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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT => Books, Periodicals & Literature => Topic started by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 12, 2009, 06:46:50 PM

Title: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 12, 2009, 06:46:50 PM
The book club start date will be Monday, January 12.

The forum Librarian will kick off the posts.

 :)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 12, 2009, 06:51:44 PM
This is our schedule for the book:

First week - Chapters 1 through 6 (in my book pages 1 - 94)
2nd week - Chapters 7 through 11 (in my book pages 95 - 185)
3rd week - Chapters 12 through 16 (pages 189 - 295)
4th week - Chapters 17 through notes (pages 299 - 380)

That takes us through the 1973 campaign for supervisor in the first section, from there to his successful win as supervisor in the second section, his life as a supervisor and the fight against prop 6 to the assassination in the third section and the aftermath as the fourth section.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 12, 2009, 08:06:44 PM
The book club start date will be Monday, January 19.

Ellen, is this still the correct date?  I had thought it was January 12.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 12, 2009, 11:19:46 PM
As I have the questions ready I'm going to post them here - if you'd rather we wait till next week to answer them let us know, Ellen:

Questions for 'The Mayor of Castro Street: the life and times of Harvey Milk' by Randy Shilts, first section ppg. xi - 94.

A few thoughts for those of you joining us for the first time here - the way I construct my questions I'm just hoping to 'hook' you with these questions.  You don't have to answer all parts of any questions - you don't have to answer all questions.  If something interests you, please go with that.  We are reading this book to get your thoughts and to enjoy reading this together.  Please enjoy yourself while reading and discussing!

1.)  In the Author's note for the book Randy Shilts says 'There are times, rare times, when the forces of social change collide with a series of dramatic events to produce moments which are later called historic.'  If we assume the Shilts is correct (and I do) concerning Harvey Milk, do you think that without films like 'Milk' and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' that Harvey Milk's story would be remembered by those other than political activists and advocates of LGBT rights?  Do you see evidence of his being remembered in your community? Why do you think this is?

2.)  In terms of the structure of the book how do you feel about Shilts showing us the last day of Harvey's life in the prologue of the book?  Is this an effective enticement for you to continue reading, or would you rather that he kept this information till the end?

3.)  How do you think Harvey's encounter's with the law when he was a young man (as a 17 year old picked up at a cruising area in Central Park and as a college student picked up on a disorderly conduct arrest in Albany) affected him?  Do you think that this encouraged him to stay closeted?  Do you think it kept him from integrating the various parts of his life?

4.)  What do you think about Harvey's later assertion that he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy, although there is no historical evidence of this?  Why do you think he said this?  Was this just for political gain?

5.)  One of the things that both his friends from Long Island and the people he went to college with in Albany say is that they wish he had gotten back in touch with them later in his life.  Why do you think he didn't?  What do you think this says about the way heterosexuals and homosexuals related to one another in the 70s?  Do you think things have changed?

6.)  Harvey had an interesting group of boyfriends: Joe Campbell, Craig Rodwell, Jack McKinley, Joe Turner and Scott Smith.  Why do you think he ended the relationship with Campbell?  Given McKinley's, Campbell's and Rodwell's suicide attempts, do you think that Harvey was attracted to damaged men?  Why?  What do you think of Harvey's note to Joe Campbell after his suicide attempt?  Do you think that Craig Rodwell's political activism had an affect on Harvey's view of homosexuality?  Why do you think Harvey moved to Texas with Jack?  How do Harvey's plans regarding his love life compare with his later political plans (in other words, did he have the same foresight?

7.)  Harvey remained closeted to his family throughout this period.  Yet given that his mother was doing things like knitting sweaters for Joe and Harvey, do you think she knew?  Given the advice Minnie had given Harvey about homosexuals in New York City, do you think it made sense for him not to talk with her about this?  Does this early closeted behavior seem out of character for Harvey - and when do you think he changed to become more open?

8.)  Shilts says "Suicides were a common postscript to the raids and subsequent exposure as a homosexual.  The suicides, like the enticement to danger, only served to prove that homosexuals were a self-destructive, unstable lot, a cancer on the social body.  These were certainly not the kind of people who should be permitted responsible positions in society...." (pg 18 in my book).  How do you feel about Shilts' moral editorializing in the context of the story?  Is it intrusive or instructive?  Does it put too much of Shilts' own opinions into Harvey's story?

9.)  In the 60s Harvey moved from being a Goldwater Republican to working with the musical 'Hair' and becoming a hippie.  To what do you attribute this change?  Was Harvey just becoming tired of the inconsistency between his working 'straight' world and his love life?  Did the death of his mother allow him to change in this direction? 

10.) On page 34 Harvey tells Jim Bruton that he'll never make it to fifty.  This is a recurring theme in the book.  What do you make of this belief?  Do you think that Harvey had some sort of foresight - or do you think Shilts makes too much of this notion?

11.) Shilts talks both about Jim Bruton and another 70 year old man who he interviewed for the book who wanted to remain anonymous even though his lover was dead.  Does the difference between the anonymous man and Bruton (and Harvey) seem to be simply one of personality - or is political (or perhaps class related)?  Do you see this notion coming down to our own day with those who believe 'it's nobody's business but ours'?

12.) Harvey becomes involved with theater people and the plays 'Hair', 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Lenny' and this led to his moving to San Francisco for the first time.  How much of an affect do you think this had on Harvey's life and on his views?

13.) From early on Harvey was extremely affected by the holocaust.  Do you think that this identification with the oppressed is a direct connection between the early life and the later life of Harvey Milk?

14.) Were you surprised to find out that Jose Sarria ran for supervisor in 1961 as an openly gay man?  Did chapter 4 give you a better idea of the world that Harvey moved into?  Were you surprised that activists were already organizing in 1964 in San Francisco?  Is it surprising that Jim Foster, David Goodstein and Rick Stokes - who were the 'old guard' in comparison to Harvey - were considered 'young turks' by their peers?  What did you find most interesting or informative about this history?

15.) What did you make of Harvey's jokes about shootings to San Francisco Tomorrow in the 1973 campaign? [pg 70]  Do you understand why people thought of him as an unpredictable crazy at this point?  What do you think motivated him to run for office?  What do you make of the turf battles between Foster et al. and Milk - was there a substantial political difference between them?  Do you think that Harvey was visionary or egocentric (or something else) in his assertion that there should be a gay supervisor in 1973 (as opposed to Foster and co. who said it wasn't time yet)?  Do you think that Sarria (and the drag queens) endorsement helped or hurt Harvey?

16.) What do you think of Harvey's notion of politics as theater?  In his early political career do you think that this notion helped him or did it marginalize him?

17.) Given the difficulties that Harvey had with gay politicos early on are you surprised that he was able to get endorsements from labor?  Were you surprised at the partnership he formed with Allan Baird?  Did you know about the Coors boycott?  Does Harvey's actions with labor unions show that he was more than a one issue candidate and that he could have boader appeal?  Do you think it was important for gays to be able to get jobs in unions at this point?

18.) 'Some people call me the unofficial mayor of Castro Street,' Harvey said.  Do you think it matters that nobody knew who 'some people' were?  Do you think that (as Shilts says) this made good copy showed a sort of native political intelligence in Harvey?

19.) Harvey moved from an insistance on fidelity and monogamy in the days of Joe Campbell to a notion of 'free-love' in the days of Castro camera.  What do you think of this?  Do you think that this was simply his reaction to the times?  In the long run would this have had a negative effect on his political career?  Do you think he would have re-embraced monogamy had he lived to see the rise of AIDS?

20.) What do you think of the development of the Castro Village Association?  Do you think that this sort of organization had an impact on the neighborhood that the Castro was becoming?  Given that Polk street was an equally popular gay area at the time do you think that this sort of organization had an affect on making the Castro the center of the gay community?  What long term effect do you think this had?

21.) Were you surprised at the police harrassment on Castro street in the 70s?  Do you think that this was a conflict between the Irish-American culture that had been in the neighborhood before the gay influx?  Do you think that Harvey and Allan Baird were idealistic in thinking that the Castro should be equally welcoming to gay and straight people?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 13, 2009, 12:13:14 PM
yikes, that was my error, the start date is yesterday!

Talk!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 13, 2009, 12:22:13 PM
I'm going to answer Michael's first question.

I was trying to remember the whole Anita Bryant prop 6 vote back in the seventies -- and even the murders of Harvey Milk and Mayor Mosconne.

I was barely old enough to vote at that time.  I lived in Los Angeles, the assassinations seemed like San Francisco news.

As far as prop 6, I think most everyone, even my parents -- regarded that as a "witch hunt" type vote and voted against it.  Weirdly, today she (my mom) has been brainwashed by the Christian right and would probably vote in favor of it.  Back then, it seemed like there was a sincere effort by most people to keep religion out of public decisions.

Honestly, Michael, I was not aware of the assassinations being related to gay rights.  We were so pummeled by assassination news, it seemed horrible the mayor could have been murdered by Dan White, and in my world the supervisor seemed like a footnote.

So honestly, that is why I think some of the gay rights events are not remembered by the mainstream, even mainstream news didn't publicize much whether it was a "gay" issue.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 01:44:08 PM
Oh, good!   ;D  I'm going to post my first two answers that I was thinking of this morning, then I'll be taking a break.

1.)  In the Author's note for the book Randy Shilts says 'There are times, rare times, when the forces of social change collide with a series of dramatic events to produce moments which are later called historic.'  If we assume the Shilts is correct (and I do) concerning Harvey Milk, do you think that without films like 'Milk' and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' that Harvey Milk's story would be remembered by those other than political activists and advocates of LGBT rights?  Do you see evidence of his being remembered in your community? Why do you think this is?

That struck me as a rather lofty sentence from Shilts, so first, for definitions.  I am interpreting Shilts to mean that the forces of social change include the movement toward gay rights, gay political influence and personal coming out, as well as the corresponding opposition which this stirred up (covered later in the book).  One dramatic event which we have already foreseen in the book is Harvey Milk’s assassination, which tells us (if we didn’t already know) that he eventually became a San Francisco supervisor.  Certain things about his life and death became historic, in my view, because of the uniqueness of how and when they occurred.

I can speak for myself in saying that at the time of his death, I was living on the opposite coast and also not paying attention to anything having to do with gay rights.  (I had known gay people in Denver who had moved to SF in the mid-1970s, but had lost touch with them by then.)  Yet I did hear of the assassination at the time, and I vaguely remembered Milk’s name when I went back to visit San Francisco and the Castro area last year.  But I think my vague recollection was just a result of remembering the news stories from the time.  I have to say that I never saw ‘The Times of Harvey Milk’ (until a link was recently posted here), or read the book when it came out, so those things weren’t responsible for keeping the memory alive for me.  I read some other books about gay issues (including some of Randy Shilts’ books) during the 1990s, but the Milk book (and prior movie) never made it onto my radar screen.  And I don’t recall coming across his name even in the “Lesbian and Gay” section of book catalogs.

When I’ve seen the new movie ‘Milk’ recently, it’s been with largely straight audiences.  I can tell they’re very affected by the story, but I don’t know whether they knew who he was before seeing the ads for the movie.  I did remember a little – remembered the news coverage at least -- and that was one reason why I wanted to see the movie.  But I didn’t know many of the details of his life.  I remembered that the press had emphasized the idea that the “first openly gay” politician had been shot:  that made it a novelty situation, more sensational, and that let the word spread around the country to a greater degree. 

I also suspect that among straight people who don’t have any personal connection to gay people, the event may be remembered more (prior to the release of the ‘Milk’ movie) because the San Francisco mayor was killed.  In that way, I think the movie (and any new attention it brings to the book) is doing a great service by educating people who didn’t know, or had forgotten, about this man.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 01:45:40 PM
2.)  In terms of the structure of the book how do you feel about Shilts showing us the last day of Harvey's life in the prologue of the book?  Is this an effective enticement for you to continue reading, or would you rather that he kept this information till the end?

I liked way the prologue was set up.  It shows us the Who, When and What of that last day, but leaves the rest of the book to answer the How and Why.  The rest of the book answers the questions of “Who was Harvey Milk,” “Why did he matter,” “What was happening in his social and political setting,” and so on.

We need some clue from the beginning as to why this book is important.  Since it’s a biography, the reader wants to know something of who they are reading about.  And that last day of Harvey’s life, unfortunately, went a long way towards making him famous among people who otherwise would not have paid attention to him.

Also, the ‘hook’ of the prologue gives Shilts time to present Milk’s life in a relaxed fashion, going into his early days of school, college, various careers, and various boyfriends.  Harvey was, according to a term Shilts used, a “drifter” for his first forty years.  I think it would be hard for a reader to continue wanting to read about this drifter, before he became successful in politics, unless they knew something of the dramatic climax of his life.

Had he not been assassinated, of course, he may have done some outstanding work in politics which would have made people more interested in his biography for loftier reasons.  But, unfortunately, that chance was lost at the time of his death, so the assassination itself becomes his grandest – and most theatrical – moment.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 13, 2009, 01:53:38 PM
Re Q. 1: I see no evidence of it being publicized in any way in my community. When the assassinations occurred I remember the headlines, and the names, but I'm not sure how aware I was that Harvey Milk was gay. I remember Anita Bryant and her crusade, but I couldn't have told you the specifics of Prop. 6. It was San Francisco news, and here in NJ it barely registered. I do remember Dan White's trial, the Twinkie defense, and a general sense of outrage that he basically got a tap on the wrist for what were clearly two murders, but I don't remember reading much about the White Night riot, though at the time I probably at least knew it had happened. Milk and The Times of Harvey Milk are crucial to keeping his memory alive.

As to why that is, well, I have a few ideas. First, of course, is that outside the gay community, gay history is pretty invisible. People in general don't know how many gay people are in the population, how many they know, and how much they are still hunted, discriminated against and socially ostracized. I knew about the police persecution of gay men and lesbians in the '50s and early '60s because I lived in NYC and my parents were in the theater; I had no idea that it was that bad in the 70s, particularly in San Francisco.

 Second, I had a picture of gays based on transvestites, effeminate gay men and butch lesbians. I think many people do, and many harbor a lot of disgust and contempt for these clearly "unnatural" men and women. I didn't, but I didn't see them as "just like me", either. Younger people with access to the internet are, I hope, less ignorant.  I did know about prejudice against gays and the much greater incidence of heavy drinking, depression and suicide among gay male teenagers and gay men in later middle age, because I wrote about it in my junior year in college, comparing the stigma attached to the stigmatization of black men. That was in the year after psychiatrists and psychologists removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and declared that it was not a mental illness. The AIDS crisis was a wake-up call; that's the first time I really remember being aware of "in your face" gay activism.

Third, I think Harvey was right. If gays aren't out and LOUD, as well as proud, a large segment of the straight world, and especially straight men, will ignore and deny their existence. Straight men are so conditioned to reject any hint of same sex attraction that even thinking about gay men makes them look the other way. When they do acknowledge gay men, it's in order to ridicule them and prop up their own masculinity. And they're afraid of being put in that category of "failed" men; so afraid that, if they themselves have had any interest in a male friend, for example, they have to reassert their identities by upping the hostility into overt attacks, some of which are physical and can be lethal. Straight men still run most of the political world in this country, and lead most religious bodies. I don't mean to include all straight men, of course; I know many who don't fit this model. But they are most often men who have known gay men for a long time, who interact with them professionally on a regular basis, and who were taught from childhood that there's no excuse for treating them as less than equals.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 02:55:34 PM
I knew about the police persecution of gay men and lesbians in the '50s and early '60s because I lived in NYC and my parents were in the theater; I had no idea that it was that bad in the 70s, particularly in San Francisco.


Good point, Jenny.  Living in Denver in the early 1970s, I knew some gay men who felt they wanted to get away from there just because the atmosphere was stiffling; they couldn't really be themselves, and were finding it hard to form romantic attachments.  Among straight grown-ups, I was aware of a lot of fear OF gays (as persons who hung out in the parks, and so on) but was not aware of police persecution of gays themselves.

One young gay friend did go away to NYC and came back in a much more "activist" frame of mind; he went from being just "one of the gang" of the kids I'd gone to school with, to talking about "my people," meaning other gays in general, nationwide.  I don't know whether he encountered police persecution in NYC; I always assumed not, since that would have been after Stonewall.  But there was something lacking for him in NYC; he came back to Denver and eventually moved to San Francisco because it offered a promise of a better life.  So I also had no idea that police persecution was that bad in San Francisco at a time when he would have been there.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 03:00:11 PM
Honestly, Michael, I was not aware of the assassinations being related to gay rights.  We were so pummeled by assassination news, it seemed horrible the mayor could have been murdered by Dan White, and in my world the supervisor seemed like a footnote.

Ellen, I wrote my answer to Q1 this morning, before reading your post.  It's interesting that we seem to agree on this:  in the nation at large, among straight people, the event which really grabbed people's attention was that a big city mayor had been assassinated.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 03:21:49 PM
3.)  How do you think Harvey's encounter's with the law when he was a young man (as a 17 year old picked up at a cruising area in Central Park and as a college student picked up on a disorderly conduct arrest in Albany) affected him?  Do you think that this encouraged him to stay closeted?  Do you think it kept him from integrating the various parts of his life?

On the one hand, Harvey had been trying to stay closeted long before these encounters with the law.  For example, he knew enough to keep his mother from finding out what was really going on when he went into NYC to the standing section at the old Met.  After she sat him down and explained homosexuals to him, he had even more reason to keep quiet.  And, he found it fairly easy to remain closeted, because, unlike a couple of boys in his high school class, he didn’t seem “obvious.”  He blended in by pursuing “ordinary” masculine interests, like sports, even though his own awareness of his secret kept him mostly a loner.

On the other hand, I’m sure that those encounters with the law brought home to him the reality of what could happen if he wasn’t careful.  He probably thought about how upset his mother would be if he were ever arrested and his family found out.  The book mentions that on several occasions he wished to integrate the various parts of his life -- which would have meant “coming out” so that family, friends, employers, and so on would all be aware of the whole truth about himself, not just the parts that he thought they would find acceptable.  But he never did that, for many years, because it didn’t seem worth the price of possibly losing their acceptance of him completely.

The encounters with the law probably had another effect on Harvey, as well.  They gave him a taste of the kind of harassment which other gay men were experiencing.  This probably influenced him to go into the polical arena where he could help other gays by becoming a champion of gay rights.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 04:21:48 PM
4.)  What do you think about Harvey's later assertion that he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy, although there is no historical evidence of this?  Why do you think he said this?  Was this just for political gain?

Randy Shilts seems to have investigated this as thoroughly as possible.  He presents Harvey’s assertion about a dishonorable discharge, but he also says that Harvey was discharged in the usual amount of time.  The fact that he wasn’t discharged early leads credence to the idea that there was nothing unusual about the discharge.  It sounds like pretty solid proof that it was a normal honorable discharge.

Pages 78-79 talk about Harvey’s rational for making up a story which he later admitted wasn’t true.  On the one hand, he was a visible public figure, and by saying that HE had been dishonorably discharged, he could bring attention to the thousands of invisible men who actually had been dishonorably discharged.  This seems like a noble mission, intended to help publicize the injustices of other people.  However, in a manner which seems typical of Harvey’s sense of humor, he also makes a joke about his motivation and reveals that he was seeking some personal political gain, after all.  “Maybe people will read it, feel sorry for me, and then vote for me.”

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 04:31:36 PM


1.)  In the Author's note for the book Randy Shilts says 'There are times, rare times, when the forces of social change collide with a series of dramatic events to produce moments which are later called historic.'  If we assume the Shilts is correct (and I do) concerning Harvey Milk, do you think that without films like 'Milk' and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' that Harvey Milk's story would be remembered by those other than political activists and advocates of LGBT rights?  Do you see evidence of his being remembered in your community? Why do you think this is?


I agree with Shilts, these forces of social change introduced a new way of thinking about a lifestyle which was unheard of by many in the US mainstream.

No, I don't believe many folks other than political activists and LGBT advocates would remember Harvey Milk's story, nor would they have cared. Many young people who have come of age now don't remember any of these events covered in Shilts' book.  I remember hearing about it from the press and TV  coverage.  While it was shocking, and because of the nature of the crime -- the sudden brutality of the murder of Moscone and Milk -- it eventually died out.  Most of the gossip related to Milk's sexuality was covered in a rather prurient way.  While homophobia was never far behind the story, there was some mutterings about "he had it comming" or "that's what you get for being..."  I remember press coverage of Diane Feinstein announcing the murders, and how she stepped bravely into the fray. 

 How could anyone realize then that the gay revolution in SF was to herald a new civil rights movement which ultimately spread across the country, or that the iconic Milk would become the  force behind the gay movement.

IMO the book and film have probably done a lot to introduce a new population to what it meant to be gay in SF, how hard it was for gay people to exist, and what an activist like Milk alone could do to advance a cause.  It also helps that Sean Penn, an excellent actor, played the role of Milk

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 04:57:17 PM

2.)  In terms of the structure of the book how do you feel about Shilts showing us the last day of Harvey's life in the prologue of the book?  Is this an effective enticement for you to continue reading, or would you rather that he kept this information till the end?



I think it's a very effective device for inducing the reader to pursue the story of Milk.  Since most people already know the ending, either by previous knowledge, the film, the book, or press coverage of all of these, it's not as if the author was giving away a mystery.  I like the way Shilt's incorporates the descriptions of the murders and the aftermath, "forty thousand tiny flames..." as well as the reactions of Harvey's boyfriends to the murder, and their remembrances of Harvey.  The prologue is interesting, concise, and dramatic.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 05:09:37 PM

3.)  How do you think Harvey's encounter's with the law when he was a young man (as a 17 year old picked up at a cruising area in Central Park and as a college student picked up on a disorderly conduct arrest in Albany) affected him?  Do you think that this encouraged him to stay closeted?  Do you think it kept him from integrating the various parts of his life?



It taught him to keep his life not only closeted, but in two totally separate compartments.  Remember he was 'street smart' at 14, so he knew the ropes,, and wanted to avoid getting arrested at all costs.  If he wanted to make it in the world, and he did, he knew he could never allow himself to slip.  He managed to keep a low-key sex life until he moved to SF, keeping it monogamous was safe, yet fulfilling. By the time he was able to integrate the parts of his life, he was living in SF.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 13, 2009, 05:27:47 PM
1.)  In the Author's note for the book Randy Shilts says 'There are times, rare times, when the forces of social change collide with a series of dramatic events to produce moments which are later called historic.'  If we assume the Shilts is correct (and I do) concerning Harvey Milk, do you think that without films like 'Milk' and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' that Harvey Milk's story would be remembered by those other than political activists and advocates of LGBT rights?  Do you see evidence of his being remembered in your community? Why do you think this is?


I would like to think that Harvey Milk would be remembered, but I'm not sure of that.  I became aware of Harvey Milk not long after I came out.  He was listed in a book I bought called "The Gay 100" a listing of 100 most influential gay and lesbian people.  I had no idea who he was prior to this, I was only 9 when he was assasinated.

Just last week, I was having lunch with some coworkers who are about my age.  I mentioned that I want to see "Milk" this weekend for my birthday.  2 of the people I was eating with had no idea who Harvey Milk was, and got upset when someone at the table announced he had been assasinated, as it ruined the film for them.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 13, 2009, 05:30:51 PM
2.)  In terms of the structure of the book how do you feel about Shilts showing us the last day of Harvey's life in the prologue of the book?  Is this an effective enticement for you to continue reading, or would you rather that he kept this information till the end?


Speaking for me, I liked the way it set up the book.  Before I got the book, I knew he had been killed, so it was no surprise to me.    While it wasn't exactly an enticement for me, I could see how it could be for others.  It could possibly make readers want to see what he was able to accomplish before his untimely end.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 05:32:18 PM


4.)  What do you think about Harvey's later assertion that he had been dishonorably discharged from the navy, although there is no historical evidence of this?  Why do you think he said this?  Was this just for political gain?



Yes, I think it was for political gain.  Since so many men had been dishonorably discharged from the military, Harvey knew that by aligning himself with this minority would resonate with those who would later be his constituency. However, until then, he managed to lead a double life which served him  well until he decided where his future lay.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 13, 2009, 05:38:53 PM
5.)  One of the things that both his friends from Long Island and the people he went to college with in Albany say is that they wish he had gotten back in touch with them later in his life.  Why do you think he didn't?  What do you think this says about the way heterosexuals and homosexuals related to one another in the 70s?  Do you think things have changed?


Well, going on my experiences from high school, I have no desire to see most of my former classmates.  College wasn't very different.

Considering society at the time of Harvey being in college, I'm sure there was a lot of negative stuff said about homosexuals at that point in time.  While no one knew Harvey was gay, he was able to hear what comments they made about other students who were gay, or about gay people in general.  That could very well  be a reason that Harvey didn't reach out to them in later years.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 05:40:27 PM


I would like to think that Harvey Milk would be remembered, but I'm not sure of that.  I became aware of Harvey Milk not long after I came out.  He was listed in a book I bought called "The Gay 100" a listing of 100 most influential gay and lesbian people.  I had no idea who he was prior to this, I was only 9 when he was assasinated.

Just last week, I was having lunch with some coworkesers who are about my age.  I mentioned that I want to see "Milk" this weekend for my birthday.  2 of the people I was eating with had no idea who Harvey Milk was, and got upset when someone at the table announced he had been assasinated, as it ruined the film for them.

Chuck, who wrote that book? I'd be interested in reading it.

Was the person who said it ruined the film to learn of Harvey's death a young person like you were when he was killed?  It's surprising he/she hadn't known/heard this, especially with all the press the film has had.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 13, 2009, 05:48:15 PM
Chuck, who wrote that book? I'd be interested in reading it.

Was the person who said it ruined the film to learn of Harvey's death a young person like you were when he was killed?  It's surprising he/she hadn't known/heard this, especially with all the press the film has had.


It's by Paul Russell, and here's a link on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Gay-100-Ranking-Influential-Lesbians/dp/0758201001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231893888&sr=1-1

The two people who claimed the film was "ruined" for them were around my age, perhaps just a few years older.  I was surprised they didn't know, and even said to them that I was sorry, but I assumed since it was a movie based on historical events, that everyone would be familiar with the assasination.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 05:57:08 PM
Just last week, I was having lunch with some coworkers who are about my age.  I mentioned that I want to see "Milk" this weekend for my birthday.  2 of the people I was eating with had no idea who Harvey Milk was, and got upset when someone at the table announced he had been assasinated, as it ruined the film for them.

Chuck, I know you haven't seen the film yet, so I won't be too specific.  But once you see it, you'll probably feel that the previous knowledge of the assassination really shouldn't ruin the film for anyone.  It's not a plot secret.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Stilllearning on January 13, 2009, 06:04:57 PM
I didn't know who Harvey Milk was until about a year ago, when I did something for TDS when Sean Penn signed on to play Harvey, and until the movie came out, I knew little.  And since the movie only covered a short period of his life, I have found the book particularly interesting.



5.)  One of the things that both his friends from Long Island and the people he went to college with in Albany say is that they wish he had gotten back in touch with them later in his life.  Why do you think he didn't?  What do you think this says about the way heterosexuals and homosexuals related to one another in the 70s?  Do you think things have changed?

This really struck me - how the author said that no one from high school and no one from college ever heard from Harvey again, because on the surface, it seemed like those people were real friends.  But it made me feel like Harvey, who was always the life of the party, was really probably pretty lonely - for someone to REALLY know him, for someone whom he was able to be himself with.

It made me think of DADT - I've heard people say that one of the worse things about it is that it puts up a wall between the gay soldier and his troop because their is this very important element of this persons life, that is a secret, that can't be shared, so true cohesiveness isn't possible, because everyone can't be honest with each other.  That's how I thought of Harvey, that there was this superficial camaraderie (took me a long time to find the right spelling of that word!) but always a wedge between Harvey and the heterosexual friends he grew up with.


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Does this early closeted behavior seem out of character for Harvey - and when do you think he changed to become more open?

Since I knew little of Harvey, and then saw the movie first,  I was really very surprised how closeted he was while living in New York. I had a hard time reconciling it a first, only because he was so open and politically active in the movie, where he gave that charge to everyone to come out and be known as for who they were (as gay).  Although, one of my favorite parts of the movie was when Scott reminded Harvey that he hadn't always been upfront with his mother about his relationships.

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8.)  Shilts says "Suicides were a common postscript to the raids and subsequent exposure as a homosexual. 

I just found this part of the book terrible (well not the book, but what the police did in the book).  I guess I'm very naive.  And so I appreciate having my eyes opened.  But when the author said that the police/courts were really not interested in prosecuting most of the men, just outing them in a humiliating, exploitive way - it was just terrible. I mean I'm glad the men weren't also prosecuted, but just the whole idea of the motivation and intent behind their (police) actions - it was really sobering.

A question - and I will try and look this up myself, but if the police did charge the men, what exactly would they charge them with?  (I apologize if my questions show my ignorance of gay history, but I'm very interested and trying to learn).

It is just so ironic to me that so many people demonize gay people as.... being so promiscuous, yet also fight so hard to keep people from having safe and fun ways to get to know each other and to deepen their relationship.  In the 70's gay people and their relationships were pushed into the shadows, and then people criticized them for being in the shadows - well what's a person to do?  Its a lose, lose situation.


Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 06:17:36 PM
5.)  One of the things that both his friends from Long Island and the people he went to college with in Albany say is that they wish he had gotten back in touch with them later in his life.  Why do you think he didn't?  What do you think this says about the way heterosexuals and homosexuals related to one another in the 70s?  Do you think things have changed?

When I was reading about Harvey’s high school days, I got the impression that he didn’t have any really close friends.  Dick Brown, John Cochran and Jim Gowan are mentioned, but Dick Brown (the black basketball player) is the only one he was said to hang around with a lot.  Dick Brown knew nothing of Harvey being gay, and admits that he doesn’t know how he would have reacted if he had known.  I agree with what Chuck said above, that Harvey was able see how the kids treated the boys who were more obvious, so he was able to understand their feelings toward homosexuals.  That they wouldn’t have liked him if they had really known him was clear to Harvey.

In college, Harvey had a wider social circle, clowning around and attending dances, but he still wasn’t really close to anyone.  His secret was well-kept from them.  Given all this, he had no attachments to bring him back to either his high school or college peers.  By “later in life” for Harvey, he had completely moved on mentally to a different world, and put those people out of mind.

His former schoolmates who later wished that he had gotten back in touch with them probably didn’t mean that they missed Harvey on a personal level.  They more likely would have liked to have been an acquaintance of someone who had become a well-known public figure.

To me, what this says about the way homosexuals and heterosexuals related to one another in the 70s is this:  it says they were worlds apart, where very few gays trusted straights, and very few straights wanted to associate with gays.  I do think this has changed by now, at least in some circles (the Forum being one of those circles).  But there are still many conservative straights who would not want to associate with gays, and no doubt many gays who still feel wary of straights. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Stilllearning on January 13, 2009, 06:19:10 PM

I can speak for myself in saying that at the time of his death, I was living on the opposite coast and also not paying attention to anything having to do with gay rights.  (I had known gay people in Denver who had moved to SF in the mid-1970s, but had lost touch with them by then.)  Yet I did hear of the assassination at the time, and I vaguely remembered Milk’s name when I went back to visit San Francisco and the Castro area last year.  But I think my vague recollection was just a result of remembering the news stories from the time.  I have to say that I never saw ‘The Times of Harvey Milk’ (until a link was recently posted here), or read the book when it came out, so those things weren’t responsible for keeping the memory alive for me.  I read some other books about gay issues (including some of Randy Shilts’ books) during the 1990s, but the Milk book (and prior movie) never made it onto my radar screen.  And I don’t recall coming across his name even in the “Lesbian and Gay” section of book catalogs.

When I’ve seen the new movie ‘Milk’ recently, it’s been with largely straight audiences.  I can tell they’re very affected by the story, but I don’t know whether they knew who he was before seeing the ads for the movie.  I did remember a little – remembered the news coverage at least -- and that was one reason why I wanted to see the movie.  But I didn’t know many of the details of his life.  I remembered that the press had emphasized the idea that the “first openly gay” politician had been shot:  that made it a novelty situation, more sensational, and that let the word spread around the country to a greater degree. 

I was rather young when Harvey was killed (early teens) and have no memory of the shooting.  I had a little discussion with Lyle about the movie, and it was interesting to me that he mentioned that because media communication was different back then, that Harvey wasn't as extensively known, as he might be now.  He was very well known in northern CA, but even in southern CA, not as much as we would expect today, because media coverage was different then.

I thought the movie was so well done - but I don't think it had the cross-over appeal that Brokeback Mountain had, unfortunately I know a lot of people who weren't interested in seeing it, weren't really interested in the history of Harvey Milk, and what he was able to do with his life, for gay rights. Yet we can look back now and see how the tide was turned, how his work became a "tipping point' for gay rights moving forward.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 06:23:43 PM
A question - and I will try and look this up myself, but if the police did charge the men, what exactly would they charge them with?  (I apologize if my questions show my ignorance of gay history, but I'm very interested and trying to learn).

Hi, Dawn.  I remember coming across various charges, in the book.  Disorderly conduct was one, but there was even one about congregating on a sidewalk (too many gays in one spot to suit the police).  And another, mentioned somewhere in the book, ran along the lines of "rioting" if there were more than 100 gays in one spot.  Naturally, the courts threw out a lot of these charges.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 06:24:48 PM

5.)  One of the things that both his friends from Long Island and the people he went to college with in Albany say is that they wish he had gotten back in touch with them later in his life.  Why do you think he didn't?  What do you think this says about the way heterosexuals and homosexuals related to one another in the 70s?  Do you think things have changed?


Once he finished college, Harvey shook the dust off his feet and moved on.  There was nothing left for him at home, and he had apparently never been close to his classmates.  Indeed, he was looking for something that he couldn't quite nail down. Some called him a drifter, and this seems to be true -- he involved himself in so many different venues until he found what he wanted in SF. He involved himself in teaching, finance, show business -- nothing appealed to this restless man until he found his niche in SF as an activist for gay rights.

I don't think heterosexuals and homosexuals actually related to one another in the 70s. Gays were still closeted for their own safety. The laws were stringent and gay bars were raided. The gay community remained a subculture closed off to the outer world, and even some gay bars vetted anyone who was suspected of being members of the police. 

(It would be interesting, at this point, to hear from some of our gay members who remembered what it was like in the 70s as those who post in the gay threads have written.)

Yes, IMO, there have been changes: gay bars and clubs are now accessible (the Gayborhood in Philly).  Gay Pride parades are held in many cities, and there are centers for gay activities like The William Way center in Philly.  More young people have come out, and there are even clubs in some of the high schools for gay students.  However, there is still a homophobic subtext to all of this, and there are many churches  who speak out strongly against gays. Some of us who have family members who are homophobic find it difficult to maintain a coherent conversation about anything relating to gay culture.  Remember, even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences denied an Oscar for best picture to BBM based on certain members who refused to vote for a movie whose stars played homosexual men.  So, yes, there have been changes -- just not enough.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 06:27:51 PM
Chuck, who wrote that book? I'd be interested in reading it.

Was the person who said it ruined the film to learn of Harvey's death a young person like you were when he was killed?  It's surprising he/she hadn't known/heard this, especially with all the press the film has had.


It's by Paul Russell, and here's a link on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/Gay-100-Ranking-Influential-Lesbians/dp/0758201001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231893888&sr=1-1

The two people who claimed the film was "ruined" for them were around my age, perhaps just a few years older.  I was surprised they didn't know, and even said to them that I was sorry, but I assumed since it was a movie based on historical events, that everyone would be familiar with the assasination.

Tks Chuck, I'll check it out. You were right about the film - hard to believe they hadn't heard about it!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 06:38:53 PM
(It would be interesting, at this point, to hear from some of our gay members who remembered what it was like in the 70s as those who post in the gay threads have written.)

Yes, Nikki, I hope we hear from more gay men who remember those days.

I'd also like to hear from anyone who actually remembers the San Francisco of Harvey Milk's time.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 06:58:38 PM
Michael, I have a few questions about San Francisco geography, when you come in.  Sorry if they seem picky, but they would help me to visualize the action.

One, the book keeps referring to the intersection of Eighteenth and Market.  If you are standing on Market Street, looking up Castro Street toward the Castro Theater, and start walking in the direction of the theater, where does Eighteenth Street come in?  Before the Castro Theater, or after it?

Two, where is Polk Street?  I believe it's somewhere near City Hall, is that right?  Does it run parallel to Van Ness (behind City Hall), or cross Van Ness?  And if it crosses Van Ness, on which side of City Hall is it (closer to Market than City, or farther from Market than City Hall)?

Three, and related to number two:  Is Polk Street still a major gay neighborhood, or has that changed?

Four, the book mentions the former hippie section, Haight Ashbury, as being over the hill from the Castro neighborhood.  Would it be on the opposite side of Market Street from the Castro section?  Or would it be on the same side of Market Street as the Castro neighborhood, but farther away from Market?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 07:38:05 PM

6.)  Harvey had an interesting group of boyfriends: Joe Campbell, Craig Rodwell, Jack McKinley, Joe Turner and Scott Smith.  Why do you think he ended the relationship with Campbell?  Given McKinley's, Campbell's and Rodwell's suicide attempts, do you think that Harvey was attracted to damaged men?  Why?  What do you think of Harvey's note to Joe Campbell after his suicide attempt?  Do you think that Craig Rodwell's political activism had an affect on Harvey's view of homosexuality?  Why do you think Harvey moved to Texas with Jack?  How do Harvey's plans regarding his love life compare with his later political plans (in other words, did he have the same foresight?


Campbell "felt he was a device for Harvey's pleasure and pulled back."  Apparently Harvey's "voracious sexual appetite" finally turned Campbell off, and no amount of Harvey's pleadings and tantrums worked with Campbell. Harvey's note to Campbell seemed, to me, oddly coupled with pragmatism and hope which was something that colored his speeches later in SF.

IMO Harvey wanted to be needed, he wanted to be a protector, guide, and teacher, and the young men he chose were really young and needy themselves, and were looking for a protector. Harvey was sexually attractive and horny. His men were a type that appealed to him  young, lean, and sexy. I think they were flawed by the instability of their lifestyles and lack of familial support indeed, just the types to be dependent on a man like Harvey.  Their short-lived affairs confused them and, in McKinley's case, exacerbated his mental issues.  I felt that Harvey was extremely disingenuous regarding his love affairs. Although he wined, dined, and bedded his boyfriends in luxury, he was quite casual when he ended his romances. However, he did help them out financially when they called him, and was caring in Campbell's suicide attempt. I can't help but think that he preyed on their needs and dependence upon him. Perhaps that was partly why he sought out the very young. When McKinley's bouts of depression and moodiness got worse, Harvey took him to Texas hoping that a slower life would help, but McKinley left after a few weeks.

Rodwell's political activism coupled with his homosexuality annoyed and repelled Harvey who was still very conservative. Rodwell felt Harvey was afraid that since he, Rodwell, was "branded" after being jailed Harvey was afraid to continue the relationship. 

Once Harvey settled in SF, he relished the hippie life. He became interested in politics and finally found what he had been looking for. It transcended love and sex, and once he opened his camera shop with Smith, Harvey found the life he was born to live.  He plunged into the political life of SF with all the foresight he lacked in picking out boyfriends. Now he was devoting himself to a role that was more important than merely guiding needy young men. He knew what the gay community needed, and he set himself up to be Mayor of Castro Street.



Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 07:59:33 PM

7.)  Harvey remained closeted to his family throughout this period.  Yet given that his mother was doing things like knitting sweaters for Joe and Harvey, do you think she knew?  Given the advice Minnie had given Harvey about homosexuals in New York City, do you think it made sense for him not to talk with her about this?  Does this early closeted behavior seem out of character for Harvey - and when do you think he changed to become more open?


It's hard to imagine that Harvey's mother didn't at least suspect.  Joe and Harvey did everything together; went everywhere together.  Either she was in deep denial, or she was really clueless. I believe somewhere in the book Harvey tells a lover that "it would kill" his mother if she found out.  Maybe he was in denial about her as well, but I don't think he had the kind of relationship with his mother that would lend itself to an open discussion on such a delicate subject. 

According to Shilts, Harvey's behavior was closeted for quite a long time.  Very few people, aside from his BFFs, knew he was gay.  He had always been the life of the party, being a party of boys and girls, that is.  He kept closeted to keep his jobs, and to keep from being arrested.  According to the book, during a raid on a bar, he was the first out the back door. It wasn't until he lived in SF and became involved in politics that he was open and out.  How could he exhort the SF gays to be out and proud, if he kept his own life closeted?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 13, 2009, 08:13:43 PM
Great responses everyone!  Wonderful to see you all here.  I'm currently at the reference desk, so I can't really respond to any of your points yet, but will when I get home later.  Thank so much for your participation!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 08:15:54 PM


(8.)  Shilts says "Suicides were a common postscript to the raids and subsequent exposure as a homosexual.  The suicides, like the enticement to danger, only served to prove that homosexuals were a self-destructive, unstable lot, a cancer on the social body.  These were certainly not the kind of people who should be permitted responsible positions in society...." (pg 18 in my book).  How do you feel about Shilts' moral editorializing in the context of the story?  Is it intrusive or instructive?  Does it put too much of Shilts' own opinions into Harvey's story?


I like to hear Shilt's POV.  I think rather than moral editorializing in this instance, Shilts was sort of paraphrasing what the general populace of SF was thinking, and that his remarks here are actually what the press and conservative politicians were saying.  Since he was gay, would he have stigmatized gays by his own opinions?  Shilts wrote, in the "Author's Note," that since he was acknowledged as a gay writer, he had access to research and interviews that others did not.  This gives us an inside look at the gay lifestyle which we wouldn't normally have had from a heterosexual journalist. I don't think Shilts' opinions intrude into the story. The reader can overlook what he/she might feel is intrusive. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 13, 2009, 08:21:06 PM


I would like to think that Harvey Milk would be remembered, but I'm not sure of that.  I became aware of Harvey Milk not long after I came out.  He was listed in a book I bought called "The Gay 100" a listing of 100 most influential gay and lesbian people.  I had no idea who he was prior to this, I was only 9 when he was assasinated.

Just last week, I was having lunch with some coworkesers who are about my age.  I mentioned that I want to see "Milk" this weekend for my birthday.  2 of the people I was eating with had no idea who Harvey Milk was, and got upset when someone at the table announced he had been assasinated, as it ruined the film for them.

Chuck, who wrote that book? I'd be interested in reading it.

Was the person who said it ruined the film to learn of Harvey's death a young person like you were when he was killed?  It's surprising he/she hadn't known/heard this, especially with all the press the film has had.


IMO that person was off- base-- the film is not meant to be a cliff hanger or a mystery.  It is made for people who know how it ends.  I presume the person came to his/her senses some time later.  :)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 08:39:07 PM


9.)In the 60s Harvey moved from being a Goldwater Republican to working with the musical 'Hair' and becoming a hippie.  To what do you attribute this change?  Was Harvey just becoming tired of the inconsistency between his working 'straight' world and his love life?  Did the death of his mother allow him to change in this direction? 


After Harvey returned from Texas and resigned from Bache, he seemed unhappy with his life.  He became involved with the 'flower children' and immersed himself  with the new counterculture.  His move to SF changed his outlook, and he became more relaxed and flexible.  He moved from the right to the left, so to speak when he moved to SF and stayed with the cast members from 'Hair,' and decided that SF was the place for him --- a new boyfriend, new life, and the beginning of a new direction. 

After his mother's death, he never visited his family again, but I don't think her death influenced his political about face.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 08:50:41 PM
6.)  Harvey had an interesting group of boyfriends: Joe Campbell, Craig Rodwell, Jack McKinley, Joe Turner and Scott Smith.  Why do you think he ended the relationship with Campbell?  Given McKinley's, Campbell's and Rodwell's suicide attempts, do you think that Harvey was attracted to damaged men?  Why?  What do you think of Harvey's note to Joe Campbell after his suicide attempt?  Do you think that Craig Rodwell's political activism had an affect on Harvey's view of homosexuality?  Why do you think Harvey moved to Texas with Jack?  How do Harvey's plans regarding his love life compare with his later political plans (in other words, did he have the same foresight?

The relationship between Harvey and Joe Campbell was said to be the longest in either of their lives.  But despite the romantic niceties, there was an underlying tension in their worldview.  Harvey was more aware of anti-gay slurs and anti-Jewish slurs; Joe accused Harvey of having a persecution complex.  Joe didn’t share Harvey’s early hints of political awareness.  Mismatched sex drives also figured into their break-up.  But basically, it seems that Harvey had fallen into a rut by 1962 and wanted to start over.  Asking Joe to leave was just part of making that fresh start.

Harvey did enjoy being the protector of men who needed a father figure, men who in many cases had run away from their own hometowns.  Perhaps his desire to take care of these men was related to the instincts which originally steered him toward becoming a teacher, and eventually steered him toward becoming a community leader.  Although I had some difficulty keeping the stories of Harvey’s boyfriends apart, in looking back, I can see that his boyfriends were all different. I don’t know that they were all “damaged.”  They were all youthful, but some were more troubled than others.

For example, Joe Campbell didn’t seem damaged during the time he spent with Harvey, and didn’t fall apart when he was asked to leave, although later he attempted suicide when another relationship failed.  Craig Rodwell’s suicide attempt seemed a genuine reaction to being alone after he and Harvey had drifted apart, whereas Jack McKinley seemed to be using the suicide threat as a means of getting attention from Harvey.  Joe Turner just briefly passed through Harvey’s life with no particular drama, and Scott Smith seemed like a pretty solid rock when they opened the camera store together in San Francisco.  The one thing these men all had in common is that they were younger than Harvey.   Given the hardships of gay life in those days, and given the difficulties that young people can have in adjusting to life, it’s not surprising that many of these young people turned out to be troubled.

As for the note that Harvey wrote to Joe Campbell after his suicide attempt, I thought it was very caring.  Harvey had moved on to other relationships by then, but he writes as a father figure attempting to give Campbell a reason for wanting to live.  The ending (“people in worse situations than you have come back strong…they had hope”) sounds like a precursor to one of Harvey’s political speeches used to rally gay crowds to feel positive about themselves.

Craig Rodwell’s political activism, rather than causing Harvey become politically active himself,  seemed to reinforce Harvey’s desire to remain closeted at that point in his life.  Also, Craig’s cruising activities, which resulted in his head being shaved by police, demonstrated to Harvey even more clearly the negative consequences that could come from being a known homosexual.

Harvey had gone to Texas once, with Joe Campbell, and had found it an inhospitable environment for both of them.  I was surprised that he went back with Jack McKinley, but he was doing it for Jack’s sake, to get him out of the New York drugs and drinking scene.  Again, this shows a desire to be protective of his younger lover – even though Jack didn’t last in Texas.

On the question of foresight, Harvey seemed to fall into each of his love relationships without much thought as to whether the pair was well-suited for one another.  He approached politics in a much more logical and organized manner.  On page 80, when Harvey studied the elections results after his first run for office,  I was reminded that he had majored in math and had once been an actuary for an insurance company.  He knew how to be logical.  And by cutting his hair, he showed that he could “play the game” and focus on his political future.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 09:00:59 PM

10.) On page 34 Harvey tells Jim Bruton that he'll never make it to fifty.  This is a recurring theme in the book.  What do you make of this belief?  Do you think that Harvey had some sort of foresight - or do you think Shilts makes too much of this notion?



If Harvey was Irish, I'd say he was 'fey.'  However, there does seem to be an underlying feeling of precognition in his remarks.  Shilts attributes these remarks to various people by Harvey, so I think Shilts is not making too much of it.   Harvey was politically savvy, he knew he had set his feet on a path that could bring down retribution on his head.  Being a gay activist was not something that  would indear him to the rank and file of mainstream America.  He was aware of violence towards gays, and he had to know how unpopular his political stance was coupled with the fact that he was now an open gay man running for office. Harvey liked attention and relished being 'The Mayor of Castro Street' -- not a low profile.  One could say this way led to disaster, and IMO this is what colored Harvey's attitude to his early demise.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 13, 2009, 09:01:13 PM
Interesting answers, Nikki and all.

No more answers from me tomorrow, although I may lurk on the thread after my procedure.  I'll be back on Thursday.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 09:03:05 PM
Interesting answers, Nikki and all.

No more answers from me tomorrow, although I may lurk on the thread after my procedure.  I'll be back on Thursday.

OK Deb, good luck -- PM me about results.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 09:27:20 PM



11.) Shilts talks both about Jim Bruton and another 70 year old man who he interviewed for the book who wanted to remain anonymous even though his lover was dead.  Does the difference between the anonymous man and Bruton (and Harvey) seem to be simply one of personality - or is political (or perhaps class related)?  Do you see this notion coming down to our own day with those who believe 'it's nobody's business but ours'?


I think it was more generational rather than class or personality.  Bruton and Harvey were much younger. The 70 year old man may have felt a certain dignity in protecting his privacy and, yes, it was nobody's busy but their own. His generation didn't discuss such personal things. Once Harvey came out to the world, he felt no such constraints. 

I would imagine that the present younger generation of gays who will be 70 someday may not have the same constraints as the old man, since they have lived a more open sexual lifestyle.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 09:39:01 PM

12.) Harvey becomes involved with theater people and the plays 'Hair', 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Lenny' and this led to his moving to San Francisco for the first time.  How much of an affect do you think this had on Harvey's life and on his views?

Quite a bit IMO.  Harvey's involvement with the younger theater generation of 'Hair,' etc. introduced him to the counterculture and the devil-may-care  theater lifestyle.  He began to adopt the beads and long hair of the young actors, and was influenced by their casual attitude toward material things. This was a pivotal time for Harvey leading him to move to SF.  His new life stems from this influence.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 13, 2009, 09:52:59 PM

13.) From early on Harvey was extremely affected by the holocaust.  Do you think that this identification with the oppressed is a direct connection between the early life and the later life of Harvey Milk?


Definitely. As a Jewish family, the Milks discussed the oppression of Jews under Hitler.  Harvey never forgot the stories of the holocaust  and, in later years, he equated it with the oppression of gays under a bureaucratic structure which allowed the police and law enforcement to trample on the rights of a minority who had no voice in government.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 13, 2009, 11:23:26 PM

13.) From early on Harvey was extremely affected by the holocaust.  Do you think that this identification with the oppressed is a direct connection between the early life and the later life of Harvey Milk?


Definitely. As a Jewish family, the Milks discussed the oppression of Jews under Hitler.  Harvey never forgot the stories of the holocaust  and, in later years, he equated it with the oppression of gays under a bureaucratic structure which allowed the police and law enforcement to trample on the rights of a minority who had no voice in government.

That struck me too, Nikki. Harvey was a second generation American born of Lithuanian Jews. That means his grandfather fled the pogroms. The antisemitism was less actively violent here, but it was strong; witness the fact that his grandfather and fellow Jews had to found their own country club, that Harvey hung around with black guys because he didn't get invited to most of the parties in High School and that in Harvey's college days he couldn't get into any of the fancier fraternities because he was a Jew. His family had the immigrant American dream story, though: they were able to succeed here and become middle class. Then came WWII. He completely identified with being in danger of the same kind of persecution as a Jew, and with his parents' pride in how the Warsaw Ghetto resisted, knowing they couldn't win. The holocaust made many, many Jews much more sensitive to American antisemitism and disillusioned with America's response to the pleas of refugees trying to escape from Hitler and the Nazis. It was proof that Jews were still in danger of being turned on by their neighbors and their government. The younger generation became more militant in claiming their rights as American citizens and attacking the quota system at the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools,the firms that wouldn't hire them, social clubs that wouldn't have them as members and so forth. They also gained pride and a sense that they could determine their own fate with the founding of Israel and its successful self-defense.

In Harvey's case, he also faced the very clear and present danger of being arrested, beaten up by police or homophobic thugs, or even killed for his sexuality. The law was an instrument of persecution, not protection. The rise of McCarthy was very much an echo of Hitler's abuse of power, and gays were his favorite target. He was always looking for gays in government, particularly in the State Department. So Harvey was a member of two oppressed minorities. It's not surprising that he would later meld his Jewish and gay identities and make himself a fighter for gay rights.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 01:24:51 AM
Michael, I have a few questions about San Francisco geography, when you come in.  Sorry if they seem picky, but they would help me to visualize the action.

One, the book keeps referring to the intersection of Eighteenth and Market.  If you are standing on Market Street, looking up Castro Street toward the Castro Theater, and start walking in the direction of the theater, where does Eighteenth Street come in?  Before the Castro Theater, or after it?

After it Debbie.  Market intersects Castro at the same place that 17th street intersects it (it's a messy 6 way intersection).  So as you are looking down Castro street toward the Castro Theater 18th street is one block south of where you are - on the corner of 18th and Castro there is a Walgreens (it was Star Pharmacy in Harvey's day), Harveys (a bar - which used to be the Elephant Walk - which will play in later in the book), Bank of America (which used to be Hibernia Bank - and the sidewalk out front was called Hibernia beach where all the shirtless guys hung out) - and I don't know what was on the other corner - it was Wolf Camera for a while and now it's the LGBT Historical center.

Two, where is Polk Street?  I believe it's somewhere near City Hall, is that right?  Does it run parallel to Van Ness (behind City Hall), or cross Van Ness?  And if it crosses Van Ness, on which side of City Hall is it (closer to Market than City, or farther from Market than City Hall)?

Three, and related to number two:  Is Polk Street still a major gay neighborhood, or has that changed?

These are related, so I'll deal with them together.  Polk Street does indeed run parallel to Van Ness.  When we went from the hotel to the Great American Music Hall to see Todd Rundgren we crossed Polk Street.

Polk street is still sort of a gay neighborhood - but it is far more mixed now.  Beginning in the late 70s and through the late 90s (when the dot com bubble began to have an effect) the area was full of hustler bars - and the boys who were too young to get served in bars trolled the street.  It was generally a good place to get rolled or to pick up a nasty infection.

In the late 90s lots of trendy bars launched on Polk Street.  When the dot com bubble burst many went belly up.  There are still some gay bars there [the Cinch, one of my favorite bars in town, is there] and there are trendy bars as well [the Lush Lounge, for example].  It's a very mixed neighborhood.

Four, the book mentions the former hippie section, Haight Ashbury, as being over the hill from the Castro neighborhood.  Would it be on the opposite side of Market Street from the Castro section?  Or would it be on the same side of Market Street as the Castro neighborhood, but farther away from Market?

Back to when we were standing on Market Street looking at the Castro - the Haight (as it is called) is behind us and to the west.  There is a hill with a (very lively - or so I've heard) park in it called Buena Vista Park that is in between the Castro and the Haight.

There is a map of the Castro here:

http://www.kqed.org/w/hood/castro/resourceguide/castromap.html

Here is a map of the Haight which shows how close the two are:

http://sanfrancisco.about.com/od/neighborhoodprofiles/ig/SF-Neighborhood-Profiles/Haight---Cole-Valley-Map.--vN.htm

There were two other neighborhoods of note at the time - Valencia Street - which was where there was a lesbian bar (Amelia) and a bookstore (Artemis Cafe) - sort of the lesbian neighborhood, and South of Market (or SOMA) which was the leather neighborhood.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 01:52:48 AM
A question - and I will try and look this up myself, but if the police did charge the men, what exactly would they charge them with?  (I apologize if my questions show my ignorance of gay history, but I'm very interested and trying to learn).

It is just so ironic to me that so many people demonize gay people as.... being so promiscuous, yet also fight so hard to keep people from having safe and fun ways to get to know each other and to deepen their relationship.  In the 70's gay people and their relationships were pushed into the shadows, and then people criticized them for being in the shadows - well what's a person to do?  Its a lose, lose situation.

Yes, but not lonely on Saturday night....

Anywho...to answer your question - there were a whole variety of charges that could be used against gay people in these days (and still are today).  They included "lewd and lascivious behavior", "indecent exposure" (used on people parked in cars or in parks), "disorderly conduct"

See, for example the section on 'Does Massachusetts have any other criminal laws that are applied to gay people?' here:

http://www.glad.org/rights/massachusetts/c/hate-crimes-sex-laws-and-police-in-massachusetts/

Loitering, public lewdness, public indecency, breach of peace, obstructing free passage (which will come up later in the book), unlawful assembly and many more are also used [my favorite is Georgia's 'masturbation for hire' law].  See the chart in the following article:

http://law.jrank.org/pages/11812/Prohibited-Consensual-Sexual-Activity.html

Police got very creative with these laws.  I had a friend who was accused of solicitation even though no money was ever mentioned (the case was dropped - and oh my, the police chief seems to have mentioned it to my friend's boss - he was fired).  Another friend was accused of public lewdness in a rest area and proved the cop had come on to him by pointing out to the judge that the cop had a mole under his tongue.  That case was dropped too.

Often the point was not so much to frighten gay people as it was to score political points during political campaigns.  At a bar I used to go to in the 70s in Lansing, Michigan the police would park their cars in the parking lot across from the gay bar during election campaigns to intimidate patrons so that the bars would be empty for the time being.  Patrons who did go to the bar were always warned to mind their behavior when they left the bar and not to drive if they had drank too much (as that was one of the things they would haul people in from the bars for too).

Ah!  Memories!

[Oh, and no apologies necessary Dawn - we're all here to discuss the book and to have a good time doing it.  Please feel free to ask any questions you like.]
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 14, 2009, 07:14:59 AM

13.) From early on Harvey was extremely affected by the holocaust.  Do you think that this identification with the oppressed is a direct connection between the early life and the later life of Harvey Milk?


Definitely. As a Jewish family, the Milks discussed the oppression of Jews under Hitler.  Harvey never forgot the stories of the holocaust  and, in later years, he equated it with the oppression of gays under a bureaucratic structure which allowed the police and law enforcement to trample on the rights of a minority who had no voice in government.


That struck me too, Nikki. Harvey was a second generation American born of Lithuanian Jews. That means his grandfather fled the pogroms. The antisemitism was less actively violent here, but it was strong; witness the fact that his grandfather and fellow Jews had to found their own country club, that Harvey hung around with black guys because he didn't get invited to most of the parties in High School and that in Harvey's college days he couldn't get into any of the fancier fraternities because he was a Jew. His family had the immigrant American dream story, though: they were able to succeed here and become middle class. Then came WWII. He completely identified with being in danger of the same kind of persecution as a Jew, and with his parents' pride in how the Warsaw Ghetto resisted, knowing they couldn't win. The holocaust made many, many Jews much more sensitive to American antisemitism and disillusioned with America's response to the pleas of refugees trying to escape from Hitler and the Nazis. It was proof that Jews were still in danger of being turned on by their neighbors and their government. The younger generation became more militant in claiming their rights as American citizens and attacking the quota system at the Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools,the firms that wouldn't hire them, social clubs that wouldn't have them as members and so forth. They also gained pride and a sense that they could determine their own fate with the founding of Israel and its successful self-defense.

In Harvey's case, he also faced the very clear and present danger of being arrested, beaten up by police or homophobic thugs, or even killed for his sexuality. The law was an instrument of persecution, not protection. The rise of McCarthy was very much an echo of Hitler's abuse of power, and gays were his favorite target. He was always looking for gays in government, particularly in the State Department. So Harvey was a member of two oppressed minorities. It's not surprising that he would later meld his Jewish and gay identities and make himself a fighter for gay rights.


Jenny, didn't realize the Milks were from Lithuania, must have missed it.  In convos with friends recently, they didn't realize about the quota system for Jews in academe --  of course, they were a younger generation.  Antisemitism was rampant in the US pre and post WWII, and the Milks felt it deeply.  I'm surprised how Harvey aligned himself with the blacks at school, although he did have other friends.  My older Jewish friends would not have tolerated this type of social intercourse -- I think this introduced Harvey to a broad spectrum of society at an early age, and stood him in good stead later in SF.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 11:48:15 AM
Nikki and Jenny - I too thought that the information related to the holocaust in the book and his Jewish identity is central to his eventual move to being a gay icon.  In part I think this is due to being an outsider looking in - the experience of his grandfather and his being an outsider in high school gave him the initial experience of what it was like to be a member of an 'out' group, probably even before his sexuality blossomed.

I also think that this gave him a unique perspective to view people like Anita Bryant - after all, he wasn't a Christian, so for her he would be a nonbeliever regardless of his sexuality.

Oddly enough, I sort of think it gave him a different perspective on the gay politicians he ran into early on as well.  He knew what happened in Europe - so he knew what would happen if people did not stand up for themselves and relied on others to represent them in government.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 14, 2009, 01:19:10 PM
I also think that Harvey's Jewish upbringing helped make him the conservative, flag-waving Goldwaterite who worked on Wall Street, and then led to his great sea change in the late 1960s. For middle- and upper-class Jews, fitting in and looking just like the Gentiles was both an aspiration and protective coloration. Jews wanted to succeed and be accepted, and they had always sought to prove that they were as good as the Gentiles around them. Many Immigrant Jews, particularly those from Eastern Europe who had not been allowed to assimilate, were also eager to make good and prove themselves to those who had come before them: the Sephardic elite, whose origins were in Spain, Portugal and other Mediterranean countries and had been here before the founding of the country, and the Germans, who came in the 1840s and had become a parallel "polite society." They lived on the same level as New York's rich WASPs, but didn't interact with them socially. Jews at this level weren't identical to Christians, but their Judaism was more "discreet." Immigrants also wanted to show that they were just as patriotic and devoted to the USA as other citizens. They enlisted in all the services, and were responsible for a lot of the propaganda, particularly during WWII.

Goldwater was Jewish, of course, but he was also in favor of individuals controlling their own lives and minding their own business, keeping government out of it as much as possible. That would appeal to Harvey, who feared the government gaining too much power and control. And Goldwater was patriotic and ideological. His slogan in the '64 campaign was: Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice. Harvey believed in total commitment to ideals, too. Furthermore, Goldwater was pro-business, and Harvey was a businessman whose father and grandfather were also businessmen.

But as the decade wore on, Harvey identified more and more with the Civil Rights movement and the fight of Blacks to gain full equality. He became disenchanted with the Vietnam war and, especially, the draft, along with many of the more conservative Jews. Yes, he was also restless and dissatisfied, and yes his gayness and his feelings about living a double life, hiding an important part of who he was probably the biggest part of what was pushing him towards breaking away from his old life. But seeking Civil Rights and pitting oneself against a government that was lying to you and manipulating you while they pursued a fight to interfere with another country's people and supported repressive, right-wing dictators would resonate with his Jewish heritage of insecurity and oppression by the majority.

Last but not least, Jews tend to have a tragic view of history. They're used to losing their boldest leaders to martyrdom and to finding that even governments that gave them sanctuary and apparent acceptance will turn on them when it's expedient. They have a lot of experience in fighting for lost causes against overwhelming odds, too. I suspect that some of that seeped into Harvey's worldview. When he decided to fight the system he knew he would become a target, and he accepted that. He didn't want to die, but he knew how powerful martyrs could be in motivating change.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 14, 2009, 01:24:21 PM
7.)  Harvey remained closeted to his family throughout this period.  Yet given that his mother was doing things like knitting sweaters for Joe and Harvey, do you think she knew?  Given the advice Minnie had given Harvey about homosexuals in New York City, do you think it made sense for him not to talk with her about this?  Does this early closeted behavior seem out of character for Harvey - and when do you think he changed to become more open?

Minnie may have compartmentalized her views on homosexuality.  She was aware of the “bogeyman” stereotypes and cautioned Harvey about those types of men (bad men who would prey on kids) when he was young.  But she may have put Harvey’s relationship with Joe Campbell into an entirely different category, viewing them both as nice young men and therefore “harmless.”  She treated them like a couple, treated Joe like part of the family (like a son-in-law), but she probably didn’t think about the sexual side of whatever relationship they had.  She may have suspected or “known” on some subconscious level, but since the truth would have been unpleasant for her to face, she looked at it the most innocent way possible – maybe even rationalizing it by considering Joe to be simply Harvey’s “best friend.”

It does make sense that Harvey didn’t talk to Minnie about the sexual side of his make-up, and that he didn’t admit to her in so many words that Joe was his lover.  That would have forced her to bring two strands of thinking together which she was much more comfortable keeping apart.   It would have put Harvey into the same category as the “bogeyman” stereotypes which she obviously recoiled from.  In short, she wasn’t about to ask, and she didn’t want him telling.

I don’t think it was out of character for Harvey to keep this truth hidden from his mother.  He tried very hard (mostly with success) to keep it hidden from everyone else (schoolmates, teachers, employers, co-workers) in those days.  It was at about the time that Harvey began associating with Tom O’Horgan that he began to change.  For a while, he lived a closeted life by day, at work, and lived among counter-culture people by night.  Eventually the counter-culture people drew him farther into their world.  When he gave up the corporate world entirely and moved across the country from his family, he had no more reason to hide.
 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 14, 2009, 01:44:14 PM
8.)  Shilts says "Suicides were a common postscript to the raids and subsequent exposure as a homosexual.  The suicides, like the enticement to danger, only served to prove that homosexuals were a self-destructive, unstable lot, a cancer on the social body.  These were certainly not the kind of people who should be permitted responsible positions in society...." (pg 18 in my book).  How do you feel about Shilts' moral editorializing in the context of the story?  Is it intrusive or instructive?  Does it put too much of Shilts' own opinions into Harvey's story?

First, I find the suicides deplorable, and see them as evidence of the mental pressures brought upon gay people who grow up knowing that they are not accepted in society.  The self-destruction and instability of gays which the high suicide rates bring attention to are, IMO, the fault of society, and are not an inherent flaw in homosexuals.

But I don’t think I’m actually disagreeing with Shilts in saying that.  I agree with the earlier comment made in our discussion here, that Shilts wasn’t really doing “moral editorializing.”  I don’t think he was stating his own opinions; rather, he was using his prose to incorporate mainstream American thinking about gays.  Society may have been responsible for the suicides, but the majority society turned the facts around and used the suicides to show that homosexuals were as bad as the majority thought they were.  Shilts is not saying that he thinks gays are instable people who shouldn’t have responsible positions in society.  He is merely saying that society as whole has used the high suicide rate to justify keeping gays out of responsible positions.  It’s a justification of discrimination. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 01:54:17 PM
Last but not least, Jews tend to have a tragic view of history. They're used to losing their boldest leaders to martyrdom and to finding that even governments that gave them sanctuary and apparent acceptance will turn on them when it's expedient. They have a lot of experience in fighting for lost causes against overwhelming odds, too. I suspect that some of that seeped into Harvey's worldview. When he decided to fight the system he knew he would become a target, and he accepted that. He didn't want to die, but he knew how powerful martyrs could be in motivating change.

Interesting, Jenny - I had not thought about this, but perhaps his Jewish background gave him some of the fatalism that made him believe throughout his life that he wouldn't live to see 50.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 14, 2009, 02:03:01 PM
Michael, thanks for the SF geography lesson.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 02:09:19 PM
Michael, thanks for the SF geography lesson.

Did it help?  I have a hard time knowing since I live here.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 14, 2009, 03:22:26 PM
^^^
It helped me!

 :-*
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 14, 2009, 03:55:50 PM
^^^^^

Me, too.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 14, 2009, 05:28:27 PM

7.)  Harvey remained closeted to his family throughout this period.  Yet given that his mother was doing things like knitting sweaters for Joe and Harvey, do you think she knew?  Given the advice Minnie had given Harvey about homosexuals in New York City, do you think it made sense for him not to talk with her about this?  Does this early closeted behavior seem out of character for Harvey - and when do you think he changed to become more open?
Minnie may have compartmentalized her views on homosexuality.  She was aware of the “bogeyman” stereotypes and cautioned Harvey about those types of men (bad men who would prey on kids) when he was young.  But she may have put Harvey’s relationship with Joe Campbell into an entirely different category, viewing them both as nice young men and therefore “harmless.”  She treated them like a couple, treated Joe like part of the family (like a son-in-law), but she probably didn’t think about the sexual side of whatever relationship they had.  She may have suspected or “known” on some subconscious level, but since the truth would have been unpleasant for her to face, she looked at it the most innocent way possible – maybe even rationalizing it by considering Joe to be simply Harvey’s “best friend.”

It does make sense that Harvey didn’t talk to Minnie about the sexual side of his make-up, and that he didn’t admit to her in so many words that Joe was his lover.  That would have forced her to bring two strands of thinking together which she was much more comfortable keeping apart.   It would have put Harvey into the same category as the “bogeyman” stereotypes which she obviously recoiled from.  In short, she wasn’t about to ask, and she didn’t want him telling.

I don’t think it was out of character for Harvey to keep this truth hidden from his mother.  He tried very hard (mostly with success) to keep it hidden from everyone else (schoolmates, teachers, employers, co-workers) in those days.  It was at about the time that Harvey began associating with Tom O’Horgan that he began to change.  For a while, he lived a closeted life by day, at work, and lived among counter-culture people by night.  Eventually the counter-culture people drew him farther into their world.  When he gave up the corporate world entirely and moved across the country from his family, he had no more reason to hide.

Absolutely, Debbie. :) Harvey's mother died before he came totally out of the closet and began to talk openly about gay rights. And it seems fair to say, from what we're told, that as long as she was alive, Harvey would be very reluctant to leave it. I'd think a "don't ask, don't tell" agreement between the son and his beloved mother would be a very common thing in those days. Minnie's warning to Harvey is also very typical, and reflected the common view of homosexuals. She may well have felt that way about homosexuality in general. It could even be a coded way of saying "Don't tell me about it."  Harvey adored his mother (though he seems to have been very distant from his father, which is interesting.) He seems to have been like her in temperament, though Shilts makes it sound as if he got his height and his temper tantrums from his dad. It makes sense to me, too, that Minnie knew at some level, and Harvey knew that. But he also knew that if he came out to his family, she would have to join the rest of them in condemning him.

I'm not really clear what his relationship with his brother was like, though from pictures I've seen he seems to have gotten along with his sister-in-law, who visited him in the Castro. But when his mother died, probably 1964 or so (couldn't find a date), Harvey did something very insensitive. At that point, many Jews were horrified at the very idea of cremation, since the Germans had incinerated so many Jews. It is also anathema to Orthodox Jews. Robert was both. Harvey turning around and cremating his mother would have outraged many Jews in those days, as it did Robert. Most families who could afford it had a cemetery plot, and it seems likely the Milks had one. I find it hard to believe that Minnie would have expressed such a wish. The complete absence of his father from funeral preparations is also odd. It might well become the son's task to take over a lot from the grieving father, and Harvey may have paid for all or most of it. But on the question of cremation, you'd think the spouse would have something to say. That seems to have contributed to complete estrangement until his father's death though I'm sure neither his father nor Robert were happy about his extremely well-known homosexuality. It turned out that Robert's son was also gay, and so was at least one cousin of Harvey's.

As for when Harvey became more open, I think that was in '68 or '69, as the tide of the counterculture rose and Harvey got more involved with it. Living with the Hair cast in San Francisco and seeing the greater openness there was very influential. Craig Rodwell's views long before that may have started the process, but I think the counterculture and San Francisco pushed Harvey over the edge. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 14, 2009, 07:29:14 PM
But when his mother died, probably 1964 or so (couldn't find a date), Harvey did something very insensitive. At that point, many Jews were horrified at the very idea of cremation, since the Germans had incinerated so many Jews. It is also anathema to Orthodox Jews. Robert was both. Harvey turning around and cremating his mother would have outraged many Jews in those days, as it did Robert. Most families who could afford it had a cemetery plot, and it seems likely the Milks had one. I find it hard to believe that Minnie would have expressed such a wish. The complete absence of his father from funeral preparations is also odd.

Jenny, once again, your insights into the Jewish perspective regarding Harvey's life are very much appreciated.  I am used to thinking of cremation as an acceptable alternative to burial, although no one in my Protestant family has ever been cremated.  We have dealt with cremation in other fiction in this book club (i.e., 'The Front Runner').  So I was quite little taken aback when I first read the words which Robert used to express his displeasure toward Harvey:  "You burned my mother."  "Burned" seemed like a very harsh way of putting it, and to say "you burned" when all Harvey actually did was to make arrangements with a funeral home struck me as an unfairly direct accusation.

By pointing out how Harvey's cremation of their mother resembled the incineration of Jews by the Nazi Germans, you certainly helped me to understand where Robert's horror was coming from.  It also raises the question of Harvey's motive for choosing to have his mother cremated.  I am assuming, since Harvey did love his mother (from all we have read), that his decision to have her cremated didn't reflect any antagonism toward her, and wasn't intended to dishonor her in any way.  If anything, it seems short-sighted, something possibly done for the sake of expediency.  How do you feel about that?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 14, 2009, 07:49:28 PM
Just wanted to let y'all know, though I did not have the opportunity to read the book, I'm enjoying the discussion immensely, and it's adding a lot to my appreciation of the movie, too.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 14, 2009, 09:51:58 PM
I don't know, Debbie. I wouldn't think so. He may have been expressing his own lack of faith somehow by refusing to do what is customary--perhaps he thought it was foolish to spend the money it would have cost to bury her when it didn't really matter what happened to her body, or that it would be more fitting to have her carried away by the ocean instead of being confined to a grave. Perhaps he couldn't bear to put her in the ground. Perhaps he was rebelling against his religion.  Judaism teaches that the body is to be ritually purified, dressed in a simple white shroud, put in a wooden casket (usually of pine and made without metal), and buried within 24 hours of death if possible. The idea is that the soul goes immediately to God, and the body should also be returned to the dust from whence it came as soon as possible. Above-ground burial is also forbidden by Jewish law, because the return to the earth cannot take place. The shroud and simple casket are to make all humans equal in death, however rich or poor they may have been in life, and to facilitate decomposition. Harvey put his mother in a shroud, and one assumes there was a funeral service, but after that he departed from tradition. Perhaps the hardest thing for relatives to do after the death is to recite the Kaddish, which is a prayer of praise to God. It is said as an expression of faith even in the midst of tragedy and grief, first at the funeral and then at least once a week every week for eleven months (the pious recite it three times a day, every day, at morning, afternoon and evening prayer services.) Perhaps Harvey didn't want to be hypocritical. He was not religious, and perhaps his family was not, either, except by tradition.  This is totally speculative, of course; we have no evidence and we'll never know what motivated him. I find it hard to imagine, however, that a man who loved his mother deeply and who was, generally, a kind and compassionate person, would do such a thing simply to defy or prove something to his father and brother. But perhaps that was part of it. Grief affects people in many different ways.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 10:47:05 PM
I wanted to point out some places on the web you can go to for historical documents related to this period of time in our book.  Jim Foster is one of the people mentioned in this book that Harvey encounters when he comes to San Francisco.  The book mentions that Foster gave a speech at the Democratic convention in August 1972.  Here is the text of that speech:

http://books.google.com/books?id=PatzOnRJCf4C&pg=PA176&lpg=PA176&dq=%22Jim+Foster%22++%22Society+for+Individual+Rights%22&source=web&ots=8A9iponb8A&sig=JZF4fZQcoLNYxA0T7BzXTD5Xruk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result

That book also has a policy statement from the Society for Individual Rights.

Here is a web page that talks about the SIR's place in San Francisco History:

http://www.gmax.co.za/think/history/2004/040330-SFriscoRights.html

And here is an article from the Advocate about the speech Jim Foster gave at the convention:

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/From+the+Archives+of+The+Advocate-a064698467

And here is a web page that gives further information on both Jim Foster and Harvey's boyfriend (and the founder of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop) Craig Rodwell:

http://www.gayonkauai.com/gay-hero.htm

And here are some general gay timelines for San Francisco:

Gay Chronicles - Len Evans [note that this history has information on many of the gay bar raids in the state] - to 1970

http://www.geocities.com/gueroperro/Chron1-Calif-page.htm

Gays and San Francisco share a long -- and sometimes tumultuous -- past
[San Francisco Chronicle]

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2000/06/23/DD20GAY.DTL&type=printable


Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 14, 2009, 11:06:35 PM
Dawn you had asked about the charges that people faced when they were arrested.  Here is a document entitled 'Privacy Jurisprudence and the Apartheid of the Closet, 1946-1961'.  As you might imagine with something with a title like that, it's a little dense, reading wise.  However, if you pay particular attention to the sections entitled '1. Laws to Suppress and Erase the Sex Pervert', '2. Flushing Out the Homosexual: Spies, Decoy Cops, Raids' and 'C. State Suppression of Homosexual Association and Expression' (particularly the section '3. Closing Down Homosexual Socialization') you'll get a pretty good idea as to how the police operated in this period and the types of charges they used against people (and the effects that would have on their lives):

http://www.law.fsu.edu/Journals/lawreview/frames/244/eskrtxt.html#heading14
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 06:35:17 AM
I don't know, Debbie. I wouldn't think so. He may have been expressing his own lack of faith somehow by refusing to do what is customary--perhaps he thought it was foolish to spend the money it would have cost to bury her when it didn't really matter what happened to her body, or that it would be more fitting to have her carried away by the ocean instead of being confined to a grave. Perhaps he couldn't bear to put her in the ground. Perhaps he was rebelling against his religion.  Judaism teaches that the body is to be ritually purified, dressed in a simple white shroud, put in a wooden casket (usually of pine and made without metal), and buried within 24 hours of death if possible. The idea is that the soul goes immediately to God, and the body should also be returned to the dust from whence it came as soon as possible. Above-ground burial is also forbidden by Jewish law, because the return to the earth cannot take place. The shroud and simple casket are to make all humans equal in death, however rich or poor they may have been in life, and to facilitate decomposition. Harvey put his mother in a shroud, and one assumes there was a funeral service, but after that he departed from tradition. Perhaps the hardest thing for relatives to do after the death is to recite the Kaddish, which is a prayer of praise to God. It is said as an expression of faith even in the midst of tragedy and grief, first at the funeral and then at least once a week every week for eleven months (the pious recite it three times a day, every day, at morning, afternoon and evening prayer services.) Perhaps Harvey didn't want to be hypocritical. He was not religious, and perhaps his family was not, either, except by tradition.  This is totally speculative, of course; we have no evidence and we'll never know what motivated him. I find it hard to imagine, however, that a man who loved his mother deeply and who was, generally, a kind and compassionate person, would do such a thing simply to defy or prove something to his father and brother. But perhaps that was part of it. Grief affects people in many different ways.

