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Ed Koch: From Mayor to movie star

Ed Koch in the office of his campaign

Ed Koch in the office of his campaign manager, David Garth, in September 1977. (Credit: Ed Koch in the office of his campaign manager, David Garth, in September 1977.)

Editor's note: This interview was conducted before Mayor Ed Koch was admitted into the hospital.

Mayor Ed Koch is never one to mince words, and that's certainly the case with the new documentary "Koch."

The movie, made by first-time filmmaker Neil Barsky, chronicles the life and political career of the former mayor. And hizzoner is not hesitant to say that he likes it.

"Why do I like the movie?" Koch asked during an interview earlier this month. "It's not just about me. I think obviously, I'm the principal player, but it's about New York City and it shows New York City, and me, warts and all."

Warts and all is accurate, as Barsky touches on the highlights of his three terms as mayor from 1978 to 1989, such as his bringing the city out of bankruptcy, and some of the low points, including the controversial decision to shut down a Harlem hospital in 1980.

These days, Koch is a lawyer, movie reviewer (he though "Les Miserables" was "good, but not great ... because the voices were not great") and has two radio shows.

amNY chatted with the mayor about the film.

Do you think the film is fair? I do. I think there were things that I didn't have enough time to make my case. But it's a movie, you have 90 minutes. There's a limit.

What was the hardest thing to watch? I thought [gay activist] Ethan Geto was painful to watch. I know Ethan Geto for many years, and we have been good friends and he's always been very supportive. ... And whether he thinks I'm gay or not doesn't matter to me, but there is a rule which I think he violated, in that you don't out someone unless he or she has done something to injure the gay community. And with me, it's the other way around, I rushed in to help the gay community.

What gave you the biggest smile? Reverend Calvin Butts [is] asked to evaluate all the mayors that he's lived through. David Dinkins, great gentleman. Michael Bloomberg, marvelous man. But there's only one mayor. I thought that was the high point.

How close are you following the mayoral race? Very close. People want my endorsements.... Last year I endorsed Christine Quinn. What I have said is my preferred candidate is Ray Kelly. She knows that. I told her that. But he said he wasn't going to run.

Any politicians who you think follow your legacy of being outspoken? Yeah, there are two of them - and they're both Republican. One of them is [Rep.] Peter King and the other is [New Jersey Governor] Chris Christie.

Does that say anything that they're both Republicans? It says that occasionally there's a good Republican!

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