New York

Fran Lebowitz Talks About Life Without Internet: “Don’t Tell Me If You Get Canceled!” | | Essay

W.HEN Fran Lebowitz was told as a child that his opinion was not welcomed. This was in the 1950s, when “children weren’t supposed to comment on what adults were saying. It was called rebuttal, but you weren’t allowed to do it.” Even as a young child, this seemed unfair, and at school I was kicked out of the classroom, even though the other kids made it clear that they wanted to hear what I had to say. So when I got much older, it amused me that what I was punished for was now being paid.”

At 72, Lebowitz’s opinions are acerbic, unfiltered, almost always right, and rarely more sought after than ever. Early in her career she developed her block of writers after publishing her two best-selling books, Metropolitan Life (1978) and Social Studies (1981). rice field. 2021’s Netflix series “Pretending to be a city” directed by her friend Martin Scorsese (This was his second Lebowitz documentary, the first being 2010’s Public Speaking.) From smoking cessation to the subway to the lawn chairs that dot Times Square, it’s all about her New York home. can be found. With lingering shots of her walking down the street in her signature outfit—an Anderson & Shepherd coat, white shirt, jeans, and chunky boots—the series cemented Lebowitz’s status as her icon of style. introduced her to a new generation of fans. someone who calls her out on her street. “They say: ‘I came to New York to see you, and I did.'” I say: “Of course, it’s a very small place and I walk around a lot. saw me

Lebowitz speaks from her apartment on her landline, which is not only her preferred method of communication, but also her only. She has no cell phone, no computer, and no need for Wi-Fi. She speaks in staccato sentences that could be interpreted as bad-tempered on her page, but is usually delivered in a tone of entertainment: Lebowitz does not suffer fools, but gratitude I love my audience with all my heart.

What about her detractors like New York Did Times writer Zinnia Belafante last year bemoan her “misanthropic, sullen, constrained view of Manhattan life?” ” she says. “It’s not that I don’t care what people think of me as a person. But I don’t care what they think of me. So you disagree with me – so what? In general, it really amazes me how angry people get because they don’t agree with someone. What’s the difference?”

One of the benefits of no internet connection is that Lebowitz wouldn’t have been wise if the public were outraged by one of her statements. “So I may be canceled, but I’ll never know. Don’t tell me if I cancel! I know I’m provoking people. [online]I would never do that. I don’t like that kind of situation. The fact that I know people are mad at me just makes me sad. Like, why are you mad at me? But I don’t think: “Oh, I’m so glad you got mad so I can start a huge global battle with you.” But it’s incredibly dangerous. But if all you care about is the opinions of musicians and entertainers, don’t watch. don’t listen to them. It’s easy. “

Lebowitz calls himself a writer, even though he hasn’t published a new book in years. Bolstered by her success with Pretend It’s a City, last year her publisher repackaged her two essays The Fran Lebowitz Reader for British readers.this The author, then in his twenties, reveals himself to be a keen social observer, a spiked-up Nora Ephron, and a master of terse prose. “There is no such thing as inner peace,” she wrote. “There is only tension and death.”

Marty and I… Scorsese and Lebowitz in their Netflix collaboration Pretend It’s a City. Photo: Netflix

Lebowitz says she hasn’t given up on the idea of ​​returning to writing, but given the success of her speaking tour, she feels no pressure. She and her editor have this routine when they go out together. She introduces him by saying, “This is my editor,” and he jokes, “The easiest job in town.” He once told her that he had “too much respect for her printed words.” “I’m a psychopathic perfectionist when it comes to writing, and it’s very difficult,” she says. “And that, combined with the fact that if I’m not the laziest person I’ve ever lived, I’m definitely one of them. It’s easy for me.”

Lebowitz is still an avid reader, spending hours at the bookstore reading. She owns about 12,000 books. She knows this because the last time she moved apartments, she insisted the movers count her books. Hungry for her new book during the 2020 lockdown, she decided to use her friend’s Amazon account. To her annoyance, she has 200 books she would never have bought had she been able to pick them up at the store and turn the pages.

Since the lockdown was lifted, Lebowitz’s speaking schedule has rarely been interrupted. The travel part is not easy. “Admittedly I hate traveling,” she says. “I always tell my agents, ‘They paid me to come here.’ Traveling is scary. If you’ve ever been to an airport, you know I hate hotels, I’d rather stay home, go get my coffee instead of waiting for room service to bring it because I want to.”