I never felt that Harvey acted out of malice when he decided to have his mother cremated. He didn't seem to be religious, and by buying a white shroud and having a funeral service, I think he did what he felt was enough even though his brother and father were upset. While he never denied his Jewish identity, he was not a religious Jew.  No, we don't know what motivated him, and he did what he felt was humane.  His brother and father left it up to him -- why would they have done that if they were that upset by it?  Seems to me he took charge and did what he felt was necessary.  After the funeral, he was never close to the family again.

BTW I posted previously that his mother was either in denial about his sexuality, or she was clueless, but I think he remained close enough to her while she lived, and wanted to protect her from finding out about him and Joe.  He always felt "it would kill her" if she found out, and he remained considerate  of her feelings -- signs that he cared about her deeply.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 06:52:02 AM


16.) What do you think of Harvey's notion of politics as theater?  In his early political career do you think that this notion helped him or did it marginalize him?



I was interested to learn about this aspect of Harvey.  He always seemed to crave attention -- life of the party -- sitting in the bus and laughing it up with the guys.  He was very flamboyant and seemed to be a 'natural' when it came to attracting attention.  Since he had been active in theater product on in NYC, once he moved to SF and immersed himself in politics, he discovered an outlet for his theatricality which not only provided a stage for someone as outgoing as he, but it became a tool in his fight for gay rights -- SF gays who had been demeaned by society now had a champion who was smart, tough, and charismatic. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 15, 2009, 08:26:15 AM
^^^^^

well said, Nikki --

I agree -- and unfortunately, successful politicians need to have not only a viable agenda, but they need to be able to excite voters with a simply stated message that captures attention.

Theatrics.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 11:01:23 AM
^^^^^

well said, Nikki --

I agree -- and unfortunately, successful politicians need to have not only a viable agenda, but they need to be able to excite voters with a simply stated message that captures attention.

Theatrics.


Tks Ellen.  In the 30s, the governor of Louisiana, Huey Long, had this same type of charisma.  He was later assassinated, but was 'a man of the people,' while he lived -- charismatic and outgoing. You're right -- theatrics!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 11:08:13 AM
Judaism teaches that the body is to be ritually purified, dressed in a simple white shroud, put in a wooden casket (usually of pine and made without metal), and buried within 24 hours of death if possible. The idea is that the soul goes immediately to God, and the body should also be returned to the dust from whence it came as soon as possible. Above-ground burial is also forbidden by Jewish law, because the return to the earth cannot take place. The shroud and simple casket are to make all humans equal in death, however rich or poor they may have been in life, and to facilitate decomposition. Harvey put his mother in a shroud, and one assumes there was a funeral service, but after that he departed from tradition. {snip}

Thanks again, Jenny, for putting this in perspective.  This all sounds familiar, now that you've laid it out, because I did some reading about Jewish tradition when in college.  But it has been a long time, so thanks for bringing back the details.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 11:22:23 AM
I am assuming, since Harvey did love his mother (from all we have read), that his decision to have her cremated didn't reflect any antagonism toward her, and wasn't intended to dishonor her in any way.  If anything, it seems short-sighted, something possibly done for the sake of expediency.  How do you feel about that?


He may have been expressing his own lack of faith somehow by refusing to do what is customary--perhaps he thought it was foolish to spend the money it would have cost to bury her when it didn't really matter what happened to her body, or that it would be more fitting to have her carried away by the ocean instead of being confined to a grave. Perhaps he couldn't bear to put her in the ground. Perhaps he was rebelling against his religion.... {snip}

I never felt that Harvey acted out of malice when he decided to have his mother cremated. He didn't seem to be religious, and by buying a white shroud and having a funeral service, I think he did what he felt was enough even though his brother and father were upset. While he never denied his Jewish identity, he was not a religious Jew.  No, we don't know what motivated him, and he did what he felt was humane.  His brother and father left it up to him -- why would they have done that if they were that upset by it?  Seems to me he took charge and did what he felt was necessary.  After the funeral, he was never close to the family again.

Okay, so I think we're all in general agreement here.  Harvey did love his mother, nobody thinks otherwise.  His decision to cremate her must have been more tied to his own lack of strong religious beliefs.  Good point.  I might even suggest that that it could be related to some of the "New Age" thinking he encountered as he began to associate with the counter-culture, but that's just one hypothesis.  And as you say, Nikki, his father and brother left the decision up to him, so his brother's (Robert's) anger after the fact does seem a bit harsh.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 11:38:35 AM




17.) Given the difficulties that Harvey had with gay politicos early on are you surprised that he was able to get endorsements from labor?  Were you surprised at the partnership he formed with Allan Baird?  Did you know about the Coors boycott?  Does Harvey's actions with labor unions show that he was more than a one issue candidate and that he could have boader appeal?  Do you think it was important for gays to be able to get jobs in unions at this point?



No I wasn't.  Harvey was a political pragmatist.  He knew that it wasn't enough to go after the gayonly votes.  If he wanted to make it in SF politics, he had to court the powerful labor unions -- not an easy thing for a gay man in SF.  Baird was also a pragmatist, he had seen the neighborhood change and the rise of the gay population.  He knew that Harvey was the goto guy to get things done if you wanted to work with the gays.  He also approached Harvey respectfully by asking for his help as the spokesperson for the gay community.  When Harvey agreed to help Baird, he wisely asked for jobs for gays, something that impressed Baird.  One reason this was important, was that by being accepted into the unions, gays not only got jobs, but broadened their participation in the rank and file of the working class. They  would no longer be considered as twits running around in tutus, but as working men contributing to SF society on an economic level.  This enhanced Harvey's appeal as well -- he wasn't just a one-trick pony -- his political strength was two pronged: he helped the unions by supporting the Coors boycott, and he got jobs for gays thus achieving political power for the gay community.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 11:52:47 AM

18.) 'Some people call me the unofficial mayor of Castro Street,' Harvey said.  Do you think it matters that nobody knew who 'some people' were?  Do you think that (as Shilts says) this made good copy showed a sort of native political intelligence in Harvey?


It definitely made good copy.  It certainly enhanced Harvey's position among  the gay community regardless of who 'some people were.'  And it added luster to Harvey's rep among the straight community who may have looked to Harvey as the goto guy for political favors.  Harvey was savvy about his persona, and knew how to nurture it with such political statements.  It was dramatic and theatrical -- politics as theater!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 12:28:28 PM
9.)  In the 60s Harvey moved from being a Goldwater Republican to working with the musical 'Hair' and becoming a hippie.  To what do you attribute this change?  Was Harvey just becoming tired of the inconsistency between his working 'straight' world and his love life?  Did the death of his mother allow him to change in this direction? 

 
After Harvey returned from Texas and resigned from Bache, he seemed unhappy with his life.  He became involved with the 'flower children' and immersed himself  with the new counterculture.  His move to SF changed his outlook, and he became more relaxed and flexible.  He moved from the right to the left, so to speak when he moved to SF and stayed with the cast members from 'Hair,' and decided that SF was the place for him --- a new boyfriend, new life, and the beginning of a new direction. 

After his mother's death, he never visited his family again, but I don't think her death influenced his political about face.

Nikki, I like the way you answered this question.  Very good point about him becoming more relaxed and flexible in San Francisco.  I’m going to add a few thoughts.

It’s ironic that Harvey was associated with ‘Hair,” because his gradual movement from right to left was symbolized by him growing his own hair.  Even after his 1968 resignation from Bache (for which he had worked in Texas and New York), he stayed in the corporate world in San Francisco, taking a job as a financial analyst when he first moved to San Francisco, thereby carrying on a three-piece-suit existence even as his hair got longer.  His final break with the establishment in 1970 came when he burned his BankAmericard after the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.  He wasn't fired for that action, however; Shilts says that Milk was told, "Cut your hair or quit."  He wouldn't quit, and was fired when he wouldn't cut his hair.  So the short-to-long hair transformation marked the end of one period in Harvey’s life.  (Hair would again mark a transformation in his political career, when he cut off his long hair to garner more political support, after losing his first election in 1973.) 

It's interesting to me that even after Milk's final break from the corporate world, he still used his business background when he began to develop his political philosophy.  He understood that the city budget had to balance, that campaigns had to be financed, and so on.  Even though he became a Democrat because of his social ideals and goals, he never gave up the fiscal pragmatism that he had learned as a Republican.

Michael, I thought this part of your question was interesting:  “Was Harvey just becoming tired of the inconsistency between his working 'straight' world and his love life?”  The term ‘straight’ could have a double meaning there, couldn’t it?  His working life centered around people who at least kept up a pretense of being sexually straight, whereas his love life centered around the gay subculture.  But you could also mean that his work life was traditionally bureaucratic, whereas his love life was more freewheeling, especially after he moved away from strictly monogamous relationships.  I wouldn’t say that either way of looking at his love life (as a gay man, or as a person in non-monogamous relationships) had as much to do with his political transformation, as did his association with the counter-culture – although they’re related, because the counter-culture’s idea of “free love” came as a real break from his old monogamous ideal.  The counter-culture, however, was full of sexually straight people, even though they may not have been the ones he got to know best.

Yes, Nikki, I don’t think the 1964 death of his mother entered into this transformation, especially since several years had passed since her death and he was living clear across the country from the rest of his family by the time he actually left his financial analyst job.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 01:18:43 PM
10.) On page 34 Harvey tells Jim Bruton that he'll never make it to fifty.  This is a recurring theme in the book.  What do you make of this belief?  Do you think that Harvey had some sort of foresight - or do you think Shilts makes too much of this notion?

Nikki, I think your response hits the nail right on the head, when it comes to Milk’s repetition of that statement in later life, after he has become a gay activist:

If Harvey was Irish, I'd say he was 'fey.'  However, there does seem to be an underlying feeling of precognition in his remarks.  Shilts attributes these remarks to various people by Harvey, so I think Shilts is not making too much of it.   Harvey was politically savvy, he knew he had set his feet on a path that could bring down retribution on his head.  Being a gay activist was not something that  would indear him to the rank and file of mainstream America.  He was aware of violence towards gays, and he had to know how unpopular his political stance was coupled with the fact that he was now an open gay man running for office. Harvey liked attention and relished being 'The Mayor of Castro Street' -- not a low profile.  One could say this way led to disaster, and IMO this is what colored Harvey's attitude to his early demise.

But I find it somewhat puzzling that Harvey made that comment on page 34 to Jim Bruton, when he was still working in New York.  Bruton was a Bache vice-president who had guessed that Harvey was gay, because he (Bruton) was apparently gay himself.  In their discussion on page 34, Bruton says, “The only way you’ll go before you’re fifty is if you finally get somebody at the office so mad that they’ll push you out a window on Wall Street.”  No hint here of political activism in Harvey’s future.  Harvey tells Bruton that he’s known since he was a kid (long before he became political) that there’s something sinister down the road.

Why would he think that?  Perhaps it’s because he grew up as an outsider, both by being gay and by being Jewish.  He was leading a very conservative life at the time of his discussion with Jim Bruton, so he may have had no idea then that he would ever be a gay activist or a political candidate or a public figure of any kind.  It could be that he just thought that he might become an anonymous victim of anti-gay violence, or the victim of a police raid gone too far.

However, I was also struck by something that Jenny said yesterday, when discussing Harvey’s Jewish background:

Last but not least, Jews tend to have a tragic view of history. They're used to losing their boldest leaders to martyrdom and to finding that even governments that gave them sanctuary and apparent acceptance will turn on them when it's expedient. They have a lot of experience in fighting for lost causes against overwhelming odds, too. I suspect that some of that seeped into Harvey's worldview. When he decided to fight the system he knew he would become a target, and he accepted that. He didn't want to die, but he knew how powerful martyrs could be in motivating change.

Jenny, you were referring to Harvey’s later days after he became active politically, but perhaps that Jewish “tragic sense of history” seeped into Harvey’s personal outlook on life even before he knew what he really wanted to be in life -- even before realized that he would become a bold leader and a candidate for martyrdom.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 02:38:27 PM
11.) Shilts talks both about Jim Bruton and another 70 year old man who he interviewed for the book who wanted to remain anonymous even though his lover was dead.  Does the difference between the anonymous man and Bruton (and Harvey) seem to be simply one of personality - or is political (or perhaps class related)?  Do you see this notion coming down to our own day with those who believe 'it's nobody's business but ours'?

I initially thought it was more than personality, but now I’m not sure what.  Nikki suggested that it might be generational, and that makes a lot of sense to me, if the anonymous 70-year-old man was really a lot older than Jim Bruton.  But I’m not sure about that; the years and ages are confusing.  Bruton was a vice-president of a firm in the 1960s, and Shilts spoke of the “septuagenarian” when writing this book in the early 1980s (20 years or so later).  It seems to me that Bruton and the anonymous man might both have been in their 50s during the early 1960s, especially if a person had to put in a lot of years with a company before becoming a VP.  They could actually be about the same age. 

This anonymous man does say, “I’m just from a different generation” to Shilts – that could just mean that he’s not from Randy Shilts’ generation.  “But it’s also the generation that Harvey Milk came from, he stresses,” Shilts writes (and I think this may be a fault in the book, that Shilts wrote the sentence that way without a better explanation).  That sentence did seem confusing, because Harvey, born in 1930, was only in his 30s during the 1960s, and the book says that the anonymous man served as a “gay father figure”  to young homosexual professionals (including Harvey, by implication).  Harvey must have been a lot younger than the anonymous man, but I can’t tell where Jim Bruton fits in.  It makes sense, though, that his higher corporate position might make him considerably older than Harvey.

Both Jim Bruton and the anonymous man both seem to be from a fairly wealthy class, with high positions in the corporate world, so I would guess their difference isn’t class-related.  And I suspect it’s not a political difference, because Bruton is concerned with “how to play the game” to get ahead in the corporate world (so he’s not an activist), and the anonymous man thinks, “What does politics have to do with homosexuality?”  Maybe it does come down to personality.  Bruton may be comfortable with coming out and being identified publicly in a book, whereas the anonymous man doesn’t see the point in talking publicly about being a homosexual.  For him, the phrase “it’s nobody’s business but ours” would probably strike a chord, and he would agree.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 04:20:11 PM

Tks Debbie for your comments.  Harvey was a complex man, wasn't he?  Yet, long before he arrived in SF, he had feelings of something 'sinister down the road.'  Even before he became a gay activist Harvey knew what life was like for gays -- he experienced the raids in the park in NY, and he had enough sense to keep his sexuality closeted from friends in high school and college for his own protection.  He knew the military code against gays was career threatening even before the DADT policy of later days.  I think Bruton's remark to Harvey about getting someone so mad they'd push him out of a window, while it had nothing to do with his later activism in SF, indicated to Burton that Harvey had it in him to attract violence because of his 'live fast, die young' philosophy. Even though Burton considered it morbid, he recalled it years later and how it occasionally came up in their conversations.

And yet.... I admired that Harvey forged ahead in later years once he was immersed in gay rights in SF knowing he was taking risks politically, not to mention that several of his lovers certainly exhibited violent tendencies attempting and, in some cases, committing suicide.  His life was surrounded by threats and tragedy, but he never seemed to lose his love and enthusiasm for the ideals he fought for in SF. If politics was theater, Harvey was an award winner.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 15, 2009, 04:52:18 PM



19.) Harvey moved from an insistance on fidelity and monogamy in the days of Joe Campbell to a notion of 'free-love' in the days of Castro camera.  What do you think of this?  Do you think that this was simply his reaction to the times?  In the long run would this have had a negative effect on his political career?  Do you think he would have re-embraced monogamy had he lived to see the rise of AIDS?


Frankly, I was a bit disappointed that Harvey and Joe broke up.  Harvey had been so adamant about fidelity and monogamy that I was surprised.  However, I do think it was a partial reaction to the times. Promiscuity became the norm, and Harvey, with his strong sexual drive, now had a veritable banquet of free love in which to indulge his sexual appetites.  I do think it would have affected his career negatively. He cut his hair, shed the beads, and adopted conservative suits to fit the mold of the upwardly rising politico, so I think he was projecting an image with more gravitas which he knew would attract a more mainstream following.

 Michael, it occurred to me to wonder what Harvey would have done during the rise of AIDS.  I believe that he would probably have felt very protective of his gay constituents, especially with so many deaths occurring during the AIDS crisis. Since he was a leader in the gay community, I think he would have been active, not only in re-embracing monogamy, but in campaigning to educate the community in practicing defensive sex practices. Had he lived, he would probably have been in he forefront of the AIDS fight -- at least I like to think so.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 05:08:01 PM
12.) Harvey becomes involved with theater people and the plays 'Hair', 'Jesus Christ Superstar' and 'Lenny' and this led to his moving to San Francisco for the first time.  How much of an affect do you think this had on Harvey's life and on his views?

Tom O’Horgan was the entertainer who staged the experimental plays ‘Hair,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and ‘Lenny.’  He became Harvey’s friend, and appears to have been one of the biggest influences on Harvey’s movement into the counter-culture.  However, O’Horgan only indirectly pushed Harvey toward San Francisco, when he gave Harvey’s boyfriend Jack McKinley a job as stage director for ‘Hair.’  Harvey initially went to SF to follow Jack, and he didn’t plunge into the counter-culture all at once, instead becoming a financial analyst when he first arrived there.

But once in San Francisco, Harvey began looking around at the local political scene.  He saw that gays had no voice in government.  This observation seems like the first seed of his gay activism.  The 1969 mayoral elections were coming up, and Harvey began telling people that he’d like to run for mayor.  His friends persuaded him that this wasn’t feasible, but it represents the start of his new life as a gay leader and political activist.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 05:31:15 PM

Tks Debbie for your comments.  Harvey was a complex man, wasn't he?  Yet, long before he arrived in SF, he had feelings of something 'sinister down the road.'  Even before he became a gay activist Harvey knew what life was like for gays -- he experienced the raids in the park in NY, and he had enough sense to keep his sexuality closeted from friends in high school and college for his own protection.  He knew the military code against gays was career threatening even before the DADT policy of later days.  I think Bruton's remark to Harvey about getting someone so mad they'd push him out of a window, while it had nothing to do with his later activism in SF, indicated to Burton that Harvey had it in him to attract violence because of his 'live fast, die young' philosophy. Even though Burton considered it morbid, he recalled it years later and how it occasionally came up in their conversations.

And yet.... I admired that Harvey forged ahead in later years once he was immersed in gay rights in SF knowing he was taking risks politically, not to mention that several of his lovers certainly exhibited violent tendencies attempting and, in some cases, committing suicide.  His life was surrounded by threats and tragedy, but he never seemed to lose his love and enthusiasm for the ideals he fought for in SF. If politics was theater, Harvey was an award winner.

Good points, Nikki.  I can see where Harvey's initial feelings that he wouldn't make it to age fifty stemmed from a basic knowledge that, because he was gay, the world was against him (or would be, if "the world" knew).  His 'live fast, die young' philosophy that you mention probably did stem from his wanting to crowd as many experiences into whatever time he had available, and that's why he lived for the 'now.'

I have to think, surely he knew of some older men who were gay, whose time didn't run out at age fifty, who lived to a ripe old age?  But maybe not.  Back in those days, the gay people Harvey met were mostly young men, and many of them had psychological and emotional problems, as demonstrated by the suicides and attempted suicides.  It's a shame that Harvey didn't have any older gay role models, but I guess that's what happens when the older gay men who have adapted successfully to life are forced to stay in the closet.  That probably has something to do with why Harvey hoped to become a role model for younger gay men, as he got older, and also has to do with why he later on encouraged all gays to come out of the closet.  (But this is getting ahead of the story.)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 15, 2009, 05:40:53 PM
17.) Given the difficulties that Harvey had with gay politicos early on are you surprised that he was able to get endorsements from labor?  Were you surprised at the partnership he formed with Allan Baird?  Did you know about the Coors boycott?  Does Harvey's actions with labor unions show that he was more than a one issue candidate and that he could have boader appeal?  Do you think it was important for gays to be able to get jobs in unions at this point?

No I wasn't.  Harvey was a political pragmatist.  He knew that it wasn't enough to go after the gayonly votes.  If he wanted to make it in SF politics, he had to court the powerful labor unions -- not an easy thing for a gay man in SF.  Baird was also a pragmatist, he had seen the neighborhood change and the rise of the gay population.  He knew that Harvey was the goto guy to get things done if you wanted to work with the gays.  He also approached Harvey respectfully by asking for his help as the spokesperson for the gay community.  When Harvey agreed to help Baird, he wisely asked for jobs for gays, something that impressed Baird.  One reason this was important, was that by being accepted into the unions, gays not only got jobs, but broadened their participation in the rank and file of the working class. They  would no longer be considered as twits running around in tutus, but as working men contributing to SF society on an economic level.  This enhanced Harvey's appeal as well -- he wasn't just a one-trick pony -- his political strength was two pronged: he helped the unions by supporting the Coors boycott, and he got jobs for gays thus achieving political power for the gay community.

I couldn't agree more Nikki!  Baird is and Harvey was political pragmatists cut out of the same cloth this way.  I also think that this has a lot to do with Milk's grandfather as well - the admiration and appreciation of people who sweat to live runs deep there, I think.

I don't know if I mentioned this here - but in 'Milk' Baird actually plays himself.

Here's an article from the time:

http://www.goodasyou.org/secondbid.png
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 15, 2009, 05:44:41 PM
That last link was from this source - which gets ahead of us in the story - so *SPOILERS ALERT*:

http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2008/11/brush-op-on-you.html

and this page at the same site is great as well [same spoilers alert....]

http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2008/11/thirty-years-on.html
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 05:59:21 PM
19.) Harvey moved from an insistance on fidelity and monogamy in the days of Joe Campbell to a notion of 'free-love' in the days of Castro camera.  What do you think of this?  Do you think that this was simply his reaction to the times?  In the long run would this have had a negative effect on his political career?  Do you think he would have re-embraced monogamy had he lived to see the rise of AIDS?

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed that Harvey and Joe broke up.  Harvey had been so adamant about fidelity and monogamy that I was surprised.  However, I do think it was a partial reaction to the times. Promiscuity became the norm, and Harvey, with his strong sexual drive, now had a veritable banquet of free love in which to indulge his sexual appetites.  I do think it would have affected his career negatively. He cut his hair, shed the beads, and adopted conservative suits to fit the mold of the upwardly rising politico, so I think he was projecting an image with more gravitas which he knew would attract a more mainstream following.

Michael, it occurred to me to wonder what Harvey would have done during the rise of AIDS.  I believe that he would probably have felt very protective of his gay constituents, especially with so many deaths occurring during the AIDS crisis. Since he was a leader in the gay community, I think he would have been active, not only in re-embracing monogamy, but in campaigning to educate the community in practicing defensive sex practices. Had he lived, he would probably have been in he forefront of the AIDS fight -- at least I like to think so.

I'm going to jump in on this one here, too.  As to the first part of the question, I wasn't happy that Harvey moved away from his insistence on monogamy to his embracing of 'free-love,' but I agree that it was a reaction to the times.  Even if Harvey did break up with Joe Campbell, I thought he might have been better off in his relationship with Jack McKinley if they had remained monogamous.  He was in a relationship with Scott Smith at the time he began his political career, but that relationship ended up not being monogamous either.  I doubt that he thought it mattered too much to his constituency whether that relationship was monogamous, so for the time being, he felt could get away with doing whatever he wanted in terms of finding sexual partners. 

Once he began to think seriously about politics (after losing the 1973 election for supervisor), he did make a number of changes in addition to cutting his hair, and aside from the monogamy issue:   he resolved to give up smoking marijuana, and he resolved not to go to the bathhouses again.  He recognized that he was risking too much with these actions, since an arrest could have tarnished his public record and made him an unfeasible candidate.  He knew nothing of AIDS then, but if he'd been around to see the rise of AIDS, I feel pretty sure that he would have resolved to stick to monogamous relationships and practice safe sex.  By then he would have recognized that AIDS could kill him, and he dared not risk dying at that point, because dying would have been the ultimate way of spoiling any hoped for candidacy.  He had become a gay leader by then, and I think he would have felt that his constituents, and people all across the country, needed his leadership and his message.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 15, 2009, 06:18:25 PM
1.)  In the Author's note for the book Randy Shilts says 'There are times, rare times, when the forces of social change collide with a series of dramatic events to produce moments which are later called historic.'  If we assume the Shilts is correct (and I do) concerning Harvey Milk, do you think that without films like 'Milk' and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' that Harvey Milk's story would be remembered by those other than political activists and advocates of LGBT rights?  Do you see evidence of his being remembered in your community? Why do you think this is?

I would like to think that Harvey Milk would be remembered, but I'm not sure of that.  I became aware of Harvey Milk not long after I came out.  He was listed in a book I bought called "The Gay 100" a listing of 100 most influential gay and lesbian people.  I had no idea who he was prior to this, I was only 9 when he was assasinated.

Just last week, I was having lunch with some coworkers who are about my age.  I mentioned that I want to see "Milk" this weekend for my birthday.  2 of the people I was eating with had no idea who Harvey Milk was, and got upset when someone at the table announced he had been assasinated, as it ruined the film for them.

That sound you heard was just me falling out of my chair.  :o

One would hope that people (particularly people who work for their communities) are at least remembered for the next few generations...but I guess not.

It's a little hard from me to judge from here, of course - there's a Harvey Milk school in the city...it's an alternative school (this is San Francisco - what did you expect). 

http://www.harveymilk.com/about/mission.html

And there's a memorial project that was the driving force behind getting the bust of Harvey Milk in City Hall:

http://www.milkmemorial.org/

But not all things related to Harvey have fared so well - even here:

http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=2897

I think the general forgetting of Harvey's life may in part be due to the fact that both he (and Moscone) were city officials.  But you would think that their murders (particularly in combination with the Jonestown murders) would at least fix this period of time in people's minds.  This does not bode well for places like New Orleans.... :-\

And Chuck...you need to watch who you eat lunch with...it can give you indigestion.... :D
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 15, 2009, 06:50:55 PM
Michael, it occurred to me to wonder what Harvey would have done during the rise of AIDS.  I believe that he would probably have felt very protective of his gay constituents, especially with so many deaths occurring during the AIDS crisis. Since he was a leader in the gay community, I think he would have been active, not only in re-embracing monogamy, but in campaigning to educate the community in practicing defensive sex practices. Had he lived, he would probably have been in he forefront of the AIDS fight -- at least I like to think so.

I agree that he would have been, Nikki.  The thought that two things could have changed history...the election of Reagan and the death of Harvey...has always given me chills.

The thing that I think would have been particularly helpful was that in 1982 the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence worked with some gay doctors and came out with a very informative brochure entitled 'Play Fair!' [see an updated version of the brochure here...and yes, this is NSFW:
http://www.thesisters.org/playfair.html].  Harvey knew people like Gilbert Baker...designer of the rainbow flag who were involved with the sisters (Gilbert was Sister Chanel 2001).  To have a city official on board with information like this early on would have been vital.  Don't get me wrong - I actually think that of the nation's mayors that Feinstein did a pretty good job...in large part due to the director of public health Dr. Mervyn Silverman.  But if Harvey had been on the scene I think this information would have gone national much sooner (think of how press savvy he was in SF - he would have been a wonderful early spokesman).

And of course it's important to remember that Harvey's protégé Cleve Jones was the person who started the AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1985:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleve_Jones

And it's essential for me to mention Bill Kraus - who worked with Harvey on the Prop 6 campaign and went on to become a president of the Harvey Milk Gay Democratic Club.  He was a very intelligent (and effective) advocate from Harvey's camp as well (and he is missed):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Kraus

Because of the political connections that Harvey had, I'm quite positive he would have been a marvelously effective spokesman. 

Or another way to look at it is...Dan White didn't just kill two people....
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 15, 2009, 07:05:33 PM
He resolved to give up smoking marijuana, and he resolved not to go to the bathhouses again.  He recognized that he was risking too much with these actions, since an arrest could have tarnished his public record and made him an unfeasible candidate.  He knew nothing of AIDS then, but if he'd been around to see the rise of AIDS, I feel pretty sure that he would have resolved to stick to monogamous relationships and practice safe sex.  By then he would have recognized that AIDS could kill him, and he dared not risk dying at that point, because dying would have been the ultimate way of spoiling any hoped for candidacy.  He had become a gay leader by then, and I think he would have felt that his constituents, and people all across the country, needed his leadership and his message.

I don't doubt that given the choice he would have remained monogamous as we became aware of the disease - many of us changed our sexual behavior at that time.  Of course I have to point out here that lots of 'monogamous' guys got sick too (that is people who said they were) - so it could have just as easily happened that Harvey would have been one of the unlucky guys who came down with the disease early on (what a horrid thought  :-\).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 07:31:34 PM
- so it could have just as easily happened that Harvey would have been one of the unlucky guys who came down with the disease early on (what a horrid thought  :-\).

That is a horrid thought, Michael, and it occurred to me while I was reading the book.  To have survived an assassination plot, and then died of AIDS -- just an awful thought.  He might have gotten sick before anyone knew what AIDS was.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 15, 2009, 07:38:16 PM



19.) Harvey moved from an insistance on fidelity and monogamy in the days of Joe Campbell to a notion of 'free-love' in the days of Castro camera.  What do you think of this?  Do you think that this was simply his reaction to the times?  In the long run would this have had a negative effect on his political career?  Do you think he would have re-embraced monogamy had he lived to see the rise of AIDS?


Frankly, I was a bit disappointed that Harvey and Joe broke up.  Harvey had been so adamant about fidelity and monogamy that I was surprised. 

Well, the breakup with Joe seemed ill-conceived, didn't it?  Afterward he kept begging Joe to come back.  I think Shilts did his best to report on this but we don't really know what got into Harvey to send Joe packing.

IMO the later free sex was truly a reaction to the times.  After Harvey's mother died he was free to be himself and he was a strong enough personality to truly experiment with this lifestyle. 

He actually lived both worlds.  He conformed for over 20 adult years, and experienced financial success.

Then times changed, but when they did, Harvey not only became a hippie, he was in another realm, honestly in a realm I barely knew existed at the time.  The explosion of freedom and free love in heterosexual relationships, androgynous fashion, etc -- all of that allowed Harvey to envision an acceptance of a gay lifestyle.

But, again IMO -- he was ahead of his time.  Or -- more to the point -- he envisioned what others did not envision.

Harvey Milk is not the only homosexual who conformed during those decades -- but he was also an original thinker and a charismatic person -- those gifts gave him the ability to be a leader and blazer of trails.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 15, 2009, 07:56:14 PM
Well, the breakup with Joe seemed ill-conceived, didn't it?  Afterward he kept begging Joe to come back.  I think Shilts did his best to report on this but we don't really know what got into Harvey to send Joe packing.

True, Ellen.  Harvey regretted it immediately.  And Joe Campbell seemed like a pretty stable person during his years with Harvey.  I think they were good for each other.

They might have had problems, later, though, if Harvey had gone ahead to enter politics while still involved with Joe.  Joe never did understand Harvey's "persecution complex" and probably wouldn't have understood Harvey's activism, either.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 16, 2009, 09:16:20 AM





Then times changed, but when they did, Harvey not only became a hippie, he was in another realm, honestly in a realm I barely knew existed at the time.  The explosion of freedom and free love in heterosexual relationships, androgynous fashion, etc -- all of that allowed Harvey to envision an acceptance of a gay lifestyle.


Yes, Ellen. Yet I wondered when Harvey began to indulge his voracious sexual appetite would it have been possible for him to escape contracting AIDS.  If so, this would certainly  have been the impetus for him to be at the forefront of the AIDS battle. And if so, would he have lived long enough to be effective?  Of course, this is speculation -- we'll never know.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 16, 2009, 09:37:09 AM


I don't doubt that given the choice he would have remained monogamous as we became aware of the disease - many of us changed our sexual behavior at that time.  Of course I have to point out here that lots of 'monogamous' guys got sick too (that is people who said they were) - so it could have just as easily happened that Harvey would have been one of the unlucky guys who came down with the disease early on (what a horrid thought  :-\).

Michael, last night I watched 'And the Band Played On.'  It was a stunning account of the development of the  AIDS pandemic.  I was profoundly moved by the candlelight procession in SF memoralizing the deaths in the gay community.  It was shocking to learn how the medical community ignored the cases that mounted, as well as the political infighting amoung them and the competition between Dr. Gallo and the French researchers.  One actor comments that Reagan didn't even say the words, 'AIDS,' or something to that effect. 

IMO Shilts did a masterful job bringing the story to the public. How sad that he, himself, died of AIDS later.

----------------------------------

If there is anyone reading this thread who lived  in SF and knew Harvey Milk, I would be very interested in his comments.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 10:27:51 AM
Here's one sentence from the link about Bill Kraus which Michael posted above:

Through the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, Kraus conducted a “safe-sex” campaign, endlessly trying to bring awareness to the gay community of the dangers of unsafe sexual intercourse.

If Bill Kraus used the Harvey Milk Democratic Club as a platform for fighting AIDS after Harvey's death, this gives me all the more reason to believe that Harvey would have used the club (under its prior name) or some similar organization to work for AIDS education, too.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 10:43:55 AM
 
13.) From early on Harvey was extremely affected by the holocaust.  Do you think that this identification with the oppressed is a direct connection between the early life and the later life of Harvey Milk?

I think so, and this has been covered pretty well so far here.  Reading this question again makes me wonder again, though, about the possible connection his brother Robert may have made between the holocaust and Harvey’s “burning” of their mother.  Maybe Harvey didn’t think of the holocaust in terms of how people’s bodies were handled after death.  Maybe he focused on living people, and the discrimination they faced.

We do know that his focus on the holocaust made him aware that not only did Jews wear yellow stars in the concentration camps, gays also wore pink triangles in the concentration camps.  And he knew that gays, as well as Jews, had been incinerated by the Nazis.  This probably led to his later beliefs that gays ought not to just passively accept police harassment and go quietly into the paddy wagons, but ought instead to fight back.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 11:24:15 AM
14.) Were you surprised to find out that Jose Sarria ran for supervisor in 1961 as an openly gay man?  Did chapter 4 give you a better idea of the world that Harvey moved into?  Were you surprised that activists were already organizing in 1964 in San Francisco?  Is it surprising that Jim Foster, David Goodstein and Rick Stokes - who were the 'old guard' in comparison to Harvey - were considered 'young turks' by their peers?  What did you find most interesting or informative about this history?

I found Chapter 4 very interesting – it did give me a good look at the world that Harvey moved into.  I know a lot about San Francisco’s history – starting with the fact that lots of men came there during the gold rush days, and that the Barbary Coast was a neighborhood of ill-repute prior to the 1906 earthquake – but I didn’t realize that it was such an important military base during the war years.  In particular, I was interested to learn that men who were dishonorably discharged from the military were released in San Francisco, and often stayed there.  This material helped me to understand how SF had come to have a high percentage of gays in its population, long before it became a magnet for attracting young gays during the “flower children days” and thereafter.

I had never heard of Jose Sarria until reading of how he performed in a sequined gown in the Black Cat bar during the 1950s.  His “orations,” as Shilts calls them, about how “there’s nothing wrong with being gay…be proud of who you are” do show that he had leadership qualities.  But the idea that he would have run for supervisor in 1961 (not just as an openly gay man, but as someone with a background as a drag queen) does surprise me.  1961 seems very early for something like that.

I was not that terribly surprised to find that activists were organizing in SF by 1964, because this was several years after New York’s Stonewall riots and the emergence of gay activists there.  Furthermore, Foster, Goodstein and Stokes seemed like men with conservative temperaments who were not likely to get into a fracas with the larger political establishment.  They all had been the victim of discrimination and mistreatment in their own lives because of their homosexuality (dishonorable Army discharge; being fired from job at a bank; shock treatments) but they favored working quietly within the system to make changes slowly.  The term ‘young turks,’ in my mind, just captures the idea of strength, and their positions of authority and power in the community, rather than necessarily reflecting their age.  Harvey, by contrast, was an outsider in the community that he had just moved into.

I found it informative to learn of George Moscone’s and Dianne Feinstein’s background in city government, beginning in 1963 and 1969, respectively, when each was first elected to the board of supervisors.  It was also interesting to read about how the city shifted from blue-collar to white-collar as a result of urban renewal and an emphasis on making the city a tourist attraction and a center for big business.  All this information helps set the stage for understanding Harvey’s life in the city and his feelings about it.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 12:53:37 PM
If Bill Kraus used the Harvey Milk Democratic Club as a platform for fighting AIDS after Harvey's death, this gives me all the more reason to believe that Harvey would have used the club (under its prior name) or some similar organization to work for AIDS education, too.

Bill Kraus worked very hard in San Francisco (and took incredible grief - being called a 'sex nazi' at the time) to fight to spread the word on AIDS early on.  He is interviewed in 'The Time of Harvey Milk', but by the time 'And the band played on'  was made he already lost his own personal fight with HIV.  :'(

There is no doubt to me that Harvey would have been on board.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 01:04:58 PM
15.) What did you make of Harvey's jokes about shootings to San Francisco Tomorrow in the 1973 campaign? [pg 70]  Do you understand why people thought of him as an unpredictable crazy at this point?  What do you think motivated him to run for office?  What do you make of the turf battles between Foster et al. and Milk - was there a substantial political difference between them?  Do you think that Harvey was visionary or egocentric (or something else) in his assertion that there should be a gay supervisor in 1973 (as opposed to Foster and co. who said it wasn't time yet)?  Do you think that Sarria (and the drag queens) endorsement helped or hurt Harvey?

I thought the jokes about shootings (Harvey telling San Francisco Tomorrow representatives that he could win without money because his being gay would provoke someone to shoot him, and then if he survived, he would get lots of sympathy votes) was a typical instance of Harvey’s twisted sense of humor.  It sounds a lot like when Harvey admitted that he’d made up the story about a dishonorable discharge, just to get sympathy votes.  But Michael Wong and Joan Irwin weren’t amused by the talk of a shooting, and the comment backfired because he lost the organization’s endorsement.  [Question for Michael:  What is Harvey referring to when he mentions the Texas homosexual shootings?  Are these the shootings on the University of Texas campus, by a sniper in the tower?  I don’t remember hearing that the shooter in that case was gay.]

People probably considered Harvey “unpredictable and crazy” in part because of off-the-cuff jokes like these, in part because of his hippie appearance, in part because he was new to the city, and in part because of the “tirades” he conducted in his camera store in front of customers. 

The book mentions three specific things that made Harvey mad enough (and sent him into loud enough tirades) that he resolved to get involved in politics to do something about specific wrongs.  These had to do with a bureaucrat who came to collect a deposit against city sales taxes at the camera store; a chance meeting with a teacher whose school couldn’t fund the tools she needed for her lessons; and the televised Watergate hearings which gave him the idea that liars and crooks were leading the country.  Harvey’s subsequent decision to enter politics didn’t take the form of a “career move” by which he could enhance his own future; rather, he comes across as someone who seriously wanted to right the wrongs which he saw in government.  It’s significant that he wasn’t just entering politics to work for gay rights; he hoped for a broader constituency of little people who were being trounced by the system.

As for the turf battles, I think Foster was used to controlling the gay turf and was not pleased at the idea of sharing his turf with a newcomer.  Also, he was much more conservative (a “moderate”); he wanted to work for gay rights by having “liberal friends” (who weren’t gay) do much of the actual work.  It seems natural to me that Foster’s conservative approach to things would lead him to say that it wasn’t time for a gay supervisor in 1973.  When Harvey asserted that it was time, I don’t see that as being egocentric (I really don’t think he was driven by personal ego).  Perhaps it was visionary, but most of all it showed that he was ready to take matters into his own hands and try to fix things that needed fixing (for gays and other political outsiders), rather than waiting for someone with more power to do it for them.

