Of all the writers who have ever graced GQ’s pages, few could turn a phrase like Glenn O’Brien, the magazine's longtime Style Guy. For over 15 years, his column dispensed immaculate style advice and unmatchable wit. If you needed to know which shoes to wear with that suit, how to navigate a cocktail party, or what it was like to work for Andy Warhol, Glenn was your man. O’Brien passed away in 2017, but his tremendous influence survives in an entire generation of readers that hung on his hard-won wisdom. (As the below shows, Glenn was basically tweeting long before the invention of Twitter.)
This week, the new publisher ZE Books releases a survey of O’Brien’s work from a range of publications on a range of subjects, from the legacy of Kurt Cobain to the fashion of political campaigns. Below is an excerpt that collects some signature O’Brien aphorisms. Originally published in Paper Magazine in 1998, the advice therein, like his life and his voice, is wholly O’Brien’s. Enjoy these tips from the Style Guy, from drinking tap water to practicing gratitude.
"Better Living? Here’s How to Do It."
I don’t need no Martha Stewart nor Deepak Chopra to tell me how to live my life, but then again I can semi-dig where they’re coming from, because living is an art, and sometimes you need a guru to point you toward Mecca or Nirvana or Mount Olympus or Sherry Lehman. I’ve had my share of gurus in the art of living (Frank Sinatra, Robert Benchley, Miles Davis, Fred Hughes, Keith Sonnier, eg.) but by now I have attained perfect mastery myself, and so I’m passing along a few tips for your consideration.
It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed for an occasion. It will appear that you are going somewhere better later.
Drink champagne. If you have only one thing in the refrigerator it should be champagne. (And then butter.) You’ll be ready to celebrate or seduce at all times. And if you don’t drink anything else you’ll never get a hangover. And if it’s too expensive then you’re probably drinking too much anyway. Cut down and make it bubbles.
Vinyl. Collect 33 ⅓ records. They sound good the sleeves look great lying around the pad. Take that Cohiba label off the cigar. Unless, of course, you’re going to stick it up your ass.
Expensive sheets. Better than furniture, baby. Porthault turned my life around. That high thread count will keep your bed crowded.
On a budget? Forget those $7 bottles of Pellegrino and Evian in restaurants and drink from our excellent New York City supply. It’s in your coffee and soup anyway.
Answer the phone “Studio.” Everyone will think you’re an artist.
Don’t give too many people your cell phone number. Get a beeper and screen.
If you order white wine in a restaurant and it’s not cold enough, dump the contents of a salt shaker into the ice bucket and mix well.
Read the tabloids before you read the Times. It’s a more natural transition from the dream state to full wakefulness.
Don’t be afraid to ask the dentist for painkillers. There is no nobility in suffering and there are ten thousand dentists in the naked city.
Don’t buy stocks, buy good stuff. You can’t sit on, drive, wear or flaunt stocks and bonds. Some Japanese bank goes boom and the market crashes. But a ‘59 Cadillac Eldorado Seville will never go down in value and you can drive it to the bank looking good.
Black tie means you have to wear a tie. Duh.
If you want a good dog, go to the pound. Mutts are the true aristocrats of the canine gene pool, representing the nobility of natural selection.
Artists are the real saints. You can never know enough about Duke Ellington.
Don’t lie. Say what you think and smile. Be ruthless and affectionate. Let them think you’re being ironic. Speak the truth and beam.
When you eat a big meat sandwich, eat a pickle. It’s the antidote.
Make your bed when you get up. It gives you more of a will to live.
Have nice stationary and write thank you notes at every opportunity. Thanks for the gift, for the meal, for the appointment, for the shag, etc… Thank you for letting me be myself again. Flattery may get you somewhere. Gratitude will get you everywhere.
Consume ethically. When it comes to athletic footwear, don’t believe the hype. Kathie Lee Gifford took the rap for Nike. Philosophers don’t run sweatshops. Buy American. Buy New Balance and Converse.
Take your son to work on “take your daughter to work day.”
Don’t just read your own horoscope in the paper, read all twelve, that way you’ll know who to watch out for.
When travelling always try to carry everything on the plane, saving maybe an hour, maybe your wardrobe. The worst that can happen is you’ll have to check it at the gate. Last luggage on, first luggage off.
If you find yourself having too many hangovers but you don’t feel ready for AA, try drinking something you don’t like. If vodka goes down too easy, try a nice expensive single malt scotch with a difficult to pronounce name.
Watching network television is decadent. Get up a regular card game at least once a week to expand your interactions with other humans. ER is degeneracy. Contract Bridge is civilization. Have you ScrabbledTM lately? It’s a rush.
Get a china pattern and publicize it. This will give your tasteless parents, relatives and friends something to give you for birthdays and holidays that can’t fail.
Revenge should be savored. Revenge should be fun. Don’t get all hot under the collar and antsy. Just wait for your moment, even if it takes a lifetime.
Be beautiful and be loveable. By any means necessary. The forces of love, humor and gorgeousness may appear ruthless at times, but look at what we’re up against.
"Better Living? Here's How to Do It" is used by permission from Intelligence for Dummies (ZE Books, 2019). Copyright © 1998 by Glenn O'Brien. Originally published in Paper Magazine, 1998.
Originally Appeared on GQ