Ed Koch yelled at me. He dressed me down in front of a roomful of reporters in New York City Hall. He insulted my home region, upstate New York.
I'm really going to miss him.
The former New York mayor, who died Friday morning at age 88, defined his home city—in the brashest and bluntest of ways. He said exactly what he thought (sometimes to a fault; his comments in 1998 that Jews "would be crazy to vote for Jesse Jackson" might have benefited from a bit of reflection before he said them out loud. And his remarks about upstate New York being full of people in gingham dresses and driving pickup trucks probably lost him the Democratic nomination for governor). He was relentlessly active, sometimes holding as many as eight news availabilities in a day at City Hall (some of them his famed "radiator press conferences," wherein the always-something-to-say mayor would stand by a heater in the lobby and invite reporters over to chat). When he had a heart attack, he followed his doctor's advice to cut his work hours in half—which meant that he was working only eight-hour days during his recovery. And as someone constantly putting out fires, he had no patience with people who were unprepared.
On my first day covering City Hall for the New York Daily News in the 1980s—I was maybe 23 or 24—I asked the mayor a question at a press conference. He narrowed his eyes and peered at me. "Let me ask you something," he said. "How long have you been here?" A colleague responded, "This is her first day." Koch waved me off with his hand. "I don't have time to go into the whole history of this with you!' he shouted.
It was a little abrupt, sure. But he had a point, and the experience ended up being good early training for me in dealing with politicians here and around the world.
In his post-City Hall years, Koch didn't stop working and he didn't shut up. I continued to get E-mail movie reviews from him, and he remained accessible, willing to talk about just about anything. His voice was loud, and unfiltered, and maybe just a little too direct sometimes. And I'll miss it.
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