The Hottest Book in the Fashion World


That's sort of like saying the cutest drag queen at the Super Bowl, I guess—I mean, I don't usually think of the fashion world as being terribly literate. But I suppose it's more literate than the literary world is fashionable. Anyway, lots of the fashion people I know read, and they're all now reading or have recently completed The Beautiful Fall, by Alicia Drake (Little, Brown and Company, 2006). Adding to interest in the book is the fact that Karl Lagerfeld has taken the author to court in France for invasion of privacy ("atteinte à la vie privée"). The idea that anyone who dresses like Lagerfeld, has had a reality show, or has published an eponymous diet book could have his privacy invaded is tres droll, no?

Anyway, I'm getting up early to get in reading time, because the book is very entertaining. Alicia Drake, a Brit who lives in Paris and has written for the Herald Tribune and British Vogue, writes stylishly and has clearly done her homework, if not that of the whole class.

The Beautiful Fall is subtitled Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris. It really starts in 1954, with Yves Saint-Laurent, 18, and Karl Lagerfeld, 21, receiving the International Wool Secretariat fashion awards.

I just got my copy and I'm only up to the beginning of the seventies, where the action really starts and my old friends and associates, like Andy Warhol, Fred Hughes, Joan Buck, Antonio Lopez, Corey Tippin, and Donna Jordan start showing up, but already this is my most fun read of 2007.

The Artist Known as Prince Exhibits in Norway

My pal Richard Prince had a large exhibition at Oslo's Astrup Fearnley Museum, the best contemporary collection in Norway. The night we arrived we dined at Mr. Fearnley's country house, a fantastic old farmhouse about a half-hour from the center of Oslo. This eighteenth-century wooden house was painted-wood, inside and out, in the traditional manner, and is furnished with wonderful painted antiques, oriental rugs, beautiful paintings, stucco fireplaces burning birch logs, and not a few hunting trophies collected by Mr. Fearnley, including a very large moosehead and a big polar bear who is now a rug. One of our party was heard to mutter, "Ralph Lauren, eat your heart out."

It is certainly a very appealing and beautifully decorated residence. We had dinner in a sixteenth-century cottage that had been brought down from the mountains. It was decorated inside with elaborate paintings, including depictions, probably based on hearsay, of elephants, giraffes, and rhinos. An utterly charming dining room. When you enter and leave you must duck down, as the door is about four-feet high. I was told this was a defensive measure. Invaders would have to bend down to enter, enabling the resident to chop their heads off with ease. The next day I admired some replica Viking axes in a souvenir shop and thought about making short screen doors for my country house.

Richard's opening was a roaring success, attended by hundreds of Oslo art lovers as well as some friends from London and New York. It was Mr.Prince's first show devoted only to painting (there were thirty-one in the show) and sculpture (hoods and book plinths), and it was stunning. I noticed the public spent considerable time examining the new "De Kooning" paintings.

We did lots of fun things in Oslo, including devouring reindeer and moose and Swedish caviar, drinking local beer and Italian and French wine, and hanging out at the Theater Café in the National Theater, an old hangout of Ibsen's. It feels like Vienna but the art on the walls is all from Norwegian artists who have been habitués of the place over the last hundred years or so.

A Prince "De Kooning."


At the Theater Café, where the steak tartare would please even the most discriminating Tartar, London art dealer Sadie Coles and photography Johnny Shand-Kydd:


Glenn and Richard:


New York art dealers Per Skarstedt and Barbara Gladstone (she's the pretty one):


New York dealer Stellan Holm with mega-collector Pauline Karpidas, who operates the very important Hydra Workshop on that modest-sized Greek island.


The gent in orange with Max Falkenstein of the Barbara Gladstone Gallery is Erling Kagge. He's a collector, but he's also an adventurer. He was the first man to walk alone to the South Pole, and in one year he went to the South Pole, the North Pole, and the top of Mount Everest. As a result he hasn't spent that much time at nightclubs.


Erling took us to a nightclub called Cosmo. Here's their wallpaper:


And Richard at Cosmo with artist Nate Lowman, (wearing aNYthing) who did a great visual essay for the exhibition catalog, "Canaries in a Coalmine." It was a New York-style club—lots of velvet ropes and a too-tight door and overpriced Champagne.


The next night Stellan and I discovered a more fun club, Bla, pronounced blue, where people danced like it was the early eighties. Here's what one of the several girls I danced with looked like at 3 A.M.:


Bunads Are Hot

Norway isn't Sweden. It's not as groovy, but wonderful in its own way. It's very old fashioned. Our first morning in Oslo we hit the Grand Hotel café too late for breakfast, at 10 A.M., but they gave us coffee and tea as we sat at the Henrik Ibsen table. He had lunch here every day. I noticed that there were several ladies in the café dressed like it was the 18th or 19th century out. They looked very nice, with heavily embroidered skirts, blouses, halters, and aprons, and fancy silver and gold jewelry. I wondered if there was a special event going on. Then I noticed more similarly dressed women on the street.

