12-12-1924

Mayor Ed Koch

ED KOCH, former Mayor of New York City, born (d: 2013); Koch was a lifelong bachelor. His sexuality became an issue in the 1977 mayoral election with the appearance of placards and posters (disavowed by the Cuomo campaign) with the slogan “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.” Koch denounced the attack, later saying “No, I am not a homosexual. If I were a homosexual, I would hope I would have the courage to say so. What’s cruel is that you are forcing me to say I am not a homosexual. This means you are putting homosexuals down. I don’t want to do that.”

He was able to use this to his advantage by painting Cuomo as a homophobic bigot. After becoming mayor, Koch began attending public events with former Miss America, well-known television game show panelist and consumer advocate Bess Myerson. The strategy made Myerson, who had political ambitions of her own (she later ran for senator), seem like a “First Lady of New York” of sorts.

Koch was generally less explicit in his denials in later life, and refused comment on his actual sexual experiences, writing “What do I care? I’m 73 years old. I find it fascinating that people are interested in my sex life at age 73. It’s rather complimentary! But as I say in my book, my answer to questions on this subject is simply ‘Fuck off.’ There have to be some private matters left.” Randy Shilts, in And The Band Played On, his influential history of the early AIDS epidemic in America, discusses the possibility that Koch ignored the developing epidemic in New York City in 1982–1983 because he was afraid of lending credence to rumors of his homosexuality.

Author and Activist Larry Kramer has been more pointed in his criticism of Koch. He described the former mayor as a “closeted Gay man” whose fear of being ‘outed’ kept him from aggressively addressing the AIDS epidemic in New York City in the early 1980s. In the 2006 movie Shortbus, an openly gay character resembling Koch (played by Alan Mandell) claims to be an ex-Mayor of New York City, and makes reference to his negligence concerning the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Koch died in 2013 and the city named a bridge after him.