 Given the group of people whom Harvey managed to gather to endorse him or vote for him (not just the drag queens, but gay bar owners, a marijuana dealer, and various “potheads”) I don’t think Sarria’s endorsement hurt.  Harvey got 7,000 votes, far more than anyone expected.  If he ever wanted to run again and win, he would have to build a broader constituency, but at least the 1973 race gave him name recognition.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 01:24:51 PM
16.) What do you think of Harvey's notion of politics as theater?  In his early political career do you think that this notion helped him or did it marginalize him?

Shilts mentions that when Harvey was in high school and college, he wasn’t part of the drama club and didn’t take part in school plays.  He stuck to athletics, where no one would suspect him of being gay.  He did, however, enjoy the opera, and we see him at age eleven imagining that he is conducting an orchestra at the old Met.  His flair for theatricality is more wish than reality at that point.

Even when he met Tom O’Horgan and became involved with stage productions, Harvey never appeared on the stage, but had behind-the-scenes positions.  The plays he was associated with were political plays, but Harvey wasn’t interested in acting or producing, according to his old friend, author Eve Merriam:  “If he couldn’t do politics in theater, it made sense that he would try to do theater in politics,” she said.

Harvey had the outgoing personality and the charisma to carry off the use of theatricality – especially in his speeches – in politics.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 01:52:36 PM
[Question for Michael:  What is Harvey referring to when he mentions the Texas homosexual shootings?  Are these the shootings on the University of Texas campus, by a sniper in the tower?  I don’t remember hearing that the shooter in that case was gay.]

I believe you're thinking of Charles Whitman, Debbie.  That was long before this - in 1966:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Whitman

I believe the killer Harvey is referring to is Dean Corill, who, with David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, murdered 27 teenage boys between 1970 and 1973:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Corll
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 01:54:24 PM
Thanks, Michael.  It was confusing, so, glad you could clear it up.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 01:58:05 PM
Thanks, Michael.  It was confusing, so, glad you could clear it up.

You bet Debbie.  Whitman was a spree killer, btw, Corll & co. were serial killers.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 05:26:02 PM
Tom O’Horgan was the entertainer who staged the experimental plays ‘Hair,’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ and ‘Lenny.’  He became Harvey’s friend, and appears to have been one of the biggest influences on Harvey’s movement into the counter-culture.  However, O’Horgan only indirectly pushed Harvey toward San Francisco, when he gave Harvey’s boyfriend Jack McKinley a job as stage director for ‘Hair.’  Harvey initially went to SF to follow Jack, and he didn’t plunge into the counter-culture all at once, instead becoming a financial analyst when he first arrived there.

But once in San Francisco, Harvey began looking around at the local political scene.  He saw that gays had no voice in government.  This observation seems like the first seed of his gay activism.  The 1969 mayoral elections were coming up, and Harvey began telling people that he’d like to run for mayor.  His friends persuaded him that this wasn’t feasible, but it represents the start of his new life as a gay leader and political activist.

Well you know Debbie - 'Hair' and 'Lenny' were both pretty political plays in their way.  And he was involved in something called 'Inner City' (which sounds like it flopped) as well.  So he may have been well on his way to this political consciousness before he was headed out here.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 16, 2009, 05:37:24 PM


Bill Kraus worked very hard in San Francisco (and took incredible grief - being called a 'sex nazi' at the time) to fight to spread the word on AIDS early on.  He is interviewed in 'The Time of Harvey Milk', but by the time 'And the band played on'  was made he already lost his own personal fight with HIV.  :'(



Ian McKellan played the role of Kraus in 'And the Band Played On.'  He gave a beautiful performance, especially at the end when Kraus (McK) is dying of AIDS, it is profoundly heartrending.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 05:38:25 PM
Jenny and Debbie - I hope you don't mind that I don't go back and quote the messages where you were getting into the conversation about Harvey and Robert's relationship - and how the cremation of their mother upset Robert and distanced him from Harvey.  However I have a question regarding this - did his family seem particularly religious to you from what you read in the book?  I mean, I know that his grandfather got together the required number of men for a minyan - but this is also balanced by knowing that Harvey was going into New York City on the weekends to see Operas [I mean sure, there are synagogues there, but it didn't really sound like it was part of the program.]  So did his brother become Orthodox [or Ultra-Orthodox]?

In which case why would he expect that the beliefs that he had assumed into his life should apply to Harvey?

I fear we may not know enough about this to make an educated guess - but I'm interested in what you have to say about this.  We do know that Harvey didn't want a religious service for his death [yes, I'm jumping ahead, sorry] - it just seems to me like there was a big ideological or religious divide between the brothers and it may have been brewing before their mother's death.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 16, 2009, 06:25:14 PM



21.) Were you surprised at the police harassment on Castro street in the 70s?  Do you think that this was a conflict between the Irish-American culture that had been in the neighborhood before the gay influx?  Do you think that Harvey and Allan Baird were idealistic in thinking that the Castro should be equally welcoming to gay and straight people?



No, I wasn't surprised.  Generations of Irish Catholics lived in the neighborhood, and attended Holy Redeemer church.  The SFPD and fire department were made up of the  sons of the parishioners, so the influx of hippies in the Haight, and later the gays in the Castro were a threat to "their" neighborhood.  Police harassment was no doubt fueled by church teachings regarding homosexuality and, if not actually encouraged by Alioto, was winked at during police raids and violence towards gays.

The Utopian world that Harvey and Baird envisioned did seem too idealistic, but Harvey always wanted Castro St. to be welcoming to all.  If anyone could bring back the old neighborhood feel Harvey could do it, and he had the following to bring it to fruition.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 16, 2009, 07:02:57 PM
Actually, Michael, when I was reading about Harvey's childhood, I didn't get the idea that religion was terribly important in the family, except for the grandparents, as you say.  We don't learn a lot about Robert's childhood.  We also don't learn a lot about robert's young adulthood, because he was four years older than Harvey and was probably off doing his own thing while Harvey was in college in Albany.  Somewhere, Robert may have become more religious, but maybe Harvey was off living in Manhattan by then.

But even if the religious aspects of Judaism weren't that important to Harvey's own parents, he still identified socially as a Jew, recognizing the prejudices and constraints that entailed.

I got the idea that the reason Harvey didn't want any kind of religious service for his death was that he saw religion as a source of oppression of  homosexuals.  Although it was mainly Christians like Anita Bryant and the Evangelicals who instigated the anti-gay feelings, Harvey's fights for gay rights seemed to cause him to lump all formal religion into the opposing camp.  So, he didn't want to be associated with it.

I'm not sure that this answers the question of why he went against Jewish tradition in having his mother cremated, because she died before some of these later events would have hardened Harvey's belief that religion in general was a negative force in the culture.

Maybe Jenny will have some better ideas?   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 16, 2009, 10:33:38 PM
But even if the religious aspects of Judaism weren't that important to Harvey's own parents, he still identified socially as a Jew, recognizing the prejudices and constraints that entailed.

Yes, but that's not what I'm asking about.  I'm not asking about the social implications of his growing up Jewish - I think we all pretty much agree on that (and how his identification with a viciously oppressed minority lead to his belief systems).  What I'm wondering about is the degree to which his family was religious when he was growing up and when Robert became Orthodox - because there was nothing in Harvey's background that seemed to indicate that (at all).

Robert comes off as something of a schmuck, to me.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 16, 2009, 11:52:12 PM
This is my third try at this post. >:(  Michael, I'm sure Robert wasn't capital O Orthodox; he was still somewhat religiously Jewish and traditional, and was, I'm sure, a synagogue member, since he had a young son who also went to Hebrew school and was bar mitzvah. I'm sure Harvey's parents were married in the synagogue, and they sent Harvey to Hebrew School. He was bar mitzvahed, as I'm sure Robert was, too. (This info comes from a Newsday article.) Link: http://www.newsday.com/news/printedition/longisland/ny-limilk265995179jan11,0,2375561.story  The fact that Harvey bought a white shroud for his mother suggests that at least some of the family was relatively traditional. And his grandfather was one of the founders of a synagogue, which puts his family in the position of being a little more 'visible' to others in terms of their Jewish practice. It's also the case that in those days, Jews in places like Long Island were apt to be part of the Jewish community because of the antisemitism of the Gentiles around them. The community wouldn't necessarily be terribly religious, but there would be customary forms that you followed. Robert and Harvey would have grown up with them.

Robert clearly felt very strongly about cremation, as he brought it up again at the time of their father's funeral. I think it very likely that his opposition came from both the echo of the Holocaust and the Jewish prohibition of cremation. Although Shilts' book states that Robert and Harvey were estranged until Harvey died, Robert and Audry did visit Harvey in SF in 1973, which suggests that they weren't as much at odds as they became later. It also means that he knew about Harvey's homosexuality and it didn't completely alienate him.  And that was long after Minnie's death, a couple of years before Bill's. (There are pictures of them here: http://thecastro.net/milk/family/milkfamily.html )

I don't know about an ideological rift between the brothers, but Harvey was, as far as I can determine, a completely secular Jew, though he was proud of being Jewish and identified himself as Jewish. He lived a different life in adulthood than his brother did. The four years age difference would suggest that they weren't terribly close in childhood, and Robert was off in the service during WWII, when Harvey was beginning adolescence and discovering his homosexuality. Harvey seems to have been his mother's favorite and both more athletic and more attractive than Robert (as much because of his charismatic, extroverted personality as anything else.) So perhaps there was envy and jealousy because of that. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 17, 2009, 12:10:58 AM
^^^  So sorry for the difficulty in posting!  Thanks for this - it helps.  One small bit of my own history that relates to this is that when I was just coming out - age 17 - I moved from rural Michigan to Southfield.  In my last year of high school I developed friendships with a big group of secular Jews - and their attitude towards homosexuality was (to say the least) very refreshing for someone who had grown up in a very Christian environment.  So I'd have to admit that I do have a bit of a bias.

It also clears up the question regarding Orthodoxy - that just seemed a bit out in left field (right field?) from all we've read here.

And your point about it being more of a personality conflict than an ideological rift is well taken.  Thanks!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 17, 2009, 09:53:40 AM
But even if the religious aspects of Judaism weren't that important to Harvey's own parents, he still identified socially as a Jew, recognizing the prejudices and constraints that entailed.

Yes, but that's not what I'm asking about.  I'm not asking about the social implications of his growing up Jewish - I think we all pretty much agree on that (and how his identification with a viciously oppressed minority lead to his belief systems).  What I'm wondering about is the degree to which his family was religious when he was growing up and when Robert became Orthodox - because there was nothing in Harvey's background that seemed to indicate that (at all).

Robert comes off as something of a schmuck, to me.

Sorry, Michael, if I muddled the answer.  I know the social aspects weren't the thrust of your question; I just mentioned that again because I didn't want to dismiss his Jewishness too much, when it was so important in other ways, other than the religious ways.

Jenny, thanks again, your response does help a lot.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 17, 2009, 11:21:33 AM
17.) Given the difficulties that Harvey had with gay politicos early on are you surprised that he was able to get endorsements from labor?  Were you surprised at the partnership he formed with Allan Baird?  Did you know about the Coors boycott?  Does Harvey's actions with labor unions show that he was more than a one issue candidate and that he could have boader appeal?  Do you think it was important for gays to be able to get jobs in unions at this point?

No I wasn't.  Harvey was a political pragmatist.  He knew that it wasn't enough to go after the gayonly votes.  If he wanted to make it in SF politics, he had to court the powerful labor unions -- not an easy thing for a gay man in SF.  Baird was also a pragmatist, he had seen the neighborhood change and the rise of the gay population.  He knew that Harvey was the goto guy to get things done if you wanted to work with the gays.  He also approached Harvey respectfully by asking for his help as the spokesperson for the gay community.  When Harvey agreed to help Baird, he wisely asked for jobs for gays, something that impressed Baird.  One reason this was important, was that by being accepted into the unions, gays not only got jobs, but broadened their participation in the rank and file of the working class. They  would no longer be considered as twits running around in tutus, but as working men contributing to SF society on an economic level.  This enhanced Harvey's appeal as well -- he wasn't just a one-trick pony -- his political strength was two pronged: he helped the unions by supporting the Coors boycott, and he got jobs for gays thus achieving political power for the gay community.

Nikki, I agree with your response here and won't try to restate things, but I just want to add a couple of my personal reactions.

First, I agree that Harvey was a political pragmatist, and from what I read of Allan Baird, I could understand that he was also a pragmatist.  So it didn’t really surprise me that they were able to work together because they needed each other.  But the warmth of their friendship did surprise me just a little – it was interesting to see that Baird didn’t harbor any inner anti-gay feelings which interfered, on a psychological level, with what his pragmatism told him to do.  "The other guys at the Teamsters hall might think I'm crazy, Baird thought, but it's worth a try," Shilts writes.  Baird was tough, in that way, in that he resist the peer pressure he might have faced from the other Teamsters.

Michael, you asked whether we were aware of the Coors boycott.  I have been trying hard to remember, but I don’t think I do remember it.  Coors is headquartered in Golden, Colorado, and it’s the most popular beer sold in the Denver area, and had many commercials on TV.  1973 was right when I was socializing with a group of gay and straight friends, but I don’t recall them observing any boycott.  The book just refers to "the Coors beer boycott in California," so maybe it wasn't a national boycott?

But I have learned since then that the Coors family is extremely conservative.  Someone from the Coors family ran for office in Colorado in the past election, and was considered an arch-conservative.  Since I’m aware of the family’s political stance, the boycott doesn’t surprise me.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 17, 2009, 11:31:16 AM
18.) 'Some people call me the unofficial mayor of Castro Street,' Harvey said.  Do you think it matters that nobody knew who 'some people' were?  Do you think that (as Shilts says) this made good copy showed a sort of native political intelligence in Harvey?

First, no, I don’t think it matters who the “some people” were.  Maybe there weren’t any “some people” other than Harvey himself.  “Some people call me the unofficial mayor of Castro Street” makes Harvey sound less self-promotional (or less pompous) than if he were to come right out and say, “I’m the unofficial mayor of Castro Street.”  By enlisting the alleged support of these anonymous “some people,” he gives more credence and legitimacy to his claim of importance.

Second, I do think that this phrase made good copy.  It does show his native political intelligence because it shows that he understands that a candidate must advertise himself.  And this phrase is a catchy advertising slogan.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 17, 2009, 03:20:21 PM
20.) What do you think of the development of the Castro Village Association?  Do you think that this sort of organization had an impact on the neighborhood that the Castro was becoming?  Given that Polk street was an equally popular gay area at the time do you think that this sort of organization had an affect on making the Castro the center of the gay community?  What long term effect do you think this had?

The Castro area was originally called Eureka Valley, and was served by the Eureka Valley Merchants Association.  The EVMA opposed the new gay merchants who tried to open businesses in the neighborhood, so Harvey founded the CVA to give gay merchants their own organization.  I think Harvey deserves credit for being savvy enough to encourage other (non-gay) merchants to join the CVA, too.  From an Italian liquor store owner to the Hibernia Bank, and then to a branch of the huge Bank of America, he pulled in people and businesses from a wide cross-section of the neighborhood to join forces to work together for the good of the community.

The CVA initially allowed the Castro to compete with Polk Street among gays, when the CVA sponsored a Castro Street Fair after Harvey heard about a street fair planned for Polk Street.  As time went on, I would imagine that the organized structure of the CVA did help to promote cohesiveness among gays in the Castro neighborhood, and maybe even draw some gays from Polk Street to the Castro. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 17, 2009, 03:42:14 PM
21.) Were you surprised at the police harrassment on Castro street in the 70s?  Do you think that this was a conflict between the Irish-American culture that had been in the neighborhood before the gay influx?  Do you think that Harvey and Allan Baird were idealistic in thinking that the Castro should be equally welcoming to gay and straight people?

Before starting to read about the history of the Castro neighborhood, I did not expect to learn that police harassment had been an issue there as late as the 1970s, so that did come as a surprise.  I had held the rather idealistic belief that San Francisco in those days was a “safe port in the storm” for gays, since it was, after all, drawing gays who sought haven there from around the country.

But after reading the history in this book of how the old Irish Catholic neighborhood came into conflict with the new “invaders,” it makes perfect sense that the harassment occurred, especially since the police and fire departments were comprised of so many of the Irish Catholic men who had learned the teachings of the church and had absorbed the antipathy toward gays from their communities.

I felt that Harvey’s and Baird’s goal of making the Castro an integrated neighborhood for gays and straights alike was a worthy one, but I can understand that it was a goal ahead of its time.  It did seem sad that Baird was turned away from the Toad Bar, when he tried to take his family there, but the bar no doubt felt that it needed to be careful of letting in any outsiders who might not be trustworthy.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 17, 2009, 10:32:18 PM
Sorry, Michael, if I muddled the answer.  I know the social aspects weren't the thrust of your question; I just mentioned that again because I didn't want to dismiss his Jewishness too much, when it was so important in other ways, other than the religious ways.

Of course.  You're absolutely right about this.  As I mentioned, it reminds me of people I knew when I was coming out - and even some 'red diaper babies' that I knew later on.  It says volumes that Harvey & Robert's mother died while helping others - there was a real ethic of community involvement there - it's a mitzvah, after all.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 18, 2009, 09:11:16 AM
20.) What do you think of the development of the Castro Village Association?  Do you think that this sort of organization had an impact on the neighborhood that the Castro was becoming?  Given that Polk street was an equally popular gay area at the time do you think that this sort of organization had an affect on making the Castro the center of the gay community?  What long term effect do you think this had?

The Castro area was originally called Eureka Valley, and was served by the Eureka Valley Merchants Association.  The EVMA opposed the new gay merchants who tried to open businesses in the neighborhood, so Harvey founded the CVA to give gay merchants their own organization.  I think Harvey deserves credit for being savvy enough to encourage other (non-gay) merchants to join the CVA, too.  From an Italian liquor store owner to the Hibernia Bank, and then to a branch of the huge Bank of America, he pulled in people and businesses from a wide cross-section of the neighborhood to join forces to work together for the good of the community.

The CVA initially allowed the Castro to compete with Polk Street among gays, when the CVA sponsored a Castro Street Fair after Harvey heard about a street fair planned for Polk Street.  As time went on, I would imagine that the organized structure of the CVA did help to promote cohesiveness among gays in the Castro neighborhood, and maybe even draw some gays from Polk Street to the Castro. 



Right, Debbie.  New voters swelled the ranks of the CVA enhancing Harvey's political philosophy that 'each person can make a difference.'  Also, when Harvey decided that Hibernia Bank and Bank of America should join CVA, he ensured that gays would have economic parity in the long term -- something that the community had lacked in the past.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 19, 2009, 11:54:27 PM
These are the questions for the second section of "The Mayor of Castro Street: the Life & Times of Harvey Milk" - pages 95-185.  As always answer what you would like to - and if you have additional things you would like to talk about in this section of the book, please feel free.

[sorry for the large number of questions - this was a very dense portion of the book....]

1.)  In 1975, before district elections for supervisor, Harvey Milk made a concerted effort to campaign in areas of the city outside of the 'gay ghetto' in his campaign to become a supervisor (Randy Shilts makes note of this).  Do you think there campaigns were good preparation for the 'No on Proposition 6' campaign - where Harve went to some very unfriendly places to fight the Briggs Initiative?  Do you think that his background on Long Island, in Albany and in New York City gave him good preparation for this sort of outreach?

2.)  In the mid-seventies firefighters unions in New York and Chicago fought against gay civil rights measures in their cities (mostly to keep gays out of the firehouses).  What do you think it was that allowed Harvey Milk to be effective in his outreach to the firefighters in San Francisco?  Are you surprised at the level of success he achieved?

3.)  Shilts outlines the positions of the mayoral candidates - with Moscone on the left, Feinstein in the middle and Barbagelate on the right.  Were you surprised by the range of political positions in San Francisco?  What did you think of Barbagelata's statement 'Gay people don't have what I have - someone to cook your meals....' - is this the same sort of notion that people who are against gay marriage today has?  Do you think this indicates that we haven't made much progress - or was this just to be expected back then?  Are you surprised, given her political longevity, that Feinstein came in third in this race?

4.)  When Michael Wong arrives in the camera shop he is astounded that there are no volunteers.  He discovers that Harvey simply didn't dispute it when the press said he had volunteers.  Do you think this was a wise move or should he have done what Michael suggested and let the word out that they needed more volunteers?  Do issues like this, the questions about Harvey's discharge and calling himself 'The Mayor of Castro Street' make you think that Harvey would not be successful now (when the press is always looking for inconsistencies) or would his personality have overcome this?

5.)  Dennis Peron ran a marijuana supermarket a block from Harvey's camera store and was involved in Harvey's 1975 campaign.  Is this something that you would have expected to see in the Seventies but not now?  Do you think that (had Harvey lived) connections of this sort would have been a stumbling block later in his career - and may have prevented him from getting elected to higher office?

6.)  Duke Smith - an ally of David Goodstein and Jim Foster (and the political editor of the gay paper the San Francisco Sentinel and one of the founders of the Alice B. Toklas Gay Democratic Club) said 'All of you realize what a nut he is, God forbid he should ever get elected.'  Why do you think this was?  Do you think that Harvey's connections with drag queens and marijuana dealers put these more moderate politicos off - or was it political jealousy on their part that his campaigns were getting more attention than theirs?

7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?

8.)  This section of the book covers the repeal of the sodomy laws in California - which had been campaigned for by one of the moderated, Rick Stokes, for years.  Do you think that this campaign has implications for our recent campaign against proposition 8?  How do the two compare to you?  What do you think of Harvey's reactions to the campaign against the sodomy laws - does this seem to be one case where his political instincts were incorrect?

9.)  The book notes that during this period the gay community starts moving from an alternative sort of look to the 'Castro clone' look.  Rick Nichols, the camera shop owner from the Haight, says 'All they're doing is fitting into another mold, finding a new conformity. (pg 116)'  What do you think of this discussion?  Do you think that gays were moving more toward the moderates position (in which case why did Harvey defend them)?  Do you think that this sort of conformity has continued into the present day - attempting to fit in to gender roles and conforming to societal ideals?  If so, how do you feel about this?

10.) There are community changes occurring during this period which is the further of evolution of the neighborhood into a gay neighborhood - including gentrification and higher home prices.  The neighborhood will change again after Harvey's death with the onset of AIDS and the doc com boom.  Do you think this sort of 'gayborhood' is still necessary politically and socially or was this something that was necessary in Harvey Milk's time but is no longer needed?

11.) Given the support that Harvey had from the firefighters were you surprised at the difficulty that the police department had with gays?  Do you think that the change was too radical from the time of Captain William O'Connor (who said he felt gays were emotionally unstable and unsuited for police work) to Police Chief Charles Gain, who said that he would support gay cops and hoped they would step forward?  Do you think this change exacerbated the difficulties between gays and the police?

12.) Harvey Milk leaked the news that the person who saved President Ford was gay.  What do you think of his doing this?  What do you think of the effects that this had on Bill Sipple's life?

13.) In the context of people like Leonard Matlovich, David Kopay, Elton John and Tab Hunter coming out, the ruling by the APA that homosexuality in and of itself was not a disease and the attempts to include 'sexual orientation' in the Civil Rights Act gay moderates became optimistic about the future, while Harvey insisted that gays must seize power.  Given that 'sexual orientation' has never been included in federal Civil Rights legislation and that we have now had 30 states vote against gay marriage was Harvey right?  Does the intervention of AIDS in gay history make this impossible to judge - or was that exactly the sort of catastrophe that Harvey was thinking might occur (and therefore you need to seize as much power as you can beforehand)?

14.) Do you think that Harvey was right to run for the Assembly so shortly after his last Supervisorial campaign - and so shortly after accepting a position as a commissioner on Board of Permit Appeals?  By this time in his career do you think that he was simply running because that was all that he knew - that he didn't feel comfortable unless he was running for office?  Was it unwise for him to run for this office given that the other candidate, Art Agnos, was allied with George Moscone?  What did you make of the encounter between Leo McCarthy and Harvey (pg 131)?

15.) This section of the book is the first place that Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple appear.  Are you surprised that they were as politically influential as they were in San Francisco?  Given what we read about them here, do you think that people should have been concerned about them earlier?  What do you think of Harvey's advice regarding them ('you never want to be on their bad side' - pg 139)?

16.) By the time the assembly race occurs we read of David Goodstein (publisher of 'The Advocate') saying "I'll tell you why I can't stand Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk's goddamn crazy.  He can't be trusted.  He'll embarrass the shit out of us."  Why do you think that Goodstein was so adamant?  This goes further than the earlier Duke Smith quote - do you think that this had reached the point of being a personal conflict between Harvey and Goodstein (and his allies)? 

17.) Were you surprised that Goodstein & company were able to get almost all gay leaders to endorse Agnos - and that they got Elaine Noble to come all the way from Boston to tell San Franciscan gays that they should vote for Agnos?  Does this show a real disconnect between gay leaders and the community, given Harvey's electoral showing in this race?  What do you make of Harvey's comparing the gay establishment to Nazi collaborators?

18.) During this campaign Art Agnos was groped during a campaign stop at a leather bar.  Does this strike you as something that was of that period and would not occur now?  Did this incident (and Agnos' reaction) surprise you?

19.) Shilts book indicates that the 'you've got to give them hope' tag line came from advice from Agnos that his speech was too much of a downer.  Are you surprised that Harvey took Agnos advice - or does this show that he was still learning as a politician, and that he was willing to take advice from anyone - even his adversaries in political campaigns?

20.) Agnos campaigned heavily in black and Latino areas as Milk thought they would be too homophobic to support him.  Given that this happened over 30 years ago are you surprised that the Proposition 8 campaigners did not pay closer attention to this historic campaign and campaign more in black and Latino areas?

21.) Milk received his first serious death threat during this campaign.  Do you think that he was too casual in his response to this - or do you think that perhaps he was so fatalistic that he believe there was nothing he could do to prevent his death?

22.) Milk's relationship with Scott Smith ended shortly after the Agnos campaign.  Why do you think the relationship ended?  Do you think that Scott just couldn't face another campaign - and he knew there would be another one?

23.) Given Harvey's loss to Agnos are you surprised that he threw himself into the campaign for District Elections in the same year?  Do you think that its passage was due to his coalition building?

24.) In 'Orange Tuesday' Shilts weaves the story of Robert Hillsborough and his death with Anita Bryant's and John Briggs' campaigns.  Do you think that these incidents come from the same general response to gays (and how do you feel about the intertwining of these stories - is it appropriate or inappropriate)?

25.) After Anita Bryant's success in Dade County Harvey interrupted a fundraiser in Golden Gate park where Walter Mondale was speaking - at which point Mondale left.  What do you think of this tactic?  Do you think it was appropriate?  Do you think it worked in favor of Harvey's issues?

26.) The book indicates that there was a rise in attacks on gays after Anita Bryant's campaign - and Robert Hillsborough's laid the blame directly at Anita Bryant's feet.  What do you think - is there a connection?  Did Anita Bryant bear some responsibility for the rise and anti-gay violence?

27.) In a peculiar twist Randy Shilts' book outs Al Asmussen and reveals that his suicide was due to his being discovered as gay in the chapter 'Orange Tuesday'.  Does this seem inconsistent with his concern over Bill Sipple earlier in the book?  Do you think this was appropriate?

28.) Were you surprised to learn that the murderer of Robert Hillsborough [John Cordova] was a closeted 19 year old who couldn't have sex with men unless he was drunk?

29.) What do you make of the differences in the biographies of Rick Stokes and Harvey Milk?  Given their respective pasts - with Stokes having gone through shock treatment and a marriage - why do you think they turned out on their respective political sides?  What did you think of this campaign - Harvey's only successful campaign for office?  In what ways was it different from the earlier campaigns?

30.) Given that Shilts has made a point throughout the book of the lack of connection Harvey had with lesbians, are you surprised that he chose Anne Kronenberg as his campaign manager?

31.) Were you surprised to read that Harvey composed his political will on the day after winning his campaign as supervisor?  Why do you think he did this?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 01:04:52 PM
1.)  In 1975, before district elections for supervisor, Harvey Milk made a concerted effort to campaign in areas of the city outside of the 'gay ghetto' in his campaign to become a supervisor (Randy Shilts makes note of this).  Do you think these campaigns were good preparation for the 'No on Proposition 6' campaign - where Harvey went to some very unfriendly places to fight the Briggs Initiative?  Do you think that his background on Long Island, in Albany and in New York City gave him good preparation for this sort of outreach?

I just want to mention that the main fight against Proposition 6 takes place in 1978, in Chapter 14, which is in next week’s reading assignment.  So I don’t want to get too far ahead of things.

In  this week’s reading, we are introduced to Senator Briggs and his campaign to prevent (or remove) gays from teaching in California classrooms.  Briggs stepped up to make his announcement right after Anita Bryant successfully led repeal of the Dade County gay rights laws.  Harvey Milk takes an important citywide role in the “Orange Tuesday” protests after Bryant’s victory, both at rallies and by writing in his column in the Bay Area Reporter, with words like these:  “The word homosexual has now appeared in every household in the country.”

I think that Harvey’s 1975 citywide campaign was good experience to prepare Harvey for the eventual statewide campaign against Proposition 6, because he didn’t position himself as just a gay candidate in 1975.  He reached out for endorsements to tough and unlikely groups, like the labor unions.  He campaigned in middle-class neighborhoods and other areas outside of his own Castro neighborhood.  His earlier background may have helped him, too, because in high school and college, although he felt like an outsider and didn’t have close friends, he was outgoing, the sort of person who could draw attention to himself from people unlike himself.  And in New York City, he learned to deal with a wide range of people, from conservative Wall Street and insurance types to the liberal theatrical people.  This background probably helped him to seek a common ground with audiences when discussing Proposition 6.     

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 01:56:05 PM
2.)  In the mid-seventies firefighters unions in New York and Chicago fought against gay civil rights measures in their cities (mostly to keep gays out of the firehouses).  What do you think it was that allowed Harvey Milk to be effective in his outreach to the firefighters in San Francisco?  Are you surprised at the level of success he achieved?

Leon Broschura was the head of the firemen’s union.  His reaction to Harvey is summed up on page 98:
he was impressed that Harvey had done his homework on the fire department’s needs, and impressed that Milk appeared at every candidate’s night.  This shows how hard-working Harvey was in his political life (even if not in his business), but I think it reflects more than Harvey’s deep desire to become a supervisor.  It  also demonstrates how he could work on behalf of his would-be constituents, and how dedicated he could be to understanding the needs of people whose problems were very different than his own.  He also gained points because of his “charisma,” in the words of another labor leader.

Harvey gained the endorsements of the city’s three most macho unions – teamsters, firemen and hard hats.  The firemen’s endorsement is somewhat surprising, but the explanation of how it came about makes sense.  In my own mind, I see a difference between firemen and policemen – firemen primarily came to the rescue of people in distress, whereas policemen were used to keep order, and “keeping order” could easily be stretched to include harassment of unpopular groups like homosexuals.  So I find it easier to believe that Harvey forged a bond with the firemen, than if he had made a similar compact with a police organization.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 02:46:48 PM
3.)  Shilts outlines the positions of the mayoral candidates - with Moscone on the left, Feinstein in the middle and Barbagelata on the right.  Were you surprised by the range of political positions in San Francisco?  What did you think of Barbagelata's statement 'Gay people don't have what I have - someone to cook your meals....' - is this the same sort of notion that people who are against gay marriage today has?  Do you think this indicates that we haven't made much progress - or was this just to be expected back then?  Are you surprised, given her political longevity, that Feinstein came in third in this race?

To start with the last part of this question first, I was surprised that Feinstein came in third in the mayor’s race, because of her national prominence in later years.  Her longevity really hit me today, when she was introducing the various portions of the Obama Inaugural.  I couldn’t help but think, “She’s come a long way.”

Although I would expect to find candidates with a range of political positions in any race, I was surprised to learn that Feinstein was regarded as such a moderate, with a law-and-order stance.  Therefore, I was surprised that Moscone was seen as such a liberal by comparison.  From much of what I’ve heard in other parts of the country about Feinstein, I would have pegged her as a liberal, also.  Perhaps she became more liberal when became a Senator, or perhaps my impression just reflects the way people in other places look at California, especially San Francisco.  I did appreciate the way the book sets up the backgrounds of the candidates, to make the mayoral race meaningful to the reader.

Barbagelata’s comment about “Gay people don’t have what I have” shows a complete lack of understanding.  He says gay people don’t have “somebody to cook your meals” (this may offend a lot of women, too, if he sees them as the cooks in the world).  Saying that gays don’t have somebody to love, or to share burdens and frustrations with, completely fails to recognize that this is what many gay people do want in their relationships.  Perhaps he could be forgiven for not realizing that, in 1975, when many gays were more visibly promiscuous than in today’s world.  Gay marriage was not a prominent political goal for gays back then, when there were other more basic freedoms to work for.  If Barbagelata were around today, when gay marriage is such a hot issue, he would certainly be challenged if he said that gays “don’t have somebody to love.”  The times have changed, and progress has been made on many civil rights fronts, but unfortunately there are still many people who feel that the love between gay partners is somehow second class, and therefore not deserving of “marriage.”

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 20, 2009, 03:32:48 PM
1.)  In 1975, before district elections for supervisor, Harvey Milk made a concerted effort to campaign in areas of the city outside of the 'gay ghetto' in his campaign to become a supervisor (Randy Shilts makes note of this).  Do you think these campaigns were good preparation for the 'No on Proposition 6' campaign - where Harvey went to some very unfriendly places to fight the Briggs Initiative?  Do you think that his background on Long Island, in Albany and in New York City gave him good preparation for this sort of outreach?

I just want to mention that the main fight against Proposition 6 takes place in 1978, in Chapter 14, which is in next week’s reading assignment.  So I don’t want to get too far ahead of things.

In  this week’s reading, we are introduced to Senator Briggs and his campaign to prevent (or remove) gays from teaching in California classrooms.  Briggs stepped up to make his announcement right after Anita Bryant successfully led repeal of the Dade County gay rights laws.  Harvey Milk takes an important citywide role in the “Orange Tuesday” protests after Bryant’s victory, both at rallies and by writing in his column in the Bay Area Reporter, with words like these:  “The word homosexual has now appeared in every household in the country.”

I think that Harvey’s 1975 citywide campaign was good experience to prepare Harvey for the eventual statewide campaign against Proposition 6, because he didn’t position himself as just a gay candidate in 1975.  He reached out for endorsements to tough and unlikely groups, like the labor unions.  He campaigned in middle-class neighborhoods and other areas outside of his own Castro neighborhood.  His earlier background may have helped him, too, because in high school and college, although he felt like an outsider and didn’t have close friends, he was outgoing, the sort of person who could draw attention to himself from people unlike himself.  And in New York City, he learned to deal with a wide range of people, from conservative Wall Street and insurance types to the liberal theatrical people.  This background probably helped him to seek a common ground with audiences when discussing Proposition 6.     

Good point.  I wasn't really trying to ask about Prop 6 - sorry if I confused the question.  What I was more interested in was Harvey's ability to do outreach and to be in contact with people that might not seem to be his natural constituency - and you were right on the money in your answer here - thanks!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 03:44:07 PM
4.)  When Michael Wong arrives in the camera shop he is astounded that there are no volunteers.  He discovers that Harvey simply didn't dispute it when the press said he had volunteers.  Do you think this was a wise move or should he have done what Michael suggested and let the word out that they needed more volunteers?  Do issues like this, the questions about Harvey's discharge and calling himself 'The Mayor of Castro Street' make you think that Harvey would not be successful now (when the press is
always looking for inconsistencies) or would his personality have overcome this?

 As to the volunteers, I can see why it was politically savvy for Harvey not to dispute – to the press – the statements that he had “scores of volunteers,” as Shilts puts it.  After all, this notion built up his reputation as a successful campaigner who would be hard to beat.  Michael Wong called him a great media manipulator for pulling this off.

But I think Harvey really did need more volunteers, so I think he should have found some way to recruit them quietly, even without letting the press know.  Michael Wong helped provide that opportunity by bringing in volunteers from another campaign, and Harvey was able to find other supporters such as Denis Peron’s restaurant employees, and others who went on to achieve more name recognition such as Jim Rivaldo, Frank Robinson and Danny Nicoletta.

In today’s world, the press would probably dig deep enough to uncover the fact that a candidate’s reputation for having lots of volunteers was unfounded.  For one thing, the press would probably want to talk to some of the volunteers, and put them on television.  The question of whether Harvey’s discharge was dishonorable or not would be something the press could look into, if they wanted to, and it seems like a significant enough issue that the press probably would want to do the research. 

But the nickname “Mayor of Castro Street” strikes me as something more related to Harvey’s personality than anything else.  It would be hard for Harvey to prove that there were “some people” who called him that, but equally hard for the press to prove that no such “some people” had ever existed.  Even if he made up the title himself, I think he could get away with calling himself that.  Unlike the number of volunteers or the type of discharge, which are facts, this title doesn’t fall into into the same category of “true or false.”  The term is part of Harvey’s mystique. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 04:02:27 PM

1.)  In 1975, before district elections for supervisor, Harvey Milk made a concerted effort to campaign in areas of the city outside of the 'gay ghetto' in his campaign to become a supervisor (Randy Shilts makes note of this).  Do you think there campaigns were good preparation for the 'No on Proposition 6' campaign - where Harve went to some very unfriendly places to fight the Briggs Initiative?  Do you think that his background on Long Island, in Albany and in New York City gave him good preparation for this sort of outreach?



Harvey was always politically savvy, and he knew that in order  to court an inclusive constituency, he would have  to campaign outside the 'gay getto' -- he needed more than just the gay votes to win. The disparate following he built up certainly gave him the impetus he needed to fight Prop. 6.  His bacikground as a financier, theater producer, teacher gave him an east coast patina which enhanced his know-how in SF politics.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 04:15:31 PM

2.)  In the mid-seventies firefighters unions in New York and Chicago fought against gay civil rights measures in their cities (mostly to keep gays out of the firehouses).  What do you think it was that allowed Harvey Milk to be effective in his outreach to the firefighters in San Francisco?  Are you surprised at the level of success he achieved?


Harvey already had the backing of the big three unions: bldg. and construction, laborers, and Barid's truck drivers local.  Once Broschura, head of the firefighters' union was on board, Harvey had it made.  Besides, no one in New York and Chicago had union backing like Harvey.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 04:30:52 PM


3)  Were you surprised by the range of political positions in San Francisco?  What did you think of Barbagelata's statement 'Gay people don't have what I have - someone to cook your meals....' - is this the same sort of notion that people who are against gay marriage today has?  Do you think this indicates that we haven't made much progress - or was this just to be expected back then?  Are you surprised, given her political longevity, that Feinstein came in third in this race?


I think Barbagelata's statement was sexist and homophobic.  How could he know what gay people have --  it belies any type of gay marriage or domestic arrangement.  I think there are many people today who probably feel the same not just back then.

