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Is Lindsay Too Tall to Be Mayor?

Also in the newspaper were the inevitable stories, "Procaccino Calls for . . ." and "Marchi to Bid for . . ." At a time like this in the city's history, the two major political parties give us Mario Procaccino and John Marchi as candidates for mayor. Now the quick disdain here for Mario and Marchi is not of the same type as registered on the editorial pages of the Times and passed around with sneers by Lindsay people and liberal Democrats. To begin with, the political arithmetic right now makes it highly improbable that Procaccino can lose the election. This may come as a surprise to people in Sardi's. It also may come as a surprise to them if Marchi suddenly becomes a lot more attractive candidate with Lindsay third. The disdain here is not because of their political abilities. Procaccino is not liked for the type of campaign he ran in the primary. His commercial about City College burning down was so flagrant that when I saw him one afternoon I told Mario that he was getting an award from Marvin the Torch. Basically, Mario did not campaign. He pandered. "A Vote for Mario is a Vote for Your Family," was the word of mouth his people sent around. This means, of course, that a nigger won't rape your wife as long as Mario is around with his electric chair. Marchi played the same aisle, although couching terrible notions in soft, acceptable language. This quietness is a great cloak for Marchi. For the man is far more backward than anybody realizes. "Marchi votes against the Louisiana Purchase" is a common quote about him. For the city to reach a point where two candidates such as these are attractive to the people simply reveals the depth of our troubles.

Also in the paper was the headline saying, "Lindsay to Meet with Dems . . ." The story was about Reform Democrats, who cannot swallow Procaccino, meeting with Lindsay to see if they could support him. The meeting was listed for Tuesday night. Many people feel evidence of the ultimate ruin of New York is that we are left only with an unsatisfactory John Lindsay as an alternative to Mario and Marchi. I decided to stay in town and go to the meeting.

The meeting was at 8 p.m. in a long narrow room off the lobby of the Victoria Hotel on `51st Street. It was closed to the press. A cluster of reporters stood in the lobby by the French doors leading into the room. They immediately began complaining when I went into the place. They wanted me back outside with them. I didn't want to do this. For one thing, I had a right to represent whatever interests Norman Mailer and I had in the evening. For another, even when I worked on newspapers I did not like hanging around with reporters. I shrugged off the muttering and went through the doors into the room.

The room was lit by three chandeliers. Paul O'Dwyer was at the front, giving instructions to the crowd of about 250 on how they were to act when the mayor arrived. "Now let's not make this personal and let's not get the questions down to a lot of meaningless things," he said. Paul had some chance getting them to do that. The crowd murmured while he talked. The people in the seats were essentially the same groups I had been seeing through weeks of campaigning in these little West Side Reform clubs one flight over a Chinese restaurant. These clubs are the home bases of more deranged women than I ever knew existed. In the crowd, I also saw a woman from the Lexington Club, which is on the East Side. The club features a person named Chubb, who sits with his legs crossed and the long handle of a black gavel stuck into his mouth and he focuses on you with what is known around city politics as "the Lexington Club stare." When he talks, he begins each sentence with a "Waaaaaa."

At 9 p.m., an hour late, Lindsay arrived and made his way to the front of the room while Paul O'Dwyer, with these courtly manners of his, called out, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the mayor of the city of New York."

Lindsay, wearing a subdued striped shirt, came up to the microphone amidst a decent amount of applause. He nodded to Paul O'Dwyer first, then to the audience and then he began talking.

"I can't hear you," somebody called from the back.

Lindsay didn't notice this and he kept talking. After about the first five rows, nobody could hear what he was saying and soon there was a chorus of people saying they couldn't hear him. I looked at Lindsay and saw the trouble. Standing erectly, with his fine, good-looking chin thrust straight out, Lindsay had his mouth about a half-foot above the microphone. The microphone had been fine for Paul O'Dwyer, but it wasn't even close for John Lindsay. Casually, Lindsay began to raise the microphone. And right away, a little line Norman Mailer and I had used about him ran through my mind.

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