Why Doesn’t Martin Scorsese Wear His Glasses Anymore?
Last week, like any sane person, the only thing on my agenda was devouring Pretend It’s a City. Martin Scorsese presents: Fran Lebowitz, in seven acts. (“Acts,” meaning 30 minute soundbites of crotchety delights.) Scorsese follows Lebowitz as she stomps around the Queens Museum’s Panorama, through the public library, stalks through Grand Central station, mutters impatiently in the backseat of cabs. Watching these episodes made me nostalgic for everything I love about New York: the “hustle and bustle,” yes, but also the many things there are to complain about here. And how fun it is to do that complaining! And how you’ll always find a willing ear — and if you don’t find one on this street, then maybe the next one. It’s almost as good as Public Speaking, Scorsese’s doc on Lebowitz from 2010 that’s an intravenous line of giddy meanness. Pretend It’s a City is an automatic press-play any week — Scorsese! Lebowitz! Manhattan in the fall, in all her blustery glory! — but it felt especially nice to watch at the end of a week when, you know, a lot of shit went down and not one single person is being held accountable for it.
But watching Pretend It’s a City, and then playing it in the background as I went about my day just because it was so oddly comforting, reminded me of a mystery that I have spent a lot of time thinking about but not a lot of time investigating. That mystery is: Why doesn’t Martin Scorsese wear his glasses anymore?
Once upon a time, Martin Scorsese wore his glasses always. They were as much his signature as the bushy eyebrows or the fast-talking. When I thought of Martin Scorsese, I thought of: the rat from The Departed. I also thought of: black rectangle-frame glasses. Here is Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses, talking to Tina Fey:
Here is Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses to accept his Oscar for Best Director, an award he won for putting the rat at the end of The Departed:
Here is Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses in a photo that I have had saved in my meme folder for at least a year as “martin_scorsese_beard_thot_pic,” because that’s who I am as a person. I sincerely hope I’m not sued for using it here. But if I am — Laura Wasser, I hope you are available to represent me.
Here is Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses, as he always does. Here is Hustlers star Usher, gazing longingly at Martin Scorsese, as I probably would. (This is representation that matters to me.) And yes I had to tweet this myself and embed it here — utterly embarrassing — because, again, the goal here is to investigate, the goal is not to get Hunter Yvonne Harris sued (by Roybers).
Here is Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses to direct The Wolf of Wall Street, a perfect comedy:
Now, you may not know this but I am more than happy to share: every spring the Tribeca Film Festival has a big “talk” with Robert De Niro in conversation with a featured guest, in front of a few hundred paying ticket holders. I have been to two of them. One was iconic because it was with Bradley Cooper, in 2018. Cooper was supposed to be promoting a Star Is Born, which he was still finishing so I was not obsessed with it yet. De Niro arrived onstage with not one single question prepared. I mean that literally: not a single one! He had a paper with what I assume were questions on it, but, before our eyes, he didn’t feel like asking them. Eventually, he just asked flat-out: “What’s something you’re planning to talk about during the Star Is Born press tour that you can … say right now?” I was delighted by all this, of course, because this is exactly the kind of chaos I love.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The other big De Niro “talk” I attended was with Martin Scorsese in 2019. This one was supposed to be about their many collaborations, but mostly amounted to a few good stories about Raging Bull and a hilarious moment when they motioned to Leonardo DiCaprio, sitting in fourth-ish row, to stand up to applause and Leo just waved. It was during this talk that I first wondered: why isn’t Martin Scorsese wearing his glasses?
I understand how this issue may be of no importance to you. However: It is very important to me. I have worn glasses since the second grade; I started wearing contacts in the eighth grade. I frequently fret over whether today is a glasses day or not a glasses day. (It depends on what I’m going to do, where I’m going to be, who I’m going to see.) Some days I think: “Obviously I will wear glasses. Martin Scorsese wears glasses!” Other days I think: “Obviously I will not wear glasses. Rihanna does not wear glasses!” Like Leo, these are my two guiding lights: Martin Scorsese and Rihanna. So I hope you understand that when, all of a sudden, I started seeing Martin Scorsese not wearing his glasses, I became confused. I started seeing these instances of him not wearing glasses with increasing — should I say disturbing? — frequency.
Here is Martin Scorsese directing The Irishman — no glasses.
Here is Martin Scorsese. With: the drip. Without: the glasses.
Here is Martin Scorsese (not) listening to Eminem perform “Lose Yourself” at the Oscars in February 2020 — no glasses.
Here is Martin Scorsese listening to Fran Lebowitz talk in the library in Pretend It’s a City — in a few scenes he’s wearing glasses, but in the majority of the scenes he is not wearing glasses.
Public Speaking was closer to a one-woman show, Fran Lebowitz holding court; Pretend It’s a City is a two-hander, it’s tweedle-Marty and tweedle-Fran running around a city they don’t recognize as much anymore, because they’ve changed and so has New York. Much has been made of Scorsese uproariously laughing at Lebowitz’s jokes, many times before she even makes the joke. I find this very charming — let my man get gassed up! — and anyway, if you’re going to follow a funny person around with a camera, shouldn’t it be clear that you find them funny?
Back to the glasses thing: I’m afraid I have no answer for you tonight. This Watergate will have to wait another day. As a matter of due diligence, I did reach out to Scorsese’s publicist to ask why he wears his glasses less frequently than in previous years. (According to me spending an hour scrolling through Getty archives, he seemed to wear them with less frequency starting around 2018.) Unfortunately, I have not gotten a reply. Martin Scorsese, if you are reading this, I would love to know.