Shivs to the left of me...shanks to the right...
There is much to love about living in New York City.
24-hour Delis. The way the vermillion sunsets in late spring/early summer paint western-faced buildings and streets a molten-fire orange for over an hour as dusk creeps in. The soft twinkling sound of snowflakes tumbling and merging on the ground if you're out on 5th Avenue on a late, quiet night. Decent hot dogs at 4.a.m., and...the mournful wail of a busker's saxophone echoing from somewhere in the bowels of the multi-chambered Penn Station, soundtracking a melancholy day's end.
There's another thing to love, however ...and that thing is the city's unrelenting, counter-balancing bitchiness. It's entertaining...in a guilty pleasure/cheesy sort of way, like Phoebe Cate's "Lace". It fairly overflows with tales of fucked-up-titude--the kind that keep sotto-vocé-d guests at dinner parties, and co-workers at water coolers and such, entertained as we regale each other with "biggest rat... ever" stories, ruminations on craven, swooping meter-maids, and discussions of the fetid, mystery stinks that hover over entire swaths of town for days. We need stuff like that to fucking humble us, and keep it real. The news here is full of stuff like that every day. You got your dirty politicos getting caught with bribes, movers and shakers nabbed knee-deep in ass and illegality and so on--it's as much a part of the city as Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions gracing the front of the main library on 42nd Street.
But then...then, you get every once in awhile, an all-you-can-eat, smorgasborg of tasty, creepy, gossipy delights--such as my wonderful, bitchy-ass city's former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
What to say about Rudy? Let me be fair, there are a large number of New Yorkers who LOVE...what Rudy "did" for the city. And just what did he do for the city, exactly? He presided over NY during perhaps the most draconian, heavy-handed crackdown on crime and petty disturbances that the town has ever seen. It was during his tenure as mayor when the crime rate's plunge began to really accelerate. He pushed -- hard for the city's rebound as a tourist mecca, and rammed through the redevelopment of certain parts of town, benefitting tourism again, and the interests of certain developers who'd cultivated a cozy relationship with his administration.
Now, wasn't that fair? I actually cited a few things he did that were not as supremely fucked up as the truly awful shit I'm gonna document later in this post--things that cemented him as a man whose deeds you could like some of, hate most of the rest of, and most emotionally, move a huge swath of New Yorkers to actually HATE and DESPISE him--the man himself, on a very personal level.
And let me be clear here--I'm not just talking about the city's aggrieved, workaday Johnny Lunchpails and Suzy Run-In-Her-Stockings having issues with the Rudester. Noooooo, you see--Rudy Giuliani is that rare beast that engenders ill-will at every stop in his climb to lord it over the last bunch of people he worked with. And in so doing, his list of fucked-over folk who hold a grudge against him is as long as his now-defunct combover was once wide. There are people who have lain in wait--some for years, with crates full of dusty, Schadenfreude-laced molotovs ready to toss at his campaign--but, they're holding off just now on chucking the really incendiary shit, if you can believe that. Instead, some have let fly with a few cherry bombs and M-80s, just to get the baggy-suited little fascist's attention. And, they've also let the thing that had it fully existed then, would have rendered him null and void during his first successful mayoral campaign, namely the internet--do a lot of the recent dirty work for them--that and his seeming compulsion to feel that he can soooo do no wrong, and that even his goofiest pronouncement or crazed bray is "Like...hey! Cool, bro!" in the eyes of most sane folk.
But...lurk they do, these people with tales of the unspoken Rudy, ready to go with their shit at just the most opportune, the most damaging, and mean-as-fuck time possible. Now, I know you're saying, "Oh please! What politician doesnt make enemies on the rise to the top? Big whoop!"
