Rudolph Giuliani had barely announced his cancer diagnosis when mayoral aides and campaign officials began spinning his sickness. This brush with mortality, you see, will make the 55-year-old mayor a more well-rounded, understanding guy (good thing it didn’t happen when he was 60 or 65—by then, Rudy might already have been set in his ways). What we’re looking at here, these Giuliani supporters would have you believe, is the birth of the New Rudy.
The Big C has set him free.
This is a ploy, of course, lifted from the tattered playbook of Al D’Amato. Whenever the former senator approached an election, he suddenly got soft and cuddly. The brash, fast-talking Island Park padrone was forced into mothballs for a few months, replaced by the consensus builder, the serious legislator. Of course, what drove D’Amato’s temporary transformation were poll, not PSA, numbers.
As evidence of the New Rudy, buddy Elliot Cuker went on NY1 Friday night and revealed that after Giuliani received his diagnosis, “It was very, very difficult for him. He showed it by feeling terrible about it, by feeling very moved by it, tears.” It is a measure of how cold and abrasive Giuliani has become that his crying jag became big tabloid news. Faced with death—or at the very least a host of unpleasant side effects—the mayor got emotional. He broke down and cried. What exactly was the guy supposed to do? True, the last time he bawled was when Tony Ducks Corallo got off with 100 years in the Commission case. But this also happens to be a life-and-death situation.
Along with Cuker, a procession of Giuliani associates have made the media rounds, acting as if they actually have a clue what their boss is thinking. Campaign manager Bruce Teitelbaum—who has also been acting as if he is the stricken prostate’s spokesperson—has been shilling with the knowledge that without Giuliani, he’s nothing. The same can be said about former deputy mayor Randy Mastro, who, sans Rudy, would be just another shlubby lawyer with a bad hairdo.
Perhaps their behavior looks worse in light of how previous City Hall medical problems have been handled. Heck, when the Heimlich maneuver saved Ed Koch from a spunky piece of watercress in 1981, there was hardly an uproar. And all those Koch heart scares, well, they kind of blended into each other after a while. There is something unseemly about political hands guaranteeing a future when Giuliani’s own doctors can offer no such ironclad assurance.
Of course, the prospect that the Giuliani-Hillary Clinton showdown may never occur is devastating to the mayor’s supporters (not to mention reporters, consultants, and other divisions of the booming election industry). Forget those electronics shops perpetually going out of business on Broadway, this would be New York’s cruelest bait and switch. Imagine expecting to see Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali, but when you get to Madison Square Garden, Smokin’ Joe is in the ring with Abe Vigoda. Rick Lazio’s got a nice haircut, but he’s strictly an undercard attracton.
This is one desperate crew, clinging to Rudy like suckfish to a barracuda. If Giuliani’s medical condition forces him to drop out of the Senate race, this panicky gang might even consider drafting Wax Rudy from the Mme. Tussaud stable. That beeswax and fiberglass confection offers all of the Giuliani charm with none of the messy baggage. Yes, the affect is a bit flat, but Wax Rudy would be easy to manage and not prone to petulant outbursts or frequent meltdowns as long as his crypt is kept chilled. (The marvelous picture of the mayor and his stoic shadow is a municipal classic, worthy of the kind of animated Internet sendup that gunpoint Elián received. Rudy: Whassup! Wax Rudy: Yo, Where’s Dukie?)
And how about First (Second?) Lady Donna Hanover! Her statement of, um, support for her stricken hubby should be placed under glass at the Municipal Archives for future generations to parse. Hanover, who was busily preparing for her Vagina Monologues star turn, presumably rehearsed the best way for “cunt” and “pussy” to roll off her tongue. In fact, if it weren’t for spokesperson Joanie Danielides, through whom all Hanover communiqués are relayed, the public would be unaware of the depth of Donna’s concern (if they named an MVP at Gracie Mansion, Danielides would easily run away with the voting). In fact, God forbid, if Rudy were to croak; Danielides could be counted on to arrange a real nice floral arrangement for the wake.
That fact alone should comfort the mayor during his convalescence.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 2, 2000