02/01/2013 04:10 pm ET Updated Apr 03, 2013

Ed Koch: Mayor of the Lost City of New York

Man, Ed Koch is a tough one. How does he fit into the now-accepted scenario of Rudy Giuliani cleaning up the previously ungovernable city, making it safe for peaceable, God-fearing people to inhabit day or night without fear? After all, Koch presided over the New York of the late '70s and all of the '80s, a supposedly dark municipal hour of violence, mayhem and urban decline.

Except I remember New York in the '80s as feeling like the coolest place on the planet.

Even with all the beggars Reagan released into the streets (one for every square of sidewalk, it seemed to me), '80s New York appeared a Saturday Night Live opening of fading neon, sooted architecture, unfading glamour and Wall Street high-rolling, presided over by the man who, they said, looked like another icon of the time, Frank Perdue (and it was kind of a compliment, though to which of them, I don't know).

I mean, when Koch came out at the conclusion, I think, of Night of 100 Stars, his back to the crowd, just a faceless sweeper cleaning the streets/boulevards of old New York, and then turned in top hat and tails to face the rapturous crowd, you couldn't deny the love that was there. And as the years passed and Koch became a mysteriously Republicanish figure, I don't think even most liberal New Yorkers ever stopped somehow loving the guy. At least I didn't.

He was one of those great figures. Most of us alive today didn't know LaGuardia or Gentleman Jimmy Walker. But we knew Ed Koch, The Man, The Mayor, The Movie Reviewer.

And now, he rests with old Times Square and the other parts of New York that are gone forever.

Then again, he wanted to replace Times Square before Giuliani did, so how he'll feel about that, I just don't know.