Goodbye Glenn: Remembering Glenn O’Brien

 

We write this as an introduction to just a small selection of the wit and wisdom written for us by 10 contributor and all-round incredible man Glenn O’Brien, who sadly passed away in April. These are only a few of the fruity, naughty, inciteful and erudite conversations and illustrations he conjured for us about just about anything he fancied.

When you commission a man who was the first editor of Interview magazine and who ushered in a new movement in television with his show TV Party, in which music and contemporary culture crossed, you know you are getting someone who can tell a story. Oh, and model – he also pulled a series of poses for 10 Men in the latest fashions and looked devilishly handsome. Treat yourselves, then, with what follows: a salad box of bite-sized delights from our good friend and contributor. Goodbye, darling Glenn, you were one in a million.

GLENN ON HAIR, THE POWER THEREOF

In a recent episode of Mad Men, American TV’s chic celebration of modernism’s final days before the mid-1960s deluge, Betty Draper, the perfect icon of management- class spousal sexuality, accompanies her husband Don, the ontologically concerned Madison Avenue creative director, on a glamorous business trip to Rome. Bored with her suburban existence, Betty comes alive in the Eternal City and we see her transformed from the perfectly discreet denizen of the upper suburbs into a fantasy creature of La Dolce Vita Via Veneto. Much of this transformation is accomplished by a hairdresser who sweeps her blondeness up into a crowning tower of golden fantasy. She is possessed by the goddess. It is apotheosis by coiffure.

No longer the prettiest gal at the country club, Betty now radiates on a wavelength close to that of Monica Vitti, Virna Lisi or Claudia Cardinale. Or Venus or Aphrodite. She has va-va-voom and she loves her effect on Italian men. She’s in her element. And it’s the hairdo that works the attitude that works the magic. I remember that era when hair was a medium of fantasy. I remember my mother wearing her hair up in an elaborate, baroque attempt to achieve something of that suburban-goddess effect. And I remember her trying to preserve it for more than a day by going to bed with her head wrapped in toilet tissue. A harsh reality to end an evening. But that’s what women did for their hair. They worked for it. They spent hours in the salon, baking their brain pans in convection ovens, electrocuting their follicles in Medusa-like permanent machines, soaking their scalps in noxious chemicals, all to achieve an artistic effect with their hair. They slept alone wrapped in toilet paper.

Near my country house in Connecticut, on a rural route that passes several farm stands with excellent produce and a cattle farm, there is a sign for Advanced Hair Design. I would guess this salon has existed at least since the 1970s, because, today, no one would think of hair design as advanced. Extreme, perhaps, weird, outlandish or extraordinary, but not advanced or experimental or anything implying that hairdressing, like science, is a progressive study. But, in a way, hair is the great unconscious determiner of historical style. We know this from the cinema. Depictions of ancient Rome or Greece from whatever decade may be historically accurate in set and costume, but their hairstyles always betray the sensibility of the time of the production. She may be dressed for 50 BC but the bouffant says it’s 1967.

Ten Magazine, Issue 34, SS 2010

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GLENN ON “SENSUALITY” (AND LOOKING LIKE A SLUT)

“When I hear the word culture I reach for my revolver.” Hermann Göring didn’t really say that, it was a line from a character in a Hanns Johst play, performed in 1933 for Hitler’s 44th birthday. I say, “When I hear the word culture I reach for my chequebook,” since culture has become pretty much a luxury item. But we don’t really hear the word culture that much. We hear a lot more about sensuality. Maybe sensuality is the new culture.

Goodbye to opera, painting, theatre, jazz. Hello to lap dancing, couture G-strings, erotic baking and POV porn. Now when I hear the word sensuality I reach for a tissue. Maybe a handful of tissues, facial tissues. You know things are probably going to get messy. Things are likely to be spilled – body fluids and possibly the beans. Grab a Kleenex Ultra Soft in an Isaac Mizrahi box, or a Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong, and police the area of biochem spill and involuntary leakage. Me, I’m reaching for wipes all the time, because I feel like I hear the words “sensual” and “sensuality” more than just about any other words besides “luxury” and “calories”. I’m coming out of my ears. Overstimulated. I’ve got to get with the programme and develop a better seduction immune system.

But I guess this is the Age of Sensuality, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, because we are all so concerned with being sexy, or at least with being perceived as must-have hot stuff. The masses are all hooking up for one-night stands, rendezvousing on Tinder and Grindr, selfie-ing their genitalia, doing cellular-phone sex, self-producing leaked sex tapes and posing nude whenever possible. Not just the masses, but also their screen idols and elected representatives. If you’re not a slut, you’re simply not in tune with the zeitgeist. If everyone doesn’t want to fuck you, well, you’re just unpopular.

Ten Magazine, Issue 54, SS 2015

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GLENN ON MODERN MALE DRESS CODE

There are two kinds of guy. There is the organisation man, the team player, the drone, the salaryman. The suit dresses to fit in. He knows the dress code. He doesn’t dress to be himself; he dresses to do the job, to be the job. He wears the uniform and does his duty. Of course the uniform isn’t entirely uniform. Like its military namesake, the civvies uniform conforms in the basic essentials – the grey flannel suit identifies the businessman – but the chairman’s grey flannel is not that of the junior partner, and the junior partner’s suit isn’t that of the human resources intern. The differences are in the details. Chalk-stripe suit and cufflinks? How did George Sanders put it? You’re too short for that gesture.

The big boss wears a club tie that signifies an organisation he actually belongs to. He wears French cuffs, not button cuffs with a hole for special occasions. He actually has a tailor who makes his true bespoke suits. He doesn’t wear “made-to- measure” ones that the manufacturer’s rep takes a few extra measurements for and asks, “Flaps or no flaps?” in the same way that the waitress says, “You want cheese on that?” The boss has a ticket pocket, that’s where he keeps his cigar cutter, and a fob pocket. That’s where he keeps his drugs.

Suits are a secret society. To the uninitiated, these salarymen all look the same. We can take a dozen entry-level executives and, by closely examining the details of their suits and their kit, we can accurately predict their corporate destiny. The future chairman wears a suit that fits. His sleeves don’t hang to the knuckles. His tie doesn’t hang over his johnson like President Trump’s flaming cravat. His trousers don’t bunch around the ankles. We don’t see his leg when he sits. His socks don’t match his suit. The vice president-in-waiting can pull off a pocket hankie. It’s not linen peaks stapled to a piece of cardboard. He doesn’t wear a black belt with brown shoes.

Ten Men, Issue 45, SS 2017

Photographer Magnus Unnar

Originally printed in 10 Men, REBEL HEART, on newsstands now…