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Longtime GQ Columnist Glenn O’Brien Slams the Magazine

Photo: Getty Images

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Legendary writer Glenn O'Brien held absolutely nothing back while talking to Four Pins about his departure as the magazine's "Style Guy" columnist, a feature he came up with over 15 years ago. O'Brien, who has written for Details, Interview, and Rolling Stone, co-wrote Madonna's Sex book, and worked as creative director of Barneys New York among other achievements, explained that his contract with GQ was up in June. In February, he was annoyed that his column didn't appear in the magazine. "Then it happened again. I assumed that this had to do with the extraordinary thin-ness of the magazine and not what you might call editorial direction. There wasn't even a masthead in those issues, not to mention a letter from the editor-in-chief," he said.

Here's his explanation of how the end of his relationship with GQ went down.

After that there was a disagreement about a feature that Jim Nelson wanted me to write and he said he wouldn't discuss my contract until it was done, so I simply resigned two months before my contract expired, at the loss of a couple of checks, because things were not handled in a gentlemanly manner. Jim Nelson acted regretful; he told me his budgets had been slashed and that he could no longer afford me, but he wanted me to continue to write for the magazine. This was not going to happen because of his disingenuous behavior.

As for GQ associate editor Mark Anthony Green, who will take over the Style Guy column, O'Brien says:

First of all, I find the notion that this is a "rebranding" of the Style Guy offensive. I created the Style Guy, not GQ. It existed before I went to GQ. It had a long run in Details. I published a book under that title. It's not something that existed before. It's not like "managing editor" or "film critic." Their proprietary attitude toward what I've done is not only insulting, but really unoriginal. They could have at least called their replacement the "Style Intern."

Here are a few more of his best quotes from his Q&A with Four Pins:

And one year ago, because of my popularity, they wanted me to do the Style Guy as an animated series on TV for Conde Nast Entertainment, but their TV people were so out of touch and their execution so embarrassing that I refused. The animator made me look like a leprechaun in lipstick.
What GQ is now is not what I signed up for. It used to be smart and stylish. Now they're struggling. They'll save some money since they don't have to pay me and my 15 years of raises, but that won't make up for the fact that now you can slip GQ under the door.
To have had a brilliant success for fifteen years with something I created and then to try to make it appear like suddenly I wasn't modern enough or they needed to go younger is completely dishonest. In fact it is entirely about going cheaper. Look at the top contributors over the last several years. Look at the editors they've lost. They're all gone. Blame it on poor editorial judgment, or corporate mismanagement, or the failure to transition to digital, or the ridiculous moves of their television division, but don't blame me. I would have been happy to just go quietly away from such a vulgar operation, but I am offended at being made a scapegoat for their spectacular incompetence. Gentlemen? I don't think so.
Snapchat? Why not? It sounds better than saying that they're struggling financially, or that when people heard GQ they thought of me and not Jim Nelson. By the way, isn't he getting a little old to be editor of GQ?

GQ EIC Jim Nelson responded to Four Pins via spokesperson, saying in part:

I don’t think about it so much as "rebranding" Style Guy as just rethinking it, which you always have to do in magazines, particularly with columns, even the very best of which can get predictable after a while. And Glenn's was among the very best. I loved Glenn's column, his wit and his take on fashion and style history, for many, many years—and he's absolutely right that he has a unique voice. But I thought, after 16 years, it was time for a different perspective on fashion and style. Things have changed so much, not the least of which is the way people want information and advice.

And for good measure, O'Brien is keeping the conversation going on Twitter: