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    Fabulous Fran Meets Marvelous Marty

    By Jan Wahl–

    Fran Liebowitz is an articulate social commentator, a writer and lecturer with original, outrageous thoughts on New York, American life, and the hell of other people. Martin Scorsese is an iconic filmmaker, Hollywood historian, and show business icon.  Together, they are combustible entertainment and thought-provoking brilliance. It is called Pretend It’s a City, a new series on Netflix. She talks, he laughs (and directs), as we are invited to a party traveling all over Manhattan with the best guests at the party.

    There is no way you can watch this one without feeling your mind woken and a smile emerge on your face. Fran is a lesbian with relationship issues. She reminds us that long-term relationships are a challenge: “I once had a girlfriend who summed it up best.  She said that ‘at first you’d ask me a hundred questions about myself. Then 50. Then 20. Finally, you said, ‘Can’t you see I’m trying to read?'”

    But it’s not her romantic life we focus on here. It is what annoys her, how she feels walking down the streets of Manhattan, nature, the hell of other people, subways. She is articulate and a really fast talker, full of literary metaphors (she owns 10,000 books) and intelligent discourse. Scorsese gives us the visuals and locations to go along with the journey. He also laughs a lot, but who can blame him? I thought he would fall off his chair when she explained that she is a germaphobe. “I’ve never touched a single thing on a New York subway,” she said. “If I was carrying the Hope diamond and dropped it on the floor, I’d leave it.”

    Liebowitz has been called a modern-day Dorothy Parker, though she is so original I find that comparison troubling. Both are women who fought to be authentic, though Dotty drank and Fran smokes big time. Fran went to an all-girls school: “The kids elected me president, the headmaster threw me out. He said I was a bad influence on the other kids and was usurping his power.” 

    I guess I identified with some of that. I was elected student body vice president at my coed high school, receiving most of my votes while the cool kids were in detention.

    We’ve celebrated Bridgerton, Critical Thinking, The Great, The Prom, The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown … and there is always more. I was singing the blues the other morning and logged on to see what was new. Along comes Nicholas Cage introducing me to The History of Swear Words. I am now way more proficient than I should be on the origin and social context of the F word. This one is a blast! I guess I have to warn you it is in your face, but why not? The use of smart folks who write dictionary definitions along with professors who study words are just part of this saucy educational series, with Nick Cage the perfect host. I swear differently now—just as much, but with more thought.

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Published on January 28, 2021