Public relations for the late New York mayor Ed Koch was always a show.
His public style, including his speeches and interviews, fused Harry Truman plainspeaking and yiddish chutzpah. But that bombast isn't why he, who died at age 88, will be remembered, at least not by those of us who had and have a New York state of mind. Koch is iconic because he saw through nonsense and then called it that way, with his deep New York accent.
For example, Harvard Law School made a hero of the homeless mentally ill Joyce Brown aka Billie Boggs. Koch had been enforcing the involuntary hospitalization of those who were creating a public nuisance. It became an issue of civil liberties, with Brown as its symbol. However, after her 15 minutes of fame, Brown was back defecating in front of stores in Manhattan. Koch colorfully commented, "Surprise, surprise." The violence generated by the mentally ill recently has confirmed Koch's stand that society has to be protected from them.
We will never know if on the corporate scene Chrysler leader Lee Iacocca honed his own un-corporate rhetoric from observing Koch. Until then, executives in business did their public speaking in a statesman-like way, full of measured phrases. At the beginning was a bit of safe humor.
What we do know is that we speechwriters learned from Koch the power of ethnic street talk in the public forum. Today we long to be writing for exactly that kind of oral innovator.