Bo Dietl, private eye, is running for mayor. His black gun, a nine-millimeter Glock 26, is holstered to his hip, even when he sits in his 50th floor office overlooking the former cop’s would-be mayoral domain, from the harbor to the East River, from Chinatown to Long Island City. From his office he can see it all.
The office is in the clouds but he’s a man of the streets. A man needs a gun, he says, “Cuz if we’re walking down the street and someone’s getting robbed, you’ll want Bo to be there. Or when any of these terrorists come back, you’ll want Bo to be there.”
He looks like a pug with a five o’clock shadow, a dead-end kid built like a fire hydrant but dressed to kill, slick in suspenders and glistening cufflinks.
Talking about anti-Semitism in the city, I ask him about the “knockout game” of a few years ago, in which young black men in Brooklyn would walk up to an unsuspecting passerby, often a Jew, and suddenly cold-cock him, to see if the Jew could be knocked unconscious with one quick punch to the face.
Bo – forgive my not calling him Mr. Dietl; he likes “Bo” – remembers the knockouts and what he did about it: “I grabbed Al Sharpton up in the Grand Havana,” an elite cigar place frequented by Bo and Sharpton. “I grabbed him, and I says, you know what? I’d like to punch you right in the face. That’s the knockout game? Huh? Knockout, these poor people, some guy punches ’em in the face? Where are you demonstrating against these kids that are doin’ that? Why not? Because it’s not a white-on-black thing?”
“Damn right it’s an issue.”
Knockouts? “Damn right it’s an issue,” he tells us. “If you nip stuff in the bud it doesn’t get its own life. The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore and around this country, I’d be ordering my cops, someone burns buildings, I’ll lock you up. No one will commit a crime and think he’s getting away from me,” says Bo. “You don’t agree with something, you don’t burn down a drug store, you don’t beat people. There’s a way to do it. I like demonstrations, but peaceful demonstrations.”
His police career started in 1970. He did undercover work to catch thugs. “I was a decoy. I’d get dressed up [to look vulnerable] and was mugged over 500 times.” He knows what it’s like to be a chasidic Jew, or at least what it’s like to dress like one, and be mugged like one, all in the line of duty. “I’ve been hospitalized 30 times. I’ve been stabbed. I’ve been shot at. Fractured skull. Broken shoulder. So when I talk, I talk from real experience. Then I became a detective.” He worked the big cases, from the nun raped in East Harlem to the Palm Sunday Massacre, cases just begging for the headlines that put Bo’s policing on the front pages of the Daily News and the New York Post.
As a sideline he did bodyguard work for Saudi Arabian princes. On the side of that, he was the New York State arm wrestling champion. “Then Nicolas Pileggi, who wrote [the screenplay for] “Goodfellas,” put me on the cover of New York magazine.” Bo’s memoir, “One Tough Cop,” was made into a movie. Stephen Baldwin played Bo. Bo had a cameo in the scene after Baldwin-Bo kills Frankie Hot. In the movie, the detective tries to remain loyal to his partner, and to his friend, a mobster.
With “One Tough Cop” under his belt, Bo acted in “Goodfellas,” and “Wolf of Wall Street.” Bo says, “I made tens of millions of dollars in my life, and I spent it. I’m great for the economy.”
“To me, fear is a crime. I don’t want anyone to fear anything.”
He ran for Congress in Queens in 1986. “I lost by 2,500 votes. I ran as a Republican in an area with 7-to-1 Democrat registration.” A Trump voter, he attempted to change his party registration to Democrat so he could run in their primary, but his careless filing of the forms left him neither a Democrat nor a Republican, hence his Independent campaign. “I’m fiscally conservative, socially inclusive, tough on crime. I love Donald Trump’s attitude toward the criminality of criminal illegals in America. When you get arrested and you’re illegal in this country — bye, bye! And I totally agree.”
Crime statistics in New York may be down, he admits, but “there’s still fear. To me, fear is a crime. I don’t want anyone to fear anything.”
Between the movies and frequent appearances on Fox and “Imus in the Morning,” Bo became a star. He met every president since Ronald Reagan, Democrats and Republicans. He started to go to “business lunchitations.” (He may mangle words, but you get the idea.) He also worked as private eye for Roger Ailes (when Aisles led Fox), Imus and Steve Bannon (pre-Trump), who hired Bo to shadow Bannon’s wife, tracking any malfeasance or misunderstandings that Bannon could exploit in their divorce suit, according to press accounts.
He’s OK with Trump’s two-fisted style, and Bo is a name-caller himself. The 5-foot-8 Bo often calls his 6-foot-5 opponent, Mayor de Blasio (who picked up a New York Times endorsement on Tuesday), “Big Bird — cuz he’s tall and acts kinda stupid sometimes.”
Asked about how he intends to target the Jewish vote, Bo answers in Stengelese: “The important thing about targeting the Jewish community — and first of all, my ex-wife is a Russian Jew, my kids are Jewish, my grandson’s Jewish, probably 90 percent of my friends are Jewish, so I feel very Jewish. I’ve done a lot of the Friday night activities. … There’s a large Jewish population in New York City; you have the Orthodox, you have the chasidic, you have the Reform. … They’re very intelligent people, the Jewish people. They’re smart. They really look, when they look at a candidate. …
“I went to the Dominican Republic last week, to Santo Domingo, I met with [people at] orphanages there, we have one million Dominicans in New York. New York is so diversified.
“But going back to the Jewish population, this is a smart population. One of the reasons I’m reaching out to them, and I’m going to be reaching out more to them, is ‘cause they can make a real decision on who’s running. … Education is so important to me, I know it’s important in the Jewish community, too.”
Still, he might have some trouble pulling in Jewish votes.
Jeff Wiesenfeld, a former aide to Gov. George Pataki and a leading Jewish conservative, said, “Let’s be candid — we’re no longer dealing in general on the Bloomberg, Koch or Giuliani level. I have nothing personally against Bo Dietl — I probably agree with him on many things during his lucid moments. That said, I have a better chance of being mayor than him.”
Columbia University political science and urban policy professor, Ester Fuchs, sums up Bo’s chances this way: “It doesn’t seem likely that Dietl will get support from any leaders in the Orthodox community. They are too savvy to encourage their followers to throw away their vote.”
Bo, 66, says he has evolved on social issues: “If you told me 30 years ago I’d be marching in the Gay Pride Parade down Fifth Avenue, I’d a-said ‘Noooo!’ But I did! I marched two-and-a-half miles. I evolved. I kissed more men on the cheek than I ever believed that I would do!