I first met Mario Cuomo, the former New York State governor who died at 82 on Thursday, at Grossinger’s in the Catskills in 1982. He and Ed Koch were debaters before the New York State Broadcasters Association Annual Conference. Hearing of my Forward connection, Koch told me outright “tell your readers to rush to the polls and vote.”
Cuomo, his arm around my shoulder as we walked along a pathway, explained “The Jews need a Shabbos goy because they can’t do everything for themselves.”
Mario Cuomo as he appeared in Karen Leon’s 1987 cartoon
Whenever we met over the years, “the grandchildren” were always a topic of conversation as they were at the 1997 Creative Coalition Spotlight Awards at The Pierre at which son-in-law Kenneth Cole was an honoree, Mario Cuomo reminded me how he “spent the night under Jennie Grossinger’s portrait.”
The last time I spoke with the governor was at the June 25, 2013 Women’s Forum of New York Elly Awards Luncheon at the Plaza at which daughter Maria Cuomo Cole was an honoree. Former New York State First Lady and award presenter Matilda Cuomo touted her thirteen grandchildren — “all girls and one boy” — as seated at the VIP table, father Mario Cuomo was schepping nachas.
That Neil Barsky selected Ed Koch as the subject of his first film was far from an accident. Barsky spent his formative years in New York during Koch’s mayoralty (1978-1989), both as a high school student and later as a journalist.
The city was in the midst of desperate times. Crime was rampant and the Big Apple was running out of cash and time. Koch ran as a “liberal with sanity” on a law and order platform shortly after the 1977 blackout and ensuing riots; he easily defeated a passel of more liberal Democrats (Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo, among them) for his party’s nomination and then won the election handily.
Koch was brash and combative in a New York City kind of way — at least in the way New Yorkers like to think of themselves. Barsky is a former journalist — he wrote for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News — and he comes to filmmaking by a circuitous route. He ran a hedge fund, Alson Partners, named for his children, Alexandra and Davidson, but “retired from the hedge fund world” in 2009 when the market collapsed. After a brief stint teaching college-level economics, he self financed “Koch,” his first foray into the world of documentaries. The movie opened to near unanimous praise last year and will be broadcast September as part of POV’s 27th season on PBS.
Barsky spoke to the Forward about his life journey, why there was a time when Koch refused to speak to him and the Yiddishkeit in his life.
Curt Schleier: How did you go from hedge fund entrepreneur to filmmaker?
The first day of the auction of the former New York Mayor Ed Koch’s possessions fetched a sum of $51,755 at Doyle New York auction house, far greater than the expected $20 - $30,000, the New York Daily News reported.
Koch’s dining set, which included of six Frank Lloyd Wright-designed chairs, was expected to fetch around $2,500. It went for $11,250 to a Florida couple.
Koch’s favorite burgundy leather chair went for $875 to a buyer in Alabama. It was expected to fetch between $200 and $300.
The late mayor’s mahogany inlaid desk, with an estimated value of $150-250, will go to a buyer in New Jersey for $469. Three paintings were sold to a New York buyer for $4,063. Several other pieces of art fetched a total of $4,175.
“There really was a demand, and not just from New Yorkers,” said Louis Webre, director of communications at Doyle New York. “We had fans of the mayor bidding from all over the place.”
Koch died in February at the age of 88. His personal books and correspondences will be auctioned off on November 25
The late ex-New York mayor Ed Koch loved the limelight. Entertainment Weekly recalled a number of hizzoner’s forays into pop culture, including acting in a cameo role in “The First Wives Club,” hosting “Saturday Night Live,” presiding as a judge on “The People’s Court,” and strutting the fashion runway on “Sex and the City.”
David Arquette looked like he was enjoying the Playboy Super Bowl party down in NOLA this past weekend.
Amanda Bynes is reportedly now laying her weary head to rest at a Manhattan hotel after leaving her apartment when the non-smoking building’s management threatened to evict her for incessant pot and cigarette smoking.
Lena Dunham has a fan in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, of all people. He wrote in HuffPo, “Girls wants to tell us something important about twentysomething females of the 21st Century. And, as the elders of our society, we should always be listening to those new voices crying out.” And speaking of “Girls,” Lena Dunham promises that we will continue to see a lot of her naked body on the show. And in keeping with the theme, her co-star Zosia Mamet didn’t quite show up nude on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” but her red dress with a big cut out section in the front left little to the imagination. Attention single ladies! “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor has split up with his girlfriend of one year, “Twilight” actress Julia Jones. In news that we really wish we didn’t know, Katie Couric went out on a date with Larry King. It was a very long time ago, when Couric was 30 and open to going out on dates with anyone just for the experience. “The whole situation was out of a bad Lifetime movie,” Couric recalled of the evening with the much older talk show host.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch may have once said, “The best way to lose weight is to close your mouth — something very difficult for a politician. Or watch your food — just watch it, don’t eat it.”
That’s a fitting quote for Koch the mayor, but it’s not exactly the message Koch the author is sending in his new children’s book about healthy eating and self-acceptance. “Eddie Shapes Up,” which he wrote with his sister Pat Koch Thaler, will be published in September. It is Koch’s third work of juvenile literature.
The “Eddie Shapes Up” story was inspired by Koch’s own struggles with being overweight as a boy growing up in Newark, N.J. He was called “fatso,” he told The New York Times. “When I look back, it’s no joke…I think, ‘How did I get through that?’ It was tougher than settling a contract with the unions. And who knows what effect it has on your persona? It made me want to strive to be better than the other kids were. The other part of it was the tears. It makes your life miserable.”
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