It's hard to believe that the late 80's/early 90's reign of New York's first (and only) African-American mayor, David Dinkins, was so politically calamitous that Rudy Giuliani's 1993 Mayoral campaign to unseat him was largely a comedy roast, a kind of Max Bear V. Primo Carnero slug match with Dinkins simply taking whatever hits Rudy cheerfully threw at him while reeling helplessly around the ring. (And if anyone gets the Bear/Carnero reference, then e-mail me and i'll send you ten dollars. Yes, that's right. TEN BUCKS).

The Dinkins administration unfortunately coincided with the very worst years of New York City's crime, racism, unemployment and general garbage-y sense of self. This was a New York where I recall walking past a brownstone in the West 70's off Central Park West and seeing a handmade sign stuck in the second floor window that read:  "$500K or best offer".  It was a New York where I got mugged on Madison and 64th street one pleasant Fourth of July evening and then suffered the double humiliation of slipping and falling into a pile of vomit while walking hope, sans wallet. People stank. Streets were dark. Restaurants closed. LA really did seem like a much better choice.  That's how bad it was.

In his prime, there was no better mad commentator on the city and its woes then Howard Stern. This may sound odd to those of you who mostly associate him with tits and ass jokes and celebrity interviews but  Stern has always, to my ears, belonged equally to the tradition of mad, sociopathic humorists--Jules Feiffer, Phillip Roth, Shelley Berman, Lenny Bruce etc. Years before his show was about celebrity and back when it was largely a local New York phenomenon, listening to Howard was central to how most New Yorkers framed and dealt with their day. I recall once being in a cab on the Grand Central (going to the airport? fleeing the city?) stuck in traffic and listening to a particularly hysterical Howard tirade...and then noticing everyone in the adjoining cars also laughing at the same time. Such was his omnipotence.

I can't believe I found the below but here it is: one of my favorite Stern bits, on the re-election campaign of David Dinkins. For some reason I never hear this turn up on "best of Stern" shows. Perhaps its political timeliness has rendered it too puzzling for most current listeners. Even hardcore Howard-ites who I've mentioned this to have stared blankly at me when I try to explain the bit. But somebody out there understood...and remembered...and taped it...

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  2. Can't believe Stern got away with that - imagine the uproar it would create today!