Garbage on Bond Street


New York has great garbage. It's amazing what rich people throw out. When I first moved here, I had numerous items in my apartment that I'd found discarded on the street, including a great round peach-colored art deco mirror. It was chipped a bit, so I hung it so that it dipped just below the sideboard I placed it over. I found an excellent ladder-back chair with a great needlepoint seat on Lafayette Street about ten years ago. And then there's my Baccarat shoe. Maybe this was tossed by a gambler who'd just joined a 12-step club, but I couldn't believe it when I found this lovely item on the curb. It adds a real James Bond character to poker night. Baccarat looks great, because of the shoe, and when you're wearing a tux and playing against an evil genius named "Le Chiffre," it's most intriguing. It is also one of the simplest casino games and little strategy is required, so after several martinis shaken not stirred it can be a relatively safe option. When I'm not using my shoe for Baccarat or Chemin de Fer, it's the perfect thing to hold a few golf balls for putting practice on the oriental rug.

Stop! In the Name of Beauty

One of the most important aspects of good taste is knowing when not to do something. You could call it Restraint. You are exercising restraint when you don't buy a fuel-gobbling SUV or when you don't build a 15,000-square-foot house on a one-acre lot for your family of three. If this virtue could be passed along quietly among us there would be far fewer ugly buildings and we would live in a more sustainable environment. On a more advanced level, people of taste sometimes become vocal in chiding those given to Excess. They may even tastefully demonstrate when tasteless governments propose ugly, unnecessary projects in the name of Progress.

It has recently come to my attention that the government of Ireland, a place where one expects a certain amount of restraint to come naturally, or at least to be an ingredient in the Guinness, is planning a major superhighway through one of the most beautiful and historically significant parts of that tastefully un-overdeveloped country. I can't imagine why the M3 motorway needs to run through the Tara Skyrne Valley, the traditional seat of Irish Kings and the Druidic tradition, unless the idea is to destroy every reminder of the glorious pre-Roman, pre-Christian culture that thrived here before the invaders arrived.

As one with the blood of the High Kings Brian Boru and Niall of the Nine Hostages running through my veins, I call on all persons of taste and restraint to spread the word globally that a great and terrible sacrilege is planned in the greedy interests of so-called progress and development. Here's a link where you can find out more about this travesty. In the meantime I am trying to determine if, in fact, I am the King of Ireland. I may have to step in.

Here's a view of the Hill of Tara.


In Praise of Brand-Name Ties


Not so long ago, before the auteur theory hit fashion and the designer craze was born, certain brands were known for excellence in one area, like shirts and ties. I was a nut for Gant and Wren shirts as a young preppy. In the old days there were also brands known mainly for their ties, like Countess Mara and Vera. In fact Ralph Lauren started out as a tie brand. As a young dude I liked Rooster ties. Rooster was sort of the art tie brand. They came in distinctive, often clever patterns, they had a nice slim shape that went well with the Ivy League cut, and you could tell them by their squared-off end. They are about as close as ties ever got to art, except maybe Fornasetti, and they are exactly what designers are trying to emulate today. You can still find 'em in Salvation Army stores and thrift shops. Here's one I picked up recently. It's a kind of luminous silk (usually Roosters are cotton), and it's wider than the usual Rooster, so it must date from the seventies, but it's just right for today.



Yesterday I walked into GQ Podcast Studio A to record some scintillating dialogues on style with GQ's Style Editor Adam Rapoport, Articles Editor Jason Gay, and Associate Editor Candice Rainey. Mr. Rapoport, tanned from the golf course, was sporting a new buzzcut and RayBan Wayfarers. "Nice Wayfarers," he said to me, as I was also in shades. "But they're not Wayfarers," I countered. I then handed over my new pair of vintage American Optical Saratoga shades. From the front they resemble classic Wayfarers, but the sidepieces are much thinner.

When I stumbled across these shades for the first time, twenty years ago, I considered them to be the perfect sunglasses. I thought so much of them that I gave them to my then fiancée instead of an engagement ring, knowing, of course, that I could borrow them any time. But then she lost them. She lost the greatest sunglasses I'd ever found! And ever since, hardly a sunny day went by that I didn't think about finding another pair of these rare glasses. Every time I looked through a rack of shades at a flea market or antique show I was looking for Saratogas. And then one day there they were on eBay. Now my family has bought quite a few things on eBay, but this more than anything pointed out to me the extraordinary shopping potential of this global electronic swap meet. Here I am in my original pair…


…and here's my new pair, left, side by side with a pair of Wayfarers, right.


