voices, like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I would host a TV show if I had the chance. I would have conversatons between unlikely people, dancers and jazz musicians.
Enrico Grigoletti) Friends are a really important topic in your Guide to Social Climbing. Do you draw any distinction between your close friends and other social rungs or are your close friends steps in your social ladder?
Glenn) I don’t really consider myself on a ladder, although I think that’s a good metaphor for some people. A writer once told me I was an important rung on his ladder. I feel more like I’m on an elevator that goes up and down, and it’s always a different floor with different departments. My closest friends are probably people I don’t even talk to that often but we understand each other deeply.
Enrico Grigoletti) You also said “always buy drinks and meals for rich people; since no one else does, they’ll notice“. Who would you buy drinks and meals today?
Glenn) I bought lunch for Nan Goldin yesterday—we had a blast. I’d like to take President Obama out to lunch, or any head of state really. I’d really like to meet Paul Thomas Anderson but we don’t have any mutual friends. I’d like to have a few drinks with Scarlett Johansson but my wife would probably get mad.
Gianluca) For all the young woman out there, Shouldn’t someone write “How to be a Lady“? I think Sex & the City pretty much ruined it for them…
Glenn) Sex & the City had a visible effect on New York. There were gangs of women walking around talking dirty loudly and grown women riding on grocery store shopping carts. I thought maybe I should write How to Be a Woman next but I’d probably be assassinated. Instead I’m writing How to Save the World.
Gianluca) Should a girl/woman read your book and why?