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February 1, 2013

Right through the very heart of it
Posted by Avram Grumer at 08:09 PM * 9 comments

Former NYC mayor Ed Koch has died, on the very same day that a documentary about him opens. There’s something theatrically appropriate, something inherently Koch-like, about that.

Maybe it’s that he was mayor all through my teens and into my early twenties (1978–89), but he’s always seemed like the definitive mayor of New York City. He was somehow iconic. How iconic? Well, there was this:

That was the 1983 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short, Sundae in New York. And if you’re wondering about the number of garbage references, yeah, there’d been a 17-day strike of private garbage workers in 1981, and a lot of general tension between Koch and the unions in recovering from the fiscal crisis.

There was also this brief clip in an episode of The Critic:

But the truly amazing thing is that Ed Koch was so much the essence of the New York mayor that his iconic quality stretched backwards through time! You can catch a glimpse of the fictional mayor character in the original 1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Even though the movie was made when Lindsay was mayor, and released during the Beame administration, somehow the mayor character looks like Ed Koch:

Comments on Right through the very heart of it:
#1 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2013, 09:45 PM:

When I was a kid going to school on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village in the early-mid 60s, there were campaign posters for Koch everywhere (running for City Council, maybe?), so many that, a decade or so later, when he became mayor (and I was not living in the city) I saw photos of him and had a full-body flush of recognition. That guy! I remember that guy. How is it he looks exactly the same as he did when I was six? He was sort of the last of the quintessential New York Mayors (Lindsay was one too, but of an entirely different branch).

#2 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2013, 10:06 PM:

I can remember when we (NYC) were in one of our periodic dry spells and Ed Koch taught me how to shave without running the water in a constant stream.

I still - almost 40 years later - shave the same way. And, I can't leave a faucet running.

Ed Koch was and is my water conscience

#3 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2013, 10:11 PM:

Madeleine... Your school was on Bleecker Street? How cool. Why? Because Doctor Strange lived at 177A Bleecker Street.

#4 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2013, 10:43 PM:

When he lost the election, the New York Times had a picture of a novelty store with all the Ed Koch rubber masks marked down.

#5 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2013, 02:04 PM:

Serge: My school (Little Red School House) is on the corner of Bleecker and Sixth Avenue. Sadly, I never saw Doctor Strange in the neighborhood. That would have been cool.

#6 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2013, 02:55 PM:

He also died the day before the 100th anniversary of the opening of the present Grand Central Terminal.

Koch was even more iconically the mayor of NYC than Schaefer was mayor of Baltimore.

#7 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2013, 11:06 PM:

He was a complex man, a New Yorker through and through. I admire him for his refusal to comment on his sexuality, leaving everyone to wonder. Back then, that was a BFD. He could have done better, he could have been a lot worse, but he will always have my admiration and gratitude for his stand against bigotry.

He was a mensch, a haimischer mensch.

#8 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2013, 07:48 AM:

Ginger@7: He was a complex man, wasn't he? Fell down totally on AIDS yet had a great record otherwise on on gay and lesbian issues. That's so the reverse of the typical trajectory.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2013, 12:34 AM:


Sadly, I never saw Doctor Strange in the neighborhood. That would have been cool.
I did once see Quentin Crisp in that neighborhood. He wasn't Doctor Strange, but my headcanon was always sure they were acquainted.

Not quite speaking of tangential subjects --

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