Well, that's the difference between what a person who didn't live here in NYC in the years leading up to the luckiest day in Giuliani's life--September 11th, 2001--and those who did, actually know about the so-called "America's Mayor". To give you an idea of some of the people crouched in the bush with blow-guns trained on Giuliani's pasty, concave ass, dig on this stuff:
a.) You will find an embittered ex-NY police commissioner, now L.A.'s Top Cop Bill Bratton, championed by many as the father of modern policing, and the high avatar of the CompStat crime tracking system used to help drastically drive crime down in NY, who found himself vilified and eventually dissed by Rudy when the credit for the crime drop started going his way instead of the Mayor's. Giuliani turned on him in a flash, deriding him publicly, and leaking shit privately to reliable press flunkies to make Bratton look bad. He effectively drove Bratton out of town along with a slew of hard-core, 25-and-30 year NYPD brass loyal to Bratton and his methods. Bratton's successors in the job were the corrupt yes-men Howard Safir and yes...Bernard Kerik--of the post 9-11 ripoff, and near hook-up-via-Rudy-as-a-crooked-assed-Homeland-Security-Boss. As Bernie's trial nears, one can only wonder what kind of nasty, Rudy-centric stories will find their way into print from that pipeline of cast-off copper chums of Bill Bratton's. It'd be the kind of stuff that would make "Sweet Smell Of Success" bastard cum laude J.J. Hunsecker say, "Mister...that's plenty cold.
b.) You will also find not one, not two, but three former NY schools chancellors--minorities all, and burned through in just eight years, who'd sooner slash open their gums and then french a hungry great white shark before helping Rudy in his latest "Pinky and The Brain"-esque campaign for world domination. He verbally and bureaucratically abused all three of these men for the same reasons: One --for daring to put the education of kids ahead of politics, Two--for being recognized in their field as innovators in their own right, beyond anything they did with Giuliani, and Three--standing up to Giuliani publicly when he challenged their education bona fides after they disagreed with him on education policy. He gay-baited, and whisper-campaigned one--Ray Cortines--out of town (repeatedly referring to the man publicly as "precious" and "the little victim"). He simply threw roadblock, after roadblock, after roadblock in the policy path of another--Joseph Fernandez--until Fernendez basically said "Fuck it!", and booked up under pressure from Giuliani's hand-picked hatchet-mob on the city's Board Of Education. And he finally pushed even the most malleable of the three--Rudy Crew--to the point of ill health and non-communication with the Mayor, for daring to question a few of his ideas--like hooking up his Catholic School hierarchy pals with a city-funded voucher program. That's three dudes with axes to grind (and Crew, the one he liked the most, has scathing verbal venom for his old cigar-chomping "pal") and a verrrry powerful union--the United Federation Of Teachers, as well as the politically potent NEA as potential allies. These were not just local-level educators of merit, but nationally reknowned leaders in the field. The shit they could...and sneakily will deploy on Rudy will leave a stink that a tanker full of Febreze won't remove. You heard it here first.
