Secrets carried by Ed Koch

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Edward I. Koch appeared to be the assistant pastor of the Septuagint in New York.

Giving the best wishes to his favorite restaurants, showing up through television interviews long after three terms of mayoral term, Koch could have seemed to be struggling to fill the hourly hours with madness. He lured friends to the movies, looking for a side job in film criticism. He encouraged new acquaintances to call him “judge,” as an extension of his term of office of the “People’s Council.”

But as his 70 years passed, Koch explained to a few friends a feeling he could not shake: deep loneliness. He wanted to meet someone, he said. They knew anyone who might be “partner material?” Someone “younger than me?” Someone to fix lost time?

“I want a boyfriend,” he said to a friend, Charles Kaiser.

It was a painful confession, shared by only a few, from the angry politician and bold preacher in New York who helped define the modern mayor, even as he tried to hide the important truth of his life: Koch was gay.

He has denied much for decades – to journalists, co-workers and his staff – dispelling long-standing rumors with high-quality or cheeky rumors aside, though this has done little to satisfy some New Yorkers. Through his death, in 2013, his apostasy endured.

Now, with gay rights re-emerging as a political box, The New York Times has compiled a portrait of Koch’s life, the secrets he carried and the city he helped create when he carried them. Although both friends and critics over the years have spoken out about her adultery in lost and printed comments, this account takes on more than a dozen interviews with people who knew Mr. Koch and are in most cases talking more on the record for the first time – filling in what they say is a sweeping history.

That is an issue that can be erased in some way, with many of Koch’s contemporaries now in the dark of life.

People described Mr. Koch’s trials as a gay prisoner who spent the last 40 years of his life, shutting down various institutions and political credentials. Most are gay themselves, whom Koch has placed his trust in keeping others around him in the dark. Including associates who have maintained his trust since the 1970s and close-in-life relationships with whom he has sought dating support, a friend who assisted in Mr. Koch’s misconduct when he was mayor and a close loving friend since his time. in the office.

Mr. Koch’s story emerges from those interviews one of which is explained by the initial political readings, the exhaustion of perpetual closure and, finally, the radiance of remorse over all that he has lost. And a reminder that recently in the liberation struggle, which openly saw gays working in Congress and leading the City Council, homophobia was a powerful force to keep an angry man out of the closet.

The issue, which examines the double life of Ed Koch, one of the most influential mayors in New York history, has not been fully publicized.

It examines the quality of each person’s life, and the trade-off between love and loyalty that shaped Koch’s political career and his life.

Our correspondents conducted numerous interviews with Koch’s contemporaries, his friends and former employees, holding political power at the time and the loneliness Koch experienced later in life.

The issue is also a piece of social history, showing how, not long ago, homophobia – even in the liberal New York City – all but prevented prominent politicians from disclosing their sexuality.

This chapter not written in Koch biography was too fast for us to do this, because most of those who know this subject are very old.

It is especially important at this time, when we clearly see gay politicians emerging on the city and at the national level, and gay rights are once again at the forefront of major national conflicts.

Although members of his family never knew, Mr Koch told gay friends over the years, and close aides knew no pressure. “Ed Koch split his life,” said Diane Coffey, his longtime chief of staff, adding that the pair had never discussed sex.

Just as he hoped to release his secret declaration, his attempts to cover it helped the start of the last half of New York politics. Koch made himself the wanted man and woman in his 1977 mayoral victory, defeating Mario Cuomo and leading the Cuomo family in Albany. He struggled to address the AIDS crisis – which some government officials once viewed as “gay issues” that he had to keep away from – in ways that could not be removed from his immediate vicinity.

So much so that he seemed to be sharing much of his life with others – whispers, whispers, letting little thoughts run into his unspoken unconsciousness – he magnified the disagreements surrounding what he did not bring out, an uncontrollable argument that could lead to unsettled moments.

During the most difficult part of their third term, assistants recall that, Koch shocked the senior staff who had gathered in his City Hall office one day by suddenly announcing: “I’m not gay.”

