Jonathan Lethem Latest Famous New Yorker To Escape From New York

by BILLY GRAY · September 28, 2010

New York is often called the Capital of the World. But for all its gravitational pull, NYC loses some of its brightest lights to ostensibly lesser cities (even Boston). Let's look at notable members of the New Yorker diaspora, and where they landed. 

The latest New York refugee is celebrated Brooklyn novelist Jonathan Lethem, who sent shockwaves through the borough's flea and farmer's markets by announcing a move to, of all places, Malibu. But the Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude author (and one of "the Jonathans") is hardly the first to flee the city that made him.

Here are the favored escape routes of esteemed New Yorkers:

Los Angeles

Who Moves There from New York: Actors both established (Rosario Dawson) and aspiring (untold millions, including Leven Rambin); depressed rock stars in need of Vitamin D (John Lennon, Julian Casablancas); suicidal failed rock stars in need of Vitamin D (Greenberg); movie producers (all of them); literary heroes looking to make some studio system scratch with a screenplay (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Barton Fink); Web 2.0 fameballs/whores/mongers (Julia Allison); doomed Tonight Show hosts (Conan O'Brien)

Odds of Succeeding: 19:2

Odds of Retuning to New York: 1:2

Miami

Who Moves There from New York: Gorillas (The Situation); guidettes (Snooki), your Jewish nana; Seinfeld's parents; Dorothy Zbornak

Odds of Succeeding: 3:1

Odds of Dying: Even

Odds of Returning to New York: 3:2 (better odds if you return for your own funeral)

"Europe"

Who Moves There from New York: Art house film directors (Woody Allen to London, Wes Anderson to Paris); Rhodes and Fulbright scholars; artists (all of them, to Paris in the 1920s and Berlin now); writers; DJs (to Berlin)

Odds of Succeeding: 2:1

Odds of Returning to New York: 1:3

Washington D.C.

Who Moves There from New York: Senators and Secretaries of State (Hillary Clinton); Secretaries of the Treasury (Timothy Geithner); model U.N. dorks

Odds of Succeeding: 7:1

Odds of Returning to New York: Depends on ferocity of anti-incumbent sentiment

Cambridge, MA

Who Moves There from New York: Big name academics (Niall Ferguson, Louis Menand); overachieving high school students looking to be taught by big name academics (Mark Zuckerberg)

Odds of Succeeding: Even (Harvard is much harder to get into than fail out of)

Odds of Returning to New York: 3:1