January 29, 2017

Mariano: My life with Jordan Levy

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Courtesy Worcester Historical Museum / Telegram & Gazette Portrait Collection

Jordan Levy and Ray Mariano in 1994.

Editor’s note: Please continue to enjoy this free preview of Ray’s unique perspective and unmistakable candor, and be sure to check back in coming weeks to find out how you can keep on reading Worcester’s best commentary without becoming a Sun member when the preview ends. Ray can be reached via email at Mariano@worcester.ma.

Ray Mariano

Jordan Levy is a Worcester original. Everyone who has ever voted for him, watched him speak on the floor of the City Council, or listened to him on the radio has to admit that he is one of a kind.

Jordan burst onto the Worcester political scene during the property revaluation hearings in 1975. I often remind him that he used to wear the worst-looking suits I had ever seen. The only candidate who looked worse was me in my carnival barker sportcoats.

We have been friends ever since.

Jordan was elected in 1975 and landed on the floor of the City Council with a huge thud. He got everyone’s attention with his fiery rhetoric. Some loved him, others hated him. But no one ignored him.

There was no denying that Jordan Levy was brash and anything but politically correct.

In one of his early campaigns, he heard people saying he was “two-faced.” So he ran an ad in the Telegram with a headline, “Some people say I’m two-faced.” Below the headline were two pictures of Jordan. In one of the pictures, he was clean-shaven and looking in one direction. In the other, he had a beard and was looking in the opposite direction. Below the pictures it read something like, “whichever face you like, vote for Jordan Levy.”

I still laugh every time I think of that ad.

One of my most vivid memories of Jordan was an encounter when he wasn’t even present. I was campaigning outside bingo at Immaculate Conception Parish. An older gentleman, blue-collar type, was dropping his wife off at bingo. I approached his car and asked him to sign my nomination papers for School Committee. In a heavy Polish accent, the man asked me what I thought of Jordan Levy.

At this point, I had no idea what the man thought about Jordan. For all I knew he could have hated him. So I spent a few seconds fumbling around with my explanation that Jordan and I served together in city government. Before I could finish, the man cut me off. With his two fists clenched and in his most formidable voice he said, “Jordan Levy makes me proud to be American citizen!”

Of course, I told him how much I loved Jordan and he quickly signed my nomination papers and left.

More in the Jan. 29-Feb. 4 Worcester Sun:

Then there was the time that I was campaigning on Election Day at the temple across from Worcester State College. An elderly woman approached. After telling me she was voting for me, she also told me how much she loved listening to Jordan speak.

“He’s so eloquent,” she said. Then she told me that she was a former English teacher. That was a new one for me. I had never heard anyone describe Jordan as eloquent – especially an English teacher.

Jordan has always been proud of his faith.

I remember sitting in a room at a candidate’s forum at Clark University. Jordan had just refused to give the Rev. Jesse Jackson a key to the city because Jackson had insulted Jews when he had referred to New York City as “hymie town.”

That night, in front of this very liberal audience, Jordan showed up knowing that he was not going to get a hero’s welcome. When he was introduced to speak, everyone, including all the other candidates, sat silently. I was the only person in the room who applauded.

And then there was Jordan the prankster.

One day, a resident came to his front door to talk about an environmental issue. This person was well known to everyone in City Hall. Rather than let him into his home, Jordan told him that Ray Mariano’s committee handles that issue and why don’t you go and visit him; he just lives down the street. “Tell him the mayor sent you,” Jordan told him.

Once the citizen showed up at my house and informed me that the mayor had sent him, it took me more than an hour to get back to my Saturday.

Courtesy Worcester Historical Museum / Telegram & Gazette Portrait Collection

Jordan Levy, as a councilor in 1987 before serving his second term as mayor, from 1988-93.

But my most fond memories of Jordan involve his wife, Maxine, and their two young daughters.

I remember helping Maxine push a baby stroller over the bumpy turf at East Park. And I recall how Maxine was afraid to drive her car during inclement weather. So, whenever it snowed or when snow was forecast, Jordan would drive her to and from work at Burncoat Senior High.

Maxine was fiercely loyal to Jordan. But she also knew that she needed to give him perspective. He may have been Worcester’s most popular politician at the time, but she was not always that impressed.

Jordan Levy could really get fired up when he spoke in public. But Maxine took it all with a grain of salt. More than once, I saw her smile and gently roll her eyes while Jordan was off on a rant.

One day he was giving a speech on the floor of the City Council and I thought the poor guy was going to have a stroke. I was a fairly new city councilor at the time.

Jordan was spitting mad. His voice was booming, his eyes were bulging and he kept tugging on his belt, jerking it left and then right as he was speaking. When he finished speaking and started to sit down, I looked over to make sure that he was OK. Jordan gave me a quick look and a wink. He was having a blast.

Jordan Levy

Sun Staff / Worcester Sun

Jordan Levy, photographed Thursday, Jan. 26, at the studios of WTAG in Paxton.

Like I said, Jordan Levy is a Worcester original.

And then there was the time…

Raymond V. Mariano is a Worcester Sun columnist. He is the former mayor of Worcester and former executive director of the Worcester Housing Authority. Ray grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from two city universities. He comments on his hometown every Sunday in Worcester Sun.

8 thoughts on “Mariano: My life with Jordan Levy

  1. Thanks for such a wonderful tribute to my dad and for describing his personality in all it’s different facets. It’s amazing to see the differences between politicians like you and my dad and some of what we are seeing in politics today. So many wonderful memories came flooding back when I read this.

  2. Thanks Mr. Mariano! It is so refreshing to read about a “genuine article” – an authentic gent like Jordan Levy. I doubt if anyone could ever say that Jordan is “wish- washy.” What I hear people say is that this “Worcester original” has always been aligned with core values like family, integrity, passion, respect and loving.

  3. Great article! You have certainly captured the spirit of Jordan Levy and what he means to the city of Worcester!
    Joan A. DiMasi

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