Given her short-tempered reputation, it’s inspiring to hear how much she loves the speaking part of her job. stand at the podium and take questions from the floor. “Answering questions from the audience is my favorite recreational activity,” she says Lebowitz warmly. “I like it because it has the unexpectedness. You never know what people will ask. I think it comes from the fact that I didn’t ask any questions about it.When I was a kid, my parents didn’t let me eat candy, but did you know that it’s okay to eat candy every day as an adult? It’s something.”

Lebowitz grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. I know this is against the law, but I had a happy childhood. Her parents were second-generation Eastern European Jews born and raised in New York. Her father was a furniture upholsterer, her mother a housewife, and a Jitterbug her dance champion in a previous life. Lebowitz’s mother not only told her daughter to keep her opinions to herself, but also warned her not to be funny to her, especially around her boys. “She told me: ‘Boys don’t like funny girls’. First of all, it turned out not to be true, and secondly, I didn’t care.” “That was the only time I graduated from anything, by the way,” she said of being expelled from high school for what she called “unspecified bluntness.” At the mention, she laughed–they met the end-of-the-year ceremony in which Lebowitz was presented with the class’s wit award. She was afraid to bring it home.

Andy Warhol talking to Lebowitz at a New York party in 1977
Andy Warhol talking to Lebowitz at a New York party in 1977. Photo: Richard E. Aaron/Red Ferns

It wasn’t just funny that made her an outsider. From her early childhood she knew she was gay. She understood that in the suburbs she would never be accepted. And she decided to move to New York when she was old enough. She said it was “the most exciting place in the world” for her, having visited museums as a child. When she arrived in her 1970, she had $200 in her pocket that her father had given her, but after a few weeks she was broke. However, she soon became happy. “I was like, ‘This is the right place for me. “I found this right place, and it turned out to be the right place for nine million other people.”

Lebowitz took a string of jobs, from cleaning apartments and selling belts at street vendors, to bartending and driving taxis. Whenever she had enough bad jobs, she would look through the Village Voice job listings and find another one. “All the job listings used to be gender segregated, but now it’s clearly illegal. All the girls I know, they all waited tables. do it.” And I said, ‘You know what? I’m not going to smile at men for money.

She began writing movie reviews for the underground newspaper Changes and also sold advertising space. I got it. When I went to Warhol’s factory, which had by this time relocated to Union Square, she saw an iron door taped to a piece of paper that read, “Knock loud and announce yourself.” i found the door. “This was after Andy was shot,” says Lebowitz. “So I knocked on the door and I heard someone say, ‘Who’s there?’ So I said, ‘Valerie Solanas! [who shot Warhol]And he, Andy, opened the door! That’s how I know this guy is not a genius. If someone shoots me and then bangs on my door, I won’t open it. “

Either way, she got the job. At the time, New York was a magnet for future artists, musicians and filmmakers, but according to Lebowitz, no one wanted to be a writer. Upon publishing her The Metropolitan Her Life, she became an overnight sensation, receiving rave reviews in the New York Times. She was not a fan of rock and roll, she always liked jazz, but she still made friends with the New York Dolls and Lou Reed. She is fascinated by young people who romanticize 1970s New York. “Now the 1970s in New York resembles the 1920s in Paris. And of course, fewer and fewer people are living from that era. We’re getting close to the last person standing. Honestly.” , I don’t know if New York was more fun in the 1970s, but I know it was more fun in my 20s than in my 70s than it is now.”

When Lebowitz is not touring, he spends most of his time reading, running errands, and visiting museums and favorite bookstores. “If she had a choice, she wouldn’t be out for the day,” she says. “I like nights. Unfortunately, I have an appointment and the dentist won’t see me in the middle of the night.” “This is what people find most shocking about me: I like going to parties. Everyone says: ‘Why do you like to party?’ they are a party The word itself: party! It’s fun!

But what she values ​​above all else is her own company. It’s no wonder Lebowitz, his cult hero turned bona fide celebrity, craves peace and quiet. “When I step out of my apartment, I want to be in the city. But I also like to stay there.

Fran Lebowitz will tour the UK in April 2023. For more information, visit her website at: Fran Lebowitz Talks About Life Without Internet: “Don’t Tell Me If You Get Canceled!” | | Essay

Back to top button