Sometimes, I think public figures are more intelligent than we all think.
Now, I’m using the phrase “public figure” fairly liberally. I mean it’s not exactly a secret that most celebrities are a few bricks shy of a deck; they became actors and actresses not because they love the stage or find theater in their soul, but because they couldn’t master conjugated verbs in the tenth grade.
The other major form of public figure is the politician, of which there is little to say that cannot already be deduced. Candidates that spend $100 million dollars to win an office that pays $400,000 a year should tell you enough about their logical and mathematical capabilities, though you could also look at the budget, foreign policy, and pretty much anything any politician has ever done as another example.
One politician who may have got it right was Robert Levy.
Robert Levy is hardly a household name. He is relatively unknown outside of New Jersey, where he serves as the mayor of Atlantic City. Or, rather, served. I think. As of this writing his status as mayor is fairly uncertain. The reason for this, of course, is that he has disappeared.
Now, in New Jersey there are two distinct ways to disappear. You can disappear and you can “disappear,” the major difference being that one is voluntary while the other is decidedly not. Levy had his own peculiar set of issues that made either one plausible, and from the looks of it he took a little from column A and a little from column B.
Being mayor of Atlantic City would normally seem to be a low-risk occupation, even if it is in New Jersey and is known primarily for it s gambling and occasional hosting of the never-rigged Miss America pageant. Oh, and the fact that in today’s age pretty much the only tourists that would voluntarily elect to go to Atlantic City instead of, say, Miami Beach or the local Indian reservation, are people that are about a thousand years old or people that don’t have enough money to gamble, let alone walk along the boardwalk to buy overpriced elephant ears or kitschy junk manufactured in China. Atlantic City’s status as a closer alternative to other gambling hot spots like Las Vegas has declined in recent years as airline tickets and hotel accommodations have dropped and the chance of seeing someone pretty much naked at any hour of the night is significantly higher. Atlantic City’s only real hope of become a tourist destination again is if, like Vegas and New Orleans, they codify all laws to be optional.
It is in this bleak backdrop that Levy was first pushed into the spotlight. The election to the mayorship was hardly noteworthy. Proving that Atlantic City is just like very other town in America, one sure way to get elected is to make the occasional humble offhand remark, in the manner of printing it in every single piece of literature you pass out during the campaign, about how you used to be a Green Beret. This is enough to get you elected in pretty much every jurisdiction except Berkeley, California, where you will be strung up by your neck in the least politically offensive manner possible instead.
Except that it turns out he wasn’t exactly a Green Beret. While he was in the service, he exaggerated his decorations, an act not entirely uncommon for political campaigns. However, he may have also used it to increase his military pension, something that even by the standards of both Atlantic City and the federal government is considered fraud.
After pressure mounted, Levy woke up one day, signed some paperwork, then…disappeared. Or “disappeared.” We’re not positive yet. A smart move, if you ask me, and one too few politicians take. The city’s business administrator stated that he had left to go to a vaguely-defined “medical facility” and, oh, by the way, he made the rather convenient verbal assurance that whomever the business administrator of the city is—hey! That’s me!—is to be in charge.
The statement of his whereabouts is a speechwriter’s dream of vagueness. He may or may not have left to what may or may not have been a leave of absence, and it may or may not have been within the state of New Jersey. In a city like Atlantic City, such statements are usually followed up a few days later stating that he may or may not have poured an entire sack of cement around his shoes and jumped in the Hudson of his own free will, but regardless of the circumstances that’s how he ended up.
There’s a split decision as to what actually happened. The official story appears to be a hybrid substance abuse/mental health issue, which seems rather convenient and mundane. The more likely explanation is that he was “asked” to “disappear” after it was found that he was not a “Green Beret” and so the office of the mayor was declared “vacant.”
Perhaps I should reassess my original thesis. Taking a powder in mobtown isn’t particularly smart. It helps when forcing yourself into the public eye, but so does being a coke-addled drunk, a pill-popping head case, and/or a stalking horse with a horde of skeletons in your closet. People like Levy have a long way to go to do the public right. Rehab and psychiatry didn’t work for Lindsay Lohan, how could it possibly work for the mayor of Monopoly Town?