I said to him, "Why don't you go buy a building?" He says, "I have no money, would you lend me?" I said, "No, but I'll arrange you a loan. You'll be responsible for it and so on. You know how to fix it, you know how to rent it. That's how I started."

What happened to Elijah?
He became very, very successful in Brooklyn.
Did you get him the loan?

No. He got the loan on his own. I told him, I directed him to it, and he got it on his own.

If you could tell people, "This is what I am, this is what I want you to know," what would you tell them?

I would tell them that I have only one interest, which is all my life's pattern of work. My first interest is to have all my customers happy, all my employees happy, all of the people who gave me the honor and elected me, and those who didn't elect me, but I am serving, to serve in honesty, when all of them are happy, then I am happy.

Do you think they're happy now?
Oh, I think they're very happy because - I get such stacks of mail. I see at least twenty-to-one supporting my positions and taking my stands. Just out of guessing, because they have nowhere to read it.

Are you going to run again in November?
I'm definitely going to run again.
Do you think you're going to win?

I'm going to win probably with 90 percent because my letters and calls are running twenty-to-one.

Hirschfeld is having dinner at the staid, elegant Gatti restaurant in Miami Beach, explaining over veal parmigiana and a bottle of Beck's that he doesn't quite understand his notorious reputation. When the meal is over, he is introduced to some people at an adjacent table. He immediately launches into a joke about a prostitute in a British courtroom. It's getting late, and not many patrons are left in the restaurant, but those who remain have no trouble hearing Hirschfeld's distinct delivery, as he works the room like the father of the bride at a wedding reception.

Hirschfeld completes his comedy routine and moves away self-assuredly, leaving his audience laughing in his wake. The people still sitting at the table, although they're smiling politely, have not found the interlude quite so amusing as they let on, and it takes a few minutes for quizzical looks to give way to easy conversation, as if they've just had an unpleasant confrontation in the street with the village idiot.

Abe Hirschfeld, Miami Beach city commissioner, sees none of what goes on in the wake of this brief encounter. He's already out the door.

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