A lot of people are writing about Ed Koch today. Everyone who's doing so is more qualified than me, but nobody is more qualified than the man himself, who recently recorded an interview with the Times intended to be published after his death. Watch it. Enjoy the sight of a cranky, lively old man reminiscing about the '77 riots, the Village in the '60s, and Mario Cuomo's enduring prickishness. Key quote, on Rudy Giuliani:
"He was a good mayor, but he was a bad man. He was mean-spirited. . . . Rudy was not a racist—he was mean to everybody!"
If I'd been living in New York in the '80s, I have a hunch I would have loathed Koch. But as politicians age, controversy recedes, and all that's left is personality. As far as personality goes, Koch couldn't be beat. He was also the finest film reviewer this city has ever seen. His take on Once:
This film wasn’t Irish enough for me, but it is good and will have to do until the next one is made which I will rush to see. I saw it at the Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street in Manhattan. The majority of the people in the audience, mostly in their 20s and 30s, applauded when it ended. I snapped my fingers.
I interviewed Koch for a fairly dopey Observer article in 2011. I only got to use a paragraph of it, but we spoke for twenty or thirty minutes, and it was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten to do as a reporter. Here's the bit that got printed:
A survey of some of New York’s busiest people suggested that, despite the appeal of such software, the simplicity of the notepad is irresistible. Ed Koch is never without one. “It’s about four inches long and two inches wide,” he said of his pad. As mayor he required his commissioners to submit monthly lists of success and failure—a kind of never-ending performance review—and now he uses lists to keep track of the various issues he pursues as a pundit, columnist and film critic. As of last week, he said, “the top of my list is Medicare.”
A politician with personality. You hate to see that go.