Glenn O’Brien’s Poetry Brings The Factory to Life

Photo by Edo Bertoglio.

In 1971, while still a graduate student in film, Glenn O’Brien joined the staff at Interview and he never really left. From his stints as an editor (in the early 1970s, the late ’80s, early ’90s, and again in the late ’00s) to his long-running, scene-defining, immensely quotable music column “Glenn O’Brien’s BEAT,” Glenn set much of the magazine’s tone: cool, street-wise, mischievous, and curious about all corners of culture. He was a beat philosopher, a hipster poet, and, although many don’t know this, a stand-up comedian. In his time, he did everything: He founded a public-access television show and a literary magazine; he named one of the world’s top fragrances; and, 30 years before the swearing in, he predicted the presidency of Donald Trump.

While Glenn has already been anointed one of New York City’s most beloved insiders (he literally wrote the book on how to be a man in this town), literary appreciation for his writing, particularly his cultural essays, has eluded him. This fall, that very omission may finally be corrected when the brand-new publishing house ZE Books releases a compendium of Glenn’s musings, poems, provocations, and tweets entitled Intelligence for Dummies: Essays and Other Collected Writings. There are tough truths and hilarious nuggets of wisdom on every page, tackling a range of topics from advertising to contemporary art, from politics to haberdashery.

This October also brings the release of the cult film Downtown 81, starring a then 19-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat, which Glenn wrote, produced, and cast. (The publisher of ZE Books, Michael Zilkha, also happens to be the movie’s executive producer.) New York’s Metrograph theater will screen the newly re-mastered downtown fairy tale later this month before rolling it out nationwide. Surely, Glenn would have enjoyed the renewed attention. In honor of our own golden anniversary, we submit this never-before-published poem about Glenn’s early days at The Factory, where all of the zaniness bled right into the pages of the magazine.


I Remember The Factory (After Joe Brainard)

I remember Andy saying, “They’re really up there,” and “Geee, that’s so grreat.”

I remember Paul Morrissey calling half the people who came up to the Factory “drugtrash.”

I remember Richard Bernstein being the only person who ever smoked pot at the Factory.(Until Jean-Michel Basquiat 20 years later.)

I remember having to take some German journalist through the Factory and he thought it was a commune and he asked where we slept. After a while he said, “We fuck now?”

I remember Louis Waldon coming up and asking Andy for $10,000 to put a zinc bar in some place he’d bought in Europe.

I remember Viva saying how cheap Andy was and that he’d regret it when her book came out.

I remember how much Andy hated it when somebody wanted to shake hands.

I remember Paul yanking out hunks of hair from his head while talking on the phone.

I remember answering the phone, “Factory,”and Andy saying, “Why don’t you just say studio?”

I remember Fred Hughes on the phone saying,“Hughes, as in Howard Hughes.”

I remember when David Bowie came to visit

Andy saying, “Should we let him in?”

I remember Lou Reed calling me up and playing me a tape of a band from Boston he wanted to produce. All their songs were about him.

I remember Andy offering me a part in“Women in Revolt” and being really excited about it until I found out that Jackie Curtis was supposed to give me an enema.

I remember the day Billy Name came out of his darkroom after staying in there a year. He left a note for Andy that said, “I’m not here anymore but I am fine.”

I remember Bob Dylan’s bodyguards grabbing Andy’s film at Mick Jagger’s birthday party because there was a joint on the table. Andy was appalled.

I remember Interview writer Donald Chase doing such a good Bette Davis imitation that he fooled everyone on the phone including W.H. Auden who went to his grave thinking Bette Davis was his biggest fan.

I remember René Ricard being the only person who still called Andy “Drella.”

I remember Richard Bernstein calling the back room of Max’s “The bucket of blood.”

I remember Danny Fields talking about the “abstract expressionist alcoholics” who sat in the middle room of Max’s.

I remember when Mickey Ruskin put hairy wallpaper over the red walls of the back room at Max’s. We all thought it was to slow the cockroaches down.

I remember wishing Lisa Robinson would put a sweater on over her see-through blouse.

I remember Nelson Lyon using the word “fruitcake” to Andy and Andy not blinking.

I remember hearing that Ondine had become a mailman in Brooklyn

I remember Bob Colacello saying that Robert Mapplethorpe deliberately peed in his jeans.

I remember Andy asking me why I didn’t get rid of Fran Lebowitz and asking me if she was really funny.

I remember Candy saying that she had songs written about her by Lou, Ray Davies (“Lola,”) and Mick Jagger (“The Citadel.”)

I remember David Bowie coming to the Factory to do a mime act for Andy and sing “Andy Warhol.”

Paul wanted to throw him out but I told Andy he was famous in England.

After the song Andy didn’t know whether to be insulted or not.

I remember Geri Miller saying she wasn’t a virgin but was saving her ass for her husband.

I remember being afraid of Taylor Mead but not being sure why.

I remember looking at beautiful pictures of Steven Mueller from Lonesome Cowboys and thinking maybe I should lay off the Budweiser.

I remember the nipples of Patti D’Arbanville, Donna Jordan and Jane Forth.

I remember Andy telling me that Jack Smith really invented the word “superstar”and asking me if Jack needed money.

I remember unfriendly looks from Gerard Malanga who was on the outs after making Che Guevara “Warhols” in Rome.

I remember Andy saying at parties,“This is such hard work.”

I remember thinking Jackie Curtis was really ugly as a woman until I saw him as “James Dean.”

I remember the door being guarded by a stuffed Great Dane that supposedly once belonged to Cecil B. DeMille.

I remember wondering what Paul Morrissey saw in Shirley Temple.

I remember Peter Beard with no socks in January.

I remember Maria Schneider coming up to the Factory after Last Tango came out and making out with her girlfriend to impress us.

I remember Paul calling the underground filmmaker Stan Brakhage “Stan Footage.”

I remember wondering about if Joe Dallesandro was only Paul Morrissey’s house guest.

I remember Nelson Lyon calling Fred and Bob “the head waiters.”

I remember Andy accidentally leaving his tape recorder in the Interview office so he could hear what Bob and I talked about.

I remember Andy shooting me in my underwear at the Interview office for the “Sticky Fingers”cover. And Fred kept saying, “Can’t you make it any bigger.” Then three businessmen walked in the door and said, “Oh, isn’t this the architects office?”

I remember Valerie Solanas calling up and asking for Andy, long after she shot him.

I remember Andy saying “I’m not here”every day.


This article appears in the fall 2019 50th anniversary issue of Interview magazine. Subscribe here.