With a little investigation I found that these ladies were dressed in regional costumes called "bunads." Bunads are similar to what one would call a national costume, except that here they are regional costumes and every town seems to have its own. Some are based on old folk costumes, but actually many are rather recent in their design. They represent a kind of cultural nationalism movement. I found it very charming, like seeing ladies dressed in kimonos in Tokyo.

And most of the women I saw in bunads were actually young and pretty. I think they appealed to some kinky side of me that likes conservative female dress. You know the scene in the movie where the secretary in the bun and glasses and the long tweed skirt takes down her hair and takes off her glasses, and the guy says, "Why, Miss Jones, without your glasses you're beautiful." I couldn't help imagining a striptease involving lots of layers of clothes coming off until you got to some very starched linen, the final frontier.


After some searching I found a Bunad store, thinking of surprising the Mrs. with a bunad of her own, but then I discovered that they are mostly bespoke and actually quite expensive. Maybe next trip. But I did pick up some wonderful boiled-wool slippers with suede deerskin soles for the whole family. There are male bunads too, and I checked these out. I just couldn't bring myself to try one one, although there was a white wool frock coat with red buttonholes that did appeal to me. It was almost Comme des Garçons.

I think Norwegian fashion deserves further study. It's really interesting, because some of the people involved in the bunad movement are very creative and progressive about it while others are diehard traditionalists. They criticized Crown Princess Mette-Marit when she wore a bunad with sunglasses. This faction is sometimes referred to as "the bunad police" and may be the closest thing to the fashion police outside countries ruled by Shariah.

Here are my new slippers. Really comfy.


I've Had It with Commercial


The writer sometimes known as the Style Guy has been selected for extra screening and patted down on his last three commercial flights (all in one month!). From this he has learned several things. It is perhaps problematic to change your reservations at the last minute; traveling alone may be considered suspicious (if you see something, say something); having your ticket paid for by someone in France may be considered suspicious or disloyal; the uniformed folks of Florida watch way too much COPS and seem to enjoy frisking old ladies with walkers; and, basically, flying commercial is remarkably similar to Purgatory.

From now on I'm going private. So here I am with the artist still known as Prince (Richard) and our pal Max on our new Gulfstream IV. We took it to Oslo. Full beds and a very nice bottle of Graves. Mr. Prince is having an exhibition at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art on Saturday. Later today we are going bow hunting for elk with Viking women.


Nobody told us how to put on our seatbelts.


The plane waited while we had that second bottle of Brunello di Montalcino with the fig, cipollina onion, and Fontina pizza.

No one suspected us of anything except having fun!

Wait till GQ sees my expense account.

Goude Is Very Good

Mr. Jean-Paul Goude was the art director of Esquire magazine in its heyday. He was hired by Harold Hayes, perhaps the greatest magazine editor of the twentieth century, when he was a young gadabout illustrator in Paris. I loved Esquire and I loved his work, and I tried very hard to get into the magazine to work with him. I wound up working on an incredible piece with him called "America Dances" and we've been friends ever since. (Decades!)

Pop Art was supposed to blur if not erase the distinctions between fine art and commercial art, and it did in a way, but not really. It was not the revolution it was cracked up to be. And Mr. Goude has always practiced an art that is perceived as commercial. He loves an audience, and he has delighted millions with his magazine work, his album covers, his music videos for artists like Grace Jones (whose svengali and mate he was at her peak), his amazing commercials for clients like Chanel and Kodak, and perhaps the greatest parade ever staged, down the Champs Élysées on the occasion of the French Bicentennial.

Goude is a great artist, a genius, an eccentric, and a great charmer. He recently published an excellent book called So Far So Goude (Assouline, 2006) that documents his work, his career, and his life. (It also has a CD so you get a film, for his filmic side.) Being a commercialist, he has spent the last decade or so running around Paris and the world making amazing TV spots that reach millions, and so he never really exhibited his work, and it hasn't been possible to buy it.

All that changes today. Goude has finally broken down and made some pictures and put them in a gallery, Hasted Hunt at 529 West 20th Street. It opens today. Many of his most amazing images are on display, examples of his remarkable fusion of painting and photography. Goude was doing Photoshop twenty years before Photoshop was invented, with photographic prints, paint, paste, and razor blades. And Photoshop has never surpassed his extraordinary imagination and wild sense of humor.

Here's Jean-Paul at the gallery last night, with writer Joan Buck, formerly the editor of Paris Vogue and one of our newer New Yorkers.


Improve Yourself in the New Year


I forgot to remind myself to remind you that John Lurie's new book Learn to Draw (Walther Konig, Cologne) is almost available. Give it two more weeks. Better yet, order it now—or, if you're in NYC, pick it up in advance at Printed Matter or Spoonbill—before the stampede of aesthetes, jazz fans, hipsters, fishermen, and lonely female art students causes it to sell out.