TV Party Alfresco

In June the documentary film TV Party, which documents my late-seventies/early-eighties cable show Glenn O'Brien's TV Party, the show David Letterman called "the greatest TV show ever," arrived in the nation's video stores on DVD—released by MVD (Music Video Distributors). Then in August four new DVD compilations hit the stores, each with a single one-hour show and about a half-hour of highlights from other shows—featuring such personalities as Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Nile Rodgers of Chic, Fred Schneider of the B-52s, David Byrne, Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, P-Funk's George Clinton, Mick Jones of the Clash, Klaus Nomi, Richard Sohl and the Patti Smith Group, Fab Five Freddy, and fashion photographer Steven Meisel, among many others. To celebrate I threw a little cocktail party at the garden of the Soho Grand Hotel. Among those attending were Chris Stein, Debbie Harry, James Chance, Fred Schneider, director Charlie Ahearn, artists Tom Sachs, Donald Sultan, Spencer Sweeney and Duncan Hannah, Robert Arron of the Wyclef Jean Band, fashion mogul Andy Spade, art dealers Jeffrey Deitch and Patrick Fox, star rock photographers Kate Simon, Roberta Bayley, Bob Gruen and Leee Black Childers, writers Gary Indiana and Michael Gross, editor David Hershkovits, and Parisian punk legend Edwige Bellmore. Here are a few pictures from the evening.


Fred Schneider of the B52s, Spencer Sweeney, Chris Stein of Blondie


Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, Paper magazine's David Hershkovits


Gina Nanni O'Brien and artist James Rizzi


Michael Gross, photo by Patrick Fox


Saxophone collossus Robert Arron and Kate Simon, photo by Patrick Fox

Soda for Connoisseurs


I'm not a big soda drinker, but I like to have one now and then in the hot weather and it's getting harder and harder to find the good stuff. I won't drink diet sodas because they taste like medicine and may eventually prove to cause mutations, and I won't drink sodas made with high-fructose corn sweetener. I'm convinced that these cause obesity, but even if they prove that's not true, I am certain they don't taste as good as the sugar stuff. This means I drink Cokes in Europe. Or I'll drink some of the premium sodas that are still made with sugar. Tragically (to exaggerate slightly) some of the old real sugar standbys like Orangina and Pellegrino Aranciata are no longer made with cane sugar for consumption in the United States. I guess they want to save a fraction of a penny per container thinking we can't tell or won't notice the difference. Wrong! But thank God for the Mexicans. They still drink the good stuff, and you can buy many varieties at Serge Becker's fantastic La Esquina on the corner of Kenmare and Centre Streets in Manhattan. By night, of course, the basement hideaway dining room of La Esquina is filled with la crème de boheme of downtown New York Society, but 24 hours a day the deli counter upstairs churns out the best gourmet fast food in town and, to accompany it, they sell south-of-the-border soft drinks in many flavors and colors, some not found in the rainbow.


Only Two More Weeks to See John Lurie

If you're in the New York Area, or have often dreamed of being in the New York Area, you may wish to run right over to PS1 MoMA, the nice little museum located in Long Island City that has hosted many groovy and important exhibitions. Run or hasten because the exhibition "John Lurie: Works on Paper" is only up until September 4th and that is, after all, why you're going to Queens in the first place.

Tall, fully-browed, and deep of voice, John Lurie has been well known for decades as a musician, filmmaker, and actor, but he has always been an artist, too. Indeed, he was regarded as a good artist by many famous artists and geniuses, yet he didn't have a lot of output because he was so busy doing other things, such as keeping his band together and writing a book called What Do You Know about Music? You're Not a Lawyer. And until recently you could see his work only if you bought one of the albums featuring it on the cover, or if you went into his apartment, which he may not have allowed unless you were a strange and beautiful girl or were carrying excellent food. I have been an exception to this rule because John and I have been friends for years, mostly, and we have shared many ups and downs with the New York Knicks and Western Civilization in general, and I can tell you this: The man can play Scrabble with the best.

