As a dumb Californian, I knew Ed Koch mainly as the guy who replaced Judge Wapner on the People’s Court. Later I learned he was also a congressmen and an influential, three-term mayor of New York City. His career path is hard for Californians to understand, because here, it usually goes reality show host, mayor, then congressman, whereas Koch did it all in reverse. In any case, Koch, a Neil Barsky documentary about him, opens today in New York, and in the saddest and best promotional tie in, Ed Koch died today of congestive heart failure.
“Koch” offers evidence that the combative mayor had mellowed little in his later years. Filmmaker Neil Barsky conducted extensive interviews with Koch in his Manhattan apartment in 2010 and early 2011, where the former mayor, who ruled New York from 1978 to 1989, spoke of his controversial time in office, offering no restrictions on subject matter or time.
“He was living the life that any 86-year-old would envy,” Barsky says of Koch, who was 88 when he died. “He was out on the street, campaigning for obscure Democratic Assembly candidates, going up to Albany, having spirited political debates with his family over the dinner table. He remained a very funny, in-your-face kind of guy who loved to battle.”
A highlight of Barsky’s movie comes on the 2010 election night when Andrew Cuomo won the New York gubernatorial race. Koch is seen surrounded by adoring well-wishers, but, at evening’s end, goes home alone. [LA Times]
Koch never married and most people think he was gay, and even though he looks like a sweet old man from a Worther’s box, a lot of people think his fear of being outed kept him from doing more to address the AIDs epidemic ravaging New York during his terms.