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Urban Legend

"I would have betrayed all the opportunities I've had if I didn't give something back," says Newark's newly minted mayor. "Inner cities are the last great challenge to this country." (By Steve Hockstein -- Bloomberg News)

The sense of monastic focus is underscored by Booker's lack of a wife or girlfriend. He'd like to marry, he says, but he isn't going to rush the search for the right woman. You get the sense that a soul mate isn't currently a priority. He seems like a guy who's been lusting after the keys to the car for a lifetime, and driving it is pretty much all he wants to do.

If he can leverage his celebrity to help with the city's turnaround, great. He was chided by James during the first mayoral race for raising so much money in New York and Los Angeles, and for having celebrity allies like Barbra Streisand in his corner. Whatever works, he says.

And he knows the honeymoon of fawning coverage is about to end, that any failure or slip will bring a barrage of negative attention.

"Everybody has already written that Cory Booker is the next great black hope," he says. "When something goes wrong, people will be motivated to write the story that I'm not. I can't let my self-esteem be controlled by the vicissitudes of coverage."

Sweet Smell

Briefly Sickening Cory Booker story No. 3 (or No. 4).

It's Saturday, just before Booker's inaugural address. Two video screens descend from the rafters of the performing arts center, and on them flickers a scene from "Street Fight."

It's nighttime and Booker has sprinted across a street to shake hands with voters. In the crowd is a little girl, swooning.

She just met Cory Booker, she shouts into the camera. "If you don't believe me, smell my hands."

Smell your hands? "What does Cory Booker smell like?" asks director Marshall Curry.

She waves her hand in front of her face. You expect "cologne" or "pizza" or something like that.

"He smells like the future," she says.

Back onstage, the screens roll up. On cue, that same girl, no longer so little, walks out and faces the enraptured crowd.

"I can still smell the future," she says, introducing Mayor Cory Anthony Booker, "and the future is now."

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