Ed Koch, former mayor of New York, was a heavy kid
New Yorkers tend to think they know everything about Ed Koch, their mouthy former mayor.
But who knew? He was a plump kid.
At 86, Koch has written a children's book with his older sister called "Eddie Shapes Up," a semi-autobiographical story of a chubby boy who is tormented on the playground and finally decides to do something about it.
"Kids like to pull the wings off flies and yell terrible things at each other on the playground," Koch told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. "It does things to you. It made me decide I wanted to succeed. You can succeed even more if you lose weight and you also protect your health and look better."
Koch said he wrote this book, which will be published next month, "to raise the consciousness of parents and of children and to say to them, ‘I know it's not easy -- but it also ain't so hard.'"
Born in the Bronx, Koch and his family moved during the Depression to Newark, N.J., because his father got a job checking hats there. Koch was 7 and chunky, and said his classmates in elementary school liked to call him "fatso" and tease him relentlessly. After a few years, he enlisted his mother's help and trimmed down by eating healthy food, he said.
At middle-age, Koch -- who has always lived alone and loved trying new restaurants -- struggled with his weight. He said that in 1977, when he was preparing to run for mayor, he had ballooned to 263 pounds and media advisor David Garth told him he wouldn't manage his first campaign unless he dropped 25 pounds. Koch lost the weight and won the election.
During his 12-year tenure, Koch led New York out of one of its worst financial crises and became known around the world as loud, funny, opinionated and smart.
He has spent his post-mayoral career juggling about a dozen jobs -- among them restaurant critic and, yes, author. Altogether, he has written 16 books, including three for children that deal with different chapters of his life. He said he was inspired to write this latest one after learning about the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.
Koch, who likes to have the last word, added, "A fat kid just does not look good, so parents should talk it over with their kids, if their kids don't talk to them about it. This is just as important as ‘just say no to drugs.' Seriously."
-- Geraldine Baum in New York
Photo: A young Ed Koch. Credit: Ed Koch