Fran Lebowitz, 70, most of whom lived in New York, is the protagonist of “Fran Lebowitz. A life in New York ”, il documentary by Netflix that Martin Scorsese dedicated to this writer, humorist and columnist (as well as her longtime friend).

The books and the interviews

Well known in the United States, Fran Lebowitz has written two successful books: Metropolitan life is Social studies and is a regular on America’s funniest talk shows. In his curriculum he also boasts the title of former columnist of Interview, Andy Warhol’s famous magazine, born around Greenwich Village goers.

The beginnings

As a girl, to stay in the prohibitive New York of the Seventies, she did the cleaning and above all she has worked as a taxi driver, the only woman among hundreds of male drivers. All around middle age – says Fran in the documentary – and all of Jewish origin, with large families and a cigar always in their mouth.

The New York of today

Fran Lebowitz. A life in New York (original title: Pretend it’s a city) shows us the Fran of today and through her gaze makes us travel through time, retracing 40 years of changes in the city and society. Some of which just do not go down: for example, Fran refuses to use the cell phone and in the documentary she says she is the only New Yorker left who looks straight ahead as she walks. Everyone else, he says, has their eyes perpetually glued to the smartphone.


Unmistakable thanks to the bob of black hair with the parting in the middle, Fran has adopted a uniform-outfit that makes it another distinctive feature: blazer (and in case of cold weather, coat) and men’s shirt Brooks Brothers, twins (he also has a pair made by Alexander Calder), Levi’s 501 and Texan boots (alternating with men’s lace-ups).
Few years ago, he told with Vogue Italia how he has built his style over the years: we propose the interview, signed by Grazia D’Annunzio.

He is the most irreverent, sarcastic and stinging columnist America has boasted for forty years now. Observe social, political events, fashions and trends with a disenchanted and ferocious eye, seasoned with an irresistible Jewish humor. She has a heart that beats to the left, even though she is a misaligned one. Let’s face it: in a world where everything changes, Fran Lebowitz it represents a security, a certainty, a fixed point. Whatever argument you propose, rest assured that he will be able to comment on it with that intelligent and ruthless irony that has always been his trademark. This is why she continues to lecture around the States and is invited to countless talk shows, and for this reason Martin Scorsese, who has a genuine veneration for her (he also reprized her as a judge in a scene from The wolf of Wall street), he wanted to dedicate the documentary to her in 2010 Public speaking and last January he interviewed her at Brooklyn Academy of Music, recording a full house (for the record, it was a Sunday night and the thermometer was minus eight).

Author of two books, Metropolitan life is Social studies, continually reprinted and devoured by the younger generations, Fran has been suffering from a writer’s block for some time: “Writing, for me, is neither easy nor fun,” she once told me. When he does, he uses a notebook and sharp pencils and is careful not to have a computer (or a smartphone), because he doesn’t care about technology and its progress. In these four decades she has remained true to herself and her habits: sixty cigarettes a day, smoked with the same intense pleasure; mineral water as the only drink; subway used as a favorite means of transport. Even his style, identical since he was twenty, “is certainly the opposite of flexibility and has a lot to do with stubbornness”.

A young Fran with Andy Warhol

© Andy Warhol and Fran Lebowitz

Here, in this regard, is an anthology of what he confessed to us: “I dress with jeans and blazers, and there are essential pieces for me that I think should always be available on the market. But no. Take the button-down shirts from Brooks Brothers: identical for a century, until 1996, when someone decided to ruin everything. If they had written me, I would have bought the rest. Not at all. The same goes for jeans. I always wore Levi’s 501s. I had found a model that looked great on me, and they stopped making it. Then, in the velvet Levi’s, they introduced a two percent polyester, and I complained publicly during a radio interview. Result: the vice president of the company called me live, telling me that the pants do not wrinkle with the synthetic. I replied that it didn’t fit me and that they could phone me in advance… When you have a tailored suit, you can’t wear anything else. My tailoring is Anderson & Sheppard, is located in London and is famous for menswear. At first, they didn’t want to know about making me a jacket, because I’m a woman. And since they had Marlene Dietrich as a client, I was disappointed. Has been Graydon Carter, the director of Vanity Fair Use, to convince them. Between rehearsals and any retouching, I can wait a year and a half for a dress. It’s the only drop of optimism I have in life: hoping to live in order to wear a garment that takes forever to be ready “.

Fran Lebowitz, from Vogue Italia, September 2014, n. 769, p.376

Top portrait: Brigitte Lacombe for L’Uomo (May 2020)

Fran Lebowitz photographed by Brigitte Lacombe for L’Uomo (May 2020)

© Brigitte Lacombe

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