This book will teach you everything you need to know about drawing a penis, and so much more. It will also give you many valuable hints about coming up with good titles for drawings, or even novels or sonnets, although this is something that may require even more practice than drawing penises. This book is very, very amusing. It is right up there, in my opinion, with the work of John Callahan, the great paraplegic cartoonist. Some people might think the humor is sick, but John is certainly not as sick as Callahan, not yet, anyway.

You can buy John Lurie's Learn to Draw from Wal-Mart for $25.34, plus 97 cents shipping. It kind of amazes me that you can buy it from Wal-Mart, but if you don't want to, you can also buy it from Amazon for $26.40 or Barnes and Noble for $28.80. Borders wants to sell it to you for $40, but that's a company that sold my The Style Guy book in the Men's Studies section. Good luck with them, John!

To check out what a good artist John has become since he fired the band and locked himself up in his Soho penthouse, you can also visit his web site. There you will see beautiful fine-art prints for sale at remarkable values and find a handy mechanism for ordering John Lurie's CDs, just like the ones heard at Glenn O'Brien's house. For example, African Swim and Manny & Lo, a fantastic soundtrack album overlooked because of the general obscurity and/or non-existence of the films:


Trust me, John Lurie will not disappoint (unless you're a close friend). I can't wait for his next book, What Do You Know About Music? You're Not a Lawyer. Please finish it this year, John!

University Tie R.I.P.

Brooks Brothers brings out the diehard in a guy. Even though 346 Madison Avenue has for all practical purposes ceased to contribute to my wardrobe (except for pajamas), I still drop by once in a while in the hope that they've come to their senses. Some months ago, lo and behold, they had a whole table of ties that looked just right to me.

Now, I know I'm some kind of a nut, but for many years I bought mostly Hermès ties because I considered them to be the ideal width. Here at last were some very nice rep ties that were a perfect 2 7/8" inches wide, labeled Brooks Brothers University. Fantastic! I bought two, and over the next week or so decided that Brooks Brothers was coming to its senses and was on the way back.

Well, I checked in right before Christmas and was told these ties have been discontinued. Here is the University tie, pink and navy, and below it a standard Brooks 3 3/4" inch tie, which I affectionately refer to as a lobster bib. Write to your Congressman!



I'll Drink to That

The other day Donald Trump said, "Bush will go down as the worst and by far the dumbest president in history." So I went right down to Astor Wines and bought that big bottle of Trump vodka I saw (sitting right next to one made by 'Vincent Van Gogh'). It's very tall, as you can see here.


R.I.P. J.B.


To call James Brown the Godfather of Soul and the "hardest working man in show business" is an incredible understatement. He was a true culture hero and a great musical genius, one of the musical titans of the twentieth century, not to mention ever. Brown couldn't read a note but that didn't matter a bit, because he always had great musicians around him to execute his revolutionary dictates, deep concepts that came from the divine oracle of funk within his soul. He did revolutionize music, every bit as much as Charlie Parker or Miles Davis or John Coltrane. The funk came through him and it was not just knee-deep.

That none of his seventeen R&B number-ones ever went to number one on the pop charts in America is a cultural disgrace. He was the Einstein of rhythm.

To call him a popstar is to underestimate his greatness. James Brown was a jazz musician, but like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, he understood that the roots of jazz are in dance music, and at its peak of power the music must move the body as well as the soul—and so he created a new ultra-modern sound that reconciled the head and the body, the heart and the mind, the past and the future. And so James Brown created The Funk. He put the beat on the one, and as George Clinton said, "the one giveth and the one taketh away." His legacy is all of the P-Funk pure, uncut funk and the best of hip hop.

James Brown's funk combos, the Famous Flames and the JBs, created a brand-new bag, a totally new sound that remains unsurpassed. I think that the body of work Brown produced from "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" (1965) up until "Get Up Offa That Thing" (1976) stands as an unequalled revolution in music.

I saw Brown perform many times and I was never disappointed. I also had the honor of interviewing the maestro in 1988, on the occasion of his collaboration with Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force. Maybe I'll reprint some of that interview one day soon. Anyway, it was like interviewing a king or a roman emperor or something, just the sheer presence and gravity of the man. He took the questions and answers seriously. A few days after the interview was published I was sleeping late when the phone rang and woke me.


"Glenn O'Brien?"


"James Brown."

I was stunned. I fumbled for something to say.

"How are you?"

He paused a moment.

"I feel good!" he crowed.

And I knew that he did.

His gracious, gentlemanly thank you was one of the greatest honors I ever received, and today I have a gold frame on my kitchen wall with large letters in James Brown's hand: "Get on the good foot and take it to the bridge. God bless! James Brown."

God bless James Brown!