John's band the Lounge Lizards was one of the most interesting bands in New York City and therefore the world from the late seventies on, expanding the parameters of jazz the way the Contortions reconstituted funk, or the way Suicide expanded on Elvis, or the way the Ramones redesigned rock. This is not to say that the Lounge Lizards were punk—although they were of the same generation—but they were similarly skeptical and independent of the establishment, and jazz is a most establishment genre. The Lounge Lizards remain one of the great under-knowns, like Slim Gaillard or Don Byas or Gil Melle. Still, against all odds, Lurie released something like 20 Lounge Lizards albums and kept this large band working around the world, a daunting task that may explain why he likes to spend a lot of time in his room now. I recommend that you catch up with the Lounge Lizards, and his other projects, like The John Lurie National Orchestra and the delightful Marvin Pontiac, not to mention the Get Shorty soundtrack. And of course you will be amused by the drollery of the Fishing with John Lurie series, available at better video stores everywhere.

But check out the art. Explore the exhibition and the colorful serendipitous works hanging there, such as "Heroin Leads to Harder Drugs," or, "When Alcie Got Off Her Cell Phone and Came in from the Pool the Bunny Was Going to Give Her a Spanking."

And now, you too can own a John Lurie artwork and even John can't stop you. No, you don't have to lay out the big bucks, like you did in order to buy something at Lurie's sold-out shows at Anton Kern Gallery or Roebling Hall. Now you can buy incredibly rich and original-looking limited-edition ink-jet prints on ritzy looking paper direct from his web site: And for practically peanuts. Here is one of my personal favorites: "Dog Is Blind. Who Will Help?"


Lounging with Art

On the evening of August 8th, Ian Schrager, the great hotelier who also created Studio 54 and The Palladium, invited a couple hundred of his best friends, a number that includes me, to have a drink at his latest venture, the Gramercy Park Hotel, and have a look at what he's done with the place. He's done a lot. Working with the painter/sculptor/filmmaker Julian Schnabel, Ian has turned the place into a Grand Hotel for the neo-Gilded Age. Other Schrager hotels have been distinctly postmodern, with radical decorating strategies first from Andree Putman, then from Philipe Starck. The new Gramercy Park is post-postmodern, or maybe pre-Deluge, and it's quite special. If there can be such a thing as a cozy grand hotel, this is it. It's very warm, comfortable and welcoming, yet quite spectacular as well.

Schnabel has been known for his decorating flair for years, ever since he fixed up the Soho store that housed his first wife Jacqueline's Azzedine Alaia store. His own studio and home is also quite famous for its dramatic décor. Schnabel has a great eye for furniture and objects and he creates rooms that combine rough materials with refined elements—imagine an Italian Baroque palazzo crossed with an Adirondack lodge. He's done that here and taken it to the next level—colliding an Addison Mizener Palm Beach millionaire mansion with a Fred Harvey National Park Lodge. Carved marble and cut crystal abut rough timber and bare light bulbs. Schnabel also designed "think big" rugs and furniture and lighting fixtures for the hotel.

The public spaces are filled with blue-chip contemporary art: Warhol, Basquiat, and Twombly as well as paintings by Schnabel himself, including two faux Picassos. I don't know that such an art collection has ever been displayed in a restaurant or bar, and it's really great. Lots more fun than a museum. Great paintings should be enjoyed with cocktails and maybe a game of pocket billiards. I think Ian and Julian really hit on something here. This is the age of 10,000-square-foot McMansions and Maybachs. People want to live large, just as they did back in the pre-world war age of the robber barons. I guess this is the pre-world-war age of the deduction dukes. In any case, I think the new Gramercy Park Hotel will the be the scene of some enchanted evenings.


Here's a big Warhol, from the "Ladies and Gentlemen" series, hanging over the pool table.

Luigi Barzini

Someday I'm going to open a bookstore. My wife may force the issue. I have about 300 feet of bookshelves at home and about the same in my rural hideaway, and still I've got stacks on the windowsills and stacks on the floors and boxes in the basement and a pile next to the bed.

The entrance to our loft is in a room that's a combination dining room and library, and sometimes when people walk in they ask, "Wow, have you read all these?" Sometimes I tell the truth and say, "No, I've read most of them," but at others I can't help myself and say, "Yup."

