Fran Lebowitz Talks Her Life in New York City to Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele

Fran Lebowitz Talks Her Life in New York City to Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele

New York’s reigning critic sits down with longtime friend Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele to discuss her metropolitan life and the city she calls home.

New York’s reigning critic sits down with longtime friend Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele to discuss her metropolitan life and the city she calls home.

Photography: Carlyne Cerf De Dudzeele

CARLYNE CERF DE DUDZEELE So, what is your favorite thing about living in New York?

FRAN LEBOWITZ That’s a good question. Right now, truthfully, my favorite thing about New York is that it’s not anywhere else in this country.

I always thought that if I spoke Italian—which I don’t, I speak one language, English—I can’t imagine I would live in Italy, but I would spend a considerable amount of time there.

CCD I know you like to eat out a lot. What is your favorite restaurant in the city?

FL This I will not say. Because, already, it’s too crowded. You know, I love to eat, but I don’t consider the subject of food an area of great scholarship like everyone else does. So, I eat several nights a week at the same restaurant. I’ve been eating there since it first opened. As I said, it’s already too crowded.

When people ask me, “Do you want to try this new restaurant?,” I will. But, when someone says, “Where should we eat?,” my main interest is that I don’t have to choose it.

CCD I also know that you’re an avid walker. What do you love about walking in the city?

FL I only like to walk in cities; I don’t like to walk. You know the people who like to take walks in the country—this I don’t like at all. I like to stroll along. I like to be on the street in New York. I like it.

Another reason I like to walk around is I’m the only person on the street, even if the streets are packed. I’m the only person noticing everything because I’m the only person not looking at my phone, because I don’t have one.

So, I feel like I can’t believe my good luck that every single person in New York who might be my competition for observing life isn’t because they’re not observing it; they’re on their phone.

Also, bicycles: I hate. You don’t hear them coming— my head swivels in the street like The Exorcist to not get hit by a bicycle. I hate those Citi Bikes, they’re horrendous.

CCD What do you think about Central Park, now that you can’t smoke there anymore?

FL I have to say I’ve never been a user of parks in the sense of, like, going to the park. I’ve lived for 26 years two blocks from Central Park. The only time I was in it was when I walked through it to get to the Upper East Side. I have smoked in Central Park and no one said anything.

CCD Is it true you have an old New York cab as your car?

FL No, it’s not a taxi. It’s a Checker Marathon—it looks like an old checker cab, but it was made as a passenger car and I’m its only owner. There’s a funny story about it, too.

In the ’80s, I had it in a parking garage, the parking garage moved. At the time, I had a girlfriend who moved the car for me to the new location. A week after she moved the car, I broke up with her. Her revenge was to not tell me where my car was. Finally, she told me where the car was, but would not give me the ticket to claim it. I went to the place and they wouldn’t give me my car. “Too bad for you.”

There is a restaurant near to this garage that was basically run by the mafia. The guy who owned it would always tell me, “If you ever have any problems, come to me. I’ll help you out.” I never had those problems, I never went to him. Well, I went to him. I explained what happened and took the girlfriend out of the equation. He said, “Why is your car in this garage? Those are very bad people.” And I’m thinking, Well if you think these are bad people, how bad could they be? He said, “They’re not like us. You know what they’re like? They come into your house and someone does something wrong to them, they shoot everybody. The grandma, the baby, the mother-in- law. They’re very bad people.” Meanwhile, I’m like practically crying, it’s my car.

So, the guys goes, “Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to call one of our cops.” I’m thinking, You have cops? Yeah, they had cops. And by cops, I mean cops they’d paid off. They call the precinct and in like five minutes, a uniformed cop comes into the restaurant. I go with the cop to the garage, the cop goes into the garage with his gun drawn—these are very tough guys. It was like a movie. The gun out in his hand and says to the guy,

“Give her her car.” And the guy gave me my car. I still have my car, but in a normal, regular garage, no guns, no cops needed.

Credits: Retouching Alberto Milazzo (Lux Imaging)

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