|Ed Koch - Mayor of New York City 1978-1989|
Old Ed was perhaps to some a few points shy of the Jewish “mashugana” bizarre label. In a town as diverse and crazy as New York can get he was a consolation prize or Kewpie Doll in the crowded 1977 Democratic primary race for mayor, which he was shortly labeled as at his beginning in office which an older co-worker called him, repeated from the newspapers, and she got a satisfying chuckle of it every time she used the label "Kewpie Doll".
Shirley MacLaine described him as “gay” in her first book Out On a Limb without directly saying who he was and describing that one particular politician who was predicted to run for mayor by some South American Phychic or such as just another politician hanging around the NYC scene before he was mayor.
I think like in Shirley’s book, nobody really publicly outed people in the old days and I think Ed just couldn’t be bothered with the baggage attached to a “I am a Gay man” standup comedy routine. He was of his generation and its traditions to the bitter end. (Some matters personal and private are best left personal and private.)
He was a natural salesman and talker and put the old burned out post war city back on track to the future as its PR spokesman and symbol.
His running for a fourth term was a mistake. Twelve years of anybody including FDR is enough in any democracy.
My own memories of him.
I remember him rounding a corner around 23rd and Broadway on the way to a street fair I and a girlfriend had just left and he was surrounded by something like six, six foot five feet plus tall police detectives / bodyguards in suits, some them almost running trying to keep up with Koch already ahead of them on his way to dazzle the crowds. Ed was tall. Wow. And no guns showing. Where’s the beef? Right there up in your face, that entourage. LOL
I shook his hand somewhere at one of those Sunday street fairs as a hand reaching out of a crowd surrounding him. He had an iron handshake grip even for a brief shake. He also had a great personal up front in your face presence / charisma.
In his retirement he had an office in my building at Sixth Avenue and 51st Street, Rockefeller Center, but on an entirely different floor, different elevator bank. I said a distant hello to him maybe a half dozen times over the years usually on the street and I think he walked from the Lexington Avenue subway line to his office every morning.
I once did see some very enthusiastic young female tourist in a backpack out front asking him for an autograph etc. But Ed’s all but drooling attention was on the girl’s twenty year old or so boyfriend with her. The boyfriend’s face was beet red in embarrassment.
He was fond of Roman Catholic Ritual and I think might have converted but he decided to keep it Jewish for political harmony sake.
Bought a cemetery plot in Harlem at 155th and Broadway in an Episcopalian graveyard several years ago, one of the last open cemeteries in the city, with a great view of the city further downtown for $20,000.
His only request to the Episcopalians who were glad to have him was for the entrance to the graveyard nearest his grave be labeled “Jews' Gate” after he was put to rest there.
Rest in peace Mr. Mayor.