Ed Koch, Politico and Pop Culture Figure, Dies at 88

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Ed Koch (Getty Images)

Ed Koch – the brash and colorful New York City mayor who rescued the Big Apple from near bankruptcy and went on to become a popular pop culture figure – died on Friday. He was 88.

The politician-turned-TV star had pneumonia in December and was hospitalized again recently in Manhattan for water in his lungs, according to The Associated Press. His spokesperson said he died at 2 a.m. Friday from congestive heart failure.

[Related: Ed Koch, Mayor Who Became a Symbol of NYC, Dies]

Koch’s career in politics will never be forgotten by NYC residents. As the city bordered on bankruptcy in the 1970s, he came into office and turned things around… with much chutzpah. He spent three terms in City Hall, but lost a fourth, which has been attributed to corruption in his administration and racial divisions. After he left office, he continued to be an active political voice on a national level and regularly did TV commentary. He also crossed political lines with his endorsements.

In addition to his storied political career, Koch was a pop culture figure. Beginning in the 1980s, he made cameos in many movies and television shows. Some of his guest-starring TV roles included comedic bits on “Gimme a Break!” “My Two Dads,” “Spin City,” and “Sex and the City,” to name a few. He also appeared as himself in films from “The Muppets Take Manhattan” to “First Wives Club.”

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Koch appeared on 'Saturday Night Live' in 1983, working with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Eddie Murphy. (Getty Imag …

Because of his great love of movies, he started his own web series “Mayor at the Movies” in 2009, where he would review his favorite flicks. NYC moviegoers were often surprised to bump into him at their local theater, but he enjoyed watching movies in a public audience.

No doubt he was then thrilled to become the subject of first-time filmmaker and former Wall Street Journal reporter Neil Barsky’s documentary “Koch,” which is about his origins, career, and legacy. It also looks at his private life – despite being such a public figure, he kept his personal life off-limits, which caused  speculation about his sexuality. (Not that he cared – he famously said, “My answer to questions on this subject is simply ‘F--k off.’ There have to be some private matters left.”) Still, despite such speculation and a pro-gay rights stance (he co-sponsored NYC's Equality Act in 1974 and was the first NYC mayor to march in a gay pride parade), his inaction around HIV and AIDS early on during the plague's onset in the '80s contributed significantly to a slow response to the crisis, thus arguably causing thousands to die more quickly and forever tainting his legacy.

In an odd case of timing, “Koch” – which premiered at The Hamptons Film Festival in October – was expected to begin a limited release in New York City theaters on Friday.

Koch also was an accomplished author. While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor” and “Politics.” He wrote more than 10 others including several mystery novels and three children's books. “Eddie, Harold’s Little Brother” told the story of his own childhood and how he realized he’d never match his brother’s baseball talents, so instead, he started telling stories and speaking in public.

Of course, daytime TV watchers will also remember him for his stint on “People’s Court” from 1997 to 1999. Staying true to himself, he was known for quippy one-liners and tough talk advice.

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