Fran Lebowitz

On this date in 1950, author and humorist Frances Ann Lebowitz was born in Morristown, N.J., to Ruth and Harold Lebowitz, who owned a furniture store and upholstery shop and attended a Conservative Jewish synagogue. She was expelled from an Episcopalian high school at age 17 for what she later called “non-specific surliness” and completed her GED.

She moved to New York City in 1969 and worked as a cleaning lady, chauffeur, taxi driver and freelance writer. Andy Warhol hired her as a columnist for Interview magazine. She also wrote for Mademoiselle. Her first book, a collection of comedic essays titled Metropolitan Life, was published in 1978.

“All God’s children are not beautiful. Most of God’s children are, in fact, barely presentable,” Lebowitz wrote in Social Studies (1981), another essay collection. The Fran Lebowitz Reader and the children’s book Mr. Chas and Lisa Sue Meet the Pandas followed in 1994.

Since then she has worked on uncompleted book projects like Exterior Signs of Wealth — a novel about rich people who want to be artists and artists who want to be rich — and her book Progress, excerpted in Vanity Fair starting in 2004 but still unfinished as of 2021. “For every mandatory moment of silence before classes at a public school, during which students are free to pray or not, there will be a mandatory moment of noise before services at a religious institution, during which congregants are free to listen or not.” (Vanity Fair, Oct. 17, 2006)

Lebowitz later largely supported herself with TV appearances, speaking engagements and as a contributing editor and occasional columnist for Vanity Fair. She is a political liberal and a lesbian who is uncomfortable in long-term relationships. “I’m the world’s greatest daughter. I’m a great relative. I believe I’m a great friend. I’m a horrible girlfriend. I always was. I’m great at the beginning, because I can be very romantic.” (Interview magazine, March 11, 2016)

She was the subject of film director Martin Scorsese’s 82-minute documentary “Public Speaking” on HBO in 2010 before a limited theatrical release the next year. She collaborated again with Scorsese on “Pretend It’s a City,” a seven-part documentary series featuring her interviews and conversations with Scorsese. It was released on Netflix in January 2021.

“I got in trouble when I was 12 or 13, because I told the Sunday school teacher I don’t believe in God. I have not changed my mind on that,” Lebowitz once told an interviewer. “My Jewish identity is ethnic or cultural or whatever people call it now. But it’s not religious.” (New Jersey Jewish News, Jan. 27, 2016)

PHOTO: Lebowitz at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City; Ovidiu Hrubaru /

Freedom From Religion Foundation