His team was fearless. No one in the house had ever inquired about this. “You can see the pain she felt,” his former deputy mayor, Stanley Brezenoff, told another aide as soon as the mayor heard about it.

There are gay friends that Mr. Koch relied on them, during and after their time in office, to complete this record of his life is something to weigh together. Some had been urging Koch for years to come out, indicating that they might be pleased with it, that the city might be better off. Their failure is to this day.

To those loyal lieutenants who defended Mr. Koch and those who feel compelled to protect him still, the head remains unsettled. For them, some things are always left untouched.

“He was our father,” George Arzt, his longtime spokesman, said. “You don’t ask Dad those questions.”

Romance, whispers and an election

Romance, whispers and an election

In the politically strong Greenwich village in the early 1970s, Koch established himself as a revolutionary Democrat, a son born to the Bronx of Polish-Jewish immigrants and a self-proclaimed enemy of the party.

Before a military coup and lawyer arrived in Congress in 1969, Koch pushed for a new constitutional code that was consistent with his role as one of New York’s bluest enclaves. But his freedom was limited.

In 1973, David Rothenberg, a representative and friend of Mr. Koch who would run for office at the local office himself, emerged from the envelope in a television interview. Many who knew Mr. Rothenberg clapped their hands. He then contacted the congress in the street. “Why then?” Koch asked.

“I thought it was curious,” Rothenberg said recently. “I think he was asking: ‘Am I hurt? Is my rich wounded? “

The question of whether Mr Koch would leave was not a question for his hometown friends. His highest ambition was to be political, and, as a current rule, successful politicians were not openly gay. He had grown up in the midst of a “lavender scare,” a mid-century gay cleansing that drove thousands of gays out of public service.

But the life of the congressman in the 1970s – closure between Washington and New York and limited media scrutiny – allowed Mr. Koch to cover parts of his identity. During this time, she was involved in an ongoing love affair with Richard W. Nathan, a high-level health care assistant, Harvard-trained health care professional, according to a record interview with six people who knew about the couple. These include Mr. Rothenberg and Arthur Schwartz, Koch’s assistant assistant at the time, as well as the four people Nathan spoke to about the relationship: Leonard Bloom, a former city health officer who was friends with all the men; Frederick Hertz, a close friend of Mr. Nathan; Dr. Lawrence Mass, co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis; and Noemi Syria, Nathan’s cousin. (Nathan died in 1996.)

Koch, although a relatively new politician, was about 50 years old at the time; Nathan was in his 30’s. There was something interesting, Mr. Nathan spoke privately there, about being engaged to a powerful man. At the time of the announcement, he could be phoned to say that the congressman was catching a flight from Washington in time to make dinner.

Mr. Rothenberg first learned that the two were engaged after attending a dinner at Mr. Koch’s apartment in about 1976, one of a series of gatherings that congressman held for supporters when he first organized his mayor. Nathan and Mr. Rothenberg were the last guests there, helping to clean the dishes, when Koch urged Nathan to stay for a while.

“Like a liver cut,” Mr. Rothenberg laughed recently.

When Mr. Rothenberg found Mr. Nathan alone a short time later, he made sure that he had understood the incident correctly. “Richard looked at me, and said, ‘Well, I see him,'” Rothenberg recalled.

For Mr Koch, some privacy has not been maintained. In hopes of reaffirming his long-term dream of becoming a mayor, he inspired the much-needed city campaigner, David Garth, to lead his 1977 City Hall race.

Garth, a prominent political activist, believed that Koch could win, but he had a problem: He needed to be reassured that rumors of a bachelor congressman being gay were untrue. Koch told him they were not.

Dissatisfied with Koch’s statement, Garth himself consulted several directors of the so-called dances, although they found nothing. One day, Mr. Garth then walked into the campaign office to meet Ethan Geto, a Koch friend he knew who was a political activist. They made their way down to the basement.

“Is he a perfume?” Garth shouted, nerves bursting, according to Mr. Geto. “If that sonofabitch lied to me and is a fag, I would never have taken him.”

