On the Republican side of the mayoral candidate field, this weekend’s news coverage really belonged to John Catsimatidis, billionaire, owner of a rather horrid grocery store chain, and incredibly weird guy. While you were busy grilling things this weekend and falling asleep in front of televised sporting events, Catsimatidis was cementing his legend. Here are the best tidbits from a weekend of delightfully bizarre news stories about the man.
He’s spent an unbelievable amount of his own money trying to be mayor.
A fabulous profile in today’s New York Times does a nice job outlining, in that gentle, polite, Times-ian way, just how strange and how rich the man is. He walks around rumpled and stain-covered, “his tie askew,” campaigning as “Cats” or the “Cat Man.” He once fell asleep mid-car-ride interview with a WNYC reporter. He holds “friend-raisers,” handing out swag and talking about how much Old Yeller made him cry as a kid. (“As he reminisced about his childhood, he pulled aside his eyelid to show that he was welling up.”) And he’s not participating in the matching funds program most other candidates are using to help finance their campaigns, opting to pay for it himself.
As of this month, Catsimatidis has spent around $3.9 million of his own money, twice what Republican rival Joe Lhota has spent. Last time he made an abortive run at the mayor’s seat, in 2009, he spent $300,000 just on consultants and exploratory committees before stepping down, he said at the time, to make way for a third Bloomberg term. And though he said earlier in this race that there’d be “no limit” to what he would spend, he told Politicker over the weekend that, unlike Bloomberg, he’d decided to cap his spending at a paltry $19 million. You can buy a lot of “Cat Man” gel bracelets with that kind of cash.
He called on his rival to drop out of the race, for no apparent reason.
It’s become quite fashionable to ask your opponent to drop out of the mayoral race, especially if you’re running against Anthony Weiner. In an increasingly bitter contest against Lhota, Catsimatidis decided he’d try the same thing, as Politicker reported, calling on him Friday to “end this charade [and] drop out of the race now.”
The only slight problem with that one is that Lhota is beating Catsimatidis, Like, by a lot. A recent Newsday poll showed him beating the Cat Man by nearly 2-1. Catsimatidis’s response, naturally, was to suggest that the poll had been rigged.
He also put out a mailer accusing Lhota of bullying a Holocaust survivor.
This one is less funny and more just weird: Catsimatidis and Lhota have been fighting bitterly this last week over a Cats campaign mailer that claims that while Lhota was chair of the MTA, he bullied 77-year-old board member Charles G. Moerdler at a public meeting, telling him to “be a man” and challenging him to a fistfight. Moerdler himself is not happy, telling the Daily News that the flyer “has given a whole new meaning to the word sleaze,” and saying he’s backing Lhota in the race. Also, that flyer photo is not actually a picture of Moerdler, but an older and more frail-looking stock-photo person.
He seriously, seriously loves cats.
The only thing Catsimatidis loves more than suggesting bizarre, probably unfeasible public works projects (reviving the World’s Fair, building a monorail alongside the Long Island Expressway instead of expanding the subway system) is cats. When New York magazine’s Daily Intel blog asked all the mayoral candidates whether they would’ve shut down train lines to save those adorable, stupid kittens who got stranded on the tracks, the Cat Man responded in modified haiku form:
I am an Animal Lover
Supposed they were
Its up to the Policeman on the Scene to make decision
Not the Mayor
He’s also said in a past candidate forum that his wife once tried to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to their ailing, elderly cat. The kitty did not make it.
That tiger cub photo.
On Saturday morning, with absolutely nothing in the way of context, Catsimatidis posted the photo you see above to Facebook: just himself as a much younger man, snuggling a tiger cub in his office. The caption, written with his own inimitable spacing, read:
I Love ALL Kittens
A Bengal TIGER Kitten in my Office – JAC
PS The New York Times & New York Post & Celeste Katz will Criticize me for not Calling it a Cub
The man’s a legend. A super-weird, never-ever-going-to-be-mayor legend.
Send story tips to the author, Anna Merlan