Actually I have a lot of duplicates. Certain books I can't help buying if the price is right, or if they are a first edition or in good shape. I have six hardback copies of Andy Warhol's A, and seven of the 1933 limited edition of Wyndham Lewis's The Apes of God, including the one that used to belong to his friend Roy Campbell (I admit I used to wonder if I could corner the market). I have a tough time passing up a Robert Benchley book in decent condition. I must have about ten Chips Off the Old Benchley, and a surprising number of After 1903—What?. The only one I don't have a bunch of is No Poems, one of my favorite titles. My wife catches me all the time buying books she knows I already have. It goes like this:

"Don't you already have that?"


"Why are you buying it again?"

"I thought I might give it to somebody."

I actually have given away several copies of Paradise by Donald Barthelme, but there seem to be a lot more where those came from.

Connecticut is a great place to buy books. The guy who plows my driveway went to Yale. So this weekend I went to the annual Sharon, Connecticut, book sale on the town green and walked away with bags of books, including: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (2); Anthony Summers's book on J. Edgar Hoover (with lots of pictures of the FBI director and his boyfriend); Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, by Mary McCarthy; Walter Terry's Ted Shawn: Father of American Dance; The Embezzler, by Louis Auchincloss; yet another copy of The Hat on the Bed by John O'Hara (a clean first edition for $1.50); an illustrated history of Japanese fans; and lots more. But when I got home I couldn't help picking up Memories of Mistresses: Reflections from a Life by Luigi Barzini, and then I couldn't put it down. I devoured about half of it by the end of the afternoon.


Luigi Barzini Jr. is one of the great writers of the twentieth century. His father, Luigi Sr., was a great Italian journalist, an editor of Corriere della Serra, and an adventurer whose most famous book, Peking to Paris, documented a 1907 motor race over that route, accompanying Prince Scipione Borghese. Luigi Jr. had an equally eventful life. He worked as a journalist throughout his career, and yet he managed to be taken seriously as a writer and a thinker (thinking of him keeps me going once in a while). Barzini was born in 1908. He studied at Columbia University and worked summers as a newspaperman in New York. On graduation he returned to Italy and broke in as a reporter for Corriere della Serra. He returned to the U.S. to cover the New Deal, the 1936 elections, and finally the mood of America before the war. He returned to Europe just before Hitler invaded Poland. He worked as a correspondent in London, then found himself jailed in Rome, having gotten on Mussolini's bad side, and finally he was exiled to the boondocks until Il Duce fell.

Barzini's most famous book is The Italians (1964), a rich cultural portrait of his people. Barzini is an intellectual and scholarly essayist, but he is always a delight to read, even in translation. As someone who writes regularly for translation I especially admire the universality of his language, his ability to entertain with artfully drawn imagery, and to turn elegant phrase that translate. The greatness of Barzini is that he entertains with scholarship and delights with insight. He is proof that the richest ideas can be expressed without jargon or complexity of language. He is a classicist. And his cultural history and criticism is always framed with that eternal perspective.

The title of this collection is a bit deceiving, in a cinematic sort of way. This isn't a book about mistresses, although there is an entertaining chapter on the type of woman who is not a wife and a mother. There are twenty-one other chapters having little, if anything, to do with that certain type of woman, except that they are jewels. "Italy and its Aristocracy" is an extraordinary, subtle argument for a certain kind of transcendental nobility that is unique in the world—drawing on extraordinary first-hand observations, including Barzini's relationship with the deposed king of Italy, Umberto II. And "Loners in the World" is a dead-on analysis of America from an outsider who's been on the inside. Barzini is a philosopher who begins his analysis from the outside in, like Oscar Wilde, starting with the obvious and discovering in it the truths hidden in plain sight. His views here, and in his two books concerning this country which he found both fascinating and exasperating, make him a sort of latter-day de Tocqueville mixed with Pliny the Younger.

Dr. Seuss Wasn't Making It Up


This was one of the very interesting chickens I saw Sunday at the Goshen Agricultural Fair in Goshen, Connecticut. The family and I saw lots of chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, cattle and horses, many of them really interesting. I liked the gigantic draught horses; they made me want to have my own beer wagon. There were some amazing ducks that looked like they were designed by Balenciaga. We also saw a lot of people, including some that looked like they were designed by John Deere. I think some Connecticut country line dancers were dancing to Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty," but it was pretty hot out and I might have been hallucinating.