The Ghettos pretended not to know. “He says he’s not gay,” he told Garth, “I take his word for it.” (“I certainly knew,” Geto said in a recent interview. “I have known for years.”)

Better yet, Mr. Garth realized that his lawyer had a vision problem. And Mr. Koch’s impressive successor – Bess Myerson, the first Jewish Miss America – was called in to correct.

The ambassador and queen of beauty have become inseparable, their pinks locked at public events, inviting the concept of welcome-if-unplanned over the imminent engagement. Koch himself called her “their first wife” and suggested how beautiful it would be to marry at Griexe Mansion. (Ms. Myerson and Mr. Garth both died in 2014.)

Still, the whispering continued. Opponents posted the name “Greenwich Village bachelor” label, which is less like a whirlwind than a mockery. The protests appeared in Queens, the home of Mr. Koch, Mario Cuomo, urging New Yorkers to “Vote for Cuomo, not homo.” Mr. Cuomo resigned.

With his election election taking place on the hardest days before the election, Koch had no doubts about his appearance in the media. “I do not make myself gay,” she told WNEW, after a day of dismissing questions about Ms.’s presence. Myerson unless it was designed to dispel rumors about him. “But if I did, I would expect to be less embarrassed. God will do for you whatever you want. ”

Among other homosexual acts, the answer is painful. Loss was one thing; this seemed like a mockery. “Closure of fraud,” Mr. Geto said.

As elections approached, Koch also seemed determined to break away from Nathan, expressing concern when Nathan was discussed at a future health conference. “I can’t do that,” said Mr. Koch, according to Mr. Schwartz, who received Sunday brunches for the group.

On November 8, 1977, Koch continued to win the election. Shortly afterwards, Nathan informed friends, and the new mayor’s associates urged him to look for a job outside of New York. At the game after the appointment – when Mr. Koch arrived with Ms. Myerson, according to Mr. Rothenberg – Mr. Nathan was heard to have resigned.

He would start a new life in California. He would not stay in one place to be paid in his city.

“The gauntlet is designed for me,” Nathan told Rothenberg.

And with that, the only long-term relationship anyone in Koch’s way could remember was over.

A new tenant at Gracie Mansion

A new tenant at Gracie Mansion

Much of what being a mayor – purpose, competition, audience based – is all that Ed Koch could have wanted.

He moved from his $ 475-rent rented apartment in the Village to Gracie Mansion, where he sat in court every day with interested people laughing at his jokes.

“Someone asked her who the ‘first woman’ really was,” Rozanne Gold, her hometown chef, wrote in a June 1978 diary, describing the audible groan of a typical Graci Mansion gathering. “She replied, ‘I always rotate them.'”

But because of all the chaos and chaos the tourists are experiencing, the life of this family can be very special.

Often enough, it was the staff, from City Hall or residence, guarding the mayor’s company, listening to Linda Ronstadt’s recordings and watching her skirt a star-crossed meal plan with meringue cookies and chocolate mousse.

“It was a weekend when the two of us just kind of walked around the big house,” Ms. Gold said.

When the friendship seemed to evade the mayor, the friends tried to deliver one directly, or wisely. Herb Rickman, a senior assistant who worked as a legal assistant for the gay community in the city, arranged to occasionally spend two days on his Park Avenue apartment, according to Mr. Schwartz, a former food editor of The New York Daily News who was Mr. Rickman’s boyfriend at the time. (Mr. Rickman died in 2013.)

With his police station on the ground, Mr. Koch would join the two and “whoever we were fixing,” said Mr. Schwartz. Then he and Rickman would leave to sleep in Mr. Schwartz’s apartment so that Koch and another man would be alone.

The setups didn’t seem too much, Mr. Schwartz said. Also, the couple’s attempt to introduce him to a bank friend whom they thought might be right. “It’s difficult,” the well-known independent mayor ruled after meeting with a man, who in a recent interview did not recall being taken seriously by Mr Koch.

