KELLY: Well, I met Pope Benedict at a special meeting here at the NYPD. It wasn’t that we had an in-depth conversation, but there’s just an aura about him that was impressive. I felt I was in the presence of a superperson. I’ve always been impressed with President Clinton—one of the smartest people I ever met and worked with. He has the ability to break down the most complex issues into digestible concepts. Hillary Clinton as well. She can speak on virtually any subject.
PLAYBOY: Do you think she would make a good president?
KELLY: I think she’d make a good anything.
PLAYBOY: What about Bush 43?
KELLY: He was always friendly and funny. I was once in a car with him here in New York, and he said, “Kelly, you ever notice when I’m driving down the block, everybody’s giving me the finger?” I said, “They’re just saying you’re number one, Mr. President.”
PLAYBOY: What are your thoughts about Mayor Bloomberg?
KELLY: A very intelligent person, and funny.
PLAYBOY: Some might view him as a remote, “business” kind of person, not sensing his warmth or humor.
KELLY: Oh, he has tremendous compassion. I’ve gone with him to hospitals many times to visit police officers who have been wounded, or to visit with the families of officers who have been killed. I see a very sensitive and warm person, very touched in those situations.
PLAYBOY: What’s your view on his ban of big-gulp sodas?
KELLY: Look, he’s trying to save lives. He’s trying to fight obesity. He’s very concerned about that, and it’s in keeping with his efforts to improve people’s quality of life.
PLAYBOY: You can’t drink the big-slurp sodas if you’re going to try to fit into your suit from five years ago, right?
KELLY: Right, exactly.
PLAYBOY: What’s the deal with your custom-made suits and Charvet ties?
KELLY: I think it’s only natural to want to look good. I enjoy good clothes, so 18 years ago I moved to having custom-made suits. They last longer. They fit you better. In my opinion, I think men don’t spend enough on clothes.
PLAYBOY: How much does one of those suits cost?
KELLY: It changes. They keep going up.
PLAYBOY: Does that look enhance your position of authority?
KELLY: I’ve never really thought of it that way, but it probably does. If you look good you can convey a feeling of more authority.
PLAYBOY: Growing up, did you ever dream you’d be in this position of power, with access to the president, attending movie-star parties?
KELLY: No. I came from modest surroundings. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have anything in excess. As a milkman, my father used a horse and a wagon. After milk regulations changed and milk was sold in stores, he lost his job. During the war, he found work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then his older brother got him a job in the Internal Revenue Service. My mother started working part-time in Macy’s as a dressing-room checker when I was six. I stayed with a woman in the building after I came home from school. I was the youngest of five.
PLAYBOY: Ah, the baby.
KELLY: [Laughs] Yes. The nicest and the best——
PLAYBOY: The babies get special treatment.
KELLY: Yes. My siblings all took care of me, and I shared a room with my older brothers and never had my own room until I was 19 or 20.
PLAYBOY: Any fighting in the house?
KELLY: Oh, sure. There’s always squabbling when you have five kids, but there was a 14-year gap between me and my oldest brother. As I was becoming aware of the world, all three brothers went into the Marine Corps, one after the other.
PLAYBOY: Did you believe you’d wind up a marine as well?
KELLY: Yes, I knew it. I used to go through all their gear and read the manuals. Part of it was playing marine as a boy, which was much more prevalent than it is now.
PLAYBOY: In high school were you popular with girls?
KELLY: There were no girls! I went to a Catholic boys school. I think I probably developed late as far as that was concerned.
PLAYBOY: At what age did you go on your first date?
KELLY: Oh my God, a “date” date? Maybe 16.
PLAYBOY: And then Veronica came along.
KELLY: Veronica and I have known each other since she was a little kid and I was three years older. We’d see each other on the beach. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I asked her to go out. Three years later we married, when she was 19 and I was 22. We’ve been together ever since—and we still like each other a lot.
PLAYBOY: In this age of throwaway marriages, what has kept you together for 50 years?
KELLY: We’re respectful, and we don’t take each other for granted. When I see Veronica I’m excited to spend time with her. When we drive in the car, we don’t have the radio on. When we have dinner, we don’t watch TV. We talk. She’s funny, smart and has a lot of insight. She could be the CEO of any Fortune 500 company.
PLAYBOY: Over 50 years, what would you say was the biggest challenge you faced as a couple?
KELLY: One bathroom in a studio apartment. [Laughs] Now with two bathrooms, it’s all peace and tranquility. I’m only kidding.
PLAYBOY: During your early years together, was seeing an ad for the police-cadet program just serendipity?
KELLY: Well, maybe it was. I wasn’t too excited about being a stock boy at Macy’s. Law enforcement seemed fun and exciting, so I signed up. It was part-time work at nights, filing forms and answering nonemergency calls on the switchboard.
PLAYBOY: And right after college graduation and police training——
KELLY: I left for Vietnam. Veronica was pregnant with our eldest, Jimmy. The day he was born I got an emergency notice to pick up a message from the Red Cross at battalion headquarters. You got that kind of notice only if somebody died. I assumed the worst. But the letter told me we’d had a baby boy. I didn’t see my son until he was five months old, which meant Veronica was on her own.