Ed Koch
New York Harbor, April 1981

Living in New York, I was eager to get to know and photograph the city's charismatic mayor, Ed Koch. I went to Ray Cave, Time's managing editor, and pitched a story that would show the mayor up close and personal. Cave bought the idea, and so I got in touch with Koch's press secretary and told him that I wanted to have dinner with the mayor. He told me that the mayor's social schedule was very busy, and suggested that he might be able to set up a meeting with himself and the mayor. For almost a year, I held out for dinner. I knew that I couldn't do the story I wanted to do without getting the kind of access that only Koch himself could give me. Getting to know me over a dinner was the best way to gain his trust. All the time, I could see the mayor talking to his press secretary, saying "A photographer wants a dinner meeting with me? He must be crazy. Haven't you told him I'm very busy?" But I was persistent, and Koch eventually agreed to meet me for dinner, and of course we hit it off, big-time. He agreed to give me complete access. He even allowed me to photograph him shaving. Outside of Ali, Koch became my second-favorite subject. Ed Koch was somewhat overweight, bald and definitely not to be mistaken for Tom Cruise, but just point a camera at him and he'd light up. You couldn't take a bad picture of the guy. We've remained good friends: Several years ago, with my mother standing only a few feet away, hanging on his every word, Koch spoke at a gallery show of mine. He opened his remarks with these words: "Neil Leifer is a genius." Looking straight at my mother, he paused for effect. "How do I know that? His mother just told me so." For the first time in her life, my mother stopped thinking that I should have become a doctor.


The Best of Leifer
The Best of Leifer

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