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Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?

"... Short, waddling, crying, sweating Mario talks about 'a clean city and a safe city,' and suddenly it's not too good to be tall and handsome. 'Send Lindsay to a dance,' the cabdrivers yell..."


From the July 28, 1969 issue of New York Magazine.

My friend George, who handles tables at the Copacabana night club, probably had it right all along. One night in May, when I was trying to cut down on the wrangling at home, I told my wife I'd take her to see Tom Jones, the Welsh singer who was playing the Copa. I had a table for the midnight show. But at 11 I was still in this rattrap Reform Democratic-clubhouse one flight up from Amsterdam Avenue someplace, and I was telling everybody about my personal brilliance and great ability to save the city from doom. I was talking about myself so much that there was going to be no Copa that night. My wife, mad as hell, left the room and went downstairs to a phone booth and called George at the Copa to cancel the table.

"Mrs. Breslin," George said, "tell your husband to stop being a politician and come back and be a playboy. It's more fun."

Which it is. After Norman Mailer and I finished seven weeks of a mayoralty campaign adjudged unlikely, I still came away nervous and depressed by what I had seen of my city. I saw a sprawling, disjointed place which did not understand itself and was decaying physically and spiritually, decaying with these terrible little fires of rage flickering in the decay. Rage which, with heat and humidity and crowding and misery and misunderstanding and misused or misunderstood authority, could turn the city into a horror on any night soon. On top of the city was an almost unworkable form of government and a set of casually unknowing, unfeeling, uncaring men and institutions. The absence of communications in a city which is the communications center of the world is so bad that you are almost forced to believe the condition of the city is terminal. There is an awesome, incredible pool of talent and caring and humor in the people on the streets in the city. It is true: the New Yorker talks a little faster and walks a little faster and thinks a little faster than people in any other city in the world. The chances for survival and greatness should be very good. But I saw nothing in the city of New York which told me this pool of ability either has been recognized or is being directed. I saw nothing which really told me that the city will not be a charred, stagnant place with a night-time population of 4 million or so some very few short years from now. So when the business of the Democratic primary was over, I migrated naturally to a bar and found it fine sport, and then to another bar, which was even better, and I then plunged entirely into the toy world. Important things became Mutchie's face falling into a plate of spaghetti at 3 a.m., and Joe Bushkin playing the piano, and the horse Johnny Rotz was supposed to be on the next day. News bulletins were the score of the Mets game and Joe Namath's troubles.

Then there was a Saturday in the Hamptons, with the first long shadows of the late afternoon falling on the lawn and hedges, and I got up and stretched.

"I have to get dressed," I said.

"Where are you going?" my friend Robert J. Allen asked.

"To the party at Jerry Finkelstein's," I said.

It was a big cocktail party for the grape workers, being held at Finkelstein's house in Southampton.

"I'll drive you there," Robert J. Allen said.

The insides of my elbows became stiff from the attack on my nerves that Robert J. Allen had just made.

"Oh, you don't have to drive me," I said.

"Oh, I wouldn't go to the party," Robert J. Allen said. "You know I can't take those places. They're too big for me. I get overwhelmed by all the luxury. I'll drop you off and go to a movie."

"Great!" I said to Robert J. Allen. I felt real good again. A few minutes later, I was standing at the mirror in the bedroom, knotting my tie. I tried to twist the tie around my throat and choke myself when I saw Robert J. Allen come into the room. He had on his only good summer shirt; all week long he goes to work in long-sleeved, heavy winter shirts and wonders why he gets dizzy in the subway. Along with his only good summer shirt, Robert J. Allen also was wearing a beautiful pink tie. Carefully folded over his arm was his best and only summer sports jacket, navy blue with brass buttons.


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