I was surprised Feinstein came in 3rd, she was such a staunch moderate, but she lost the liberal vote and much of the gay vote.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 04:41:42 PM

5.)  Dennis Peron ran a marijuana supermarket a block from Harvey's camera store and was involved in Harvey's 1975 campaign.  Is this something that you would have expected to see in the Seventies but not now?  Do you think that (had Harvey lived) connections of this sort would have been a stumbling block later in his career - and may have prevented him from getting elected to higher office?


Yes.  The 70s were peace, love, rock and roll.  Everybody was doing it.  Now days, forget it.  Harvey would be too astute to take this kind of a chance.  Now days, the climate against drugs, even marijuana would be the kiss of death to a politico's career -- aside from the fact that marijuana, even an ounce in some cases, can land you in jail. Peron would have probably been jailed before his 'drug career' got off the ground as well.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 05:13:50 PM


6.)  Duke Smith - an ally of David Goodstein and Jim Foster (and the political editor of the gay paper the San Francisco Sentinel and one of the founders of the Alice B. Toklas Gay Democratic Club) said 'All of you realize what a nut he is, God forbid he should ever get elected.'  Why do you think this was?  Do you think that Harvey's connections with drag queens and marijuana dealers put these more moderate politicos off - or was it political jealousy on their part that his campaigns were getting more attention than theirs?


Maybe a combination of both.  Goodstein thought Harvey was 'off the wall,' a shoot-from-the-hip guy who was crazy and out of control.  Goodstein also had an agenda, he wanted to build a rival to the National Gay Taskforce. Foster was angered at Harvey's anti-machine stance, since he considered the machine was on their side and could be useful. The Toklas Club would never support Harvey, they perferred to back liberal friends who made them feel accepted in a mainstream liberal world.  Harvey was too brash, too crude and, above all, his brand of street politics didn't fit their image of a gay representative.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 05:24:42 PM
5.)  Dennis Peron ran a marijuana supermarket a block from Harvey's camera store and was involved in Harvey's 1975 campaign.  Is this something that you would have expected to see in the Seventies but not now?  Do you think that (had Harvey lived) connections of this sort would have been a stumbling block later in his career - and may have prevented him from getting elected to higher office?

Dennis Peron and his marijuana supermarket seem like quintessential Seventies.  Marijuana use was so widespread back then, whereas today, where it exists, it must be much more hidden.  In San Francisco of the Seventies, it comes across as a holdover from the flower children.  But Harvey’s connection with Peron didn’t appear to hurt him at the time.

Had Harvey lived, I can see two issues related to these connections.  First, because the times changed to a more conservative era in the Eighties and Nineties, I doubt that Harvey would have had close contacts with a marijuana dealer in later decades.  By then, even Denis Peron may have given up the pot business and become more “respectable.”  Second, there’s the question of whether the press and his political opponents of the Eighties and Nineties may have looked back at the people that Harvey associated with during the Seventies.  I doubt that this past background would have hurt him if he had remained a local San Francisco politician, but if he had ever run for statewide office – such as governor or U.S. senator – there would have been more chance this these associations would have become a stumbling block.  For one thing, the higher he rose in politics, the more money his opponents would have had for these investigations.

Also, had Harvey lived, I think the main thing he would have had to overcome would have continued to be opposition to electing a gay official for a higher office.   But since marijuana possession and sale was illegal, he might have acquired a stigma for having associated with Peron, even if there was no proof that Harvey had ever smoked marijuana himself.  The association with Peron might not have completely killed his chances for a higher office;  in recent years, for example, many politicians have had their careers ruined by “moral” issues like extramarital affairs, but others have survived.  I would guess it would depend on how determined Harvey’s opposition was to undermine him.  And, since he was gay, the opposition’s determination might have been high.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 05:34:20 PM


7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?


It seems, to me, that like all political organizations - gay or straight - contentiousness  became a byword.  Everyone had an agenda, an opinon, a goal, and unless the whole group agreed, the infighting was no different in gay organizations.  BAGL may have reflected post-Stonewall ideals, but once it was established in SF, infighting included the mundane and banal like 'looksism.' Considering the silly issues which cropped up in BAGL, it did seem like a fringe group which disaffected itself from more important gay issues.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 20, 2009, 06:05:38 PM

12.) Harvey Milk leaked the news that the person who saved President Ford was gay.  What do you think of his doing this?  What do you think of the effects that this had on Bill Sipple's life?



Robinson tried to stop him,  but Harvey leaked it anyway.  IMO it was extremely opportunistic of Harvey.  It practically ruined Sipple's life -- his mother wouldn't talk to him, Sipple went into despair, and he lost his lawsuit.  He was right when he said his sexual orientation had nothing to do with saving the president's life  --- it probably didn't advance gay rights.

IMO no one should be outed unless it's their decision. I find it extremely distasteful to reveal something so personal for political or any other gain. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 06:30:55 PM
6.)  Duke Smith - an ally of David Goodstein and Jim Foster (and the political editor of the gay paper the San Francisco Sentinel and one of the founders of the Alice B. Toklas Gay Democratic Club) said 'All of you realize what a nut he is, God forbid he should ever get elected.'  Why do you think this was?  Do you think that Harvey's connections with drag queens and marijuana dealers put these more moderate politicos off - or was it political jealousy on their part that his campaigns were getting more attention than theirs?

Maybe a combination of both.  Goodstein thought Harvey was 'off the wall,' a shoot-from-the-hip guy who was crazy and out of control.  Goodstein also had an agenda, he wanted to build a rival to the National Gay Taskforce. Foster was angered at Harvey's anti-machine stance, since he considered the machine was on their side and could be useful. The Toklas Club would never support Harvey, they perferred to back liberal friends who made them feel accepted in a mainstream liberal world.  Harvey was too brash, too crude and, above all, his brand of street politics didn't fit their image of a gay representative.

Nikki, I think you’re right here, it was a combination of things.  Not only did Harvey have the connections with drag queens and marijuana dealers, he also had an off-the-wall personality and a charisma which drew in new supporters but must have grated on the nerves of the old-timers. 

At the same time, when Harvey took an anti-machine stance, he put off the moderate gay politicos who were counting on the “liberal friends” in the machine to take care of them.  Harvey was more a “power to the people” type of guy who wanted gays to have the power to take care of their own problems, whereas the moderate gay politicos in the Toklas Club worried that Harvey would give all gays a bad image.

Harvey also offended the moderates by going after endorsements from labor – “rednecks like teamsters and hard hats,” in Shilts’ words.  The Toklas Club probably considered itself too high on the social ladder to associate with these “rednecks.”  Underneath, the gay moderates may have been feeling political jealousy over Harvey’s successes, but they had a host of other excuses for why they didn’t approve of Harvey and his method of campaigning.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 07:05:16 PM
7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?

This section of the book was interesting to me personally.  I was familiar with the left-wing Cesar Chavez and some of his supporters in Colorado, because I attended college and majored in sociology at a time when Marxist teachings were popular among the faculty.  So I can easily believe that if BAGL would support Chavez, they would also scold Castro Camera for not giving away film and developing services for free.  To me, that places BAGL in the category of a fringe group.

Considering that 1975 was only a few years after Stonewall, and that Gay Liberation Front groups were popping up in a number of places, the existence of BAGL doesn’t surprise me, nor does it surprise me that they would be at odds with other better-established gay political organizations.  What seems ironic, though, is that Harvey managed to come down right in the middle, having neither the support of the gay radicals nor the gay moderates.

Although I understand that the Chicano Chavez and his farm workers, as Catholics, would have learned anti-gay teachings from their church, I think that Harvey was correct in saying that gays shouldn’t support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights.  After all, in Harvey’s first dealings with labor, he asked for gay beer delivery drivers in return for his support of a Coors beer boycott.  Harvey knew how to trade political favors; nothing came for free.

Nikki, I just read this part of your response and want to agree:
BAGL may have reflected post-Stonewall ideals, but once it was established in SF, infighting included the mundane and banal like 'looksism.' Considering the silly issues which cropped up in BAGL, it did seem like a fringe group which disaffected itself from more important gay issues.
The very radicalism of BAGL seems to make it unsuited for solving issues of gay rights.   Even Harvey found it necessary to work within the system to do this, even if he didn't do it in the way that the gay moderates would have liked.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 20, 2009, 07:15:44 PM

5.)  Dennis Peron ran a marijuana supermarket a block from Harvey's camera store and was involved in Harvey's 1975 campaign.  Is this something that you would have expected to see in the Seventies but not now?  Do you think that (had Harvey lived) connections of this sort would have been a stumbling block later in his career - and may have prevented him from getting elected to higher office?

Dennis Peron and his marijuana supermarket seem like quintessential Seventies.  Marijuana use was so widespread back then, whereas today, where it exists, it must be much more hidden.  In San Francisco of the Seventies, it comes across as a holdover from the flower children.  But Harvey’s connection with Peron didn’t appear to hurt him at the time.

Had Harvey lived, I can see two issues related to these connections.  First, because the times changed to a more conservative era in the Eighties and Nineties, I doubt that Harvey would have had close contacts with a marijuana dealer in later decades.  By then, even Denis Peron may have given up the pot business and become more “respectable.” 

Or not.... :D :D :D

http://pdr.autono.net/DennisPeron.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Peron

http://www.5medicines.com/dperon.htm

Dennis is a true San Francisco character.  He ran his pot dispensary a block from my house in San Francisco till it was busted.  I'd run into him when we both got coffee.  He had a dog similar to Linda's Tootsie - his was named Pinky.  I voted for him for governor.  :D

Some things change...some things don't.  I'm guessing Harvey would probably have supported Proposition 215, even though he stopped smoking pot in the 70s.  There was a strong ling between the medicinal marijuana people and people with AIDS - it helped a lot of people keep their appetites when they were sick.

But that's just my own guess.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 20, 2009, 07:20:20 PM
2.)  In the mid-seventies firefighters unions in New York and Chicago fought against gay civil rights measures in their cities (mostly to keep gays out of the firehouses).  What do you think it was that allowed Harvey Milk to be effective in his outreach to the firefighters in San Francisco?  Are you surprised at the level of success he achieved?


Harvey seemed to position himself as a friend to unions.  I don't think that it was that the firefighters suddenly became gay friendly, more an act of ....self preservation...for lack of a better term.  In Harvey, they saw someone who was determined to reach office, and was a strong advocate of unions.  This was someone who would be watching out for their interests, and therefore, that made it acceptable for them to back him.  I remember a number of times in the book it was stated at first that they couldn't believe they would support "that fruit", so they obviously had little respect for him as a person.  It was the fact that he would be watching out for them that won their attention and support.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 20, 2009, 07:27:58 PM
3.)  Shilts outlines the positions of the mayoral candidates - with Moscone on the left, Feinstein in the middle and Barbagelate on the right.  Were you surprised by the range of political positions in San Francisco?  What did you think of Barbagelata's statement 'Gay people don't have what I have - someone to cook your meals....' - is this the same sort of notion that people who are against gay marriage today has?  Do you think this indicates that we haven't made much progress - or was this just to be expected back then?  Are you surprised, given her political longevity, that Feinstein came in third in this race?

Actually, I was very surprised at the range of political positions, although, on relfection, it was silly to be surprised.  No city in America is 100% Liberal or conservative, so that should have been expected. However, we're often told how Liberal the state of Ca. is, and the city of San Fran is pictured as so diverse, you would exptect it to completely lean towards liberal.

as for Barbagelata's statement, I'm not surprised.  Even to this day there are people who don't believe that gay men have meaningful relationships, and simply jump from bed to bed, sex partner to sex partner.  This type of thought was more prevelent back in the 70s, and while the gay community has made some progress on this matter, there are still a great number of people who not only feel that  our relationships are beneath theirs, they get highly offended if we dare to compare our relationships to theirs.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 20, 2009, 07:34:09 PM
4.)  When Michael Wong arrives in the camera shop he is astounded that there are no volunteers.  He discovers that Harvey simply didn't dispute it when the press said he had volunteers.  Do you think this was a wise move or should he have done what Michael suggested and let the word out that they needed more volunteers?  Do issues like this, the questions about Harvey's discharge and calling himself 'The Mayor of Castro Street' make you think that Harvey would not be successful now (when the press is always looking for inconsistencies) or would his personality have overcome this?

Harvey was playing the game the best way he knew how.  He felt that if word got out that there were no volunteers, it would prove that no one would support an openly gay candidate.  He was using word of mouth to get the help he needed from his current volunteer pool, and slowly building on that, all the while giving the impression that he had huge amounts of help and support, which would get him through the campaign.

If Harvey was running today, he would never get away with any of this stuff, in my opinion.  Back then, even though there were examples of crooked politicians, most were viewed as public servents, and good, honest people.  In today's society, we are looking to knock people down off their pedastals.  All it would take in this day and age would be someone with a cell phone camera to prove that there was not enough help, and then have the video posted all over YouTube, and with internet bloggers and email, word of this kind of stuff would be viral in no time.  Harvey would've had a difficult time playing this game by the rules of 2009.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 20, 2009, 07:42:37 PM
5.)  Dennis Peron ran a marijuana supermarket a block from Harvey's camera store and was involved in Harvey's 1975 campaign.  Is this something that you would have expected to see in the Seventies but not now?  Do you think that (had Harvey lived) connections of this sort would have been a stumbling block later in his career - and may have prevented him from getting elected to higher office?

I did expect to see it in the 70s, and while it plays some part today (Bill Clinton - I didn't inhale :D ) I would expect to hear of "harder" types of drugs putting in appearances as their use has become more widespread.  Marijuana is now looked at as a "gateway" drug, opening up the user to other, harder drugs.

As for Harvey's career being hit, I'm unsure......I remember the Mayor that was busted for cocaine use on camera.  He is back in office again, so it's possible that a connetion to an illegal substance "pusher" may not have hurt Harvey.  However, I also remember back in 1987, that a simple picture of Donna Rice sitting on Gary Hart's lap totally destroyed his political career.  There's no way to tell which way the public would view this.  However, I'm sure that with Harvey being gay, his opponents would spin it in such a way that they'd link his behaviors to his sexuality, and sink his ship that way.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 07:51:35 PM
8.)  This section of the book covers the repeal of the sodomy laws in California - which had been campaigned for by one of the moderates, Rick Stokes, for years.  Do you think that this campaign has implications for our recent campaign against proposition 8?  How do the two compare to you?  What do you think of Harvey's reactions to the campaign against the sodomy laws - does this seem to be one case where his political instincts were incorrect?

I’m having some trouble with this question but will make a stab at it; hopefully someone else can pick up on it.

Rick Stokes had campaigned for repeal for years, and he was one of the gay moderates who had been relying on his liberal straight friends to take care of gays’ problems.  Yet “the gay leaders were not a demanding lot,” thought the legislators.  The legislators didn’t bother to listen to the wishes of gay moderates until George Moscone was able to use the issue to aid his own campaign for San Francisco mayor.  To me, this just shows that the outcome of the campaign for repeal really depended on forces beyond the gay community.  The outcome also depended on the coincidental fact that Ronald Reagan was no longer governor, whereas the current governor Jerry Brown had agreed to sign the bill. 

I suppose that when push came to shove, George Moscone was a “liberal friend” whose support for the measure made all the difference; this would indicate that Rick Stokes was right, gays couldn’t do it alone.  It’s worth noting though, that this was a bill which had to pass the California state assembly and senate, and that Moscone was Senate Majority Leader.  So a neighborhood leader like Harvey in one city, San Francisco, would have had little influence on the outcome.  If it had been a ballot initiative, voted on directly by the voters, Harvey and others in similar positions could have done more grass-roots campaigning.

In  the recent campaign against Prop 8 in California, it was a ballot initiative, not a legislative bill, so there’s no comparison there.  Also, a lot of the money for Prop 8 came from outside the state, as I understand it (the Mormon Church), whereas in the case of the repeal of the sodomy laws, these were laws that had been on the books for many decades (so the enemy was invisible).  I don’t think there’s much comparison.  The only implication that I see may be that “friends in high places” are still needed to campaign either for or against such a measure – and perhaps the Prop 8 opponents needed more spokespeople.

Harvey’s only reaction to the campaign against the sodomy laws that I noted had to do with endorsements; he wasn’t pleased that so many gays rushed to support Moscone for mayor afterwards.  He had always felt that better deals could be cut from candidates if endorsements waited until the last minute.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 20, 2009, 07:56:12 PM
Dennis is a true San Francisco character.  He ran his pot dispensary a block from my house in San Francisco till it was busted.  I'd run into him when we both got coffee.  He had a dog similar to Linda's Tootsie - his was named Pinky.  I voted for him for governor.  :D

If you say so, Michael.   :D    :D    :D

Yes, I can see Harvey voting to legalize the medical use of marijuana.  That would have different consequences than smoking it when it was illegal to do so.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 20, 2009, 08:25:05 PM
2.)  In the mid-seventies firefighters unions in New York and Chicago fought against gay civil rights measures in their cities (mostly to keep gays out of the firehouses).  What do you think it was that allowed Harvey Milk to be effective in his outreach to the firefighters in San Francisco?  Are you surprised at the level of success he achieved?

Harvey seemed to position himself as a friend to unions.  I don't think that it was that the firefighters suddenly became gay friendly, more an act of ....self preservation...for lack of a better term.  In Harvey, they saw someone who was determined to reach office, and was a strong advocate of unions.  This was someone who would be watching out for their interests, and therefore, that made it acceptable for them to back him.  I remember a number of times in the book it was stated at first that they couldn't believe they would support "that fruit", so they obviously had little respect for him as a person.  It was the fact that he would be watching out for them that won their attention and support.

The interesting thing for me Chuck (and Debbie and Nikki) is the difference between Harvey's relationship with the firefighters and the relationship he had with the police.  The story about the firemen showing up outside the camera shop after Harvey's failed bid for the assembly is actually quite touching, imho.

I guess that this probably had to do with the adversarial role that Harvey played with the police when they were doing raids on the bars in the Castro.  I'm sure that it probably had something to do with the conflict between the old Irish American residents of Eureka Valley and the new gay residents who changed it into the Castro.  But it's important to keep in mind that these tensions would be the same between the gay residents and the union members & firemen too - so there must have been something else going on to provoke the tension between the police and Harvey.

I imagine that the change in status in 1975, when gays went from being criminal because of their sexuality to not being criminal probably had a lingering effect too.

What do you all think?  [Without, of course, getting into the Dan White discussions, which we will be doing next week....]
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 20, 2009, 08:30:35 PM
Here's another article on Dennis Peron that gives you an idea of his standing among medical marijuana activists (where he was seen as something of a thorn in their side).  I particularly like that he ran for governor as a REPUBLICAN - which I had forgotten  :D :D :D

I'm guessing that deciding to do that must have had something to do with what he was smoking that day....

One interesting thing to consider is that Dennis has something of the same 'in your face' attitude that Harvey had:

PAGE ONE -- S.F. Club's Style Rankles Medical Pot Advocates Founder Peron blamed for eroding support
Sabin Russell, Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 1998

At the close of a long interview at his Cannabis Cultivators Club in San Francisco, the affable Dennis Peron offered to roll a reporter a joint.

The offer was politely declined, and the proffered buds of a substance that might have been marijuana were drawn back to the desk of club founder Peron, who has recently declared himself a Republican candidate for governor of California.

It was a typical, and not wholly unexpected gesture from the bad boy of pot politics, but it underscored a tendency that is making Peron's colleagues in the medical marijuana business very nervous -- he bends the rules, and sometimes, they break.

Peron's antics and incessant activism have fractured the coalition that in November 1996 engineered a decisive victory for Proposition 215, which made legal the personal use of marijuana in California for medical purposes with a doctor's prescription.

Operators of medical pot centers around California, while lauding him as a visionary, are now afraid of the heat Dennis Peron is generating -- particularly Attorney General Dan Lungren's threat to shut down all clubs on January 12. For them, Peron's 1960s dance of liberation is out of step with the tightly managed 1990s.

``If you don't distance yourself from Dennis Peron, you are almost accused of being a `Dennis Peron,' said Peter Baez, executive director of the Santa Clara County Medical Cannabis Center in San Jose. ``How can you support somebody who doesn't play by the rules?''

The four-story Cannabis Cultivators Club on Market Street has become a lightning rod for opponents of any use of marijuana. It not only distributes pot but celebrates it and allows its 8,000 members to smoke it on the premises.

Although provocative to opponents of marijuana use, smoking pot at medical marijuana clubs is not illegal under Proposition 215. However, only patients with doctor's prescriptions -- not healthy reporters, for example -- may take the drug legally. Critics say Peron's medical record-keeping is not thorough enough to weed out purely recreational users.

With thousands of paper cranes dangling from its ceilings, wall-size murals of cannabis leaves, and political posters proclaiming Peron for governor, the pot club is as much a shrine to Peron himself as it is to marijuana.

Peron's uncompromising advocacy of full legalization of marijuana now irks some of his former allies. One of the Proposition 215 co- authors with Peron, Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center director Scott Imler, has publicly chastised the San Francisco club as a ``circus'' that threatens the existence of every medical marijuana provider in California.

``We're sick and tired of spending 90 percent of our time explaining away the excesses of Dennis Peron and 1444 Market Street,'' said Imler.

``We assured the voters over and over and over that we were talking about medical marijuana,'' he added. ``The minute the election passed, it was `Let's smoke a fatty,' and `All use is medical.' Basically, that's a betrayal of everything the voters did for patients.''

Scanning the polished bar, which serves up pot brownies and capsules of marijuana tincture to AIDS patients, Peron smiled and said, ``It does kind of look like a circus, now that I think of it.''

continues:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/01/03/MN46982.DTL&hw=dennis+peron&sn=002&sc=989
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 21, 2009, 12:34:32 AM
Here's a good article that gives a bit more information on the connection between Peron and Milk:

Dennis Peron and the Passage of Proposition 215

The founder and maitre'd of the San Francisco cannabis buyers club, Dennis Peron, has been challenging the marijuana laws by direct action since 1969 (when he came back from Vietnam with 2 lbs in his Air Force duffle bag) and by legal and political means since 1970 (when first he was busted).

Dennis simply refused to accept that anybody could tell him he didn't have a right to smoke this plant. "And the right to smoke it means the right to get it," he would argue, "which means people have to have the right to grow it and sell it."

Now 51, Dennis is still the perfect Puck -clever, mischievous, light on his feet.  He's from the Bronx originally, grew up on Long Island, one of five kids in an Italian-American family. His mom was a housewife, his dad an accountant employed by the city of New York. Dennis was a natural salesman. As a delivery boy he won the trip to Miami that Newsday gave for selling the most subscriptions.  Dennis was not above appealing to a prospect's compassion by going door-to-door on cold, rainy nights. "People would buy a subscription just so I would go home and go to bed," he recalls. 

Dennis first came to San Francisco en route to Vietnam in '67. He was stationed outside of Saigon when the Tet offensive began. His unit was pinned down for a week. It was during this time he had his first experience as a gay man. Later, on leave in Thailand, he befriended some locals who took him to the mountains where, coming around a pass onto a broad plateau, marijuana grew as far as the eye could see. He came home saying, "I want to dedicate my life to world peace." He had stacked the body bags. And he was a true hippie, convinced that marijuana was inherently -due to its calming effect on the individual and the sharing ritual associated with its use- an anti-war drug.

Coming out of the service, finally free
An idealist wondering what should I be?
living with friends in a house in the Haight 
He decided a new kind of space to create:
A place you could come to, hang out and try
Gold in the old days, Colombian, Thai
& listen to music and choose what you want
without giving strangers money up front...

In the '70s and '80s Dennis was busted for selling pot more than a dozen times, and after every bust he would resume selling out of his living room, which would soon turn into a legendary salon. He ran a restaurant in the Castro district, "The Island," where pot was always in the air -and could be purchased in the flat upstairs. Harvey Milk used The Island as campaign headquarters when he ran (unsuccessfully) for State Assembly in '76. Tony Serra, the flamboyant criminal defense specialist, was paid a retainer to stand by for action.

Dennis got to know thousands of people on a first-name-only basis. This was a security measure. The phone would ring and Dennis would say, "I know so many Judies. Are you the Judy who works at Wells Fargo or the Judy who works at the aquarium?"   Your correspondent covered one of his trials and was struck by how many people waved hello as Dennis walked down Van Ness Avenue. Of one passerby I asked, "Is she a customer or a friend?" Dennis lilted, "Oh, you know, friends become customers, customers become friends."

The SFPD narcotics squad did not find him charming, in fact they regarded him as a walking, talking affront. During one raid on his Castro St. flat -widely known as "The Big Top"- Peron was shot in the thigh by an officer named Paul Mackavekias. Greg Corrales, Mackavekias's partner, was the second man through the door. The ensuing trial took four months (the court stenographer became a good friend of Dennis's) and the officers who testified at length, mainly Corrales and Mackavekias, got to spend days listening to jive from Dennis's diverse crew. All Mackavekias's testimony was thrown out after he blurted, in the presence of witnesses, that he wished he'd killed Peron so there'd be "one less faggot in San Francisco."  Dennis received a lighter sentence as a result of this outburst, and wound up doing seven months in San Bruno.

Twenty years later, at the height of the campaign to legalize marijuana for medial use, Dennis would goad Dan Lungren, the zealous Attorney General, into a self-defeating tantrum at a press conference. Recalling Mackavekias's outburst, Dennis said, "These macho cops just can't stand the idea that a skinny little faggot won't fold up and go away because they say so."

Dennis had gotten involved in electoral politics working on his friend Harvey Milk's campaigns for supervisor in 1973 and '75. They'd first met in New York, where Milk had helped produce a show about Lenny Bruce, which he took Dennis to see. Milk was elected supervisor in '77, becoming the first openly gay elected official in the country. Dennis then drafted and collected signatures for an initiative -the aptly named 'W'- whereby the people of San Francisco instructed their law enforcement officials not to press any marijuana-related charges. It carried, and Mayor George Moscone notified the police that possession of an ounce or less should henceforth be ignored.

Very soon Dennis saw the contradictions in decriminalization. "It's the 'miracle ounce,'" he observed. "It's illegal to grow marijuana, it's illegal to possess a pound, it's illegal to sell or buy it. Where did all those people get their legal ounces? Every one of them must be a miracle!"

Dennis was planning a rigorous legalization campaign at the state level when the assassination of Milk and Moscone by a former policeman named Dan White took away his most significant allies and turned the local political landscape into a cratered wasteland as the 1970s came to an end.

And then came the epidemic. 

continues:

http://oshaughnessys.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=33
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 10:19:54 AM
9.)  The book notes that during this period the gay community starts moving from an alternative sort of look to the 'Castro clone' look.  Rick Nichols, the camera shop owner from the Haight, says 'All they're doing is fitting into another mold, finding a new conformity. (pg 116)'  What do you think of this discussion?  Do you think that gays were moving more toward the moderates position (in which case why did Harvey defend them)?  Do you think that this sort of conformity has continued into the present day - attempting to fit into gender roles and conforming to societal ideals?  If so, how do you feel about this?

The earlier alternative look was what Shilts calls “casual practicality.”  Those early gays, with close ties to the counterculture, came to Castro street with little money and shopped for the best bargains they could find, like plaid shirts for $1.50 and other used clothing.  By the time the “Castro clone” look developed, the gays in the area were involved in careers, so they had more money, for one thing.  This enabled them to shop for brand-new clothes at more expensive stores.

Their fashion choice was now “rigid macho conformity.”  In the discussion on page 116, Rick Nichols objected to the idea of conformity in dress, claiming that this made the men less free.  This was a philosophical point of view which carries some weight, IMO.  Harvey showed more of a psychological understanding of the conformist way of dress, understanding that the new arrivals on Castro street had been through great struggles in their own separate worlds before finding this place of refuge.  In his opinion, they needed the security of bonding and belonging to a group culture before moving on to something else.  I agree with Harvey here, and feel that after some time of being in the group “macho conformity” culture, each of these men might be able to become more “free” by moving on to a more individualistic way of life.

I don’t think that politics entered into the conformist dress code, so I wouldn’t say they were moving more toward the gay political moderates’ position.  I also don’t think Harvey’s defense of them had anything to do with politics.  After all, Harvey had also changed his appearance (by cutting his hair and donning suits) to appeal to society’s norms of how a politician should dress and look, but this external change didn’t alter his political views on issues like how to go about achieving gay rights.

As to whether the “macho conformity” has continued into the present, I look around and see a wide range of dress and appearance among gay men.  There are certain niches that I’ve become aware of on the Forum – like the notion of “bears” – which stick pretty close to macho conformity.  And some of the pictures that are posted here, as in the Cowboy thread, have that same look of shirts that “show just the right tuft of chest hair,”  or well-developed muscles on the shirtless models.  These reflect the masculine gender role, in a somewhat affected manner, IMO.  But my impression is that it’s not a universal fashion trend among gays today.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 10:40:14 AM
The interesting thing for me Chuck (and Debbie and Nikki) is the difference between Harvey's relationship with the firefighters and the relationship he had with the police.  The story about the firemen showing up outside the camera shop after Harvey's failed bid for the assembly is actually quite touching, imho.

I guess that this probably had to do with the adversarial role that Harvey played with the police when they were doing raids on the bars in the Castro.  I'm sure that it probably had something to do with the conflict between the old Irish American residents of Eureka Valley and the new gay residents who changed it into the Castro.  But it's important to keep in mind that these tensions would be the same between the gay residents and the union members & firemen too - so there must have been something else going on to provoke the tension between the police and Harvey.

I imagine that the change in status in 1975, when gays went from being criminal because of their sexuality to not being criminal probably had a lingering effect too.

What do you all think?  [Without, of course, getting into the Dan White discussions, which we will be doing next week....]

Well, I'll give an answer to this but would like to hear from Chuck and Nikki, too.  We do need to remember that it wasn't all the unions who endorsed Harvey, and he didn't seek the endorsements of all unions.  Notably, he didn't seek the endorsement of the police union.

I noted earlier that one difference between firemen and policemen is that they interact with the community in different ways.  Firemen mostly come to the rescue of people, whereas policemen are involved in arrests and criminal enforcement, but also have been involved in unnecessary harassment.  Harvey's own background may have given him an antipathy toward police, because he had been arrested twice (and released) back in New York (Central Park, and Albany).  As a gay man, Harvey knew well that these arrests were often indiscriminate and that the "crimes" were often very insubstantial.  He was aware of famous cases in which police clashed with gay citizens (Stonewall, just to mention one example) and he had seen confrontations in the Castro.

So even though both the police and firemen often came from the old Irish American families of Eureka Valley, IMO there were more reasons for Harvey to have a lingering resentment of the police, and more reasons for him to suspect that they would not endorse him even if he approached them.  I'm not sure how the change in the sodomy law in 1975 played into it, except that police had been accustomed to knowing in the back of their minds that a law existed which, although not often enforced, made the sexually active gays theoretical criminals.  Just more reason for tensions between the two groups.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 11:58:25 AM
10.) There are community changes occurring during this period which is the further of evolution of the neighborhood into a gay neighborhood - including gentrification and higher home prices.  The neighborhood will change again after Harvey's death with the onset of AIDS and the doc com boom.  Do you think this sort of 'gayborhood' is still necessary politically and socially or was this something that was necessary in Harvey Milk's time but is no longer needed?

Some of the specific changes include the fact that business owners began courting gay customers, because they realized that gays were good customers for the deli, the windowshade shop, and a store which sold building supplies.  Membership in the Castro Valley Association (CVA), which is open to merchants, increased to 60 members, and reflected an even split between straight and gay merchants.

After Harvey’s death, I’m sure that the onset of AIDS resulted in many more deaths among the population of the Castro, while at the same time drawing people together in the fight against AIDS.  I’m not sure how the dot com boom played into things – was it because Castro residents who worked in high tech became wealthier, or did this boom cause one intellectual class of people to leave the Castro for homes closer to their new jobs in towns to the south where the high-tech companies were located?  Michael, maybe you can elaborate on the influence of the dot com boom.

I still know of “gayborhoods” in various cities in the U.S. today:  The Castro in San Francisco; West Hollywood and nearby sections of Los Angeles; Greenwich Village in New York, for example.  A Forum member in Phoenix speaks of the “gayborhood” there, today.  In Denver, there was a semi-“gayborhood” and semi-hippie area when I lived there in the early 70s, but a number of families with young children lived there also.  From what I understand, many gays have moved into other sections of Denver today so that there is not as much of a concentrated “gayborhood.”  I know of gay men who live in rural areas and suburbs which do not have apparent concentrations of gay people at all, today.

I suspect that “gayborhoods” today may be  more necessary for gay people who are just coming out and establishing their identity – much like the gays in “macho conformist” clothes needed to band together in appearance before being able to express their individual tastes.  A gayborhood lends security and provides a concentration of people to show someone the ropes, not to mention providing potential dating partners.  Also, I wonder whether of the availability of the Internet today – something that didn’t exist in Harvey’s day – doesn’t give gays an alternate means of establishing connections through a virtual neighborhood.  Places like this Forum serve to bring gays together both politically and socially today.

modified:  One more thing.  In the particular case of the Castro in San Francisco, a concentration of gays in one area served to increase gay political power during the time when supervisors were elected by district.  The effect of having a "gayborhood" on gay political power today would depend on the local political structure: whether city council members were elected at-large or by some smaller geographical segmentation of the city, for instance.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 01:16:16 PM
11.) Given the support that Harvey had from the firefighters were you surprised at the difficulty that the police department had with gays?  Do you think that the change was too radical from the time of Captain William O'Connor (who said he felt gays were emotionally unstable and unsuited for police work) to Police Chief Charles Gain, who said that he would support gay cops and hoped they would step forward?  Do you think this change exacerbated the difficulties between gays and the police?

This in part ties in with Michael’s followup to question 2, about the reasons why  Harvey had been able to get endorsements from the firemen but not the police (he had studied the fire department’s needs, but hadn’t sought an endorsement from the police).

Even though both firefighters and policemen came from the same Irish section of the city, the firefighters had not spent their working life in a confrontational mode with gays, whereas the policemen had.  Captain William O’Connor was acting as the police public relations spokesman when he made that remark about gays being unstable and unsuited for police work, so his word carried a lot of weight.  Furthermore, when he said, “I’d sure like to have a list of them,” he implied that if he did know of gays currently on the force, he would take steps to have them removed (or given whatever other sort of unpleasant treatment he could get away with).

I’m guessing that O’Connor was a local San Francisco Irish cop, whereas new Police Chief Charles Gain was an outsider from Oakland who hadn’t grown up with the same mental framework as the policemen who would be working under him.  Gain started off by making a number of moves to shake up the police “good old boy” network:  removing an American flag, disallowing drinking on duty, and repainting the police cars with a softer color scheme.  These changes alone may have painted Gain as not being tough and macho enough for the conservative cops in the SFPD.  On top of this, he also announced that his officers had to treat gays with as much respect as they treated other citizens, and that he would support a gay policeman who came out.  Since this was a major change from what O’Connor had said previously, the Gain’s comments about gays probably gave cops, who had been disgruntled about the Gain’s other changes, something concrete to focus their displeasure on.  Not only did the cops post anti-gay slurs about Gain, the situation may have caused them to act out (through increased harassment) toward individual gays on the street.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 01:45:38 PM
12.) Harvey Milk leaked the news that the person who saved President Ford was gay.  What do you think of his doing this?  What do you think of the effects that this had on Bill Sipple's life?

I understand why Harvey leaked the news:  he was focused on politics.  He felt that this was a great opportunity to show the whole country an example of a gay person who was a hero.  But I don’t think it was right of him to do it.  I agree with what Frank Robinson said, that the choice of whether or not to come out should be left up to the person involved.

Harvey often exhorted gays to come out of the closet so that their families, and employers, and society as a whole, would have a better picture of who gays really were.  I definitely agree with this; it helps prevent “homosexuals” from being a misunderstood and feared category of people.  When straight people realize that they actually have gay neighbors and family members, they often become more understanding, sometimes even supporting gay rights.

But, I just don’t think it’s right for one person to make that decision of whether or not to come out, for someone else.  Especially since, in this case, Harvey only knew this about Sipple because of the shared connection they had with Joe Campbell.  It was private information that shouldn’t have been made public by Harvey. 

I felt sorry for Bill Sipple when I read that he became depressed and that his mother wouldn’t talk to him.  I was also aggravated to learn that President Ford initially would not thank Sipple for saving his life; surely Sipple would have been treated like a hero if the knowledge of his homosexuality had not become public.  In the long run, I have to say that it may have been good for public opinion of gays that the knowledge was disclosed, but at the time, the effects on Sipple himself didn’t make it seem worthwhile. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 03:19:48 PM
13.) In the context of people like Leonard Matlovich, David Kopay, Elton John and Tab Hunter coming out, the ruling by the APA that homosexuality in and of itself was not a disease and the attempts to include 'sexual orientation' in the Civil Rights Act, gay moderates became optimistic about the future, while Harvey insisted that gays must seize power.  Given that 'sexual orientation' has never been included in federal Civil Rights legislation and that we have now had 30 states vote against gay marriage was Harvey right?  Does the intervention of AIDS in gay history make this impossible to judge - or was that exactly the sort of catastrophe that Harvey was thinking might occur (and therefore you need to seize as much power as you can beforehand)?

This is one of the key sentences from Shilts in this section of the book:  “The optimism [of the gay moderates] came in part because no organized opposition to the gay rights drive had yet emerged.”  It wasn’t many years after this that Anita Bryant came on the scene, bringing about the first major rollback of gay rights legislation.  By then, the opposition was taking shape and talking with a loud voice.

To me, this shows that Harvey was right when he demanded that demanded that everybody should come out of the closet.  That was the first step necessary for gays to seize power: to be seen and heard.  Liberal friends of the gay moderates couldn’t fend off the opposition when it did appear on the scene.  The most potent way of getting support for gay rights from straight voters and legislators after the opposition appeared was for gays to show their own faces.

Today, someone like Ellen Degeneres, appearing on a widely-watched daytime TV show, goes a long way toward presenting gays as “just like everyone else.”  I think there has been a softening of attitudes toward homosexuals in society, but unfortunately this hasn’t been sufficient to get sexual orientation included in the federal civil rights bill.  The issue is also clouded by religious opposition to gay marriage, although there’s been an upswing in support for “domestic partnership” and “civil unions.”  I’d say progress is being made, although slowly, and the progress is aided by gays fighting their own fights instead of relying on straight liberals.

As for the intervention of AIDS, I’m sure that Harvey couldn’t have foreseen such a catastrophe when he advised gays to seize power for themselves.  After AIDS came onto the scene, it provided additional incentive for gays to band together to gain political influence (lobbying for AIDS research, setting up community organizations to help victims, etc.).  But it also scared a lot of straight people and eroded sympathy for gays in many circles.  Much of this fear has passed by now, but it’s a generation later.  So for many years, gays were left on their own during the AIDS crisis, to handle it in the best way they could.  Perhaps if AIDS had not intervened, there might have been more progress on gay rights earlier, and straight liberal support may have help push it along.  But we’ll never know.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 04:26:10 PM
Quote from: Forum Librarian & Buckle Bunny
15.) This section of the book is the first place that Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple appear.  Are you surprised that they were as politically influential as they were in San Francisco?  Given what we read about them here, do you think that people should have been concerned about them earlier?  What do you think of Harvey's advice regarding them ('you never want to be on their bad side' - pg 139)?

