Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorsese Seek a Missing New York in ‘Pretend It’s a City’


Do you worry that New York won’t fully return to what it was before the pandemic?

LEBOWITZ I have lived in New York long enough to know that it will not stay the way it is now. There is not a square foot of New York City, a square foot, that’s the same as it was when I came here in 1970. That’s what a city is, even without a plague. But I’d like to point out, there were many things wrong with it before. After the big protests in SoHo, I saw a reporter interviewing a woman who was a manager of one of the fancy stores there. The reporter said to her, “What are you going to do?” And she said, “There’s nothing we can do until the tourists come back.” I yelled at the TV and I said, “Really? You can’t think what to do with SoHo without tourists? I can! Let me give you some ideas.” Because I remember it without tourists. How about, artists could live there? How about, let’s not have rent that’s $190,000 a month? How about that? Let’s try that.

Has the pandemic ever made you feel more vulnerable or aware of your own fragility?

LEBOWITZ It makes me feel angrier. Luckily, I have managed to distill all human emotion into anger. It doesn’t matter what the initial emotion is: It could be despair, sadness, fear — basically I experience it as anger. It makes me feel angry because this didn’t have to happen at all.

SCORSESE I actually don’t know where I belong on the island. I grew up downtown when it was pretty tough in that area. Now it’s very chic. It’s no longer home for me, certainly. I’ve grown old, and out, in a way. I have been locked in and working on FaceTime. I have been trying to make this movie [“Killers of the Flower Moon”] since March. Every two days, they say we’re going. And then they say, no we’re not. It’s a state of anxiety and tension. But in any event, I really haven’t gone out that much. I can’t take a chance, either.

The day the pandemic is over — there’s no longer any risk of the coronavirus and we can all return to our usual lives — what’s the first thing you do?

SCORSESE First thing I would say is, please, to go to a restaurant. There’s a few that I’m missing a great deal. I’ll never eat outside. I don’t understand how you can sit there and the fumes from the buses come in. I don’t get it. It’s not Paris.

LEBOWITZ I’ve been eating outside. There is no greater testament to how much I hate to cook than the fact I will sit outside in 28-degree weather, trying to eat with gloves on. I would like to eat at a restaurant. Also, I would like to crawl around underneath the tables in the rare book room at the Strand and when I bring the things to the register and the guy goes, “Where did you find this?” It was under the table. “We haven’t priced it yet! You’re not supposed to take it out from under there.” Well, I did, so how much is it?



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