Most obviously, the mayor struggled with gay rights as a cautious ally. He seemed determined to show loyalty to the gay New Yorkers where he thought he could – in some cases, in some cases – and be sensitive to the political risk involved in doing so.

Koch signed a high-level move to curb sexual harassment, appointed gay bureaucrats and judges and became the first mayor to march in the city’s Pride parade.

“It is not easy to stand on that issue when you are not married and you are a man in New York City,” Koch said several years later. “I did it anyway.”

In smaller programs, the mayor sometimes shared his dissertation with gay friends, even some of the journalists he trusted.

David W. Dunlap, a former New York Times journalist who writes about gay life in the city, recalled a luncheon in 1985 at a time when the mayor seemed obsessed with the path he had just seen over Harvey Milk, the next gay office in San Francisco.

Koch was overjoyed, he told Mr. Dunlap, with pictures of Mr. Milk’s friends repeating his assassination. Mr. Dunlap left his experience wondering if Koch was trying to tell them something about himself. “What he saw in Milk probably, though sadly, came true,” Mr Dunlap said in an interview.

In some cases, Mr. Koch was direct.

Mr Kaiser, a former journalist and friend whom Koch would ask to help find his friend, said the mayor came out to him for a secret dinner at the same time. He described the event in the 2019 edition of “The Gay Metropolis,” a history of his gay life in America.

Koch opened the meal with the question: “Do your parents know that you are gay?”

“I’m too late for myself,” the mayor said.

An unsparing crisis, and a fear of exposure

An unsparing crisis, and a fear of exposure

Those close to Mr. Koch had long described him as an expert distributor. But as his time in office progressed, amid political turmoil and public health, his well-organized separatists began to disintegrate.

Homosexual men died by the hundreds, then by the thousands. The disease was threatening every corner of the city, destroying the Koch community itself. And the prominent New York mayor, who won a third term in 1985 with more than 60 points, showed a reluctance to spend political money on the issue.

Despite the increasing urgency of the situation, some city officials did not care about the representatives: Voters have always had their own views on Mr. Koch. He had to proceed with caution before engaging in “homosexual acts,” as some counselors have suggested.

“Come on, you’ve got it,” Mr. Rickman, a senior aide, told Mr. Bloom, according to Bloom, a former city health officer and former friend of Mr. Koch who had joined the board of Gay Men’s Health Crisis. . “This is a very serious matter, considering the rumors.”

If Mr. Koch had ever sought a balance between the advancement of gay rights in targeted ways and to keep away from the environment, the risk of AIDS would be so great, so merciless in its movement, that it would undermine the threefold condemnation.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The administration began the division of AIDS services and eventually launched a pilot exchange program. But in the years of crisis, independent citizens were still struggling to fill the needs of the sick, from bed care to medical knowledge to food delivery.

The City Hall point person on AIDS in the mid-1980s, Victor Botnick, was a loyal young politician who had started as a young volunteer at a Koch congress. Protesters found him careless and helpless. “We can’t go further than this,” Mr. Botnick would say, according to Mr. Bloom, complaining about Mr. Koch’s mental state. (Mr. Botnick, 32, at the time, resigned in 1986 after being charged with felony criminal mischief for admitting a school fraud. He died in 2002.)

The city’s first full-blown AIDS program was not granted until 1988. Requests for increased funding and full use of the bullying bulletin board were often ignored, a silence which the advocates found extremely insane. If New Yorkers had learned anything about Mr. Koch at the time – through financial recovery, travel cuts, Broadway music adapted from his memory – it would have been his ability to move his mind to the reasons he most wanted.

“In the city where the epidemic begins, one can always expect to speak from you,” Richard Dunne, director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, wrote in a July 1987 letter to Koch. “Certainly, one would expect AIDS to be on your program every day. But in your current State of the City address, AIDS is not even mentioned. ”

By the end of that year, the number of city deaths among the AIDS population reached 10,000.

Although Mr. Koch had long been outraged by the consensus that cities like San Francisco were effectively managing the disease, those who spoke to him about AIDS at the time could come unscathed to understand its horrors.

