Meet Fran Lebowitz’s New York, as featured in “Faux It is a Metropolis”.
“When people say, ‘Why do you live in New York? ‘You really can’t answer them unless you know that you despise people who don’t have the courage to do so. “- Fran Lebowitz
New York hasn’t been the same since the U.S. pandemic in March 2020. Sure, it’s slowly reopening after being the epicenter of the pandemic, but it still has a long way to go.
One show to watch to remind us of how vibrant and crowded New York City was (and will be) is Netflix’s “Pretend It’s a City,” directed by Martin Scorsese.
It’s a seven-episode documentary in which he interviews author Fran Lebowitz, who is known for being very strong on everything, especially New York. The episodes are broken down by topic and we see Fran visiting many different places in the city. It’s a fun show and great guide to places to visit!
1. Panorama of the city of New York
During the seven episodes of “Pretend It’s a City” Fran Lebowitz goes over a miniature model of New York and points out some places she used to live or visit in the city. The same location was used in the movie “Wonderstruck” (2017) with Julianne Moore.
The miniature model is actually called “Panorama of the City of New York” and is part of the collection of the Queens Museum. Originally built for the World Exhibition in ’64, the museum was last renovated in 1992. The “Adopt-a-Building” program started in 2009 in order to secure the future of the model and at the same time to bring it up to date. Properties can be “bought” on the Panorama for just US $ 100, with owners receiving a certificate in return for their donation. “You can find more information directly on the museum website here.
2. The players
Another place that is commonly used for interviews on the show is The Players, a historic private social club. Located in Gramercy Park, the club “draws its members from the international theater community, related fields of film, television, music and publishing, and respected patrons of the arts.”
Martin Scorsese conducts most of the interviews with Fran in the barbecue area on the ground floor. We can also see Fran reading in the club library.
3. New York Public Library
It’s no secret that Fran Lebowitz loves books – she is known to own over 10,000 of them. No wonder, then, that one of the episodes is dedicated to books, which requires a visit to the New York Public Library.
4. Library walk
A very common feature of the show is Fran walking around New York reading the many plaques that are engraved on the sidewalks all over the city. One of them is the Library Walk in the immediate vicinity of the New York Public Library along E 41st Street between Fifth Ave. and Park Ave. As you get closer to the library, you’ll find quotes for writing, reading, and literature.
You can read about the Library Walk and its quotes here.
5. Hess triangle
Fran talks about plaques on sidewalks and also makes a stop at the Hess Triangle on the corner of Seventh Ave. and Christopher Street.
6. Grand Central Station
Fran also visits Grand Central Station. According to her, “[t]The great thing about Grand Central Station, the reason it’s so beautiful, is that one person built it. A building this size would never be built by a single person. There wouldn’t be a single sensitivity. “
7. Bust of Sylvette
One of the conversations Fran has with Martin Scorsese is about art and its current appreciation. She doesn’t understand why audiences break out into applause during an auction of a Picasso when it is being sold at a tremendous price, rather than when the work of art is first presented to potential buyers.
Fran talks about Picasso and walks past one of his sculptures called the Bust of Sylvette. It is located in the NYU Silver Towers on Wooster Street.
8th film forum
Some interviews on the last episode of the show were filmed at the Film Forum (209 W Houston St.) – specifically at its offices above the theater, as confirmed by her Instagram account:
9. Argosy Bookstore
Fran also visits a bookstore while talking about books. We can see them in the Argosy Bookstore on E 59th St between Park Ave. and Lexington Ave. goes. Founded in 1925, the inventory of second-hand bookshops and out-of-print items fills a six-story building in Midtown Manhattan and a large warehouse in Brooklyn. “
10. Beach kiosk in Times Square
On a show about New York, it’s almost impossible not to mention Times Square. Fran talks at length about how she avoids it at all costs and how she doesn’t like anything about it. Even so, we see her walking down Times Square to check out the documentaries and she stops at the beach kiosk on 43rd Street between Seventh Ave. and Broadway.
She even asks the beach clerk if he sells books in this place and notes that it is an insult to the books that are supposed to be on display there.
If you want to visit the main Strand Book Store location, you can find it at 828 Broadway on 12th St.
11. Majestic theater
It’s also impossible to talk about New York without mentioning Broadway shows. Fran shares with Martin Scorsese about the first time she saw the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and how she didn’t know what happened to the chandelier in the middle of the show (which we won’t mention here in case you haven’t seen it).
As she tells the story, we see her walk past the Majestic Theater where Phantom was playing before the COVID-19 pandemic closed all theaters. Hopefully it will reopen in 2021.
12. 23rd Street Subway Station – M / F Lines
Episode 3 is devoted to discussing modes of transport and of course Fran has a very strong opinion about the metro system in the city. She was particularly upset when the subway station near her apartment was closed for months for improvements that didn’t include track improvements or station cleaning. Instead, it contained an art installation.
The art in question was a series of Weimaraners photos by artist William Wegman. The exhibition entitled “Stationary Figures” shows 11 mosaic panels of his Weimaraners portraits. The station is located on 23rd St and 6th Ave.
13. Floating subway card
There are many sections on the show where Fran just walks around town and occasionally stops to look at the sidewalks. One of the things she sees is a Manhattan subway map floating on a Soho sidewalk. It’s nestled on the sidewalk off 110 Greene Street south of Prince Street.
Literally titled Subway Map Floating on a New York City Sidewalk, it was created by Belgian artist Françoise Schein.
14. Alexander Calder’s sidewalk
Fran also walks the Alexander Calder sidewalk, which is on Madison Avenue between 78th and 79th streets. It was installed in 1970 and is 75 feet by 15 feet.
15. Charging Bull
During an episode in which Fran Lebowitz and Martin Scorsese discuss money – and Fran’s hatred – she ends up in one of the most touristy spots in New York City: the Charging Bull in Lower Manhattan.
Currently in Bowling Green, the bronze statue is a symbol of Wall Street.
Fran also walks past Lincoln Center and the Chrysler Building, as well as many other streets in New York, which makes us long for the days when we could all walk around carelessly and perhaps stumble upon them while looking at our phones.
Sources: Unused New York, Place Matters