Bomb on the Inside: Blur the Boundaries and Cross Over, Part 2 by David Goodman

The second half of my conversation with Glenn O’Brien, Editorial Director of Interview Magazine. For part one go here.

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David Goodman What other projects do you want to get involved with? I don’t know how much more time you have…

Glenn O’Brien Well, this takes up a lot of my time. I like Interview a lot, so I’m happy to devote myself to that. I do other writing, which helps me think. But I’m pretty happy with that. We have lots of opportunities to take the idea of Interview and execute it in other areas. We were asked if we wanted to do a radio station; and we have the chance to do TV stuff.

DG What do you think about that?

GO Could be good. If we can get the magazine and website together, then why not? I’m still interested in doing some things as a writer that are not connected to Interview, but I’ve got my hands full here.

DG What other things do you want to do?

GO Well I have a script or two that I’ve written that I’d like to get produced. But in a lot of ways my work on that is done. If I get the opportunity, I can make that happen.

DG Could you see the Internet or Interview‘s web presence as a vehicle for your own creative ideas? Since it’s fast, and it goes out so quickly?

GO Yeah, possibly, I don’t know. I have someone that works for me and they’re trying to put together all my TV commercials. I’ve spent a lot of time doing TV commercials over the years, and I realized that so many of them are up on YouTube. It’s amazing. You don’t even need a reel anymore; you can just give people the links, you know. I like that. ’Cause I sort of got into advertising by accident, but I always felt, maybe from working with Andy Warhol, that the only real difference between advertising and art is that one has a logo on it, at best. Some of the ads that I worked on are really good; they work outside of commerce, really. They work within commerce, but they also work as entertainment.

DG Well, commercials, if they’re done right, are almost short format films. They can exist on their own. Recently I saw one for that fragrance Charlie. Do you remember it?

GO Kinda young, Kinda now.

DG Yeah!

GO I didn’t write that.

DG Yeah I know, but it’s weird how they stick in your head.

GO I worked on a lot of Calvin Klein stuff. When we did what they called the “child pornography campaign,” I was really amazed how much reaction there was to it. If you look at it, it’s not that suggestive, you know; there’s certainly nothing there. The most pornographic thing, really, is the wood paneling and the carpeting. They’re just really low end. I think that’s what shocked people. And the fact that Bill Clinton said we should be investigated by the Justice Department … that was really an achievement.

DG If you had made those commercials during the last eight years, it would have been Homeland Security. The response would have been more intense because of the Christian right.

GO Yeah, maybe. It’s an interesting time that we’re living in. You see movies that were made in 1972 … you couldn’t make those movies today. You just couldn’t get them done. You couldn’t get them financed, cause they would get an X rating, and nobody will make an X film or an unrated film. In some ways we’ve regressed culturally.

DG It feels like we’re starting again, and we have to break down the same boundaries and the same barriers because they were established in such a rapid succession in the last eight years. I’m also amazed that people can be up in arms about the wall that’s being built in Israel, when we have one that is being built on the border of Mexico. If we’re doing that, why don’t we build one on the border of Canada? There’s all this fear. It’s a really strange step back.

GO Well, the Mexican thing is definitely racist politics. Jon Stewart did a really good bit the other night where he had these crazy guys—one is somebody who sits in a field and watches the Rio Grande and he’s got a gun. He reports people if he sees anyone sneaking in. And another guy does it remotely on a television monitor. He’s thousands of miles away, but he’s got these cameras and he’s watching the border. And so he’s sitting there, and the Daily Show brought in a Mexican to sit there and watch the border—they brought in an illegal that they picked up at the 7-11 to watch the border, while they took the hobbyist border watcher out for a beer with the interviewer. (laughter)

DG That’s amazing. It makes me curious as to what is going to shock people. Are you finding anything shocking now?

GO We had some nudity in the last issue with the girl who’s in the piece with Zac Efron. There’s a one page of her and she’s naked, and the chewing gum that advertises with Interview has a problem with that. They don’t want to be in an issue that has anything like that. That surprised me.

DG It’s probably a safety concern. (laughter)

GO Maybe. If we have nudity in the magazine we get letters from prisons saying: “This is to inform you that this issue was not delivered to the subscriber.” I guess they don’t want guys masturbating in prison. They can assault each other …

DG Right, they can assault each other and do drugs in prison, but there’s no nudity allowed from Interview magazine. You would think that it would be a great window into creative content because the nudity would be in context to artist interviews. What magazines don’t have nudity in them?

GO The ones in supermarkets. If we have nudity we have to put it in a plastic bag, like Borders or Barnes and Noble.

DG Do they have to “plastic bag” novels that talk about sex?

GO What about nude statues? A Michelangelo book, is that bagged? I don’t think so. It’s very peculiar.

DG Is that across the board, or is it just in certain markets?

GO No, I think it’s in all Barnes and Noble stores. It’s like the records that they make censored versions of to sell in Wal-Mart, or whatever.

DG Internet almost makes censorship obsolete.

GO I don’t understand censorship. I have an eight and half year old kid, and I also have an adult son. But I’ve never protected them from … I don’t want him to see anything too gory, because I don’t want him to have bad dreams. Maybe later he’ll be interested in sexy stuff, but I don’t want to be like, Don’t look! He could care less, you know?

DG What is your eight-year-old interested in?

GO Volcanoes, the Krakatoa, penguins, stuff like that.

DG What grade is that?

GO Third.

DG That’s when they still have amazing imaginations.

GO He’s very interested in nature. He loves traveling and loves going places. He likes weird cultures. And violence, he likes Indiana Jones and Star Wars and Star Trek.

DG Yeah, but those are just great stories.

GO He loves Star Trek and Star Wars.

DG That’s a good place to be.

GO Have you seen these Lego animations on You Tube? He’s into that. There’s a really good one where Star Trek collides with Star Wars. The Starship Enterprise accidentally winds up in the Star Wars part of the world, and they don’t recognize one another as friends, so the Enterprise is attacked by Luke Skywalker, or something like that.

DG That’s great.

GO I like the idea of these collisions of mythologies. That actually happened with Predator versus Alien.

DG That movie wasn’t right. I heard the most bizarre interviews around that movie.

GO I love the idea of collisions of story ideas or storytelling traditions. A lot of Hollywood pitches start that way. Like, imagine this meets this. “It’s sort of like The Godfather, but with kung fu.”

DG What would Rocky collide with?

GO Rocky and Panic in Needle Park. (laughter) I always thought it’d be fun to do Sanford and Son in outer space.

DG I guess that’s what interviews do.

GO It would be good if they wound up being movies.

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