It has been well-known for quite some time that former New York City elected official Melinda Katz was raising a child on her own. But the identity of the father of that boy, as well as of the second son she later had, remained a mystery – until now, with the revelation that Guardian Angels head and popular radio talk-show host Curtis Sliwa fathered both boys as a sperm donor.
As an attorney, a member of the New York State Assembly and subsequently a New York City Councilwoman, Katz had long established an image for herself as a strong, independent woman. In 2008, the then 42-year-old political heavyweight gave birth to a son, Carter, apparently through in-vitro fertilization via donated sperm from a man Katz declined to identify. In 2010, she utilized the same method to conceive again, and became pregnant with twins. But nearly eight months into the pregnancy, Katz had to undergo an emergency c-section, which resulted in one child being stillborn and the second – Hunter – placed on a respirator. Overwhelmed by the circumstances, Katz instinctively decided she needed her children’s biological father to give her emotional support, and she called Sliwa.
Never one to duck his perceived responsibilities, Sliwa rushed to Katz’s side, and proceeded to sleep in the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit for three weeks praying for Hunter’s recovery. While Sliwa – who had previously enjoyed a relationship with Katz – only intended to help out with the children, his intense devotion reignited her interest in him, and the two ended up living together as a family unit with Katz’s two children.
Speaking with the New York Post at their home in Forest Hills, Queens, the former legislator and radio firebrand described the on-and-off journey to their present state of happiness. “I don’t think he noticed me at first,” Katz said, as she recalled the year 1993, when she made her first run for State Assembly and met Sliwa on the campaign trail. After Katz was elected to office, Sliwa visited Albany to advocate against rent controls at a rally on the issue, and he met her again outside the state capital at the end of a busy day. “I was packing up and Melinda said, ‘Hey, do you want to come by the office before you go back to the city?’ ” Sliwa remembered.
The crime fighter and talk show host made a conscious decision to hold off until a more propitious moment. Several weeks later, Sliwa – who was newly divorced from his second wife, Guardian Angels co-founder Lisa Evers – went for a stroll with Katz in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Park. “The park was empty, and we had a chance to talk quietly,” he related. “We went to the West Village to have something to eat. We started seeing each other more and more after that.”
While the power couple dated each other on a casual basis for the next two years, they found it hard to forge a serious relationship, given Katz’s intense political activities and Sliwa’s weekend travels to establish Guardian Angels branches in other cities. “It was catch-can,” Sliwa said. “Melinda was very high-profile, and I wasn’t interested in another long-term, high-profile relationship.”
In 1998, Katz was vying for a congressional seat in Queens in a competitive race against Anthony Weiner, when Sliwa noticed that she had stopped visibly campaigning at a critical point in the race. He contacted her to express his concern. “I got sick during the race and had to have an ovary removed,” Katz explained. “I asked Curtis, ‘Do me a favor. I’m worried about my fertility. Will you make a [sperm] donation for me? He said, ‘Sure.’ It was as simple as that.”
Katz had a special feeling about Sliwa. “I knew him and I trusted him,” she said. “A lot of people do it anonymously, but I wanted to know [who the father of my children would be].” Katz also harvested eggs from an anonymous donor and froze the samples for future use.
Despite this new bond between them, the couple drifted apart, and Sliwa married for the third time and had a son. In 2008, while she was in the City Council, Katz finally achieved pregnancy after years of unsuccessful in-vitro fertilizations. “I was brought up by a single dad,” she said, explaining that her mother died in a car accident when Melinda was 3 years old. “My dad had four kids and a professional life and we had a very loving upbringing. I felt like I could do the job alone.”
Two years later, while preparing to have twins in the same fashion, Katz had to cope with the unexpected crisis mentioned above, and she was greatly moved by Sliwa’s supreme sense of dedication. “It was more than I ever expected,” she said. “I had to be home with Carter, and he stayed with Hunter. I was so thankful that, for the first time in three years, I had another set of hands that was going to love my child as much as I did.” In addition to his desire to “do the right thing,” Sliwa was finding personal solace in his new role as caregiver, having separated from his third wife a number of months earlier.
Their personal lives now closely entangled, Sliwa and Katz fell in love more deeply than ever, and eight months ago – with Katz having left public life and now working as an attorney at the prestigious law firm Greenberg Traurig – the two set up house with their two sons. “I chose to have a family alone,” she said. “But to have the father of my children, whom I trust, and whom I love, with me — it’s really nice. We’re complete opposites in many ways, but we have a great time together, and we share a very strong bond.”
The politically conservative and outspoken radio host – who after many years on WABC is now heard twice daily on WNYM – asserts that he plans to raise the couple’s children in the Jewish faith of his partner, whom he expects to marry at some point. In this vein, Sliwa now wears his famous Guardian Angels red beret to shul every Shabbat in place of a yarmulke. The couple’s marriage would be a metaphorical fulfillment of the advice Katz’s late father gave her when she was a teenager – “If you ever get in trouble, just look for the red berets.”