c.) Within the vast sea of faux-moderate hackery that is New York's press, there are several, scattered, vessel-crushing vortexes--whirlpools of naked, honest dislike for Giuliani. And during the height of the Giuliani P.R. machine (his first term), he was able to if not silence--then at least banish to the hinterlands, much of their criticism through a crass manipulation of press access, leak favoritism, and outright bullying of certain news organizations. When rumors surfaced early on in his first term about possible domestic abuse (against his wife, news anchor Donna Hanover), as well as an affair with his aide Cristyne Lategano, he brought the hammer down--threatening anyone who went with those stories with having virtually no press access. He in fact banned New York Newsday, who'd reported critically on the NYPD under him, from most NYPD press briefings for a period of years. In so doing, he inadvertently bred and fed a slew of journalists who would take great glee in being styes in his eye, and hemmorhoids on his tree limb-crammed ass. People like former Times Op-Ed page editor Gail Collins, Op-Ed regular Bob Herbert, the Pulitzer-winning Jim Dwyer, and The Village Voice's NY mole extraordinaire (and Journalism mentor for our Steve) Wayne Barrett, just to name a few. And when Giuliani, after getting busted on his brazen peccadilloes with his second mistress, Judi Nathan, resorted to that "Like...hey! Cool, bro!" shit mentioned earlier, especially after his lead-fisted, racist handling of the Louima, Diallo, and Dorismond cases, well... the aforementioned reporters went after him with a renewed and elevated gusto--and in so doing, pretty much turned the tide on Rudy, spin-wise. Not only was he no longer untouchable, but one could now go after him on all of his bullshit. How bad did it get for him press-wise? When he announced that he'd been stricken with prostate cancer during his Senate campaign against Hillary Clinton, the stories, while somber and respectful, also in large part took on the tone of "In the end, it may give him the time he needs to step away from the political world." They went there. Basically saying, "Um, yeah thanks for everything, and we're sorry you're sick--but...we're tired of you." Folks who didn't live in New York in the last year and a half of his mayoralty don't realize that he pretty much became a fucking pariah here. The city was tired of his hectoring, his scolding, his thin-skinnedness and really, just him, in general. And the press in large part had no problem articulating that--while the aforementioned arch-nemeses in said press happily led the charge against him. All this even after an ill-fated, P.R. bed-shit of an attempt to extend (!) his term as Mayor after 9-11, because he mistakenly, really, really mistakenly thought the city needed more of his "leadership" instead of its just adhering to the results of the recent mayoral election that he wasn't a part of. Fucking oopsie! :(
Now, here's where his shitty relationship with the NY press gets personal, ugly, and downright soap-operatic on the potential-for-serious-drama tip.
Rudy's first (that we know of) mayoral mistress, the cheshire-cat-on-crack-grinned Cristyne Lategano was eventually kinda shelved, for a variety of reasons--including an increasing problem with his keeping the affair secret, and her alleged pressure on Rudy to "make an honest woman of her" by leaving his wife Donna. Yikes! Lategano was moved from her job as Rudy's aide dé ass-grab, and "landed" a cushy job as the city's tourism promotion bigwig--a position she was dramatically unqualified for, but...a nice pay upgrade and a cushy position makes for a happy, secret ex-girlfriend, outside of Wolfowitz-land I guess. Unbeknownst to most folks though, in addition to schtupping Der Rudester, she had also been more than a little bit "tight" with former local news reporter John Miller--who it just so happens, had become then Police Chief Bratton's Deputy Commissioner--primarily for communications. Miller was everything Rudy wasn't--tall, dashing, a raconteur, the public apple of Lategano's eye, and most importantly-- actually single. Miller was also Bratton's right hand man to the press...and Giuliani absolutely hated him. He used the "Bratton's getting too much publicity" thing as a stalking horse for summarily firing Miller, his competition for Lategano's affections, then he zapped the now-pissed off, and very much undercut Bratton--effectively kicking off his mayoral policy of going after every Alpha male around him until he was surrounded only by sycophants, yes-men and non-threatening near-peers.
Miller has gone on to become the Director of Public Affairs for the FBI...after that is, a second stint as right-hand man to his pal...yep, Bill Bratton in. L.A.'s Police Department. These fucked over fellas, Miller especially, have yet to bury the hatchet with Rudy. And you might not wanna be in your good clothes, or be too close by when they actually do. Miller's still got friends in NY news, friends with long memories. But there's one person in the NY press fraternity with a longer memory, and boasting maybe even more friends than Miller...and that person can throw a whole box of flying, serrated silverware at Rudy with one sad glance at the camera and a sigh...
d.) The ex-wife, and former local news anchor Donna Hanover. Now, ain't nobody a saint in this miserable world. And you can best believe that if as rumored, Giuliani's hired some of Rove's people to work for him, they've spoken to every store clerk Hanover's ever cut an eye at or loudly "harrumph"-ed. But Hanover's ability to sink Rudy like a lead-loaded fucking Titanic with the least effort of anyone, is something his people are desperately fearful about. Donna and the equally estranged Giuliani kids, to be precise. Witness the firestorm that developed when Rudy's man-mountain of a pissed-off son took him to task, "Harry Chapin/Cats In The Cradle" style over his years of non-parenting.
