Sunday, April 29

"Koch," Rhymes with "Crotch"

Koch, as in Ed Koch, the feisty Mayor of New York City through most of the 1980s. And crotch as in the lap dance he almost gave me.


Sort of.

My first boss at WABC was noted News Director Jim Topping. Jim always thought that the worst thing that could happen to a newsman or woman was to be yanked away from journalism and dipped neck-deep into a pile of managerial paperwork. I think it drove him nuts to see his newsroom management team doing scheduling and budgets and labor relations instead of news. He became determined to keep us in touch with the news by insuring we were in touch with the people who make the news.

With that in mind he decided to set up a series of off-the-record lunches for the Eyewitness News managers with some of the leaders our reporters would be shoving microphones at on a day-to-day basis. He wanted us to get to know what makes these people tick, and he wanted us to get an insider’s look at the issues and the players in “The Big Apple.”

First up, Ed Koch.

So on a nice spring morning eight or nine of us took the subway down to City Hall and presented ourselves at the Mayor’s door. The Mayor came out, said he had picked a nice restaurant two or three blocks away, and asked, “Where are your cars?” But we didn’t have any cars.

Now, the bunch of us—Circle-7 types, the Mayor and his aides and one or two cops from his security detail—could simply walk. But this is Ed Koch: he shows his face in public and the cheers, jeers, heckling, hand-shaking and autograph seeking will start. We should be able to make it three blocks to the restaurant in about two hours!

The alternative? The Mayor had a limousine. Well, not really a limo—just a large sedan, with a police officer behind the wheel. And there was a cop car with another two cops as security. Some “entourage.” We did the math, and figured we could squeeze in, somehow.

Now, the Mayor’s car was equipped with a ton of two-way police and fire radios. Remember rear-wheel-drive cars, with transmission humps running front-to-back? The rear-seat hump had radios on it—but there was room for someone to straddle the radios and the hump. I—somehow—became the designated straddler. And as the piling in and piling on continued, Ed Koch wound up sitting on my lap (the straddlee?). It was only three blocks, it was only five minutes, and all of us were laughing, but that’s how we got to the restaurant, with the Mayor of New York City sitting on my lap! When we arrived we must have looked like circus clowns unfolding themselves out of the car.

I don’t remember the restaurant or what we ate, but I do remember how impressive Koch was. He seemed to let his hair down with us—apparently trusting us to keep his remarks off the record—and was frank, funny, biting, a bit obscene and completely engaging for two hours. Now, it’s certainly possible I was star-struck and gullible (two of my less-praiseworthy traits), but whatever Ed Koch was selling, that day I was buying.

After lunch there was no repeat performance of the car ride: we WABC folks hiked to the subway station on our own, and Hizzoner piled into the (now spacious) back seat of his car for the ride to city hall.

Ed Koch was famous for asking his constituents, “How’m I doin’?” That day he did just fine.

1 comment:

simplysimon said...

You and Ed in the back seat and he's on top and you're on the bottom. A beautiful picture!

Love, Simon