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This week, “Koch,” a documentary about his City Hall years, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art but Koch was unable to attend. The film opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.
Bloomberg joked about the timing, saying, “Leave it to Ed to leave just in time to maximize interest in ticket sales” of a movie about him.
The film begins with Koch describing how, as mayor, he would delight in looking out at the New York City skyline and remark to himself, “This is all mine. It’s extraordinary.”
“Here was a mayor who was a combination of a Lindy’s waiter, a Coney Island barker, a Catskill comedian, an irritated school principal and an eccentric uncle,” New York writer Pete Hamill said in a 2005 discussion of Koch’s legacy. “He talked tough and the reason was, he was tough.”
NEW YORK NATIVE
Born into a Jewish immigrant family in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, Edward Irving Koch went on to attend City College and earn a law degree from New York University.
He entered politics in the 1950s in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, winning a seat on the city council, and later went to Washington, where he served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1977, he ran for mayor of New York City, and proved to be an agile campaigner. To combat rumors he was gay, former beauty queen Bess Myerson began appearing by his side at campaign events.
Koch later admitted the two were never romantically involved. Koch remained a bachelor all his life and refused to answer questions about his sexuality even in his later years.
After two successful terms in office - he was returned for a third term with 70 percent of the vote - Koch’s star had begun to fade. A corruption scandal involving his ally, Queens Borough President Donald Manes, never implicated Koch, but it damaged his reputation with voters.
Koch’s attempt at a fourth term failed when he lost his party’s nomination to Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, a man as quiet and deliberative as Koch was outspoken and abrasive. Dinkins would go on to be the city’s first black mayor.
“People became tired of Koch’s personality,” said Mitchell Moss, the director of the Urban Research Center at New York University. “He was a remarkable mayor but one with a big mouth. After 12 years you have to change the lyrics.”
After leaving office, Koch wrote articles on everything from Middle East politics to movie reviews, hosted a radio show and served as a judge on television’s ““The People’s Court.” His book about another former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, was titled “Giuliani: Nasty Man.”
He remained a formidable figure in New York politics until his death, endorsing candidates and offering political commentary on the local NY1 television station. He has been a supporter of New York’s current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and in 2010 he formed New York Uprising, a political action committee designed to fight corruption in state politics.
In 2008, Koch announced he had secured a plot in Manhattan’s Trinity Cemetery, telling the New York Times: “The idea of leaving Manhattan permanently irritates me.”