Hanover you'll recall, didn't say a fucking word. Rudy's son and daughter threw shit at him and he found himself stammering in trying to answer for it, falling back on the lame-o "P-p-please give my family privacy" schpiel.
Understand...Hanover...didn't say a fucking word.
And didn't have to, either. Seeing her relationship with Rudy, it's like watching a friendly game of Mortal Kombat--benign and entertaining to see as a spectator, until you realize that she knows that special, sick button combo that enables her to unlock and effortlessly use that fucked-up, grisly-ass move where she can chop off all of his appendages, electrically skin him, and then jab her hand into his back and rip his spine out, waving the damn thing around and laughing as the basket-cased body crumbles to dust. And he has no defense against it whatsoever.
That's how badly she can kick his ass if she--or anyone in her camp--and there's a lotta sympathetic people--chooses to drop dime on just how shitty he was to her and the kiddies. Let leak his verbal abusiveness? Revive the talk of possible physical abuse? Slip mentions of his unbridled callousness, and ugly, hushed-up public humiliations? There are scores of people--connected people in this town with horror stories of this sort, practically bubbling the lids off the pots. And all Donna Hanover has to do is say, "serve 'em up"...and baby, everybody's gonna get fed. She's held her tongue for quite a while...and something tells me that it ain't gonna last forever--the kids' early "test" salvoes seem to be harbingers for some big torpedoes to be fired from her "camp".
What's scary is that the above dagger-tossers are the ones who are gonna play shit cool for awhile. It doesn't include the scores of local Black politicians who Giuliani steadfastly REFUSED to meet with during his tenure to specifically deny their legitimacy. Or the teachers union (a union you shouldn't really fuck with in New York) that he screwed into working his last 15 months without a contract.
This post was written pretty much up to this point about a month ago--ready to roll at our much-loved, old hangout. Needless to say--the vicissitudes of life and death intruded. And in that interim? Well, Rudy has seen his "concerns" grow like fucking Topsy. On HGH. And daily ten-sacks of White Castles with gallon-sized shake chasers.
You see, like Superman, our so-called "hero" has a peculiar weakness--and a devastatingly ironic one at that. The bane of Supes's existence was the poisonous, jettisoned mineral remnants of Krypton, the homeworld that birthed him. Litle pieces of Kryptonite = death. The bane of Rudy's existence is that which made him as well--at least as a national figure even worth considering as presidential timber--namely, that fateful day of September 11th.
Or rather, its remnants. Remnants like the pissed-off 9-11 firefighters and WTC dust-affected downtowners who've begun taking Rudy and the "Rudy Myth" to task. Witness if you will the sand-baggery in recent days at the hands of the ass-covering, lying, former GOP apparatchik Christine Todd Whitman. She tossed Rudy (and Bush) under the bus-- and then screwed up and further dismembered him in trying to backtrack and futilely pull him out-- all while being grilled about the greedy rush to re-open downtown in spite of the known toxic brew in the air, post the immediate horror.
T'wudn't pretty, kids.
Making it worse was was the fact that a usually reliable, and super-friendly press arm--The New York Daily News has championed the pillorying of all involved in the scandal of those days after 9-11. Not over principle mind you, but in their usual bucking for a muckraking Pulitzer--which makes them exceptionally ruthless on the issue, and doubly dangerous.
Then, something even creepier and dirty went down. "It got out" somehow that Rudy got shit-canned from a heretofore unknown spot on the Iraq Study Group because he was bagging on attending meetings--in lieu of nabbing the big bucks for speeches 'round the country. The "Turk" who called him to the coach's office and said "Bring yer playbook, Rudy." was none other than noted GOP fixer James Baker.
Wonder how "it got out", now?
