HBO's 'Show Me a Hero' and the Tragic Real-Life Fate of Mayor Nick Wasicsko
(Probable spoilers for Show Me a Hero to follow)
One of the great tragedies underpinning David Simon’s Show Me a Hero is the tragic fate of it’s central figure, Nick Wasicsko, the youngest mayor ever elected to a city the size of Yonkers. He was elected to city council after defeating a six-term Republican at the age of only 26, while still in law school. Two years later, he managed to defeat a popular incumbent mayor at the age of 28.
Wasicsko would die only six years after his election as mayor, at the age of 34, from an apparent suicide. It was not the desegregation case at the center of Show Me a Hero, however, that compelled him to kill himself from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Yes, the desegregation case — which he ultimately forced through — did cost him re-election two years later, after he lost to Harry Spillane, but by age 32, he was back on the City Council.
Unfortunately, he got wrapped up in a corruption scandal of which he had no part. He had been afraid that he’d be implicated in an embezzling scheme involving the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency. Though he was not involved. it was his assertion that it didn’t matter, as his brother told the New York Times a month after his death. “He said: ‘It doesn’t matter. The way the system is set up, you don’t have to do anything wrong.’” In fact, it was Wasicsko who prompted the mayor to begin the investigation in the first place.
As it turns out, Wasicsko wasn’t even a target of the investigation. However, his paranoia over fears that his phone was being tapped and that his political enemies wanted to take him down — in addition to the fact that he’d lost the primary for his city council re-election — prompted Wasicsko to take his life in 1993 at the Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers. A caretaker found him slumped against a tree overlooking his father’s grave.
He was survived by a brother and his wife, Nay Noe, who was then the Yonkers’ 2nd deputy city clerk.