Not only was I surprsed, I didn't realize that this was THE Jim Jones at first.  Seems to me Harvey knew a lot more about them then he says. He knew enough to warn Tory.  Again, Harvey was using someone to further his own ends -- the political pragmatist. 


Edited to fix quote
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 04:40:28 PM


27.) In a peculiar twist Randy Shilts' book outs Al Asmussen and reveals that his suicide was due to his being discovered as gay in the chapter 'Orange Tuesday'.  Does this seem inconsistent with his concern over Bill Sipple earlier in the book?  Do you think this was appropriate?


This was a peculiar twist.  I didn't see anything to be gained by this revelation.  Friends in the YR club suspected foul play, but  Asmussen was a minor figure -- a deputy sheriff -- he wasn't an activist, nor was he welll known in the Castro.  It did seem inconsistent with Shilt's concern over Sipple -- he didn't show the same sympathy for Asmussen.  I don't think it was appropriate to out Asmussen at this point. He was dead -- no one gained by this. Although Shilt's wrote that the 'real stories never made the newpapers.'
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 05:14:21 PM

28.) Were you surprised to learn that the murderer of Robert Hillsborough [John Cordova] was a closeted 19 year old who couldn't have sex with men unless he was drunk?


No I wasn't surprised.  Sounded like Cordova had a lot of issues with his sexuality, and was a represed homosexual.  The only way he could have gay sex was to drink himself into oblivion.  He didn't remember what happened the next day.  I was surprised he was sentenced only to 10 years.  Is there any record about what happened to him later?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 05:16:00 PM
14.) Do you think that Harvey was right to run for the Assembly so shortly after his last Supervisorial campaign - and so shortly after accepting a position as a commissioner on Board of Permit Appeals?  By this time in his career do you think that he was simply running because that was all that he knew - that he didn't feel comfortable unless he was running for office?  Was it unwise for him to run for this office given that the other candidate, Art Agnos, was allied with George Moscone?  What did you make of the encounter between Leo McCarthy and Harvey (pg 131)?

I didn’t think it was a good idea for Harvey to run for the Assembly at that point in his political career.  He had just been sworn in as a city commissioner on the board of permit appeals, and I think he owed them more than just a few weeks of service.  He had already made a name for himself in politics, because he’s referred to as the “first acknowledged gay city commissioner in the country.”  One could even say that he gave gays a bad name in politics by proving so unreliable, because he had drawn attention to himself by being “a first.”

It may well be that Harvey was more comfortable running for office than actually serving in office, although his lover and campaign manager Scott Smith certainly didn’t share those feelings.  And his commissioner job was an appointment, a relatively minor political job.  So I can understand his desire to get out there again and try for the higher office – I just think it was too soon. 

As to the wisdom of him seeking the Assembly seat, Harvey had the color-coded maps from 1975, which demonstrated his strength in the area covered by the 16th Assembly District.  I can’t fault Harvey for not realizing that his opponent, Art Agnos (“Who’s Art Agnos?), was already a shoo-in to win the seat because of a behind-the-scenes deal involving George Moscone and others.  It took Randy Shilts almost two full pages to explain these secret machinations, and I had to read those pages several times to follow them, so I can understand why Harvey wouldn’t have realized what was going on.

I found it amusing that Art Agnos hadn’t heard of Harvey Milk, who hadn’t yet announced his candidacy for the Assembly seat, and stopped into the camera store to ask for an endorsement.  This shows that the lack of awareness of each other was mutual.  Agnos must have revealed to Harvey that he was Assembly Speaker McCarthy’s top aide, and this evidently led to Harvey’s phone call to McCarthy.  The call showed a lack of tact; no wonder the other politicians considered him crude.  Harvey showed a lack of understanding that deal-making is done with hints, not outright requests, when he came right out and offered a trade to McCarthy:  “I’ll stay out of the race if you get Burton to back me for supervisor next year.”  Harvey didn’t have enough power to making such a request in the first place, and he went about it in entirely the wrong way.  McCarthy would have laughed off the request anyway, knowing that Agnos would have enough support to defeat Harvey without any trade-off being necessary. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 05:51:47 PM

29.) What do you make of the differences in the biographies of Rick Stokes and Harvey Milk?  Given their respective pasts - with Stokes having gone through shock treatment and a marriage - why do you think they turned out on their respective political sides?  What did you think of this campaign - Harvey's only successful campaign for office?  In what ways was it different from the earlier campaigns?


They were night and day.  As Shilts writes, The choice between Harvey Milk and Rick Stokes did not represent a conflict between two ambiguous men, but between two ways of life. Each camp felt a vote for the other side was a defeat for the gay community.   His usual backers included the unions, the CVA which had grown to 90 merchants, the  larger gay population, and the Mexican American political association, and the Gay Republican Club.  Even the 'Chronicle' endorsed him.  Most important Harvey's new manager, Anne Kronenberg, gave legs to the new Milk Machine. He canvassed every precinct twice, and on election day he still pushed his troupe. Finally, Harvey he had 'given them hope.'
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 06:02:10 PM
14.) Do you think that Harvey was right to run for the Assembly so shortly after his last Supervisorial campaign - and so shortly after accepting a position as a commissioner on Board of Permit Appeals?  By this time in his career do you think that he was simply running because that was all that he knew - that he didn't feel comfortable unless he was running for office?  Was it unwise for him to run for this office given that the other candidate, Art Agnos, was allied with George Moscone?  What did you make of the encounter between Leo McCarthy and Harvey (pg 131)?

I didn’t think it was a good idea for Harvey to run for the Assembly at that point in his political career.  He had just been sworn in as a city commissioner on the board of permit appeals, and I think he owed them more than just a few weeks of service.  He had already made a name for himself in politics, because he’s referred to as the “first acknowledged gay city commissioner in the country.”  One could even say that he gave gays a bad name in politics by proving so unreliable, because he had drawn attention to himself by being “a first.”

It may well be that Harvey was more comfortable running for office than actually serving in office, although his lover and campaign manager Scott Smith certainly didn’t share those feelings.  And his commissioner job was an appointment, a relatively minor political job.  So I can understand his desire to get out there again and try for the higher office – I just think it was too soon. 

As to the wisdom of him seeking the Assembly seat, Harvey had the color-coded maps from 1975, which demonstrated his strength in the area covered by the 16th Assembly District.  I can’t fault Harvey for not realizing that his opponent, Art Agnos (“Who’s Art Agnos?), was already a shoo-in to win the seat because of a behind-the-scenes deal involving George Moscone and others.  It took Randy Shilts almost two full pages to explain these secret machinations, and I had to read those pages several times to follow them, so I can understand why Harvey wouldn’t have realized what was going on.

I found it amusing that Art Agnos hadn’t heard of Harvey Milk, who hadn’t yet announced his candidacy for the Assembly seat, and stopped into the camera store to ask for an endorsement.  This shows that the lack of awareness of each other was mutual.  Agnos must have revealed to Harvey that he was Assembly Speaker McCarthy’s top aide, and this evidently led to Harvey’s phone call to McCarthy.  The call showed a lack of tact; no wonder the other politicians considered him crude.  Harvey showed a lack of understanding that deal-making is done with hints, not outright requests, when he came right out and offered a trade to McCarthy:  “I’ll stay out of the race if you get Burton to back me for supervisor next year.”  Harvey didn’t have enough power to making such a request in the first place, and he went about it in entirely the wrong way.  McCarthy would have laughed off the request anyway, knowing that Agnos would have enough support to defeat Harvey without any trade-off being necessary. 



I agree with this Debbie.  However, I don't think Harvey wanted to wait -- remember he had an agenda -- he had to make it before he was 50.  Besides, this was a minor position, he wanted  the bigtime like supervisor, and  I don't think he cared whether he seemed reliable or not to the gay community. He proved he could go this far, so why not farther, faster.



Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 06:02:58 PM
15.) This section of the book is the first place that Jim Jones and his Peoples Temple appear.  Are you surprised that they were as politically influential as they were in San Francisco?  Given what we read about them here, do you think that people should have been concerned about them earlier?  What do you think of Harvey's advice regarding them ('you never want to be on their bad side' - pg 139)?

Not only was I surprsed, I didn't realize that this was THE Jim Jones at first.  Seems to me Harvey knew a lot more about them then he says. He knew enough to warn Tory.  Again, Harvey was using someone to further his own ends -- the political pragmatist. 

Nikki, I would have been totally shocked to learn that this was THE Jim Jones, too, except that someone had mentioned before we started reading the book that the book dealt with Milk, Moscone, and Jonestown.  So I was wondering when we would ever get to anything about Jonestown, and what in the world that had to do with Harvey Milk!

I remember when Jonestown was on the news in 1977, but I couldn’t have told you that Jim Jones and his followers came from San Francisco (although, somehow I’m not surprised, with Patty Hearst and the two women who attempted to kill President Ford also prominent in California at the time.)  I thought of Jones as a “kook,” and certainly had no idea that he had any legitimate role in city government.

I wonder how many people suspected something odd going on at the People’s Temple and looked the other way.  A reporter finally did uncover evidence that Jones beat people to keep them in line, but the story didn’t make it into the newspaper.  Perhaps Jones’ role in government gave him an aura of respectability which kept most people from looking under the surface.

Harvey’s advice about never wanting to be on their bad side was well-founded, as it turns out.  It does make me wonder how he came to that conclusion; he must have known something about their darker side.  I would hope that if he really realized that Jones’ followers were in danger, he would have tried to warn someone with more authority to intervene.  Maybe it was just a bad feeling he had, or maybe he realized that Jones had enough power (with his ties to the Housing Board and to the District Attorney’s office)  to thwart any sort of intervention.  In any case, I agree that Harvey was able to overlook the negatives and view the People’s Temple in a strictly pragmatic way:  they would help his campaign, so he would use their services.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 06:09:56 PM
I agree with this Debbie.  However, I don't think Harvey wanted to wait -- remember he had an agenda -- he had to make it before he was 50.  Besides, this was a minor position, he wanted  the bigtime like supervisor, and  I don't think he cared whether he seemed reliable or not to the gay community. He proved he could go this far, so why not farther, faster.

You're right about him having an agenda to make it before he was 50.  Of course, he still would have had time, by running for supervisor in 1977.  The way it turned out, he was just out of office for that intervening time until the 1977 election.  So he didn't show any inclination to be glad for the small successes that came his way, when he could dream bigger dreams.

Interesting to think what would have happened if he had been successful in his bid for the Assembly seat.  He would have stayed there, I feel sure, and not come back to run for San Francisco supervisor in 1977.  How different things would have been then.....

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 21, 2009, 06:14:46 PM


30.) Given that Shilts has made a point throughout the book of the lack of connection Harvey had with lesbians, are you surprised that he chose Anne Kronenberg as his campaign manager?



I was more surprised that Kronenberg was willing to be his manager.  After all, she had been warned by her lesbian friends who had always felt Harvey was anti-woman and that he would 'use her and throw her away.'  Harvey saw in Kronenberg what he needed: she was calm, organized, and a good manager -- qualities that Harvey lacked as a politico, and qualities that he knew he needed. That she was a lesbian was beside the point.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 06:39:47 PM
16.) By the time the assembly race occurs we read of David Goodstein (publisher of 'The Advocate') saying "I'll tell you why I can't stand Harvey Milk, Harvey Milk's goddamn crazy.  He can't be trusted.  He'll embarrass the shit out of us."  Why do you think that Goodstein was so adamant?  This goes further than the earlier Duke Smith quote - do you think that this had reached the point of being a personal conflict between Harvey and Goodstein (and his allies)? 

Duke Smith merely said that Harvey was a nut, and “God forbid he should ever get elected.”  But during the 1975 campaign, Smith probably felt that it wasn’t likely that Harvey would be elected, so he wasn’t that worried.

By the time Goodstein calls Harvey Milk crazy, he added that, “He can’t be trusted.  He’ll embarrass the shit out of us.”  I think there was some underlying resentment that Harvey had behaved badly, as Goodstein probably saw it, by announcing his run for the Assembly seat so soon after Moscone had appointed him to a city commission.  Moscone and the Democratic establishment had been “aghast” at Harvey’s decision, and Moscone had fired Harvey from the commission when he announced his candidacy for higher office.  Since Moscone was one of Goodstein’s “liberal friends,” Goodstein had reason to be embarrassed, and probably thought the episode reflected instability on Harvey’s part.  I expect that Goodstein felt Harvey would be similarly unreliable in his Assembly candidacy, and untrustworthy if he were to win the seat. 

By then, it does seem like a personal conflict between Harvey and Goodstein & Co.  It’s not just a difference in political philosophy now; the conflict is centered on Harvey’s personality being unsuited for their support.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 21, 2009, 06:57:25 PM
These are the questions for the second section of "The Mayor of Castro Street: the Life & Times of Harvey Milk" - pages 95-185.  As always answer what you would like to - and if you have additional things you would like to talk about in this section of the book, please feel free.

[sorry for the large number of questions - this was a very dense portion of the book....]


Michael, I'm finding all these questions extremely interesting, but there sure are a lot of them.  I wish we could slow down a little and not start Part 3 until mid-week of next week, at least.  I'm exhausted tonight, having spent most of the day doing questions, and have a headache.  I need to take it easier for the next couple of days. 

And then I will need time to review Part 3 before we get the next set of questions.  I think some people are reading as we go along, and will need more reading time, also.  If we had more time, it might give other people a chance to participate more.

Just my thoughts.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 22, 2009, 04:04:16 AM
I guess that this probably had to do with the adversarial role that Harvey played with the police when they were doing raids on the bars in the Castro.  I'm sure that it probably had something to do with the conflict between the old Irish American residents of Eureka Valley and the new gay residents who changed it into the Castro.  But it's important to keep in mind that these tensions would be the same between the gay residents and the union members & firemen too - so there must have been something else going on to provoke the tension between the police and Harvey.

I imagine that the change in status in 1975, when gays went from being criminal because of their sexuality to not being criminal probably had a lingering effect too.

What do you all think?  [Without, of course, getting into the Dan White discussions, which we will be doing next week....]

I'm sure my answer will echo most of what Debbie said.

The police force I believe were seen as antagonists.  They were targeting the gay bars and the gay community.  I think Harvey knew that if he tried to align with them, it would've offended (and cost him) his gay supporters.

On top of that, I think the police force would've been very reluctant to support Harvey.  After all, he was openly gay, and if they supported him, how would they be able to justify the way they treated gay people?  They also knew on some level that Harvey would do what he could to change that behavior, and I'm sure that was not a thought they relished.

As for the firemen showing up at the camera shop, they may have been coming around, but I still feel it was more or less because someone who was willing to support them and their union had lost, and not because they held Harvey in any high regard, or considered him a friend.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 22, 2009, 04:10:36 AM
7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?


When you factor in that it wasn't long after Stonewall, it makes sense to some degree that there was disagreement in the gay community about how to proceed.  The gay community was never seen as a political force, so the fact that different groups wanted to move in different directions is not surprising.  I'm sure there was also a degree of "we can't support "him" just because he's gay." going on behind the scenes as well.

We still see this going on today, so in some ways, the gay community is still fighting itself.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 22, 2009, 06:13:26 AM
7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?


When you factor in that it wasn't long after Stonewall, it makes sense to some degree that there was disagreement in the gay community about how to proceed.  The gay community was never seen as a political force, so the fact that different groups wanted to move in different directions is not surprising.  I'm sure there was also a degree of "we can't support "him" just because he's gay." going on behind the scenes as well.

We still see this going on today, so in some ways, the gay community is still fighting itself.

I agree with this, Chuck.  However, politics, gay or straight, is still composed of dissenting opinions and there is usually contentiousness involved.  When you factor in someone like Harvey with his brash, take-no-prisoners attitude and in-your-face stance, it's not surprising that all these groups were moving in different directioins.  The degree of "we can't support him just because he's gay" attitude must have been a source of debate within the gay community as well.  Harvey probably engendered some profound dislike among gays who felt he was not what they wanted in a representative of the gay community. Groups like the Toklas Club would never support him as long as they could court their liberal friends, and many of the elite groups of older gays agreed.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 22, 2009, 05:10:19 PM
These are the questions for the second section of "The Mayor of Castro Street: the Life & Times of Harvey Milk" - pages 95-185.  As always answer what you would like to - and if you have additional things you would like to talk about in this section of the book, please feel free.

[sorry for the large number of questions - this was a very dense portion of the book....]


Michael, I'm finding all these questions extremely interesting, but there sure are a lot of them.  I wish we could slow down a little and not start Part 3 until mid-week of next week, at least.  I'm exhausted tonight, having spent most of the day doing questions, and have a headache.  I need to take it easier for the next couple of days. 

And then I will need time to review Part 3 before we get the next set of questions.  I think some people are reading as we go along, and will need more reading time, also.  If we had more time, it might give other people a chance to participate more.

Just my thoughts.

Oh!  So sorry Deb, I don't mean to stress you out - and I understand (it took me a full day to get through the last section and do the questions - but then again I find non-fiction much more dense than fiction - it generates more questions).

Nikki, Chuck, Jenny, Ellen and Dawn [and you too lurkers]...how do you feel about Debbie's proposal?  Would you rather that I wait until next Wednesday (or Thursday) so that you can catch up on these questions?

Again, I do apologize for the number of questions - I do know this puts some people off, and I really, really don't mean to.

Let me know what you think!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 22, 2009, 05:16:31 PM
By the time Goodstein calls Harvey Milk crazy, he added that, “He can’t be trusted.  He’ll embarrass the shit out of us.”  I think there was some underlying resentment that Harvey had behaved badly, as Goodstein probably saw it, by announcing his run for the Assembly seat so soon after Moscone had appointed him to a city commission.  Moscone and the Democratic establishment had been “aghast” at Harvey’s decision, and Moscone had fired Harvey from the commission when he announced his candidacy for higher office.  Since Moscone was one of Goodstein’s “liberal friends,” Goodstein had reason to be embarrassed, and probably thought the episode reflected instability on Harvey’s part.  I expect that Goodstein felt Harvey would be similarly unreliable in his Assembly candidacy, and untrustworthy if he were to win the seat. 

By then, it does seem like a personal conflict between Harvey and Goodstein & Co.  It’s not just a difference in political philosophy now; the conflict is centered on Harvey’s personality being unsuited for their support.

I agree with this Debbie.  Early on they might have thought that Harvey was too far too the left for them, or too affiliated to drag queens & pot smokers, or too tied up with the unions.  By the time Harvey got around to his third run as supervisor it had become personal - and it seems as if it were personal on both sides (that is, I think Harvey disliked Goodstein & Co. as much as they disliked him).

An interesting side note is that I think the challenge they presented to Harvey actually drove him to keep running for office.  And that, in turn, had devastating effects on his personal life - ending his relationship with Scott and opening the door for his past bad choices in partners - in this case Jack Lira.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 22, 2009, 05:21:55 PM
7.)  Harvey also had opposition from a group of gays on the left - including Bay Area Gay Liberation - particularly over their support for Cesar Chavez (and his belief that gays should not support the picket lines until Chavez publicly supported gay rights).  Were you surprised at how contentious the gay political organizations seemed back then - or does this sort of thing seem sensible considering that it wasn't too long after Stonewall?  Should we simply view groups like BAGL as a fringe group - much like fringe groups that currently exist?

When you factor in that it wasn't long after Stonewall, it makes sense to some degree that there was disagreement in the gay community about how to proceed.  The gay community was never seen as a political force, so the fact that different groups wanted to move in different directions is not surprising.  I'm sure there was also a degree of "we can't support "him" just because he's gay." going on behind the scenes as well.

We still see this going on today, so in some ways, the gay community is still fighting itself.

Good point Chuck.  If you think about it Stonewall spun out some extremely radical groups - and BAGL was certainly that sort of organization.

And your point about this still going on is also very valid.  If you think about it there has always been a sort of up and back between organizations like HRC and the political party organizations [like the Log Cabin Club] and more radical groups like Queer Nation, Gay Shame and the Radical Faeries.  Navigating these waters must be treacherous!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 22, 2009, 06:03:23 PM
9.)  The book notes that during this period the gay community starts moving from an alternative sort of look to the 'Castro clone' look.  Rick Nichols, the camera shop owner from the Haight, says 'All they're doing is fitting into another mold, finding a new conformity. (pg 116)'  What do you think of this discussion?  Do you think that gays were moving more toward the moderates position (in which case why did Harvey defend them)?  Do you think that this sort of conformity has continued into the present day - attempting to fit into gender roles and conforming to societal ideals?  If so, how do you feel about this?

The earlier alternative look was what Shilts calls “casual practicality.”  Those early gays, with close ties to the counterculture, came to Castro street with little money and shopped for the best bargains they could find, like plaid shirts for $1.50 and other used clothing.  By the time the “Castro clone” look developed, the gays in the area were involved in careers, so they had more money, for one thing.  This enabled them to shop for brand-new clothes at more expensive stores.

Their fashion choice was now “rigid macho conformity.”  In the discussion on page 116, Rick Nichols objected to the idea of conformity in dress, claiming that this made the men less free.  This was a philosophical point of view which carries some weight, IMO.  Harvey showed more of a psychological understanding of the conformist way of dress, understanding that the new arrivals on Castro street had been through great struggles in their own separate worlds before finding this place of refuge.  In his opinion, they needed the security of bonding and belonging to a group culture before moving on to something else.  I agree with Harvey here, and feel that after some time of being in the group “macho conformity” culture, each of these men might be able to become more “free” by moving on to a more individualistic way of life.

I have to tell you that this part of the book makes me extremely wistful that I wasn't around for the 'casual practicality' period.  I think there was more to it than that, however.  I really think that the hippie influence was still in effect, and I also think that the glitter rock phenomenon had an impact too.

I had friends tell me that before the 'clone' look took off there were fan dancers on the corners and roller skaters with fans as well.  I've also heard about a drag troupe of belly dancers that used to perform at the corner of Castro and Market.

Living back in Michigan I was extraordinarily unhappy with the way gay men were comporting themselves, fashion wise.  I knew people who were putting themselves into serious credit card debit during this period to dress a certain way and to have their houses look a certain way.  For me there didn't seem to be much difference between they way they behaved and the older antique shopping queens typified by the behavior in 'Boys in the Band.'

I truly wish I had been out here to experience the earlier Castro - before the macho conformity kicked in.   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 22, 2009, 09:20:42 PM


Nikki, Chuck, Jenny, Ellen and Dawn [and you too lurkers]...how do you feel about Debbie's proposal?  Would you rather that I wait until next Wednesday (or Thursday) so that you can catch up on these questions?

Again, I do apologize for the number of questions - I do know this puts some people off, and I really, really don't mean to.

Let me know what you think!

Michael, it really doesn't matter to me -- as you always suggest, I usually answer some or all of them anyway.  I'd just as soon keep to the schedule.

Don't apologize, you're doing a great job as usual,  and that part of the book is dense, as you say.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 08:26:30 AM
A followup note on the schedule, Michael.  I see that some people people were able to post a few things on the forum during the afternoon and evening yesterday, but for me, I couldn't get through at all (since morning) until 10:15 PM, when the message said "we will have a new forum in a few minutes" or something like that.  By then it was bedtime.  So I wasn't able to post anything in this thread yesterday.

Also, the current questions weren't posted until Tuesday.  So we've lost some time (Monday and Thursday) this week.  What's the hurry, when other people are still catching up on the reading?

I do like to consider each of your questions carefully, because I get more out of the reading that way.  And if I am not able to reread the next set of chapters before the next set of questions are posted, I won't get as much out of that reading, either.

Well, back to posting.  Let's hope the Forum problems have been solved.  :) 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 08:32:58 AM
17.) Were you surprised that Goodstein & company were able to get almost all gay leaders to endorse Agnos - and that they got Elaine Noble to come all the way from Boston to tell San Franciscan gays that they should vote for Agnos?  Does this show a real disconnect between gay leaders and the community, given Harvey's electoral showing in this race?  What do you make of Harvey's comparing the gay establishment to Nazi collaborators?

I’m not too surprised that Goodstein & Co., with their connections, were able to get “virtually every gay leader” to support Agnos, because I suspect that the gay leaders in question were in the same moderate camp as Goodstein on other issues.  Harvey still seemed to be “one of a kind” in terms of San Francisco gay leaders. 

But I was initially surprised that Elaine Noble would come out from Boston to tell gay voters to vote against the gay candidate in the race.  However, Shilts presents sound reasons – having to do with campaign financing – why Goodstein could persuade her to do this:  she planned to run for the U.S. Senate and could Goodstein and his friends to raise money for her.  Typical politics, IMO.

It’s easy to understand Harvey’s anger as the gay leaders threw their support to a “liberal friend” rather than to a gay candidate.  The gay leaders weren’t supporting “their own kind”; they seemed to be selling out to protect themselves. But I think the hyperbole in his speech went too far when he compared gay leaders to Nazi collaborators.    We know he had a preoccupation with the Nazis and the holocaust in his younger years, so he may have been thinking of the Nazi persecution of gays when he made this statement.  Joe Campbell said he had a persecution complex; it seems to be showing again.

Although Harvey lost the race, he carried the gay precincts by substantial margins.  This does suggest that the individual gay voters were listening to Harvey, not the gay moderates, and that the gay moderates were out of touch. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 08:46:05 AM
I had friends tell me that before the 'clone' look took off there were fan dancers on the corners and roller skaters with fans as well.  I've also heard about a drag troupe of belly dancers that used to perform at the corner of Castro and Market.
 

 :D

Michael, it's really great to get your insights into these things, even if you weren't there to see it with your own eyes.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 23, 2009, 09:40:38 AM


13.) In the context of people like Leonard Matlovich, David Kopay, Elton John and Tab Hunter coming out, the ruling by the APA that homosexuality in and of itself was not a disease and the attempts to include 'sexual orientation' in the Civil Rights Act gay moderates became optimistic about the future, while Harvey insisted that gays must seize power.  Given that 'sexual orientation' has never been included in federal Civil Rights legislation and that we have now had 30 states vote against gay marriage was Harvey right?  Does the intervention of AIDS in gay history make this impossible to judge - or was that exactly the sort of catastrophe that Harvey was thinking might occur (and therefore you need to seize as much power as you can beforehand)?


ETA: I wasn't able to get online all day until 11:00 p.m. last night!!


IMO the intervention of AIDS made it harder to judge at that time -- I remember hearing about the 'gay disease' then, and I personally think that many people still think of AIDS in connection with gays even though it has been traced to Africa, and that blood transfusions caused a number of AIDS deaths.

I understand why the gay moderates were optimistic at that time.  A gay rights bill was moving along, and there was a new openness -- the gay moderates were willing to wait.  However, Harvey was always ready and waiting to play the role of Cassandra and, in this case, he was foresighted: 'the time would never be right.'  Society would never accept homosexuals no matter how  patient they were, or how open society was becoming. For every Kopay, Tab Hunter, Elton John, thousands of homosexuals faced disgrace, despair, and even suicide.   AIDS became the catastrophe that Harvey might have envisioned, but that no one could forsee.  Had Harvey lived to see how AIDS decimated the gay community, I wonder how he would have reacted.  Since he didn't seem to practice safe sex, would he have become an activist in this regard?  I think so, and maybe he would have saved many lives.





Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 23, 2009, 09:43:22 AM
These are the questions for the second section of "The Mayor of Castro Street: the Life & Times of Harvey Milk" - pages 95-185.  As always answer what you would like to - and if you have additional things you would like to talk about in this section of the book, please feel free.

[sorry for the large number of questions - this was a very dense portion of the book....]


Michael, I'm finding all these questions extremely interesting, but there sure are a lot of them.  I wish we could slow down a little and not start Part 3 until mid-week of next week, at least.  I'm exhausted tonight, having spent most of the day doing questions, and have a headache.  I need to take it easier for the next couple of days. 

And then I will need time to review Part 3 before we get the next set of questions.  I think some people are reading as we go along, and will need more reading time, also.  If we had more time, it might give other people a chance to participate more.

Just my thoughts.





Hi all -- just a note, I couldn't log into the forum yesterday, don't know if anybody else had trouble.

In any case -- I agree with Debbie slowing down a little is fine.  And you want more time for the best reason of all -- to delve deeper into Michael's questions!

And I also want to thank Michael for taking on the questions -- he is doing a great job and is clearly the right person to guide us through this historical book set in San Francisco.

Thanks, Michael!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 23, 2009, 10:03:20 AM


The thing I find most difficult about answering these questions is that we, the readers, are looking back over 30 years, and  some of us didn't live in SF. We're looking at these events historically, in a sense, and like anything out of time and place we are only giving our opinions based on what Shilts has written.  What happened happened, and there's no changing it -- it's easy to look back and opine what could/would/should have been done.  In spite of this, I think Harvey was an exemplary politician, a charismatic leader, and a man for the times.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 10:12:39 AM
In spite of this, I think Harvey was an exemplary politician, a charismatic leader, and a man for the times.

Yes, I definitely feel this way about Harvey, even though it feels like we're picking apart some of what he did.  I think he was a real hero.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 10:14:42 AM
18.) During this campaign Art Agnos was groped during a campaign stop at a leather bar.  Does this strike you as something that was of that period and would not occur now?  Did this incident (and Agnos' reaction) surprise you?

The incident did surprise me.  By “of that period,” I guess the question is referring to a freer expression of sexuality during 1970s.  I can understand that, but it still strikes me as something risky to do with a straight man – no telling how he might have reacted.  It seems like it might have been even more risky in the 1970s (when straight men in general were more uncomfortable around gays) than now.

I still would have a hard time imagining it happening now.  Maybe a gay man answering this question would have a better feel for this.  Maybe groping does occur nowadays in gay bars between men who know they are both gay, but I would still think a gay person would not grope a well-known man who was known to be straight.

Agnos handled the incident very well, by smiling and making his verbal comeback that showed he was taking it with a sense of humor.  No wonder he got an ovation.  When he walked out thinking that he’d picked up every vote in the bar, he may have been thinking privately that it had been some tough campaigning.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 23, 2009, 10:15:19 AM


The thing I find most difficult about answering these questions is that we, the readers, are looking back over 30 years, and  some of us didn't live in SF. We're looking at these events historically, in a sense, and like anything out of time and place we are only giving our opinions based on what Shilts has written.  What happened happened, and there's no changing it -- it's easy to look back and opine what could/would/should have been done.  In spite of this, I think Harvey was an exemplary politician, a charismatic leader, and a man for the times.


You're right Nikki, on the other hand we are learning quite a bit!

It strains my brain to try and remember hearing about this back in '78 -- I remember what I was doing then, I got married in April (child bride) and took some time off work the following June to go visit relatives. 

All of this seemed like San Francisco news, including the assassination of the mayor.  I just didn't think that much about "remote" politics at the time.

Now these issues seem extremely relevant and I am familiar with the subject matter and Harvey's struggle, but before BBM I would have had trouble understanding a lot of it.

So, Harvey Milk broke a lot of ground back in the seventies, BBM broke more ground 40 years later.

This brings home to me how far ahead of the rest of the nation San Francisco has been, and now so many of us are just coming up to a San Francisco consciousness raising.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 10:23:08 AM
Michael, some more SF geography questions, when you get a chance.

One:  P.139 says the People's Temple was in the "desolate Filmore district" which had been devasted by urban renewal.  Where is the Filmore district?  Was it/had it been a black section of town?  When Agnos campaigned for black votes, where was the concentration of blacks located by then?

Two: In connection with the Hillsborough murders, the book says the gay men stopped several blocks east of Castro Street, and were surrounded by mostly Latino youths.  I know the Latino area was often referred to as "South of Market" or the "Mission District," but I didn't realize it was that close to Castro Street.  Is the area several blocks east of Castro Street still Latino, or is it more a gay area?  (When we walked east from the Castro Theater and then turned south (South of Market) to get hamburgers at that bar with outdoor seating, how would you describe that area?  Was that bar in a Latino area? -- it didn't seem to be.)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 11:05:34 AM
19.) Shilts book indicates that the 'you've got to give them hope' tag line came from advice from Agnos that his speech was too much of a downer.  Are you surprised that Harvey took Agnos advice - or does this show that he was still learning as a politician, and that he was willing to take advice from anyone - even his adversaries in political campaigns?

Harvey and Agnos did not seem to have anything against each other personally, and they appeared together on numerous candidates’ nights.  This gave them a chance to hear each other’s stump speeches over and over.  Harvey was fighting “The Machine,” but he had a sense of humor and got along well with Agnos personally once they left the stage.  Given this setting, it wasn’t surprising that Agnos would make a casual remark about Harvey’s speech being too much of a downer.  He told Harvey that the speech centered on throwing the bums out, rather than discussing how Harvey would fix things.

Harvey must have realized that Agnos was right.  Agnos’ words may have reminded Harvey of advice which he had given privately to others when they were down, notably Joe Campbell after his suicide attempt.  If Agnos had given Harvey advice which Harvey basically disagreed with, I think he would have laughed it off, but these words from Agnos were something which Harvey could relate to.  It’s true that Harvey was still learning as a politician, so any good advice was welcome, no matter the source.  I’m not surprised that he took the advice and began including the “hope” line in his future speeches.

On a side note, since Agnos may have intended his remarks casually, or even critically, without meaning to actually help Harvey’s chances in the race, he may have been surprised that Harvey did incorporate the advice so well into his future speeches.  Shilts notes that Agnos was “impressed,” although worried.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 23, 2009, 11:52:02 AM
I had friends tell me that before the 'clone' look took off there were fan dancers on the corners and roller skaters with fans as well.  I've also heard about a drag troupe of belly dancers that used to perform at the corner of Castro and Market.
 

:D

Michael, it's really great to get your insights into these things, even if you weren't there to see it with your own eyes.

I only missed it by a few years Deb!  I first visited in 1978 - and by then the 'clone' look was in full flower.  I was a skinny little thing and was NOT exactly in step with the times.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 11:53:12 AM
Michael, in the Diner you mentioned that you posted a review from the "Daily Mail" in this thread.

I can't find it.   ???

(Oh, maybe you meant the Milk movie thread -- I'll go look there.)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 23, 2009, 11:56:26 AM
The thing I find most difficult about answering these questions is that we, the readers, are looking back over 30 years, and  some of us didn't live in SF. We're looking at these events historically, in a sense, and like anything out of time and place we are only giving our opinions based on what Shilts has written.  What happened happened, and there's no changing it -- it's easy to look back and opine what could/would/should have been done.  In spite of this, I think Harvey was an exemplary politician, a charismatic leader, and a man for the times.

It's not too different from looking back on the life of Edmund White in the 50s or the opinions of Vito Russo on films in the 70s & 80s though.  Not much we can do about that - just like we couldn't move ol' Edmund out of Ohio and Michigan.

And for my part I'm very interesting in everyone's opinions of what could/would/should have happened.  It gives us a chance to see where we've come to - and how the past has (or has not) had an affect on us.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 23, 2009, 11:59:03 AM
In any case -- I agree with Debbie slowing down a little is fine.  And you want more time for the best reason of all -- to delve deeper into Michael's questions!

And I also want to thank Michael for taking on the questions -- he is doing a great job and is clearly the right person to guide us through this historical book set in San Francisco.

Thanks, Michael!

Thanks for your kind words, Ellen.  I will post the next questions on Wednesday, January 28th to give everyone a chance to catch up.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 12:26:22 PM
20.) Agnos campaigned heavily in black and Latino areas as Milk thought they would be too homophobic to support him.  Given that this happened over 30 years ago are you surprised that the Proposition 8 campaigners did not pay closer attention to this historic campaign and campaign more in black and Latino areas?

The 1976 Democratic primary campaign was a contest between two politicians, whereas the Proposition 8 campaign was a an effort to defeat a yes/no ballot initiative, so I do see differences.  In 1976, Agnos used direct-mail campaigning in his outreach to the black and Latino areas, and his mailers accentuated the work he had done as an aide to Speaker McCarthy on liberal social programs which would benefit minorities.  Harvey downplayed campaigning in these black and Latino areas because he suspected they would be homophobic, but he also didn’t have a past record of accomplishments on behalf of minorities which would stack up against those of Agnos.  Agnos seemed to have a natural advantage here even aside from the issue of homophobia.  Harvey evidently did some campaigning in these areas because Shilts says (on page 143) that Harvey would change the words of his “hope speech” to “black, Chicano, or whatever group he was wooing.”  Had Harvey campaigned more heavily in these areas, he might have picked up more support as black and Latino voters got to know him better personally, but it still would have been an uphill battle due to Agnos’ legislative record.

In the 2008 statewide campaign to defeat Proposition 8 in California, blacks and Latinos voted heavily in favor of the proposition to overturn legalized gay marriage.  From what I’ve heard, the Mormon Church played a large role in funding the “Yes on 8” side, but they picked up support from various ethnic groups with strong ties to other organized religions.  This included the Protestant blacks and the Catholic Latinos.  The vote took on the overtones of a moral campaign: equal rights on the one hand, church teachings on the other hand.

From what happened 30 years earlier, it makes sense that the black and Latino voters would vote to defeat Prop 8 because of their religious background which bred homophobia.  More campaigning alone probably wouldn’t have influenced them.  I can only think of one approach that might have made some difference:  if “real life” gay couples who had been legally married had gone into these areas themselves, and talked about their ordinary day-to-day lives and how being able to marry had affected them, and how they would be affected if their marriages were declared invalid, perhaps this would have put a face on the issue of “gay marriage” and changed some opinions, and some votes.  However, I’m not sure how receptive the black and Latino voters would have been to meeting these gay couples, and I’m not even sure that the more “private” of these couples would have wanted to put themselves in that position, where they might encounter a lot of rejection and hostility.  We’re talking about ordinary citizens here, not career politicians.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 01:28:14 PM
21.) Milk received his first serious death threat during this campaign.  Do you think that he was too casual in his response to this - or do you think that perhaps he was so fatalistic that he believed there was nothing he could do to prevent his death?

The letter containing the first death threat was very graphic and Shilts says that it did frighten Harvey.  After subsequent bomb threats, he changed his way of doing business to the point of holding staff meetings in the back of the store.  But his remarks to Tori Hartmann were casual.  I interpret Shilts’ writing to mean that these remarks to Tori came after the bomb threats, in addition to that first letter, had been received. 

There’s a definite fatalism in the way he told Tori, “You know I will probably be killed one of these days.”  In one way, I don’t think he believed there was anything he could do about the threats – he didn’t trust the police to be helpful – so he probably thought the best response was to make minor safety adjustments to his routine and then go on with life as usual.  I would say that his fatalism had moved from the morbidity of his youth (which often seemed unfounded) to a more practical realization that he really was in danger because of his highly visible (and unpopular with many people) position as a gay politician who was pushing for gay rights.
 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Ellen (tellyouwhat) on January 23, 2009, 03:23:46 PM
Thinking about the death threats in retrospect, probably he did exactly the right thing in standing up to them.

An anonymous death threat is a warning that people are seriously threatened by whatever is going on.  But Harvey knew that in order to get anything to change, it meant shaking up the status quo -- which is the one thing most fiercely protected by those who have an interest in changing nothing.

He already knew it was dangerous work.

BUT -- for all we know, without the instability of Dan White, Harvey might well have lived beyond 50.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 23, 2009, 03:28:11 PM
Thinking about the death threats in retrospect, probably he did exactly the right thing in standing up to them.

An anonymous death threat is a warning that people are seriously threatened by whatever is going on.  But Harvey knew that in order to get anything to change, it meant shaking up the status quo -- which is the one thing most fiercely protected by those who have an interest in changing nothing.