Even people like Mr. Bloom, who used to be a regular dinner hostess, struggled to fit into his calendar for a conference on AIDS. When he did, Mr Koch was unsettled.

“Ed was looking at the ceiling, he was looking down,” Mr. Bloom said, describing a meeting between the 1980s with the mayor, city officials and Mr. Dunne, a colleague at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. “At the end of the meeting, Richard and I said to each other, ‘It seems he didn’t listen.'”

As his third term sank, the mayor began selling out unprecedented job pressures, especially when he feared that his privacy might be compromised. It did not help that several Chekhovian rifles in the series seemed to be in sequence: Ms. Myerson, who would be the “first woman” to whom he was given the presidency, sank into a bribery scandal that reinforced growing concerns about corruption in his government. Mr. Nathan, who would be hot for years from California, had talked about his previous relationship with Koch to Larry Kramer, a playwright and representative who strongly criticized the city’s AIDS response. Mr. Kramer at the time was working hard for the mayor, informing reporters about his conversation with Nathan and encouraging him to write about it.

The City has kept an eye on efforts to pursue the matter, with Koch openly fearing for his future revelations. In August 1987, before the planned appearance of a forum on AIDS, the mayor could not sleep. His rage shook his staff.

“I could not understand why Koch was so angry,” he said. Arzt, their correspondent, recalled. “He was afraid Larry Kramer would be in the audience and shouting something. I said, ‘So what do we do?'”

My forum did not happen. Mr. Kramer was absent. But the mayor’s suffering was real. Coming out later, Koch complained about the title. He got into his car with Mr. Arzt. “My speech is bad,” Mr. Koch said suddenly. “I think I have a stroke.”

Mr. Arzt draws a straight line between Mr. Koch’s pre-forum anxiety and stroke, which sidelined him for almost a week. Koch then speculated, in general, that the fourth term would have killed him.

In his last, futile election campaign again in 1989, Koch exposed his sexual misconduct that transcended his stock exchanges. “It just so happens that I’m a man and a woman,” he said in a radio interview in March.

Two weeks later, an estimated 3,000 AIDS protesters marched on City Hall, some with signs mocking the mayor’s statement. “And I’m Cary Grant,” one read, next to the headline informing Mr. Koch directly. A new song was born, too, circling over Lower Manhattan as hundreds of protesters faced arrest:

“Caring for AIDS does not work. Thanks to Koch, man and woman. “

New friends and painful memories

New friends and painful memories

Like many politicians, Koch acted like a young man after resigning – his face down; his shoulders drooping; his burdens lifted, to the level.

He liked a strong public figure as a television editor and writer, throwing himself into city life as an independent citizen and arranging for his friends: He ate with former political figures, gossiping about the news of the meat-eating day or Peking. dhadha. And he entertained them at dinner parties with a group of young gay friends, asking them about their relationship and occasionally telling them they could do better.

“With some gay people, he seemed as free as gay,” Mr. Kaiser said. “He went to a gay movie, so the driver had to know.”

Koch grew up next to Maer Roshan, a weekly editor of the weekly NYQ and later New York magazine, who later became a regular platonic movie date and social wingman.

They met Paris Hilton in Indochine. They ate lox and crackers on Mr. Koch’s flat. They took a movie theater and attracted viewers if the content was explicit, such as a French film about a homosexual arousal that was portrayed by Mr. Roshan and pornography.

“He’s about 10 meters tall, and everyone knows who he is, and it was the most selected audience for this film,” Roshan said with a laugh. “You can feel everyone’s eyes on your back.”

However, the old springs of anger from time to time entered Mr. Koch’s life after the mayor. He shared the apartment with Mr. Kramer, who threatened his dog with “the man who killed all my father’s friends” as they passed the lobby. (Kramer died in 2020.)

At some point, former allies also felt compelled to share the disturbing memories they were carrying. Geto, who had defended Koch in 1977 by lying to Garth, his campaign boss, finally decided to tell the former mayor about it at dinner.

