Rudy's roomies - New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - Brief Article

The Advocate | September 11, 2001
By Chris Bull

New York's mayor shacks up with a gay couple

It was a tabloid's dream story. New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in the middle of a bitter public divorce from his wife, Donna Hanover, moved out of Gracie Mansion, where Hanover still lives, and into the posh upper east side apartment of his friend Howard Koeppel and Koeppers partner of 10 years, Mark Hsiao.

Throughout his mayoralty, Giuliani, though generally supportive of gay rights, has sparred with the city's large gay population on everything from the St. Patrick's Day parade to police brutality. But Giuliani has spoken appreciatively of Koeppel and Hsiao's support during his difficult time, in which he was also recovering from prostate cancer and preparing to leave office. Koeppel, 64, agreed to talk about living with the mayor from his Volkswagen showroom in Queens.

How did you get to know the mayor?

We've known each other for a dozen years now. I meet him during his campaign in '89, and we hit it off right away. In the car business you deal with thousands of people. You develop a pretty good perception of the difference between chicken salad and chickenshit. Rudy is the chicken salad. He respects you as a person and not as a member of a group whose vote he's seeking.

When did it dawn on him that you are gay?

To tell you the truth, we've never really discussed it on that level. He's just always known because we'd talk about Mark and our lives together. There's no way he could miss it. Mark and I double-dated with him and his wife, Donna, on New Year's Eve in '95 and '96. We spent the whole evening together, from dinner until 3 in the morning. It was as natural as if we had been an opposite-sex couple.

If the mayor is as comfortable with gay people as you say, why all the friction between the mayor and New York's gay community?

Rudy is a Republican in a gay environment. The Republican Party has earned a reputation for being antigay, and that reputation has rubbed off on him. The other thing people don't like is that he doesn't cater to minority groups, whether gays, Asians, or blacks. He does what's right, regardless. He's generally there with us on the issues.

What's your routine like, now that you have a roommate?

Before Rudy moved in, I didn't get to spend that much time with him. I'm on the invitation list, so I'd see him at Gracie Mansion and at other events. We'd go out to eat sometimes. But he's so bright and fascinating, I always wanted more. Now we can have breakfast together.

Why do straight people turn to their gay friends in times of crisis?

If I were living with a woman and had room for him, I would take him in. Our friendship is not about my being gay or Mark's being Asian or whatever. But it is true that I've never questioned him about his problems with Donna. It could be that after 30 years together it just wasn't working and he decided to end the relationship. It had nothing to do with meeting another woman. I know he's been a good father to Andrew, taking him to baseball games and playing golf. So I don't judge him. The other thing is that he knows that Mark and I are happy people and that we live comfortable lives together. It makes him happy to be around happy people.

Given the turmoil of his divorce, do you have second thoughts about same-sex marriage?

Well, it is true that with domestic partnership, breaking up is a lot simpler. Six months, and it's over. But if they would pass a law that marriage would become legal between same-sex couples, I would be the first in line. And if Rudy were still mayor, I know he'd perform the civil ceremony for me.

How does he feel about your talking to the press about your domestic arrangement?

He's fine with it. I think it's been good for his image, frankly. So many people, gay and straight, have come up to me and said, "You know, the mayor is a really good guy after all."

Is the mayor a good houseguest?

Yes. He even makes his own bed.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Liberation Publications, Inc.
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