My New York: Long Agos

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'I can always say I defeated Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani in the same year.' In a 2018 interview, David Dinkins looked back on his career — and his opponents

Alex Katz’s revisiting of his 1940s “Subway Drawings” for New York. Read more here. Illustration: Alex Katz This anniversary issue is devoted to what might make other people in other places go crazy but here we call connection. Not just the connections we choose, like our poker groups or going-out friends, but those that could happen only in a city as clotted and manic as ours. Fifty years ago, New York’s founding editor Clay Felker wrote a mission statement for his new magazine.

Percy Sutton, Charlie Rangel, Basil Paterson, and I — the so-called Gang of Four — we always believed nobody gets anywhere alone. Everybody stands on somebody’s shoulders. It was Ray on whose shoulders I stood. Well, it was a very difficult time. The way the press wrote of the high crime rate in the ’90s, it was as though there was no crime on December 31, 1989 — just the next day, when I took office.

I was quickly fired from the video store . I was 70 percent friendless and the market for an untrained 15-year-old dog groomer is niche, so I had a good amount of time on my hands and that time was spent with Sammy. Sometimes he let me stack and organize product in exchange for a small store credit. Other times I passed out flyers on special deals. Often we just read quietly, what my mom would call parallel play.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” I told my boyfriend as the door creaked open. But there behind the counter was Sammy, in his old spot nestled between the leashes and the dog-breath neutralizers. “My beautiful Lena!” he said without a beat. I grinned. It quickly became apparent that he had no idea what I’d been up to for a dozen years — he hadn’t read about me in “Page Six.” He didn’t believe I had caused Hillary Clinton to lose the presidency. He had not seen my nipples and bush on TV.

After we won the World Series, I didn’t pay for a meal for six weeks. We’d go to Canastel’s, down on Park Avenue South. It was Dom Pérignon or Cristal for the table. They wouldn’t let me pay. Obviously, we left lavish tips. I had lunch with Richard Nixon five or six times. What was weird about it was I would try to get him to talk politics and foreign policy and he wouldn’t go there. He just wanted to talk about baseball. The last lunch I had with him, I finally said, “Mr. President, you always talk about baseball. How about once …” He said okay. And he went on for an hour and a half about the Russians, the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Germans. It was like I had a class at Harvard or Yale.


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