Glenn O’Brien, a Renaissance man who edited for Rolling Stone and Andy Warhol’s Interview, was a fixture of both New York’s punk and art scenes and hosted the public access show TV Party, has died at the age of 70. Rolling Stone has confirmed O’Brien’s death.
O’Brien has been battling a serious illness for years, ArtNews reports, with the writer ultimately succumbing to complications from pneumonia, according to his wife Gina Nanni.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and a graduate of Georgetown University, where he edited the school journal, O’Brien became a member of Warhol’s Factory while studying filmmaking at Columbia. In 1970, O’Brien was hired to be an associate editor of Warhol’s Interview.
After four years at that magazine, O’Brien briefly became Rolling Stone‘s New York Bureau Chief in 1972 before landing at High Times in 1976, where he served as that publication’s “Editor-at-large.” I believe I was the first magazine editor to hold that title,” O’Brien wrote on his website, noting that he was High Times‘ editor-in-chief “until fear and paranoia caused me to begin working outside the office.”
O’Brien was also a member of a punk group called Konelrad, which played at venues like CBGBs at the onset of punk; “Glenn O’Brien’s Beat,” a column dedicated to punk music, ran from 1978 to 1990 in Interview.
O’Brien’s journalism works also includes stints at Allure, Details, ArtForm, GQ (as their “style guy”) and Spin, where he was among the magazine’s co-founders in 1985. “I feel like I have written for every magazine there is,” he wrote on his site. O’Brien also edited Madonna’s controversial Sex book in 1992 and worked as a creative director for Island Records in the mid Nineties.
In New York City, O’Brien was also known for his public access show TV Party, which aired from 1978 to 1982 and featured guests like Debbie Harry (Blondie’s Chris Stein served O’Brien’s TV Party co-host), David Bowie, David Byrne and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
“In 1978 I started a public-access television show in New York along with a few friends,” O’Brien wrote for Vice in 2014. “It was called TV Party, and by the time it ended in 1982 our list of guests included David Bowie, David Byrne, Robert Fripp, the B-52s, Chris Burden, George Clinton, Iggy Pop, Steven Meisel, Mick Jones, James Chance, John Lurie, Klaus Nomi, Kraftwerk, the Screamers, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nile Rodgers, Kid Creole, the Offs, Alex Chilton, the Brides of Funkenstein, Arthur Russell, David McDermott, and Charles Rocket, just to name a few.
“The show ran on Channel D and Channel J, and was quite popular with the kids,” O’Brien continued. “The show never officially ended—Chris got sick and almost died, I got married and decided I needed to make some money, some people went to rehab, some left town, and some died of AIDS, which had just appeared. It seemed like suddenly everything was changing, and it just got to be longer and longer since the last show. We had a good run fucking up television, though. Cursing, getting high, advocating subversion, being party desperados…”
O’Brien also claimed that he is “100 percent certain” that it is his crotch – and not actor Joe Dallesandro – that appears as the underwear model on Warhol’s famed cover for the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers – when unzipped –but that remains unconfirmed.