“She was shaking and trembling,” Mr Geto said, adding that Koch did not really thank her. “He said something in such a way, ‘You did it right.’

Koch met another jolt after phoning Mr. Bloom in the mid-1990s. Her friend had died of AIDS, and Koch called for comfort.

“Do you know who else died of AIDS a few weeks ago?” Mr. Bloom asked Mr. Koch.

The Koch said nothing. He then hung up the phone.

‘Everyone, straight or gay, needs a partner’

In his later years, Mr. Koch could seem like the first and last of the nation.

He had been a pioneer in New York in accordance with his wishes, a mayor who is famous and very proud still walks in a political party. He was also the last person in the city to become a homosexual who felt politically banned.

Mr Koch’s gay friends expected him to burn one legacy over another – and perhaps even show the city itself how much it has changed.

Roshan suggested that the exit could be “a rock-mass” in his quest for prominence in modern-day New York. Geto wondered in an interview with “Koch,” a 2012 article, what the “very important” would be like if a famous person like Mr. Koch had come out years ago.

Mr Kaiser insisted on him, in particular, that his chances in a proper relationship would increase if he took action.

Koch tried to socialize a bit, asking friends like Mr Kaiser and Mr Geto to introduce him to someone, and sometimes they found temporary love – cooking for a roommate, a man he remembered recently in an interview. before being summoned by the court to sleep. But there was no second day. Nothing seemed to stand still.

Roshan provided top-notch support, creating a personal announcement as part of the 1999 New York magazine “Singles” in which Koch agreed to appear. An organized source said, “GWM” – a shorthand of the “gay white male” – “politically interested, seeks the same for love and friendship,” according to Mr. Roshan.

Koch protested, Roshan said, referring to “the family did not know,” and to creating barriers around his adultery. “I finally came to the conclusion that everyone, straight or gay, needs a partner in life,” the last translation read.

In an interview, Mr Koch’s brother, Pat Koch Thaler, said that although the couple had not discussed his sexuality, the family would have supported him regardless of what he said to them. “She never asked me if I was gay or straight or bi, and I never asked her what she was,” Ms. Thaler, 90, said, adding, “It would have been irrelevant one way or another. Otherwise.”

Friends speculated that Mr Koch’s unwillingness, even long after his public exposure to politics would have sparked political controversy, was largely due to his resentment and pride: He did not want to give supporters like Mr Kramer the satisfaction of seeing him come out, after all. they had tried so hard to see him come out. (Shortly before his death, Koch could have continued to represent former enemies, preventing the arrest of members of the Russian anti-Pussy Riot band by comparing their actions with those of ACT UP, an organization that helped Mr. Kramer find out.)

In public, Koch used to say that his silence was very effective, setting an example that could protect other politicians from those who want to “harass every candidate.”

Secretly, oppressed by those close to him about his reluctance to leave, Koch simply repeated, “I do not want to.”

“That’s up to that point,” Mr. Kaiser said.

As his health deteriorated in his later years, Koch made it clear that he was alone, reminding him that finding a mate was the only way to make his life miserable. Old age was not necessarily a bad thing, he said, at times, “as long as you have someone else.”

Koch still shows himself at parties with friends from his City Hall days whenever they could, until the 80s. She also began to prepare for her death, choosing a safe place near the subway station to make it easier to visit.

Finally, he seemed to see that no one was coming to visit him. He had made his choices – logical and good, he would have persuaded himself – to live some of his dreams in the city he loved. And he could prove to himself, by day one, that the city needed him again.

On his 86th birthday, at that time Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg welcomed Koch and his former friends and staff at the Graci Mansion and announced the decision that some of the local homosexuals were still working backwards: renamed the Queensboro Bridge in Mr Koch’s area. respect.

The bright Koch were almost defeated. He hit the city as seen from Queensboro in “The Great Gatsby,” with “a wild promise of all the secrets and beauty of the world.”

He raised his left hand to his heart pointing at the people looking at him. He smiled again.

“Isn’t that fun?” Koch said. “And that’s my bridge.”

Kitty Bennett also provided research.

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