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'A Mayor's Life' debuts with political edge at the Friars' Club

A fete for former mayor David Dinkins' memoir

A fete for former mayor David Dinkins' memoir was held Monday at the Friar’s Club. (Credit: Dan Janison)

A “book-warming” party was held for David Dinkins’ memoir, “A Mayor’s Life,” at the Friar’s Club Monday night. As you might guess from the juxtaposition of locale and theme, the guests formed an odd mix of City Hall and entertainment figures who have been on and off the scene for 20-plus years.

Guests from Dr. Ruth Westheimer to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to businessman John Catsimatidis attended. More pointedly, Dinkins’ friend Leonard Riggio, founder and executive director of Barnes & Noble, introduced the ex-mayor with the politically edgiest words of the evening, which are found in the foreword to the book.

“To begin with, New York City was not the crime-infested capital of the world under David Dinkins, as has been proposed by his successor, Rudy Giuliani. This widely accepted myth, which was used by Giuliani as fodder for his presidential campaign, did as much to malign the law-abiding citizens of our great city as it did to damage the reputation of Mayor Dinkins.”

“…Two things that David Dinkins does not tolerate are violence and lawlessness,” he said. “Crime began dropping at a faster rate during Mayor Dinkins’ tenure than during any other time in the history of New York City, and has continued to do so up to the present. “

That said, an element of shtick also was pervasive. Who got up to speak early on but Norm Crosby, now 86, the double-talking comedian once seen on the Ed Sullivan Show. The so-called “master of the malapropism,” Crosby said he had the “extinct privilege” of doing Dinkins’ Friars Roast introduction and it was a “most monilist event.”

To the lectern, amid a standing crowd of 75 to 100, there also came Billie Jean King, the tennis star who bonded with Dinkins over the U.S. Tennis Center project, radio personality Mark Simone, Friars’ Club VP Stewie Stone and Dinkins’ closest friend in politics, Rep. Charles Rangel, who excused himself early for an event with President Barack Obama, who was in town.  Dinkins in his speech hailed guests Ken Sunshine, Judge Milton Mollen, Peter Johnson Jr. and wife Blanche Johnson,  Dinkins’ wife of 60 years Joyce, and, of course, Kelly.

Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio won mention in absentia from the city’s last Democratic mayor (who had supported Bill Thompson in the primary). “We brought people together . . . Bill de Blasio worked with us and his bride was in our speech writing office and the press office, and they now have two children as you doubtless know. Ain’t nobody missed that great Afro . . . “

In the spirit of the locale, Dinkins urged people to read book “and if you have observations to make, write them down, tear them up and throw them away.” For that matter, some of the emailed invites days earlier mistakenly identified the honored guest as “former mayor Don Rickles.”

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