Koch, You Glorious Bastard
Fresh off the bus in the New York City area in 1979, one of the first figures I came to be familiar with was the irascible Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch. The guy was always on the TV, blaring about this, fussing over that, tweaking tails and tempers wherever he went. I mean, he was on the tube more often than the old Crazy Eddie commercials. To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in city politics back then; booze and girls were my major priorities back then. (And, uh, they still are.) But there was no getting away from Koch. Even in Connecticut or New Jersey, the guy was on the TV. I mean, he even had a bit part in The Muppets Take Manhattan! The guy was everywhere, and I was convinced he’d live forever.
Well, I was wrong about that. He died at age 88 on February 1, 2013.
The New York Times has a great obituary about the man and his work, both pro and con. And even better, Hizzoner recorded a final obituary video in 2007 that was made available by the Times on the day of his death. Feel free to check it out, if you feel the desire.
Like I said, I wasn’t very politically aware at the time. But as the years rolled on, and Koch always seemed to be re-elected, I came to view him as a true icon of New York City, one of the best–and at times, worst–representatives of the Big Apple. He was the quintessential New Yorker–a scrapper, a two-fisted in-your-face sort who was going to tell you what he thought, no matter what. There was apparently little guile about the man, and he didn’t often seem to pretend things weren’t what they were. I’d like to say they don’t make them like that anymore, but the truth of the matter is, they never did. Koch was a one-man show on a limited run. But he ended it as he started it, as the embodiment of New York City.
Koch was followed up by the bumbling and forever forgettable David Dinkins, whose single term has practically sunk out of sight like a boat anchor. Then there was Rudy Giuliani, an effective mayor when he felt the compulsion, but who was a barracuda of a human being. And now, of course, we have Mayor Bloomberg, whose major claim to fame is likely to be ensuring that no one in the city can get an oversized soft drink. Oh, boy.
Rest in Peace, Yer Honor. You might not have always been a class act, but you were impossible to ignore.