Judging Mayor Koch’s AIDS Record, Whispers Aside

tags: gay history, Ed Koch, AIDS, documentaries



There’s a moment toward the end of “Koch,” a soon-to-be released documentary by Neil Barsky on the extended political career of the city’s 105th mayor, in which Edward I. Koch, eternally single, is asked to address questions surrounding the longstanding interest in his sexuality. He responds as he has done for a long time now, declaring that it is no one’s business. He argues that his engagement with the issue would set a precedent for gross intrusions into the personal lives of political candidates, a bit of narcissistic posturing that seems to ignore the extent to which that field has already been trampled by mad dogs and wild horses.

In the past, Mr. Koch, who is 88, handled the question by joking at the absurdity of any fascination with the sex life of an old man — presumably he has not kept up with the boundless tabloid interest in Hugh Hefner’s late-life erotic shenanigans or with Cialis ads. Certainly Mr. Koch has maintained a more vigilant security apparatus around his intimate life than most contemporary public figures one can think of.

By Koch-ian standards of nondisclosure, Jodie Foster emerges as if she were Joan Rivers. This is not mentioned in the film, but in the late 1990s, asked by New York magazine to produce a personal ad for himself, Mr. Koch, long out of office, provided the following evasion: “White Male, 70-something former C.E.O. and practicing attorney,” he wrote. “Have belatedly concluded that everyone, straight or gay, needs a partner in life. How’m I doing?”...



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