He already knew it was dangerous work.

BUT -- for all we know, without the instability of Dan White, Harvey might well have lived beyond 50.

Yes Ellen, and there is always a 'Dan White' waiting in the wings.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 03:38:14 PM
BUT -- for all we know, without the instability of Dan White, Harvey might well have lived beyond 50.

That's true, both of you, Ellen and Nicki.  You never know when a real "Dan White" is going to appear, so if you are in Harvey's position, it's better not to go around imagining that they're hiding in every corner.

I agree that Harvey wasn't guaranteed to die by age 50; it was all a big game of chance.  A "Dan White" may never show up.  Or, you may be unlucky, and run across someone who will be just crazy enough to actually do something.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 23, 2009, 04:19:11 PM

The speculations about why Harvey seemed to engender more support from firemen than police gave me food for thought.  Even though both fireman and cops were mainly of the same ethnic background -- Irish Catholic -- it seemed, to me, that the cops were out for blood in more ways than one. Their history in the Hight and the Castro was always an adversarial one of police brutality which Alioto allowed to run riot -- he wanted a red hat for the Catholics, and Catholics were a big voting block. Police had access to gay neighborhoods, bars, and cafes -- they were always on the lookout for vulnerable gays whether they were socializing or just walking along the street.  Fireman were limited by the nature of their jobs to fighting fires rather than policing neighborhoods. A rapprochement between gays and cops and, by extention, between cops and Harvey was never in the cards.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 04:23:05 PM
Police had access to gay neighborhoods, bars, and cafes -- they were always on the lookout for vulnerable gays whether they were socializing or just walking along the street.  Fireman were limited by the nature of their jobs to fighting fires rather than policing neighborhoods.

Good point, Nikki, and well-stated, as to the difference between the two groups.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 04:27:40 PM
22.) Milk's relationship with Scott Smith ended shortly after the Agnos campaign.  Why do you think the relationship ended?  Do you think that Scott just couldn't face another campaign - and he knew there would be another one?

Their relationship had been turning sour throughout the campaign.  As Harvey became fearful that he might lose, he took his frustrations out on Scott, his campaign manager, accusing Scott of making mistakes.  On a more personal level, the non-monogamous nature of their relationship had contributed to the loss of passion between them, and they finally stopped sleeping together.  A lot of it also had to do with what Scott saw as a personality change in Harvey:  he was no fun to be with any more.  Harvey wasn’t the “carefree, footloose hippie” he had fallen in love with.  I don’t think Harvey had really lost interest in things like operas and gourmet dinners; he just didn’t have time for them, now that his life revolved around politics.  The age difference came into play, too, because Harvey was nearing fifty and putting all of his efforts into winning some kind of political seat before his personal “deadline,” whereas Scott was young enough to want someone like the Harvey of old, who had time to play and relax.

All of these things were important.  In addition, Scott had seen enough to predict that there would be another campaign – and another, and another, and another.  He couldn’t handle going into campaign mode for 1977, so soon after this loss.  This is another example of how I think Harvey might have been better off to remain in the city commissioner job which Moscone had appointed him to after his 1975 loss in the supervisor’s race.  His jumping around from campaign to campaign caused him to lose Scott.  The flip side of this, however, is that by running for an Assembly seat in the 1976 primary, he increased his visibility and viability as a candidate for future races. 

His remarks in his concession speech show that Harvey felt this, too:  “And what’s important is that we keep on working, getting people to vote, getting out there in campaigns….there’s no way they can stop us and what we stand for.”  His point of view here is that he is speaking for the people, especially gays but any voters who would benefit from what he stood for.  In that sense, we might say that he wasn’t just running because of his own ego; he sacrificed his domestic tranquility to help a larger cause.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 23, 2009, 05:14:57 PM


22.) Milk's relationship with Scott Smith ended shortly after the Agnos campaign.  Why do you think the relationship ended?  Do you think that Scott just couldn't face another campaign - and he knew there would be another one?


The more harried Harvey became, the more verbally abusive he was to Scott.  Scott became his whipping boy and scapegoat who was used and abused by his 46 year old lover.  Maybe neither man noticed the passion had gone out of the affair; maybe neither man wanted to admit it.  However, pressure from Harvey's campaigning would only continue to mount from campaign to campaign. Living with such a hard-driving personality as Harvey must have been no picnic for the mild Scott, and a breakup was inevitable given the constant friction between the two.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 23, 2009, 05:42:11 PM
23.) Given Harvey's loss to Agnos are you surprised that he threw himself into the campaign for District Elections in the same year?  Do you think that its passage was due to his coalition building?

No, I wasn’t surprised.  Looking at it from the negative point of view, by now Harvey was used to losing, so what harm would one more loss be?  And he had already lost Scott, so he didn’t have anything left to lose in his personal life.  Looking at it from the positive point of view, even if the campaign for District Elections failed, it gave Harvey another outlet for his campaign energies, and gave him more visibility among the voters throughout the city.

This time was different, though, because Harvey built a large and unlikely coalition.  For starters, he had most all the gay leaders on his side, and a new wave of gay voters who had moved to the city since 1973.  Unlike in the Assembly race, when Harvey ran against a candidate backed by Moscone, this time Moscone supported District Elections, so Harvey and Moscone were on the same side.  And Harvey brought in both labor leaders and radical neighborhood activists who would normally have little in common.  Labor leader Jim Elliott admitted that, without Harvey Milk, it was unlikely that the labor leaders and neighborhood activists would have been in the same room, but they ended up striking a deal. 

The district elections did pass, thanks in large part to Harvey’s coalition-building, in addition to the huge number of gay votes from the Castro.  This was an important step for gay power, because it gave the gay Castro area its own representative on the SF board of supervisors.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 11:53:26 AM
24.) In 'Orange Tuesday' Shilts weaves the story of Robert Hillsborough and his death with Anita Bryant's and John Briggs' campaigns.  Do you think that these incidents come from the same general response to gays (and how do you feel about the intertwining of these stories - is it appropriate or inappropriate)?

There are actually three stories intertwined here:  Robert Hillsborough’s death, Al Asmussen’s death, and the anti-gay campaigns of Anita Bryant and John Briggs.  The intertwining of Hillsborough’s and Asmussen’s stories, both written in the play-by-play style of a documentary, was very interesting reading, although I had to read them twice to sort out who all the characters were: the deceased Asmussen and Hillsborough; the “closeted” Cordova and Asmussen; the man who called police from a pay phone because he feared that a man he had picked up had a gun; Jerry Taylor, Hillsborough’s date, who survived; and the other three youths involved in Hillsborough’s murder.

It is easier to see how the Hillsborough murder comes from the same general response to gays as the Anita Bryant campaign, although there is an indirect link to Asmussen’s suicide, also.  So I do feel that the intertwining is appropriate, if a little confusing.  Anita Bryant successfully won the repeal of the Dade County gay rights ordinance on June 7, 1977.  Hillsborough was killed on June 21, and Asmussen’s suicide occurred that same night.  Although the events are presented out of order in this chapter (the events of June 21 are scattered throughout), the demonstration by gays and near-riot which occurred in San Francisco following the announcement of Bryant’s victory occurred immediately after Orange Tuesday, before the night of Hillsborough’s murder.  So I imagine the tensions were high between gays and anyone who had reason to dislike them, including police and men with strong cases of homophobia.

Bryant’s rhetoric (“homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit,” among other slogans) painted gays as an evil force.  Violent attacks against gays increased in the Castro after Bryant’s win, according to Shilts.  Hillsborough’s murder looks at first like a simple example of an anti-gay attack by Latino youths (Latinos in general having a tendency to dislike of gays), who were young, restless and out to have fun by attacking gays who offended their sense of masculinity.  We learn later that it may not have been that simple; Cordova may have been not just homophobic, but suffering from internalized homophobia.  As for Asmussen, he commited suicide because he was a deputy sheriff and a police sergeant had checked his identification after finding him with a gun in a room where he had gone to have sex with a man he had picked up. Asmussen’s reason for killing himself, evidently, was fear of having his hidden life revealed to others in law enforcement and possibly by them to his mother. But the indirect link with Bryant and the resulting anti-gay attacks is that the man whom Asmussen had picked up thought it was a set-up.  He had felt Asmussen’s gun, and was afraid that Asmussen himself was about to commit an anti-gay attack on him; hence, the escape from the apartment and the call to the police.  Without Bryant's campaign influencing the atmosphere in San Francisco, I doubt the unidentified man would have been as likely to call police. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 24, 2009, 11:54:36 AM
The speculations about why Harvey seemed to engender more support from firemen than police gave me food for thought.  Even though both fireman and cops were mainly of the same ethnic background -- Irish Catholic -- it seemed, to me, that the cops were out for blood in more ways than one. Their history in the Hight and the Castro was always an adversarial one of police brutality which Alioto allowed to run riot -- he wanted a red hat for the Catholics, and Catholics were a big voting block. Police had access to gay neighborhoods, bars, and cafes -- they were always on the lookout for vulnerable gays whether they were socializing or just walking along the street.  Fireman were limited by the nature of their jobs to fighting fires rather than policing neighborhoods. A rapprochement between gays and cops and, by extention, between cops and Harvey was never in the cards.

Good point Nikki - and it made me realize that I hadn't focused much on the Castro 14 incident that was pointed out in the book (on page 92).  That incident (and the one cited on the preceding page) point to a difference between the firefighters and the police and their approach to the burgeoning gay community.  For the firefighters the only real issue was the possibility of gays in the firehouse - and the progress that Harvey made with the labor unions after the Coors boycott may have lead them to more of a 'live and let live' attitude (unlike firefighters in Chicago and New York, I might add).  But the fact that the police were enforcing morals laws - and had a wide swath to do that before sodomy was overturned in 1975 - put them in direct conflict with both Harvey and the gay community.  This attitude was deep seated - if you look back to pages 56-57 you can see that this had been the case since the 1950s.  And having a Captain like William O'Conor (pg 106) shows exactly the sort of attitude that remained in the police department, even after the sodomy law fell in California.

For my part I just love the story about the firemen chalking 'Make Mine Milk' on the back of their coats (on page 98) - god love 'em!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 02:32:35 PM
25.) After Anita Bryant's success in Dade County Harvey interrupted a fundraiser in Golden Gate park where Walter Mondale was speaking - at which point Mondale left.  What do you think of this tactic?  Do you think it was appropriate?  Do you think it worked in favor of Harvey's issues?

A minor point here.  It was the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club which sent protestors inside the crowd at Golden Gate Park where Mondale was speaking.  Harvey was one of the founders of that club (p. 150, previous chapter), along with his political aides Jim Rivaldo, Dick Pabich and Harry Britt.  But it’s not clear that Harvey actually went inside or that he was the person who interrupted Mondale.  On the day of Mondale’s rally, the book says that Harvey lectured Democrats entering the event from a flatbed truck (which must have been outside).  Meanwhile members of S.F. Gay, who were part of his organization, filtered inside, and one of them (unidentified) interrupted Mondale.

From a political standpoint, it may not matter who actually shouted, “When are you going to speak out on gay rights?”  The effect on Mondale was the same, and he left the stage.  But there is a slight difference:  If Harvey did the shouting, then I’d call the shouting an intentional tactic on his part.  Whereas, if the shouter was someone else in his organization, that person may have called out to Mondale on the spur of the moment, without Harvey’s authorization.  The book does note that the protest inside the crowd was intended to be a silent protest, with people holding up signs asking Mondale for a statement on human rights in the United States.  The man in the crowd, whoever he was, was provoked by Mondale’s reaction to seeing gays at his rally.

It’s hard to judge the tactic as appropriate or inappropriate without knowing more about how well-planned it was.  I lean toward thinking that it was spontaneous and inappropriate.  It had the effect of angering the “liberal friends” in the Democratic establishment (including Moscone), and humiliating the gay moderate Jim Foster.  But Harvey was pleased, because he hoped that the liberals would finally realize that the gay moderates did not have control over the new generation of gays.  In that respect, Harvey thought that gays were showing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in their own right, without the intervention of any liberal friends. 

I think this show of political clout by gays helped advance the basic manifesto of Harvey’s S.F. Gay Democratic Club:  “No decisions which affect our lives should be made without the gay voice being heard.”  However, the image of unruly gays interrupting a Vice President may have helped contribute to the backlash, in terms of violent attacks against gays, which Moscone warned about when he called the behavior at Mondale’s speech “counterproductive.”  But, then, Moscone was  a “liberal friend” himself, so he was looking at the matter from a different viewpoint than Harvey was. 

In the long run, although we haven’t gotten there yet, I suspect that the incident at the Mondale speech was forgotten by most people by the time Harvey actually got into office.  During his next campaign, it may have helped Harvey (by projecting a gutsy image) with any gay voters who remembered, without working against his issues with others.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 24, 2009, 04:31:27 PM
  



24.) In 'Orange Tuesday' Shilts weaves the story of Robert Hillsborough and his death with Anita Bryant's and John Briggs' campaigns.  Do you think that these incidents come from the same general response to gays (and how do you feel about the intertwining of these stories - is it appropriate or inappropriate)?



Hillsborough's killer, 19 yr old Cordova obviously had his own sexuality issues; the sight of Hillsborough with his lover apparently triggered his hatred of gays.   Asmussan  appeared to be a repressed, self-hating, closeted homosexual who had no life and still lived with his mother.  He also knew that the right-wing Deputy Sheriff's Assn. had voted in support of Anita Bryant.  He probably couldn't face the revelations that would have ruined his life, cost him his job, and, most of all shamed his mother. His suicide was inevitable.

Bryant's diatribes against gays, especially the warnings in her Save Our Children campaign, was carried in every paper in the country.  After Dade County repealed the gay rights law by 2 to 1.  Briggs promised to introduce a measure to ban homosexuals from teaching in public schools.  It wasn't lost on Briggs that this was a popular step in garnering the support of mainstream conservatives.

So did the cases of Hillsborough et al come from the same general response to gays?  IMO they didn't: Cordova was a psychotic who would have probably snapped in any case, Bryant or no Bryant.  Asmussan would have revealed himself sooner or later, either by being outed accidentally or by someone in the sheriff's office.  That they occurred around the same time doesn't prove to me that they were triggered by the Bryant campaign publicity.  As far as being appropriate or inappropriate, when I first read this section I wondered if Shilts was grinding his ax against Bryant and using these cases to illustrate the consequences of homophobia. Bryant did whip up enough hatred to frighten the right wingers and evangelists, but I think these two cases would have happened anyway.

In the last paragraph, Shilts writes The real stories [of Asmussan and Cordova] never made the papers...so the autopsies for Al Asmussan and Robert Hillsborough are just one page apart.
He calls them one a victim, one an obscure suicide.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 05:24:53 PM
26.) The book indicates that there was a rise in attacks on gays after Anita Bryant's campaign - and Robert Hillsborough's [mother] laid the blame directly at Anita Bryant's feet.  What do you think - is there a connection?  Did Anita Bryant bear some responsibility for the rise of anti-gay violence?

Earlier we read that gay rights laws passed rather easily in some locales, because the organized opposition had yet to emerge.  I would call Bryant the first soldier in that organized opposition, which took on the tenor of a War on Gays both verbally and at the ballot box.  It doesn’t surprise me that this verbal stirring up of homophobia (saying that gays were out to recruit people’s children, for example) would lead to physical attacks on gays by people who were ignorant of the facts about homosexuals, and who were also prone to violence and aggression.  So, yes, I think Bryant bears some responsibility for the rise of anti-gay violence in general.

Also, there’s something unique about anti-gay violence.  As we have seen in Brokeback Mountain, many men live with internalized homophobia, and some who do so can resort to violence.  The idea, according to psychologists, is that some men fear homosexuality within themselves and therefore attack  gays, or even kill them, as a means of trying to attack or kill the feared homosexuality within themselves.  This could be one motivating factor for Hillsborough’s attacker. 

But, if so, why did Hillsborough’s murder occur so soon after Orange Tuesday, rather than at some other time?  I would say that Anita Bryant’s campaign against gays, and the subsequent demonstrations in San Francisco following her victory, may have brought homosexuality to the forefront of the killer’s mind and given him the “inspiration,” to use a terribly inappropriate word for a murder.  It may have made him preoccupied with gays or homosexuality in general, and given him the idea to fight back by killing a gay man.  I think Hillsborough’s mother was partially right when she linked her son’s murder to Anita Bryant.  However, I have to qualify that by saying her son’s blood was not just “on her [Bryant’s] hands,” it was also on the actual murderer’s hands.  And we have to take into account the possibly complex set of provocations and motives which drove the murderer.  Anyone who actually commits murder (except for money and that type of thing, but just to eliminate a person from the face of the earth) has psychological problems, in my opinion.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 05:31:35 PM

He calls them one a victim, one an obscure suicide.

At least, that's all the world knew of them.  Hillsborough's death made huge headlines, so everyone knew he was a victim.  The reasons behind Asmussen's suicide were kept quiet, so the world knew nothing of the circumstances; hence the suicide was obscure.

I'm thinking that Shilts must be trying to show connections which the world wasn't aware of; otherwise, why would he have bothered to report Asmussen's suicide in this book?  Or, it may be, Nikki, that Shilts is stretching his net too far because he has an ax to grind against Anita Bryant.  I'm just not sure.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 05:44:47 PM
27.) In a peculiar twist Randy Shilts' book outs Al Asmussen and reveals that his suicide was due to his being discovered as gay in the chapter 'Orange Tuesday'.  Does this seem inconsistent with his concern over Bill Sipple earlier in the book?  Do you think this was appropriate?

I’ve been puzzling over this, as to what kind of an “outing” we are talking about here.  On the one hand, I’m thinking, well, Al Asmussen was dead, so did it matter whether or not he was outed by Shilts?  On the other hand, Asmussen’s mother was presumably still alive at the time the book was published.  She had learned that her son was gay in the wake of his murder (Sheriff Hongisto, his boss, told her the details of Al’s last night).  But with Shilts publishing the story in the book, she had to live with knowing that all of her friends and her son’s acquaintances – if they happened to read the book, which they may or may not have -- now knew the truth.

I detect some hypocrisy here on Shilts’ part.  He was glad to report that Harvey, the subject of this book, had outed Bill Sipple in the real life story being told, because Sipple’s heroism and outing stemmed from a true incident which was publicly known across the country – even if the outing did paint Harvey in a bad light.  Yet Shilts apparently felt that the needs of journalistic truth made it necessary for him to out Al Asmussen, whose true story wasn’t yet known, in print. 

Despite this hypocrisy, I can see enough difference that I wouldn’t call it inconsistent.  First, Shilts’ concern about Sipple may have reflected his knowledge that Sipple was still alive, and living with the effects of the outing – whereas Asmussen was dead.  Second, Shilts acted as a journalist when he outed Asmussen, whereas Sipple was a historical figure who had been outed by a third party.  Lastly, Shilts must have felt that the story behind Asmussen’s death was important enough to warrant the telling, even if some of Asmussen’s living relatives or acquaintances were negatively impacted. 

Was this “outing” appropriate?  I would say so.  I mentioned earlier I think that anti-gay violence in the area following Orange Tuesday played a role in why the other man Asmussen was with had called police, because he feared that Asmussen was posing as gay and was about to attack him.  So I agree that Asmussen’s death was important enough as background material to be included in this chapter, the way Shilts has tied it together with the Hillsborough murder and the anti-gay turn in policical and social thinking.  At least, it is Shilts' hypothesis that these incidents are all related, so he needs to present the Asmussen details as evidence of the case he is making.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 24, 2009, 06:12:27 PM
I don't feel that there was anything to gain by outing Asmussen.  I think Shilts was building a case against the homophobic Bryant.  There was an atmosphere of hate engendered by her campaign against gays across the country.  But, as I posted somewhere -- god knows where -- the deaths of Asmussen and Hillsborough would likely have happened with or without Bryant's campaign. The only inconsistency, to me, would be that Shilts seems to treat Sipple more sympathetically, and what was served by outing Asmussen. I don't think Shilts was being hypocritical, just determined to tell the story no matter who was impacted, if he felt it necessary. As Shilts  wrote in the Author's Note ...others might fret that this book is indiscreet in its discussion of private topics not normally raised in the journalistic forum...history is not served when reporters prize trepidation and propriety over the robust journalistic duty to tell the whole story. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 06:39:52 PM
I don't feel that there was anything to gain by outing Asmussen.  I think Shilts was building a case against the homophobic Bryant.  There was an atmosphere of hate engendered by her campaign against gays across the country. 

But, as I posted somewhere -- god knows where -- the deaths of Asmussen and Hillsborough would likely have happened with or without Bryant's campaign.

Oh, as to the "god knows where" -- it wasn't that far back, Nikki, I do remember reading that, don't worry.   :)  I guess the question of whether these deaths would have happened with or without Bryant's campaign is something we'll never know.  Shilts certainly was building a case against Bryant, I fully agree there.  The question is whether some of his arguments are irrelevant or not.  He may be stretching the evidence.

The only inconsistency, to me, would be that Shilts seems to treat Sipple more sympathetically, and  I don't see who was served by outing Asmussen.

He does treat Sipple more sympathetically, doesn't he?  But then, Sipple is still alive and suffering with the consequences of the outing, so that probably made for good storytelling, in Shilts' eyes.  Shilts probably didn't foresee any consequences in outing Asmussen.

Was the truth served by outing Asmussen?  Was Shilts' case against Bryant served by the outing?  Those are things we have to decide.  If there truly was no connection to the atmosphere of anti-gay violence in the area -- and the fear of anti-gay violence -- then probably was nothing was served.  It still seems to me that the guy Asmussen picked up was afraid of anti-gay violence, maybe thinking it had increased in the wake of Bryant's campaign.

In the Author's Note, Shilts writes: ...others might fret that this book is indiscreet in its discussion of private topics not normally raised in the journalistic forum...history is not served when reporters prize trepidation and propriety over the robust journalistic duty to tell the whole story. 

So, I'm reading this as Shilts saying that his journalistic duty was to tell the whole story, rather than worry about the "propriety" of keeping private topics private.  Sounds like he's admitting that he's being indiscreet, by some people's standards, but that he's doing so for the sake of truth.

Again, whether he was correct about what he thought was the truth is something we can only guess at.

It's an interesting matter to ponder.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 06:46:31 PM
By the way, Nikki, thanks for pointing out that quote from Shilts in the author's note, regarding the discussion of private topics. 

When I read that, I assumed that he was referring of private topics about Harvey's life.

But it may have been intended to cover the discussion of Asmussen's life, as well.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 24, 2009, 07:49:53 PM
28.) Were you surprised to learn that the murderer of Robert Hillsborough [John Cordova] was a closeted 19 year old who couldn't have sex with men unless he was drunk?

A number of things surprised me about this case.  For one thing, when Hillsborough and Jerry Taylor stopped at the Whizburger stand, the book says (p. 158) that Latino teenagers sauntered around the parking lot, and that the two white men in a pickup truck stood out (in part by their ethnicity) so that they were assumed to be from the Castro, and were called gay slurs.  During the actual attack (p. 163), the attacker  with the knife is described as “a Latino youth, later identified a John Cordova” who was there along with three other attackers.  From this, I assumed that this was a  group of four Latinos, but when the youths were arrested (p. 164) they turned out to be two Latinos and two whites.  Furthermore, it sounds like Cordova didn’t live in the Latino Mission area where the Whizburger stand was located, because he was “from a heavily Latino suburb” – which sounds like somewhere outside the city proper.

The revelation that Cordova was a closeted gay did come as an initial surprise.  I wondered whether all four youths were closeted gays, but now I’m not sure.  The other three may have had their own reasons for participating in anti-gay violence, but Cordova did the stabbing, and he did so with terrific vengeance, stabbing Hillsborough “passionately” with the knife 15 times.  This was brutal.  I wrote earlier that it sounds like he was someone who was filled not only with homophobia, but with internalized homophobia.  If he sensed homosexuality within himself, I think he was trying to kill that hated thing within himself by killing it within somebody else.

The fact that Cordova could only have sex with men when he was drunk supports this, in my view.  I have heard of cases where people will only take part in certain sex activities when drunk (straight people, as well as gay people), so this final fact made the pieces fall into place for me, in terms of Cordova’s motivation.  He was not able to face his gay sexuality directly.  He was not well-adjusted.  He was only nineteen, and probably still struggling to sort it all out.  But he also must have come from a background where violence was common, and he had access to that knife.  He was just the sort of person who would be prone to internalized homophobia, and in his case, he had the means and motive to try to attack and kill another person in an attempt to deal with his own demons.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 07:55:17 AM
By the way, Nikki, thanks for pointing out that quote from Shilts in the author's note, regarding the discussion of private topics. 

When I read that, I assumed that he was referring of private topics about Harvey's life.

But it may have been intended to cover the discussion of Asmussen's life, as well.

I don't think Shilts was referring only to Harvey's life, but to Asmussen and other private topics as well as Harvey's boyfriends, naming names, etc.   Shilts makes a strong point of defending "the robust journalistic duty to tell the whole story."  Notice the word "robust" -- interesting adjective to describe journalism isn't it -- muscular or sturdy among other things.  I have been wondering if Shilts got much/any feedback from the gay community which may have engendered his foreword. Does it seem like a CYA statement?  He does mention that he had access, as a gay journalist, to areas that would have been off limits to others.  Did anyone, especially gays, regret their revelations to him, or did they agree with his candid descriptions of Harvey's life, and knew that Shilts was reporting everything - warts and all?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 01:21:23 PM
^^^^^

Nikki, he certainly could be "covering his ass," by stating his definition of what he thinks journalism ought to cover.

He may have gotten some negative feedback about his candid descriptions, but if he interviewed people specifically for the book, they should have expected that he would use the material.  The place where he was more likely to have encountered controversy, IMO, would have been with his inclusion of background material which he would have learned just from being part of the gay community, before he warned people that he was writing a book.

BTW, on a related subject, I just went to see the movie Milk again today (fearing that it would be leaving the theater soon, since the number of showings has been cut down this week).  It struck me that in the movie, the Hillsborough murder is presented way before Anita Bryant comes on the scene (maybe a year or two earlier), so in the movie there's no apparent connection.  In the book, however, Shilts goes into the timeline and places the Hillsborough murder in its proper sequence, two weeks after Orange Tuesday.  We'll be discussing the movie more after we finish the reading, but I just thought that was interesting.  I know the screenplay is considered "original" rather than "adapted" and doesn't pretend to be a direct presentation of the events in the book (which, as Michael mentioned once, would have been like a BBC series rather than a two-hour movie).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 01:36:07 PM
I've always found the whole business of outing the dead is a bit creepy (at least).  I understand when people do it for a historical figure - like Lincoln - or when people do it for a political reason - like when Malcolm Forbes was outed after death at the height of the AIDS crisis.  I understand it, but I must admit I'm not always comfortable with it.  For example, when Queer Nation did a number of posters for 'Icons' who were LGBT and included Garbo I thought it was in pretty poor taste.

For my part I really can't figure out why Randy Shilts outed Asmussen in this book.  As Nikki points out, this was a guy who was so deeply closeted that he killed himself rather than tell his family, his friends and people he worked with.  What purpose did it serve in the book?  Does it contrast with the death of Robert Hillsborough?  I suppose you could say that Asmussen's self-hatred was the same sort of trigger for violence (in this case self-inflicted) as John Cordova's was toward Hillsborough.

And when you compare his outing of Asmussen with the indignation he seems to have toward Harvey over Sipple it makes it even more difficult to understand.  Why was it not okay for Harvey to out Sipple, but okay for him to out Asmussen (who, after all, was not even in the public eye as much as Sipple).

I keep coming back in my mind to the fact that if Randy Shilts had not told Asmussen's story in this book that no one would have known about him.  I actually find it a little haunting.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 01:52:08 PM
I agree that it's creepy, Michael (and Nikki).  It doesn't strike me as being much of a flagrant invasion of privacy as would be the involuntary outing of someone who is living and possibly has a career and relationships at stake, but it is creepy.  A living person still has the ability to make decisions for himself as to whether to come out or not, and I think it should be left up to him to do so.  Once a person has died, it becomes a grayer area, if there are records available that could be reconstructed to determine the truth.  The question in my mind now is, who talked to Shilts about Asmussen?  Someone in the Sheriff's Department?

The only possibly valid reason for telling the story, that I can see, is not that Asmussen killed himself out of self-hate, but that the police were called to the apartment where he was at because of the paranoia of the other guy -- and that that guy's paranoia tied in with the anti-gay violence that Shilts was trying to present.  If that wasn't the connection that Shilts was trying to make, then I agree, I can't see much reason for it.  Not just that I can't see a moral reason for it, but that I can't see much journalistic reason for it.  Maybe this thinking is biasing me toward assuming that Shilts had to have a good journalistic reason, since he seemed to know what he was doing as a journalist.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 02:13:47 PM
Strangely I see it almost the opposite way, Debbie (the living vs. dead outing thing).  If you're alive you can address the topic - say that you don't think your sexuality is anyone's business, that you were in love with one person but didn't feel that addressed your sexual identity, etc.  Once you're dead no one knows - and you're not there to defend yourself, one way or another.

Plus you've got the added burden on the family.  It may well be (as you said over in the diner) that Asmussen's mother knew but didn't want to acknowledge that he was gay.  However, if that is the case then publishing an account of the last hours of his life forces his mother to deal with it - and this without the comfort she might have had if they had done this while he was alive.  And it added the burden to her life of knowing that her son was struggling - to the point of suicide - with this secret and she didn't/couldn't/didn't want to help.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 02:16:15 PM
Michael, another minor point.  But see below, also.  This is in response to your post in the Diner, that we were discussing the outing of a dead man whose family didn't know he was gay -- meaning Asmussen.

This may have influenced my interpretation a little:  I read p. 167 to indicate that Asmussen's mother DID know he was gay.  It said people couldn't make sense of the death, and some were calling for an FBI investigation because they were convinced he had been murdered.  Asmussen's mother let the stories (about a possible murder) spread, "even though Sheriff Hongisto had told her the details of Al's last night as delicately as he could" -- that is, details of his being found at the apartment of a man he'd picked up for sex, who had then called police when he felt Asmussen's gun.  Asmussen's mother was attempting to keep the knowledge of his homosexuality out of the papers, but she knew, I am sure.  In a way, she was encouraging the false rumors, as a cover-up.  "I don't want to know about that part of my son's life and I don't want to know," she shouted angrily.  Shilts adds that she acted "as if the revelation of his homosexuality had added insult to the injury of her son's suicide."

Now, Shilts may have rubbed salt in her wounds if she read about her son again in this book, but I have to think that he had already been "outed" to his mother by the events following his suicide and the sheriff's visit to her home.  Don't know how much difference that really makes in the scheme of things.   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 02:21:38 PM
Plus you've got the added burden on the family.  It may well be (as you said over in the diner) that Asmussen's mother knew but didn't want to acknowledge that he was gay.  However, if that is the case then publishing an account of the last hours of his life forces his mother to deal with it - and this without the comfort she might have had if they had done this while he was alive.  And it added the burden to her life of knowing that her son was struggling - to the point of suicide - with this secret and she didn't/couldn't/didn't want to help.

Michael, you posted this before I finished my previous post, so just let me say that your point is well-taken.  His mother was still struggling, and Shilts admits (by writing of it) that he knows she was struggling with it.  She's the one we really have to feel sorry for at this point, because of the shock of it all to her.  That really mkes me wonder whether Shilts couldn't have established the points he wanted to establish about anti-gay violence without dragging Asmussen's story into the limelight.

I guess I'm agreeing with you both, now that we've hashed it all out.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 25, 2009, 05:15:05 PM
27.) In a peculiar twist Randy Shilts' book outs Al Asmussen and reveals that his suicide was due to his being discovered as gay in the chapter 'Orange Tuesday'.  Does this seem inconsistent with his concern over Bill Sipple earlier in the book?  Do you think this was appropriate?


In general, I don't believe in "outing".  I can remember reading about Michaelengelo Signorile in "The Gay 100" and how he believed in "outing" people so they can provide examples of public gay people.

Coming out is a very private matter, and in my opinion, Harvey had no business outing Bill Sipple.  While it would be a wonderful world if everyone was accepting of homosexuality, there are people who are not, and because of this, many people have a legitimate reason for staying in the closet.  Bill Sipple's statement to the press regarding the reaction his mother had was a prime example of this, and Harvey is lucky this move didn't backfire in his face.  If Sipple was a vindictive person, he could've used the press to loudly denounce Harvey Milk to both straight and gay people, and it could've destroyed the base he was working on retaining.

I believe the same arguement holds for Al Asmunssen as well.  Yes, he was dead, and his mother knew the truth.  However, there were other friends and family members who did not, and they didn't know because Al didn't tell them, and chose to remain in the closet.  As Michael said earlier, when someone is dead, they can't speak out for themselves, so that makes them an easy target.  Not trying to be politically incorrect here, but it's like trying to have a debate with a deaf mute.  they can't hear or dispute what is being said.

Just because he made an author's note stating he may not be "discreet" in some things, doesn't make it ok.

(not that anyone here as defended him, just making a point.)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 05:21:14 PM
Thanks, Chuck, I really appreciate your input on that.  It's very helpful.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on January 25, 2009, 05:24:45 PM
26.) The book indicates that there was a rise in attacks on gays after Anita Bryant's campaign - and Robert Hillsborough's laid the blame directly at Anita Bryant's feet.  What do you think - is there a connection?  Did Anita Bryant bear some responsibility for the rise and anti-gay violence?


While I am no fan of Anita Bryant (I've watched the YouTube clip of her getting smacked in the face with a pie) and I do believe there is a connection between she and the rise of attacks on gay people, I think it's unfair to place responsiblity at her feet.

Yes, Anita was going out and saying negative things about gay people.  Some people will be influenced by that.  However, Anita is only responsible for her own actions.  Anyone who went out and attacked gay people because of hearing her speak was taking matters into their own hands. 

To put a different spin on it, a lot of negative stuff has been said about Mormons as of late, due to backlash against them regarding Prop 8.  If people started to go out and attack Mormons, should the gay community be held responsible for it?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 07:34:59 PM
29.) What do you make of the differences in the biographies of Rick Stokes and Harvey Milk?  Given their respective pasts - with Stokes having gone through shock treatment and a marriage - why do you think they turned out on their respective political sides?  What did you think of this campaign - Harvey's only successful campaign for office?  In what ways was it different from the earlier campaigns?

Harvey and Rick Stokes seemed to switch places on the political and social spectrum somewhere along the way in life.  Harvey started out solidly middle-class, lived a discreet but active gay life when young, spent time in conventional careers (teaching, Wall Street, insurance), campaigned for Republican Barry Goldwater, and enjoyed an above-average lifestyle (operas, gourmet cuisine) after he’d earned enough money to afford it.  Success seemed to come easily to him, but he was unhappy because he still hadn’t found the one thing he could dedicate his life to, so he gave up his well-paying careers.  He seemed like a man who needed a cause, and he found it in San Francisco among the disenfranchised gays on Castro Street.

Rick Stokes, on the other hand, started out dirt-poor (his Texas family picked cotton), announced his homosexuality to his family when young, married and had a daughter (probably in an effort to convince his mother as well himself that he could lead a heterosexual life), and suffered through shock treatments as a result of having confessed his homosexuality (which gave him a taste of one form of abuse of gays).  He had a very conflicted life until he escaped to San Francisco and began organizing gay protests.  But as he moved up in his career as a lawyer, he became more conservative (in gay political terms, a moderate) and was known as a “gentleman politician” who sought the favor of straight liberal friends.  I think Stokes’ early life gave him a longing for a respectable, stable lifestyle in later years, and that’s why he aligned himself with influential “liberal friends” whose support carried prestige.

In a nutshell, both Harvey and Stokes had been dissatisfied with aspects of their early life, and each moved in the opposite direction, looking for something more fulfilling.

Harvey did a lot of things right in this 1977 campaign.  He seemed to understand the game of politics better this time, in terms of being able to analyze his opposition.  He was a better campaigner than Stokes, who sought public office in order to draft legislation.  Harvey understood the issues; in addition to caring about gay rights, he had visions of improving neighborhoods (by bringing back light industry to some and creating a small-town flavor in others).  Harvey had more volunteers this time, and was able to get a wide range of endorsements.  And he was running against two main opponents and a number of minor contenders, so the vote was split several ways, with Harvey getting more votes than anyone else.  In addition to all of this, Harvey found a very good campaign manager in Anne Kronenberg.
 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 07:37:23 PM
Followup to question 29

Just a note regarding shock treatments:  They were actually a double form of abuse, for a gay person, IMO.  The reason Stokes was subjected to shock treatments was because his homosexuality was thought to be a mental health problem, which we now know that it is not.  So that was Abuse Number 1.  The second abuse was that shock treatments in and of themselves were an abusive way of treating the mentally ill.  They are now regarded as rather barbaric.  I remember my aunt-by-marriage being brought from Texas to Denver to undergo shock treatments when I was a child.  I’m not sure of her diagnosis, possibly depression.  In today’s world, she would have been treated with medication.  (She’s still alive and well, by the way, and able to handle her own affairs as she nears age 80.)  So Stokes suffered both by undergoing an inhumane form of psychiatric treatment, and by being treated when no psychiatric treatment was necessary at all.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 07:50:07 PM


Replying to outing the dead -- as Michael said a bit creepy. 

I posted previously that I am against outing anybody. I don't think it serves anyone.  I know Harvey felt it was better to come out and proud, but I think it should be up to the person who is closeted.  Your personal life is your personal life, and no one has a right to reveal anything.  Even though I am not gay, I feel strongly that privacy is the most important thing -- everyone has a right to privacy.  It's their choice whether or not to reaveal their personal life, gay or straight. Does it really serve a purpose to out someone?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 25, 2009, 08:01:21 PM
Well, it may serve someone's purpose, but I accept the arguments that it shouldn't be done, regardless.

I never did think Harvey was right to out Bill Sipple.  When it came to Al Asmussen, I've been mulling it over some more, and I admit that I was so caught up in the drama of what was going on in that chapter (and Shilts did a good job of writing, IMO), that I never associated the word "outing" with what I was reading.  Not until Michael asked his question did I even think of it in those terms.

So I guess we need to thank you, Michael, for posing a really thoughtful discussion question.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 08:25:03 PM


10.) There are community changes occurring during this period which is the further of evolution of the neighborhood into a gay neighborhood - including gentrification and higher home prices.  The neighborhood will change again after Harvey's death with the onset of AIDS and the doc com boom.  Do you think this sort of 'gayborhood' is still necessary politically and socially or was this something that was necessary in Harvey Milk's time but is no longer needed?


In Harvey's day, the 'gayborhood' was the fulcrum of the Castro. Harvey's headquarters were here, he campaigned from here, and he revitalized the Castro into national prominence with the birth of the gay liberation movement.

I think the 'gayborhood' is still necessary politically as a meeting place or headquarters for the gay community to discuss relevant issues with politically active gays whether or not they live in the area.

