1 MARCH 1986, Page 36

High life

Rotten Apple


There is no city in the world, with the exception of Teheran, and perhaps Athens, in which public barbarism, lack of

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manners, and abusive language are as prevalent as they are in New York. In a book called The Rise and Fall of New York City the author, Roger Starr, correctly attributes this moral decline to a failure of the city's elite. What he says, in a nutshell, is that prior to the Sixties, leaders across the political and ethnic board insisted on a modicum of manners, civil behaviour and standards. For example, teachers, social workers (who seem to be in the majority), and even businessmen, directed those under them towards disciplined behaviour. But then the Sixties came along, and those very people began trying to emulate the few slobs who captured the imagination of the television networks, the Hayden, Fondas, Maclaines and Bobby Scales. They became sceptical of the traditional values that are needed to sustain social control of the environment, and, in that horrible turn of phrase, let it all hang out, The result, needless to say, was that once the middle classes acted as they did, the lower ones took it a bit lower. And 5,0 on. The politicians were the worst of all. Instead of assuming responsibility, they blamed it all on 'society'. Parents ditto. 93, now you have almost a total breakdown 0' what used to constitute a civilised society. Kids smoke in the subway and if one asks them to stop one is more likely to be attacked than not. Women swear like the proverbial drunken sailor, while people push in order to get in and out of public transport. Radios are used as a form of aural rape, and heaven help the person who demands that the volume be lowered. Public places have become the hunting grounds and preserve of thugs. In the meantime, the Governor of Nevi York excoriates the rich for not paying enough attention to the plight of the PO!' But the rich ain't listening. They are toe busy trying to fmd ways to escape punitiv city taxes that go to keep the marauding gangs in marijuana, and whatever else they need to get their courage up before they mug old ladies. You might think this is a typical Talc! hyperbole, but for once you'd be wrong. ' stood next to a Salvation Army truck that , was giving out free hot dinners last wee' on Vanderbilt Avenue in Manhattan, and I would say three out of four of the totally black and Hispanic crowd waiting to he served were smoking joints and sniffing laughing powder. All of them were 011 welfare, and warmly dressed. All this social anarchy is the direct result of the abandonment of traditional values' The pols and the parents are the villains: And speaking of villains, here is the perfect example. John Zaccaro is the man who was oi convicted of criminal fraud and criminal misrepresentation, but avoided serving time by claiming that his wife's Politifahe position would endanger his life in nick. Geraldine Ferraro lied about he father's past — a matter of public record and denied that he operated a crion°,3; syndicate in Newburg NY in the 1920s. S,u,, also denied knowledge of her husband

affairs. Now their son has been caught dealing in cocaine.

Although I am hardly the one to cast stones, I will in this case. Zaccaro Senior's reaction was to say that his son was 'probably set up'. Set up? How can you set up someone to deal in drugs. When I got caught in possession of a small amount, the only person I lied to was my father. I simply could not tell him that I was shoving laughing powder up my nose.

Zaccaro pere knows his 23-year-old son is a dealer. He's been dealing for three years to kids, and was known as the 'pharmacist'. Yet he persists in hinting that the dealer was set up. So what do you expect a black mugger to feel when he sees an old lady approaching. Shame? Of course not.

Next week in Gstaad, and at the Palace, I won't be thinking of such low-lifers.