We lost Glenn O’Brien last Friday, who passed away from pneumonia at NYU’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan at the age of 70. If you’re unfamiliar with O’Brien, he was a bit of a maverick writer/filmmaker/scenester, responsible for films like “Downtown 81” (originally “New York Beat”) and the pioneering cable access show, “TV Party.” I spoke a bit about him here. With his passing, New York City has lost another one of its visionaries.
In any case, in the wake of his death, a Tumblr page called Age of Warhol posted the photo below of O’Brien -– wearing a fetching pair of New Balance running shoes -- sitting with Warhol in front of a window. Sadly, the photo came without a credit, nor a year, but being that Warhol’s been gone for just over 20 years (!!!) now, I’m assuming this was taken at some point in the mid `80s.
Looking out the window, it’s pretty immediately evident that the vista in question is of Union Square looking south. Doing the math, while I immediately thought that this might be the building that houses the Barnes & Noble flagship store today, it was more than likely two buildings to the west, that being 860 Broadway, which housed the final incarnation, I believe, of Warhol’s fabled Factory.
Today, 860 Broadway is the building with the PetCo in its ground floor. I have no idea what goes on in the space that used to be that iteration of Warhol’s Factory, but suffice to say, one can’t just walk into it. As such, replicating this shot of Glenn and Andy with my kids in homage was right out of the question. The best I can do in that capacity is this. One of those windows is the one they’re depicted sitting at.
There is another notable thing about 860 Broadway, though. In an odd coincidence with Monday's post about Kraut, I put up an entry with a video a while back of Kraut allegedly playing in a New Jersey venue called Spit. The video in question was shot for a short-lived cable access show called “New York Dance Stand,” doubtlessly inspired by O’Brien’s “TV Party.” I fleetingly posted about that show here. One of the commenters on the original video, meanwhile, asserted that the Kraut peformance captured was not filmed in New Jersey at all, but rather at a venue on 17th Street “across from Union Square” called The Underground, specifically “in the downstairs of what is now a PetCo.”
Now, while I can’t say I ever went into Warhol’s Factory in 860 B’way, I can say I’ve been in the space that allegedly played host to Kraut … albeit not as The Underground, but rather as the fish/aquarium section of PetCo in 2011, when I was very begrudgingly coerced into purchasing a pair of strenuously ill-fated goldfish for my kids. You can read the beginning of that sorry, soggy saga here, although the post does not address their icky, untimely demise that happened a couple of disgusting months later.
Pour one out for Glenn O’Brien