On a recent rainy afternoon, Ed Koch sat in his corner office at a Midtown law firm and spoke about his day thus far. He explained that earlier at lunch, several strangers had approached him to offer compliments on such things as his radio show and his commercials. Before that, an admirer had approached him at the gym.
“One of the guys in the gym came over, I didn’t know him,” says Koch, a grin spreading across his face. “He said, ‘Mayor, I understand you’re a blogger.’”
At this, Koch laughs. “No one’s ever called me that before!” he added. “I don’t have a Web site.”
Which is not to suggest that Koch’s reach as a media pundit is, on the whole, limited. In fact, since leaving office in 1990, the former three-term mayor of New York City has embarked on a rich and varied media career. One which, at this point, almost rivals his political career in terms of longevity.
Along the way, he has spread his crotchety brand of Ed Kochness into virtually every imaginable medium. He has been a talk radio host. A television commentator. A regular on the lecture circuit. He has served as Judge Wapner’s successor on The People’s Court and appeared as himself on Sex and the City. At the same time, he has written extensively as a newspaper columnist for such outlets as the New York Post, the Daily News, and Newsday, and he remains a tireless autobiographer.
In his 1994 book, Ed Koch on Everything — one of his eight published political biographies and autobiographies — the erstwhile mayor and congressman explained his lifelong love of writing.
“My writing skills were sharpened in Congress, where I learned that the way to raise the consciousness of your colleagues was by inundating them with expertise on particular issues, subjects in which they were interested but about which they had little knowledge,” wrote Koch. “Quantity in this case came close to quality in impact.”
The emphasis on quantity seems to have guided Koch’s media instincts ever since. To this day, he continues to inundate. Every week, he hosts a call-in show on Bloomberg Radio and appears as a guest “Wise Guy” on the New York area’s 24-hour news channel, NY1. Every week, he writes a movie review column for the weekly Villager newspaper and a political column for the New York Press. He is also currently hard at work on two more books.
In short, he’s the ultimate platform-agnostic octogenarian. Albeit, one without a blog.
“What do I need it for?” says Koch. “I’m not doing this to make money, which is what some bloggers do, with advertising and so forth, I think. I may ultimately create a Web site. At the moment, I don’t find I need to.”
For the time being, when Koch bumps into one of his fans, such as the guy at the gym, he asks for their email address, which he then adds to an expansive list. Each week, the roughly thousand or so people on the list receive a bulk email from the former mayor, containing his latest column or movie review.
Since this past summer, Koch’s mass emails have included content from his most recent media gig — writing a political column for the New York Press. In August, around the time of Koch’s debut column, Adario Strange, the latest editor in chief at the tumultuous alt-weekly, heralded Koch’s arrival. “Having such a historic icon of New York City in our paper is not only an honor,” announced Strange, “but a logical move for New York’s only remaining independent alternative weekly newspaper.”
The last bit was a not so veiled shot at the Press’ nominal rival the Village Voice, which last year was bought by the country’s largest chain of alternative weeklies. But the fact that the anti-Voice (as the Press is sometimes known) was championing Koch was not without a whiff of historical irony. After all, Koch won his 1963 campaign for district leader thanks in part to the ardent editorial support of the Voice. It was his first major political victory in New York.
Another potential source of awkwardness between Koch and the Press dates back to this past spring, when the Press named Koch as one of its “50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers” in an item that harshly criticized not only his politics but also his writing.