Purple Diary

[April 12 2017]

In memory of our dearest friend Glenn O’Brien

We won’t forget our friend Glenn O’Brien, who wrote for Purple and was one of our greatest contributors. He brought his incomparable knowledge, wit, and style to our magazine. We recall his last Anti-Column article for Purple Fashion, featured in teh latest issue, on his love for his hometown NYC, which can be read here with expressive portraits by artist Robert Knoke.


If you can make it here

New York is a different country. It’s not the United States of America. That’s the ugly thing you see on TV. New York happens to be located in the USA, but we don’t go around bragging about it, except maybe Bruce Springsteen, and he’s from New Jersey.

New York City… It’s Numero Uno, A-number-one, top of the heap, like Frank sang.

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But why would you? Why would you go anywhere else in America, unless it was a return-ticket, high-paying gig?

There is no more American Dream? If you’re one of the people President Trump wants out of here, you might have a West Side Story fantasy of America and green cards, but for the rest of the world — the ambitious, expansive, culturally aware, jet-set hipster I’m-going-straight-to-the-top world — why would you ever take the bridge or the tunnel unless you’re going to Newark Airport? Whatever America has to offer is right here. Manhattan. Brooklyn. A bit of Bronx. Basta. That’s the truth. But the truth has a lot of footnotes.

Remember the city-states of ancient times? Fabulous capitals, armed to-the-teeth suburbs. Babylon, Rome, Athens. Dancing girls. Potentates. Artists.

New York is kind of the last great city-state.

If you are an impoverished person who goes around singing West Side Story and dreaming the American Dream … well, that’s over, kid. Fugghedaboutit.

America? Well, they do have a big canyon. They’ve got mesas where you can pretend that you’re in a John Ford Western. They’ve got Vegas, which is everything New York can’t be bothered with made to look exciting. Lions, and tigers, and bears … oh my!

In most of America, you’re an American first. It’s the stars and stripes and the rockets’ red glare. In New York, the red, white, and blue is one of the more popular motifs of Empire State Building lighting. That’s about it! Our flag is the Yankee cap.

If you’re a Texan, the US of A comes first, then it’s your town and then maybe the country, but for lots of Texans, that’s their nation. It’s pretty much the same throughout the United States of not much. Some New Yorkers do have a nationalist thing, but it’s about being the best of the best. Number one out of 50. America’s the greatest country, they say, and if New York is the pinnacle of peak … well, that’s cool, but New York City doesn’t really need any hangers-on.

My friend Olivier Zahm, a part-time New Yorker-Parisian, tells me New York City doesn’t get the props anymore. Maybe he’s been spending too much time on the Coast, but I do catch his drift.

There is that California arrogance. It’s sunny, we have just as much money, and we run the global imagination, but even Angelinos can’t hang that long. It’s boring, and nothing ever happens by accident. Stay long enough, and you’ll be living in a luxury cave in Ojai.

New York always had the art worlds. We make it. We sell it. And it’s true that that has changed. But this is still where the buying and selling happens, and that’s what art’s about now, nope? All the hippest Hollywood talents live where? New York. Chicago? It’s not even the second city anymore. Meanwhile, it’s not as cool as New York’s suburb, Pittsburgh.

Skyscrapers? We got ’em! Nothing like taking a shit with the curtains open on the 110th floor!

Actually, New York isn’t what it used to be, but no place else is, either. Our vulgarities are more interesting than yours. We can be in Paris before we could get to all those great American cities we don’t go to. And we have the best visitors. The best visiting Japanese girls. Food from everywhere. And ideas. We still have the best ideas. I’ll prove it later.

Prez Donald Trump, who lives in a golden tower on Fifth Avenue (where, he stated, he could mow people down with a machine gun with impunity), wouldn’t live anywhere else (even the White House). He thinks New York is number one.

This makes me suspicious. How could he be right about … anything, so I’m making it my job to find out where’s better than this town, where I lived my life in a state of bemusement, beholding the sublime and meditating on the stupidly fresh.

Where else? Let’s see.

Text Glenn O'Brien and Portraits Robert Knoke

Subscribe to our newsletter