Some very connected Republican bigwigs, probably those skewing more towards the traditionally conservative side--ohhhh, like James Baker perhaps, leaked that shit. Leaked that super-damaging, and really ugly and craven-sounding shit on Rudy--in what can only be an attempt to cock-punch that campaign. One has to wonder if the timing of those brass knuckles to the balls has anything to do with a growing group of conservative big-wigs recently serving notice that they wasn't gonna be down with Rudy's shit. Is it irresponsible to speculate?
In the words of Peggy "Oooh, the moon is so briiiight!" Noonan, "It is irresponsible not to."
And then of course in short order, his South Carolina campaign chairman got busted for possession of blow with intent to distribute--some straight-up Nino Brown shit, and when he got rid of the dude and replaced him with the guy's pops--ol' pops turned out to be an old-school, "Hey, boy!" spouting racist with still-loose, slur-slingin' lips. Catch your breath, ya'll. :)
Oh! Did I mention the hell Rudy started catchin' last week because of his backing a key campaign staffer, Msgr. Alan Placa, a childhood friend and disgraced priest suspended by the Catholic Church for covering up for his buddies of the cloth's sexual abuse allegations? I didn't? Sorry...it's been a little crammed lately with all fucked-up things Rudy. Like how in the past week--Steven Cassidy, the head of the United Firefighter's Association pledged to "end any hope" for Giuliani's becoming President by citing Rudy's failing the city and its firefighters and "wandering around the city" that day without making sure that police and firefighters could communicate. "We will make it known that he is not qualified to lead."
Yeah. It's like that. "And that's the way it is! Hnnnh!" Eighteen months out. And don't look for help from the fella you ushered in as your replacement, Rudy. You remember--the froggy-lookin' billionaire who just made the cover of Time as a possible new breed of bi-partisan political savior? He just ditched your party and is thinkin' about a Presidential run of his own. He wouldn't win...but he could fuck your shit up eight ways to Sunday with just his pocket change. His pocket change, son.
And of course, there is the city's--New York's--now "majority minority" population that remembers its mistreatment at the hands of the pseudo-beloved ex-Mayor and his Wild West-ified police force. In the age of YouTube, home-brewed commercials showing his leading that infamous police riot at City Hall, and his raw viciousness towards innocent victims like Patrick Dorismond will not go down well. Dorismond you may have forgotten, was the unarmed working man brutally slain by cops during a botched buy-and-bust operation, who had his sealed juvenile record leaked by Giuliani to skew public opinion negatively towards him and away from the out-of-control cops. Giuliani practically crowed Dorismond "was no altar boy" (turns out he actually was) and when grilled about leaking the dead man's record--the day before he was to be buried, claimed that as Dorismond was now dead, "he had no right to privacy". Oh, Rudy. I don't think we even know what to say anymore.
Oooh! Howsabout, if you think the Edwards "I'm So Pretty", and Hillary "1984" video mash-ups were something, just wait 'til you see what a few enterprising New Yorkers who know the stories, have access to the video (it's all over the web), and some simple editing software are gonna toss out there into Rudy's grille. Why...there's a chance I might even run across some of these folks in my travels! :)
The bottom line? In spite of Giuliani's pundit-class angels--some of them quite powerful, like the Drudge-pimped pushers of anti-Hillary books, or yes, the "na-na" obsessed, psycho-sexually damaged ex-Altar Boys in the pundit class who love him so, (Wipe yer mouth, Tweety--you've got something on it. You too, L'il Russ.) there is a fucking legion of folks out there who would like nothing better than to forcibly ass-pound this campaign--dry and angrily. And then turn and point at it lying there ruined, while laughing "Yeah... I did that." It's nasty. But true.
We're looking, a year-and-a-half-out, at a campaign that could well die the classic "death of a thousand cuts"
There's about fifty-thousand pissed-off, potential perps with knives...all waiting for a turn.
(Photo Illustration inspired by the great George Lois)