Last week famous New York mayor Ed Koch died at age 88. The high profile, often controversial mayor is being lauded and condemned in obituaries everywhere.
Koch was a lifetime “Confirmed Bachelor” who never confirmed he was gay, although it was pretty much public knowledge. And he was not beloved by the gay community.
The three-term mayor, who served from 1978-1989, leaves behind a complicated legacy: While his unbridled enthusiasm helped New Yorkers during some of the city’s darkest days, his inaction in the face of the dawning AIDS epidemic earned him the antagonism of many in the gay community.
A WWII veteran, Koch never married and frequently dodged rumors about being gay. Playwright Larry Kramer ripped Koch and his inaction on AIDS in the award-winning The Normal Heart. “He was a closeted gay man, and he did not want in any way to be associated with this,” Kramer told New York magazine.
The AIDS documentary How To Survive A Plague — up this month for an Academy Award — and which I have not yet seen (it hasn’t come to Canada) is apparently not kind to Koch, although he recently praised the film.
So yes Koch’s legacy with the gay community is a complicated one… like a certain Oscar-winning actress who chooses wealth and privacy over activism and saving lives. So yes it was Koch’s choice to stay private, but it wasn’t the brave choice or the best choice.