The 'gayborhood' is necessary socially, because it offers an outlet for gays to meet in local cafes, bars, and restaurants which provide a comfortable setting for those looking for a discreet recreational arena.  More importantly, the 'gayborhood' offers young gays looking for places to socialize a safe haven where they can meet and be accepted without fear of violence, and where they can tune into the political issues which are relevant to the gay community.  It offers an urban haven to young gays who are uncertain and confused about their sexuality a place where they can connect to others like themselves.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 09:01:30 PM


11.) Given the support that Harvey had from the firefighters were you surprised at the difficulty that the police department had with gays?  Do you think that the change was too radical from the time of Captain William O'Connor (who said he felt gays were emotionally unstable and unsuited for police work) to Police Chief Charles Gain, who said that he would support gay cops and hoped they would step forward?  Do you think this change exacerbated the difficulties between gays and the police?


 Gains  felt the police force should reflect the city it served, and that gays should be represented on the force; he, himself, was willing to have gays on the force.  To add insult to injury he had the police cars painted blue.  The SFPD never forgave him.  Although Gains considered himself a 'sociological cop,' he was too soft spoken to control the old boy Irish SFPD network that ruled the city, and he was too radical a change from O'Connor. Instead of advancing the cause for the gays, Gains attracted hatred for himself and the gays -- he was more of a lightening rod than a defender.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 09:46:35 PM
So I guess we need to thank you, Michael, for posing a really thoughtful discussion question.

You bet.  I actually don't have problems with outing in some cases - particularly when people are doing vile things - Ted Haggard comes to mind.  And I understand why Harvey thought it was important to out Bill Sipple - but I also think it had a hideous impact on Sipple's life and his relationship with his family.  The Al Asmussen thing I don't understand at all - he just wasn't important to the book - why put his family and friends through the grief?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 09:58:54 PM
I wanted a little more input on the Anita Bryant issue - I was trying to remember why people thought she incited violence against gays - so I went back and found some of her quotes in some databases.  Here they are:

"The ordinance condones immorality and discriminates against my children's rights to grow up in a healthy, decent community"
'Bias Against Homosexuals is Outlawed in Miami' New York Times, Jan. 18, 1977

Homosexuality is nothing new.  Cultures throughout history have dealt with homosexuals almost universally with disdain, abhorrence, disgust -- even death. The recruitment of our children is absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of homosexuality. Since homosexuals cannot reproduce, they must recruit, must freshen their ranks. And who better qualifies as a likely recruit than a teenage boy or girl who is surging with sexual awareness.
Save Our Children full-page advertisement, Miami Herald, March 20, 1977

"I protest the action of the White House staff in dignifying these activists for special privilege with a serious discussion of their alleged 'human rights'"
'Anita Bryant Scores White House Talk With Homosexuals', New York Times, Mar 28, 1977

"What these people really want, hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that there is an acceptable alternate way of life--that being a homosexual or lesbian is not really wrong or illegal."
'Anita Bryant Scores White House Talk With Homosexuals', New York Times, Mar 28, 1977

"If I were in Miami, I would find no difficulty in voting to repeal the ordinance.  I do not want a known homosexual teaching my child."
Governor Rubin Askew, ally of Anita Bryant, 'Miami Debate Over Rights of Homosexuals Directs Wide Attention to a National Issue', New York Times, May 10, 1977

In Miss Bryant's view heterosexuality is God's will.  "His plan for our lives is perfect," she said.  "Why does such an abomination to God as homosexuality exist?  It's Satan on the move."
'Miami Homosexual Issue Dividing Clerics', New York Times, May 28, 1977

"All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with God's continued help, we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation which attempt to legitimize a life style that is both perverse and dangerous."
'Miami Votes 2 to 1 to Repeal Law Barring Bias Against Homosexuals', New York Times, June 8, 1977

"We won 2 to 1, which is proof that the country sees homosexuals as child molesters and religious heretics," asserted Robert Brake, a top official of Save Our Children, the main anti-homosexual group here.  "We're going to set up in Washington next to fight 'gay' proposals before Congress," he said.  "We'll advise and help any anti-gay group in the country that invites us in.  Already we've heard from people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, D.C., Minneapolis and San Antonio."
'Miami Vote Increases Activism on Homosexual Rights', New York Times, June 9, 1977

Anita Bryant, in New York City to promote her new book, "The Anita Bryant Story"--based on her experience as an activist against homosexual rights--said yesterday that "militant homosexuals" had repeatedly threatened her life, forced her family to turn their Miami Beach home into a virtual fortress and made it all but impossible for her to obtain television appearances.
'Anita Bryant Cites Threats', New York Times, Nov. 3, 1977

A supposed plot to bomb the office of the leading California supporter of anti-homosexual campaigner Anita Bryant led to the arrest of five suspected Weather Underground terrorists, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported yesterday.  Senator Briggs said Saturday the FBI had told him he was a leading target because of his stand against homosexual teachers in California schools and in favor of capital punishment. ''The FBI has been under attack from all quarters, but this is one man and one family who thanked God that they still have the tools to do this kind of job,'' he said.
5 arrested by FBI for plot on senator, Globe and Mail, Nov 21, 1977

"We are more determined than ever not to let these people stand before us and flaunt their perverted life-styles," said Judy Wilson, head of Concerned Christian Mothers Inc., which uses the same mailing address as Miss Bryant's disbanded organization.  "People are taking a strong moral stand against perversion, abortion and sex education in the schools."
'Miami Homosexuals See a Victory Dispite Defeat of Antibias Law', New York Times, Dec 28, 1977

Bryant advocates homosexual behavior being classified as a felony punishable by at least twenty years in prison, even for first time 'offenders.'
Anita Bryant interview, June 1, 1978, Playboy
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 10:14:46 PM


You bet.  I actually don't have problems with outing in some cases - particularly when people are doing vile things - Ted Haggard comes to mind.  And I understand why Harvey thought it was important to out Bill Sipple - but I also think it had a hideous impact on Sipple's life and his relationship with his family.  The Al Asmussen thing I don't understand at all - he just wasn't important to the book - why put his family and friends through the grief?



I've posted several times here that I am against outing, but I agree with you about people who do vile things.

I don't agree that Harvey should have outed Sipple.  Michael, do you agree with Harvey because Sipple would be a poster boy for gays, since he was a hero?  Sipple didn't want to come out,Harvey knew that -- Robinson warned Harvey.  Even the president didn't acknowledge Sipple untiil Harvey sent a telegram. I thnk a person's decision should be taken into account. Was it worth the impact on Sipple's life? The story probably died in the press pretty quickly.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 10:32:56 PM


 Michael, as for Anita Bryant, I do remember coverage on her back then.  However, in retrospect, I didn't remember how vicious she was, or how stupid her Save Our Children campaign was.  She seemed to have an obsession about gays seducing children.  I suspect her appeal was to homophobes, evangelicals, and conservatives of any stripe.  IMO if she hadn't been as popular an entertainer as she was, her diatribes would have been a drop in the bucket.

I think she made the mistake so many heterosexuals do -- they can't tell the difference between a homosexual and a pedophile!

I doubt her so-called campaign would gather any momentum today.  The media would probably write her off as a crackpot, not because they are all pro-gay, but because her rantings were so absurd, and, yes, politically incorrect.  Somehow I can't imagine a headline in the New York Times: Satan on the move! 

Bryant was a satire in the making for 'Saturday Night Live.'
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 10:35:35 PM
I guess I think that the statements that Bryant made would make people who were already prone towards violence think that their actions were justified.  She said gay people were perverts and child molesters.  She thought that homosexuality should be criminalized.  Another strange thing I found was that her opinions were popular:

Singer Anita Bryant tops the list of Most Admired Women in the Good Housekeeping reader poll, the U.S. magazine has announced.
Anita Bryant "most admired" in magazine poll, Globe and Mail, Dec 12, 1977

And there were reports of violence around this time as well:

On a good day, it's possible to find an element of humor in these excursions from truth. Nothing was funny in the hatred whipped up as the struggle progressed. Bryant habitually referred to homosexuals as "human garbage" or an "abomination" (while proclaiming that she loved them and only hated their sin). Bumper stickers urged people to "kill a queer for christ." A fire destroyed the home of the Metropolitan Community Church's minister in Miami; a member of Latinos for Human Rights found his car fire-bombed the day after he appeared on a television talk show to speak in support of the gay rights ordinance.
Even closets won't be safe, Off Our Backs, Aug 31, 1977

I had forgotten that she called gays 'human garbage' - I actually went to a punk concert in a garbage bag after she did that [ :D]  And I had forgotten the 'Kill A Queer for Christ' stickers as well:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,918998-2,00.html

I suppose I don't think that she is responsible for people acting violently against gay people - but her opinions certainly supported people who saw gays as somehow 'less than human.'

For me the question of violence and attitudes always reminds me of Vincent Chin, who was beaten to death by auto workers in Michigan because they thought he was Japanese (he was actually Chinese):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_Chin

And I can't help but think of Father Coughlin too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father_Coughlin

Somehow it seems to me that when people demean others and make them seem less than human that it's easier to do violence to them.  It's probably not the genesis of the violence - I think that probably come from within the people themselves.  But I do know that in cases like Eric Robert Rudolph's bombing of the gay bar in Atlanta and Benjamin and James Williams' murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder that they had similar beliefs to Anita's. 

Expressing thoughts like Anita did is a slippery slope.  And some people don't need to be pushed very far....
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 10:51:38 PM
You bet.  I actually don't have problems with outing in some cases - particularly when people are doing vile things - Ted Haggard comes to mind.  And I understand why Harvey thought it was important to out Bill Sipple - but I also think it had a hideous impact on Sipple's life and his relationship with his family.  The Al Asmussen thing I don't understand at all - he just wasn't important to the book - why put his family and friends through the grief?

I've posted several times here that I am against outing, but I agree with you about people who do vile things.

I don't agree that Harvey should have outed Sipple.  Michael, do you agree with Harvey because Sipple would be a poster boy for gays, since he was a hero?  Sipple didn't want to come out,Harvey knew that -- Robinson warned Harvey.  Even the president didn't acknowledge Sipple untiil Harvey sent a telegram. I thnk a person's decision should be taken into account. Was it worth the impact on Sipple's life? The story probably died in the press pretty quickly.

What I said was that I understood why Harvey thought it was important.  I believe that Harvey had a rather bulldozer approach to his views - the earlier example of the German friend that came to dinner comes to mind.  It was a character flaw in Harvey - it seems a bit like his attitude towards boyfriends in a way - he had a very black and white view towards morality.  And he believed he was in the right here.

I however, don't agree that it was good that Harvey outed Sipple and I don't think it was worth the effect on his life - as I said, that was hideous.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 10:57:50 PM


I agree Michael.  Some people don't need to be pushed very far.

 Although I was too young to remember Fr. Coughlin, I read some of his radio speeches. He sounds like he had a screw loose -- not kidding. I remember hearing about his antisemitism - but did I miss something, or did he overlook gays?  If so, he would have had a field day.  People like Coughlin make me embarrassed to be Catholic.  Didn't know Joe Kennedy and Cardinal Spellmen tried to shot him down. Surprised he didn't listen to them, since both were Irish Catholics!

Speaking of Bryant, didn't I read somewhere that she's divorced and financially strapped? Is she living in Florida still.  Funny how she fell out of favor.  I think people get tired of all the ranting and raving whether they're for or against the raver.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 11:02:34 PM
Speaking of Bryant, didn't I read somewhere that she's divorced and financially strapped? Is she living in Florida still.  Funny how she fell out of favor.  I think people get tired of all the ranting and raving whether they're for or against the raver.

She got divorced in 1980 - and I know that she was running a dress shop for a while.  The strange thing is that in the long run I think she was her own worst enemy.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 11:12:58 PM

 The strange thing is that in the long run I think she was her own worst enemy.



Hatred will do that to you.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 25, 2009, 11:27:36 PM
Although I was too young to remember Fr. Coughlin, I read some of his radio speeches. He sounds like he had a screw loose -- not kidding. I remember hearing about his antisemitism - but did I miss something, or did he overlook gays?  If so, he would have had a field day. 

Coughlin was of a time where it would have been inappropriate to even talk about gays on the radio.  So no, I wasn't referring to his speaking about gays - what I was referring to was how people have used media in the past to stigmatize people - in Coughlin's case I was referring to the antisemitism.  For me it's all pretty much cut out of the same cloth - when I was looking over Anita Bryant's comments she also said that Jews were going to hell because they hadn't accepted Jesus.

These people have a very limited idea of what God is - they think he has the same limited view they do.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 25, 2009, 11:42:31 PM
Although I was too young to remember Fr. Coughlin, I read some of his radio speeches. He sounds like he had a screw loose -- not kidding. I remember hearing about his antisemitism - but did I miss something, or did he overlook gays?  If so, he would have had a field day. 

Coughlin was of a time where it would have been inappropriate to even talk about gays on the radio.  So no, I wasn't referring to his speaking about gays - what I was referring to was how people have used media in the past to stigmatize people - in Coughlin's case I was referring to the antisemitism.  For me it's all pretty much cut out of the same cloth - when I was looking over Anita Bryant's comments she also said that Jews were going to hell because they hadn't accepted Jesus.

These people have a very limited idea of what God is - they think he has the same limited view they do.

Right Michael -- didn't think about that.  Reading back on Bryant and Coughlin, I'm still amazed at how outspoken they were and what they did get away with. In Bryant's case, she was feeding into societal homophobia; in Coughlin's case the anti-Jewish crowd.  Not that homophobia or anti-Judaism is gone,  but I really don't think they could get away with that today, do you?  At least, not so blatantly.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 26, 2009, 12:01:00 AM
Right Michael -- didn't think about that.  Reading back on Bryant and Coughlin, I'm still amazed at how outspoken they were and what they did get away with. In Bryant's case, she was feeding into societal homophobia; in Coughlin's case the anti-Jewish crowd.  Not that homophobia or anti-Judaism is gone,  but I really don't think they could get away with that today, do you?  At least, not so blatantly.

Well, I don't know Nikki.  If I were Muslim I don't think I would have been so keen on all of the 'Barack's a Muslim'/'No he's a Christian' debate that went on in the last election.  It did't get anywhere as detailed or obsessed as the ravings of Coughlin or Bryant got to - and it seemed to be limited to fringe groups - but I still think we have a tendency to think of things in terms of in groups and out groups.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 26, 2009, 12:36:00 AM
Sorry not to have been here for so long. I have caught up with the thread, but I haven't been with it for the past week or so; between Jan. 22 and Jan. 24 there are three anniversaries of deaths of people I liked, admired and, in my dad's case, loved. I also found this section very dense. I hope to get a couple of thoughts together on it, but I certainly appreciate a couple more days.

This isn't a specific answer to any of the questions, but I found myself questioning Harvey's methods of electioneering frequently. He was a great showman and seems to have used both the soapbox and the press with great success. But he certainly seemed to feel that the end justified the means in several areas. He lied about his own background in order to bond with gays who had been thrown out of the military, he manipulated press coverage at times (for example when he claimed to have more volunteers than he actually did), he outed Sipple for political reasons and he would use anyone he thought could be useful, regardless of what he thought of them otherwise (i.e. The People's Temple.) Harvey was also stubborn and tactless, and he was willing to attack people who were influential and supportive if he felt they were in the wrong (like what he did when he quit his commissioner's job to run for assembly, biting the hand that fed him.) He built alliances, but he didn't compromise. I think he felt some guilt about some of his actions, but it didn't stop him. "What have you done for me lately?" was Harvey's question.

OTOH, I agree with his tactics of grassroots organizing and campaigning, his willingness to represent non-gay interests, and his belief that the more people who knew about their gay friends and family-members, the fewer folks who would fear and hate what what they didn't know or would go along with those who told them gay people preyed on children and had to be stopped from destroying heterosexual life would exist. I think No on 8 folks could have benefitted from better grassroots organizing and campaigning. There are Black and Latino votes to be had if the voters are able to appreciate the ways in which discrimination against gays echoes the discrimination they have suffered. And he was right, IMHO, in saying gays had to be represented by gays, and had to come out into the streets and demonstrate, boycott, and use other such techniques to show folks that they weren't going to wait until well-intentioned "friends" got around to moving them to the top of the priority list. He didn't think it was okay to hide the less "normal-looking" folks: the drag queens, the nelly queens, the transgender folk, the shirtless guys who danced in the windows and on the street. All of the gay spectrum should be included. You grab power and then you use it to bargain for what you want, making trades with those who can use your political support. Power comes from how many people you can mobilize and how many votes you can deliver.

Harvey was smart, he learned fast and he wasn't above playing the game. But he didn't think much about other people's needs, didn't take responsibility for his own debts, and was willing to exploit people who cared for him in order to get where he wanted to go, as he did with Scott Smith. Not perfect by any means, and a real pain to work with. Not someone you could predict easily. I sympathize to some extent with Goodstein and Stokes and Foster. Harvey didn't care about the rulebook.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 26, 2009, 06:45:11 AM

Harvey was smart, he learned fast and he wasn't above playing the game. But he didn't think much about other people's needs, didn't take responsibility for his own debts, and was willing to exploit people who cared for him in order to get where he wanted to go, as he did with Scott Smith. Not perfect by any means, and a real pain to work with. Not someone you could predict easily. I sympathize to some extent with Goodstein and Stokes and Foster. Harvey didn't care about the rulebook.

I agree with all you say, seems like we're on the same page. ............and I bet Harvey was hell to live with!

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 26, 2009, 06:55:29 AM
Right Michael -- didn't think about that.  Reading back on Bryant and Coughlin, I'm still amazed at how outspoken they were and what they did get away with. In Bryant's case, she was feeding into societal homophobia; in Coughlin's case the anti-Jewish crowd.  Not that homophobia or anti-Judaism is gone,  but I really don't think they could get away with that today, do you?  At least, not so blatantly.

Well, I don't know Nikki.  If I were Muslim I don't think I would have been so keen on all of the 'Barack's a Muslim'/'No he's a Christian' debate that went on in the last election.  It didn't get anywhere as detailed or obsessed as the ravings of Coughlin or Bryant got to - and it seemed to be limited to fringe groups - but I still think we have a tendency to think of things in terms of in groups and out groups.

Yes Michael, but it was more focused on one period -- election time -- whereas Coughlin was spewing constantly by radio, and Bryant's statements were given wide press coverage.  It seems, to me, people of today aren't as naive as in the 30s Coughlin's time, and in the 70s Bryant's. I realize the press and TV are constantly after the latest sound bite from public figures, but  I think today's readers take a lot with a grain of salt, or at least they're much more cynical about politicians and media.  Of course, I'm not denying there is racism, sexism, homophobia, et al, but I think it's tempered by a more discerning public.  JMHO
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 26, 2009, 07:58:51 AM
Somehow it seems to me that when people demean others and make them seem less than human that it's easier to do violence to them.  It's probably not the genesis of the violence - I think that probably come from within the people themselves.  But I do know that in cases like Eric Robert Rudolph's bombing of the gay bar in Atlanta and Benjamin and James Williams' murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder that they had similar beliefs to Anita's. 

Expressing thoughts like Anita did is a slippery slope.  And some people don't need to be pushed very far....

Thanks for all this additional background material on Anita Bryant, Michael.  I remember her pretty well, well enough that seeing her in the film (before coming across her in the book) sent shivers down my spine.  I remember she was also popular with my family (more shivers), so the Good Housekeeping poll doesn't surprise me.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 26, 2009, 09:21:47 AM
Yes Michael, but it was more focused on one period -- election time -- whereas Coughlin was spewing constantly by radio, and Bryant's statements were given wide press coverage.  It seems, to me, people of today aren't as naive as in the 30s Coughlin's time, and in the 70s Bryant's. I realize the press and TV are constantly after the latest sound bite from public figures, but  I think today's readers take a lot with a grain of salt, or at least they're much more cynical about politicians and media.  Of course, I'm not denying there is racism, sexism, homophobia, et al, but I think it's tempered by a more discerning public.  JMHO

Much of the public is more discerning and better educated today, I agree there.  But it seems like there's part of the "Christian right" which would still swallow everything Bryant had to say, if she were saying the same things today.  Michael, what about today's outspoken ministers in the Christian right -- how do they compare with Bryant?  I'm thinking of the groups with the word "Family" in the title, I believe some are located in Colorado Springs.  When their followers have been shown on news programs, they seem so devoted and unquestioning, and they definitely don't like gays.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 26, 2009, 09:23:24 AM
Jenny, I'm glad to see you back.  That must have been a hard time, especially with the anniversary of your father's death right in there.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 26, 2009, 01:44:45 PM
30.) Given that Shilts has made a point throughout the book of the lack of connection Harvey had with lesbians, are you surprised that he chose Anne Kronenberg as his campaign manager?

I was more surprised that Kronenberg was willing to be his manager.  After all, she had been warned by her lesbian friends who had always felt Harvey was anti-woman and that he would 'use her and throw her away.'  Harvey saw in Kronenberg what he needed: she was calm, organized, and a good manager -- qualities that Harvey lacked as a politico, and qualities that he knew he needed. That she was a lesbian was beside the point.

I agree with what you say here, Nikki.  More than being surprised that he chose a lesbian, I was surprised that he would choose any woman.  Although, since we’re talking about a male gay candidate in a campaign that emphasized gay rights (as one of its platforms, at least), I suppose that any woman he did bring in would more likely be a lesbian, because a lesbian would understand some – but not all – of the gay problems better than a heterosexual woman would.  Harvey’s gay constituency, though, was mostly gay men, not lesbians, and their problems were quite different.  So it was a surprise.

In any case, I think she was well-qualified to be a campaign manager, and temperamentally suited to handle Harvey, who could be difficult to work with.  It’s interesting to note that Kronenberg came to admire Harvey both as a politician and as a person, and that she ended up fitting in well with the rest of the insiders in his political “Milk Machine.”

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 26, 2009, 04:02:46 PM


31.) Were you surprised to read that Harvey composed his political will on the day after winning his campaign as supervisor?  Why do you think he did this?


 I wasn't surprised.  Harvey was always preoccupied with the possibility of his early death, and he appeared to have given this much thought. -- it was his legacy.  Since he had worked so hard to become the first gay politician, I thought it was quite in keeping with his need to control, especially since he not only designated those who he wanted as successors, but those he found unacceptable as well. This was his legacy to his gay constituents as well as other minorities and, as Supervisor and 'Mayor of Castro Street,' he wanted to ensure that his people were protected by choosing someone he could trust to lead them. After all he had given them hope, in the event of his death he wanted to ensure that the system would continue to work for them.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 26, 2009, 04:28:11 PM
Nikki, I was preparing my post here while you were posting yours, so mine wasn't written as a response to yours.  I think we are basically on the same page.

31.) Were you surprised to read that Harvey composed his political will on the day after winning his campaign as supervisor?  Why do you think he did this?

In a way, it seems like a political will would have been the last thing on Harvey’s mind – he should have been celebrating his victory.  But I guess he had celebrated enough the night before, and like most politicians on the day after being elected, he was getting down to the business of making plans for his term in office. 

So, as his mind turned to the serious issues that might arise during his term, he was confronted again by those old fears that he wouldn’t make it to age 50, and he remembered all the death threats.  Now that he would actually be a gay supervisor, he would be much more visible and vulnerable than ever before to crazy people who might decide to get rid of him.

Given Harvey’s past rocky relationship with other gay leaders, I understand why he would want to specify his wishes regarding who the seat should go to in case he was killed during his term.  His replacement would have to come from the people that he trusted to carry on his work in the political arena.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 26, 2009, 06:23:45 PM


...Deb, sure 'nuff!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 26, 2009, 09:56:58 PM
I bet Harvey was hell to live with!

But I'll also bet that he could be lots of fun if you didn't have to!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 26, 2009, 09:58:28 PM
I bet Harvey was hell to live with!

But I'll also bet that he could be lots of fun if you didn't have to!

Absolutely, Michael  >:D >:D
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 26, 2009, 10:13:18 PM
Regarding the good and bad of Harvey - I'm working on the questions for Wednesday - and Jack Lira (and all that he implies)  is featured among them - and I find myself thinking (a lot) what was Harvey thinking!  And yet I know people who knew him and worked with him and they seem to have been genuinely charmed by him and to have loved him - and it's not just because of the way he died.

Part of what makes him an interesting person, imho, is that he is a mixed person - neither all good or all bad (and mixed up too).  He didn't have it all sorted out - but I do think that, despite his clay feet, he had a good heart - and that he meant well.  Here is a man who didn't come out to his mother - and yet outed someone to their mother because he thought it was important to have a gay hero who saved the President.  *whew*

The book gives us a much better picture of how complex he was - much better than the film, I think.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 27, 2009, 06:32:14 AM
Regarding the good and bad of Harvey - I'm working on the questions for Wednesday - and Jack Lira (and all that he implies)  is featured among them - and I find myself thinking (a lot) what was Harvey thinking!  And yet I know people who knew him and worked with him and they seem to have been genuinely charmed by him and to have loved him - and it's not just because of the way he died.

Part of what makes him an interesting person, imho, is that he is a mixed person - neither all good or all bad (and mixed up too).  He didn't have it all sorted out - but I do think that, despite his clay feet, he had a good heart - and that he meant well.  Here is a man who didn't come out to his mother - and yet outed someone to their mother because he thought it was important to have a gay hero who saved the President.  *whew*

The book gives us a much better picture of how complex he was - much better than the film, I think.

Yes, Michael. Harvey was complex and, like many leaders, he had flaws.  His choice of BFFs, his outing of Sipple, his in-your-face campaigning were part of his complexity. He was fearless in his fight for gay rights at a time when no one else was willing to stand up for a despised minority.   His hope speech was analogous to MLK's 'I have a dream' speech, and was equally motivating to his followers IMO.  He certainly was a man for his time, I think.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 01:37:25 AM
Magicmountain posted a link to a wonderful article over in the 'Milk' thread that bears reposting over here:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24971962-16947,00.html

The crusader of Castro Street
Tim Teeman | January 28, 2009
Article from:  The Australian

CLEVE Jones got an email recently from a Mormon father of six who had been to see the movie Milk. The man had voted yes on Proposition 8, a move to ban gay marriage in California. Gus Van Sant's movie had changed his mind. The man told Jones -- a longtime activist and adviser on the movie -- that he was sorry and that he would do whatever he could to make up for supporting the discriminatory legislation.

Were he still alive, Harvey Milk would have been at the forefront of fighting it too. He was the first openly gay elected public official in California, winning a seat on the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco (after three failed attempts to gain political office) in 1977. He was the self-declared "Mayor of Castro Street", the city's gay hub, with a signature rallying cry: "You've got to give them hope."

Milk is an astonishing, even landmark film, not for its sexual content but for its politics, plunging the viewer into the social phenomenon of 1970s gay liberation. Sean Penn absolutely inhabits Milk's charismatic personality.

Like so many gay men, Milk came to San Francisco in the early '70s. He opened a camera store in the Castro with his lover Scott Smith, mobilising the gay community against police hostility and the bigotry of shopkeepers. He was a hippy, then cut off his ponytail and started playing politics. In office, he lobbied mayor George Moscone, to sign a gay rights ordinance. He fought the anti-gay campaigns of Anita Bryant and (successfully) senator John Briggs's attempt to ban gay teachers from working in California.

Milk was assassinated, along with Moscone, by Dan White, a fellow city supervisor, in 1978. White received a seven-year sentence for manslaughter, which led to rioting. Today, there's a bust of Milk in City Hall, a memorial plaza in the Castro, a display of his life in San Francisco's Public Library. There are even schools named after him.

But behind the crusading image, his friends remember his wit, passion, flirtatiousness and love of custard pies.

article continues at above link
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 02:56:05 AM
This is the first set of questions for the third section of the book.  I'm posting the questions in two groups (I'll post the second group later today) so that you will have questions to work on all day Wednesday.  As always - answer what you want.

1.)  On the day Harvey was sworn in as supervisor he led a procession of 150 supporters from Castro Camera to City Hall and announced, 'This is a walk of reconciliation with a nation of people...this is a walk that will give many people hope.'  Why do you think he led the procession to City Hall?  Was this just for publicity?  Did it seem appropriate to you?  Do you think that he did it with the Dade ordinance which had been overturned in mind?

2.)  When the Board of Supervisors sat to elect their president Harvey refused to make the vote unanimous for Diane Feinstein in a courtesy vote - saying 'I'm not concerned about the Emily Post attitude to life.'  In the long run would intransigence like this have gotten in his way as a politician?  In response to Harvey's 'hope' line Diane Feinstein said 'Hope is fine, but you can't live on hope.'  Had he lived do you think they would have continued to clash?  What do you think was the basis of their conflict?

3.)  David Goodstein said (regarding the parties he threw when Harvey became supervisor) that he wanted to co-opt Harvey.  Harvey, in turn, said that he savored seeing Goodstein 'kiss his ass' and refused to ride in the same car with him.  Given that Briggs and Anita Bryant were on the horizon does this rivalry seem petty?  Why do you think they continued along this path?

4.)  Jack Lira behaved strangely at the inaugural dinner - yet Harvey told Tory Hartmann that he was 'the love of his life.'  Why do you think Harvey was attracted to him?  Do you think Lira's odd behavior made Harvey feel needed?  How do you compare the relationship with Lira to the relationship with Scott Smith?

5.)  Do you think that Dan White was out of his depth in City Hall?  Do you think his election shows a flaw in the district elections that Harvey had fought so hard for?  Do you think that part of Harvey's tolerance for White was due to the fact that White came to the board directly as a result of district elections?

6.)  Harvey said 'I'm number one queen now.  You can work with me or fight me.  But if you fight me, be ready for me to do my best to make sure you don't get reelected.'  Does this attitude seem productive to you?  What do you think Harvey was trying to do with this attitude - was he attempting to act as a power broker for the gay electorate?  Was this attitude a holdover from the contentious elections that brought him to power?

7.)  Harvey was the lone dissenting vote on a resolution that asked the Pentagon not to close the Presidio.  The Presidio eventually closed in 1995 and is now a National Park.  Do you think that this shows foresight on Harvey's part and was part of his focus on neighborhoods?  Or was he merely being contrary and a thorn in Diane Feinstein's side?

8.)  Harvey recounts a story (to Michael Wong) of a fund raising dinner where he suggests that, regarding donors he does not agree with, that he will cash their checks and 'screw the donors.'  Does his attitude seem naive to you?  Do you think he would be shooting himself in the foot in the long run with this attitude if he ever wanted to run for higher office?

9.)  The initial conflict between Harvey and Dan White concerned a psychiatric treatment center in Dan White's district.  What is your opinion of the way Harvey handled this incident?  Given Harvey's political beliefs would it have been better for him to tell White from the beginning that he supported the institution?

10.) After Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center Dan White voted against the gay rights ordinance.  Yet even after this Harvey maintained there was a difference between Dan White's opposition and Diane Feinstein's reservations.  Do you agree with Harvey's viewpoint?  Why would Harvey continue to believe this, given that Diane Feinstein eventually supported the gay rights ordinance?  What do you make of the change in Dan White's attitude toward the ordinance after Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center?

11.) Do you think that Harvey's record of neighborhood activism - getting stop signs for the district, filling in the pot holes and saving the local library and elementary school - is ignored or forgotten when he is remembered solely as an icon of gay activism?  Do you think that this work would have been as important in the long run as his gay activism had he lived?  Do you think that it might have led to his ideal of a more integrated gay community in the long run?

12.) Margo St. James was asked by a police contact how she felt about Diane Feinstein for mayor before Moscone was killed.  Her contact goes on to tell her that Moscone will be dead by Christmas.  Do you think that Shilts presents a credible case here that their was an inside plot to kill Moscone?  What is your opinion - do you think that because of the conflicts between Moscone and the police that there was a conspiracy against him?  And does this mean that Harvey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps that his conflicts with Dan White put him in the crosshairs?

13.) Much is made of Harvey's media savvy.  Along with this Randy Shilts says that 'thinly veiled queer joking was always considered good copy in San Francisco paper.'  Do you think that Harvey's style of media manipulation would work today - or would the public see through this now?  Would the 'queer joking' offend people now?  Regarding the pooper scooper law Harvey said 'all over the country people are reading about me and the story doesn't center on me being gay - it's just about a gay person who is doing his job.'  Do you think that this would have caused Harvey to gain more widespread support at the time, given the backlash going on in the country then?  Do you think he was too humorous about his job - that he was in danger of becoming making himself look silly?

14.) Art Agnos speculated that Harvey wanted to become mayor - and Harvey as much as told Michael Wong the same thing.  If he had lived do you think that he would have tried to become mayor?  Do you think he would succeed the first time - and if he did not, would he continue to fight to become mayor like he did to become supervisor?

15.) Harvey became central in the fight against the Briggs Initiative.  Do you think that he was essential in winning the campaign against the Briggs Initiative?  What do you think of his campaign - was it a good idea to debate Briggs in Fullerton and throughout the state?  Do you think it was a good idea for him to form his own group to fight prop 6 - as opposed to joining the radicals or the moderates?  Do you like the way he turns the words on the Statue of Liberty and the Declaration of Independence against Bryant and Briggs?  Do you think that it was essential to have a central figure to fight Briggs?  Do you think we could learn lessons from this campaign in fighting against initiatives like California's Proposition 8?

16.) In the midst of the fight against Proposition 6 Jack Lira committed suicide.  Do you think that it is worthwhile to ask why he did this - or was this the irrational act of a depressed and alcoholic person?  Do you think he was striking out at Harvey?  Shilts talks about co-dependence regarding Harvey and Jack's relationship.  Does this make sense to you?  Do you think this is true of all of Harvey's love relationships?  Were you surprised that given this death that Harvey was able to continue to work on the fight against Proposition 6?

Okay - that should give you enough to work on to start with - the rest of the questions will be in by the end of the day.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 10:18:17 AM
1.)  On the day Harvey was sworn in as supervisor he led a procession of 150 supporters from Castro Camera to City Hall and announced, 'This is a walk of reconciliation with a nation of people...this is a walk that will give many people hope.'  Why do you think he led the procession to City Hall?  Was this just for publicity?  Did it seem appropriate to you?  Do you think that he did it with the Dade ordinance which had been overturned in mind?

When I first read Harvey’s phrase about “reconciliation with a nation of people,” I initially wondered who the “people” were.  Gays?  I think he’s talking about gays in the second part of that statement; gays are the “many people” who will be given hope by the swearing in of an important gay political figure.  And I agree with that.  I’m sure he did have the Dade ordinance in mind, and that was all the more reason why gays needed hope. 

But in the first part of the statement, “reconciliation” implies that there are two sides being brought together, and “nation” seems all-inclusive.  On the one hand, he might mean that his swearing in will somehow help reconcile gays with heterosexuals across the nation.  I’m not sure how well his swearing in accomplished this.  Many heterosexuals probably either didn’t pay attention to Harvey’s walk and speech, or remained opposed to him in particular, as well as to gay rights in general.  I don’t think that those heterosexuals who opposed gay rights (as in Dade County) were “reconciled” with gays by what Harvey did that day, because they continued fighting against gay rights elsewhere.  Truth be told, some were probably aggravated by just the fact that he was sworn in.

It also occurs to me that maybe the “nation” still refers to gays here, gays who have long been outsiders, and the “reconciliation” means reconciliation with the American mainstream.  The movement of this neighborhood gay activist into the mainstream political system is a form of reconciliation, holding up an example of an outsider becoming an insider.  In a more minor way, we must remember Harvey’s promises to work for better neighborhoods for other groups of people, as well as gays.  So I see, in his rhetoric here, a vision for a better future.  In that future, which he will work for once in office, reconciliation between gays and heterosexuals might occur. 

I do think it was appropriate for him to make the walk and the speech.  It almost makes him look like a Biblical figure with followers trailing along behind him.  Yes, he did it for publicity, for camera footage and press coverage.  But it wasn’t an egotistical kind of publicity-seeking, IMO.  He was demonstrating leadership.  I think he was walking to make a theatrical sort of statement which would visibly demonstrate that gays were moving into power.  Gays needed to know this, so they would have hope.  Heterosexuals also needed to know this, to be forewarned that gays intended to have equal rights.  But the qualifier is that “reconciliation” rather than “hostility” between the two sides was possible.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 11:22:15 AM
2.)  When the Board of Supervisors sat to elect their president Harvey refused to make the vote unanimous for Diane Feinstein in a courtesy vote - saying 'I'm not concerned about the Emily Post attitude to life.'  In the long run would intransigence like this have gotten in his way as a politician?  In response to Harvey's 'hope' line Diane Feinstein said 'Hope is fine, but you can't live on hope.'  Had he lived do you think they would have continued to clash?  What do you think was the basis of their conflict?

Harvey had good reason for voting as he did initially (wanting the board to have its first minority president).  After Feinstein won by a 10-2 margin, however, she was obviously going to be president no matter what Harvey did.  Harvey didn’t have anything to gain by holding out against the unanimous vote, except to demonstrate his independence, but at that point, “intransigence” or stubbornness is a better word for it than independence.  It showed an inability to compromise and play politics, and he might have been making unnecessary enemies of people that he would need as allies later on.

I feel that personality differences between Feinstein and Harvey were at the basis of their conflict.  When Harvey made the remark about “the Emily Post attitude to life,” I think he was reflecting gays’ unease about her perceived prudery.  True, Harvey also had supporters who opposed her because of her political positions (viewing her as an ally of downtown business interests), but the Emily Post comment is a more cutting personal attack.  And when she remarked that “Hope is fine, but you can’t live on hope,” I detect a tartness and cutting edge in her speech as well.  His near-poverty and her well-to-do background didn’t give them much common ground in their personal way of life, either. 

Had Harvey lived, I suspect that they would have continued to clash, unless he moved away from his “politics as theater” approach, because  Feinstein was so concerned with decorum and not causing scenes.  That doesn’t mean that one was more right than the other; she could just as easily be criticized for being too rigid.  But they weren’t very compatible.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 28, 2009, 01:51:24 PM
Quote
1.)  On the day Harvey was sworn in as supervisor he led a procession of 150 supporters from Castro Camera to City Hall and announced, 'This is a walk of reconciliation with a nation of people...this is a walk that will give many people hope.'  Why do you think he led the procession to City Hall?  Was this just for publicity?  Did it seem appropriate to you?  Do you think that he did it with the Dade ordinance which had been overturned in mind?

I took the reconciliation to be between gay people and straights. I think Harvey saw his becoming part of government, despite the Dade ordinance, as a sign that an alliance of gay people and straight people could rise up and turn the tide. Perhaps he also wanted to make his claim as a populist who would serve all of the people. The procession was good theater and good publicity, but it was also a way of demonstrating that gays were in the political arena now and they weren't going to go back into the closet. And for Harvey I think it was meant primarily to be a message to gays: come out and fight for us. I don't know about appropriate: I'm sure it rubbed some of his fellow supervisors the wrong way. But it was attention-getting and it defied people like Anita Bryant in a very public fashion.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 02:15:17 PM
3.)  David Goodstein said (regarding the parties he threw when Harvey became supervisor) that he wanted to co-opt Harvey.  Harvey, in turn, said that he savored seeing Goodstein 'kiss his ass' and refused to ride in the same car with him.  Given that Briggs and Anita Bryant were on the horizon does this rivalry seem petty?  Why do you think they continued along this path?

I checked the definition of co-opt to be sure of the right shade of meaning.  The fourth definition in my dictionary is the closest to what I suspect Goodstein meant:  to make use of for one’s own purposes; to take over or adopt.  Goodstein could see that Harvey had political power now, so he wanted to make use of Harvey’s power to achieve his own aims.  Harvey enjoyed seeing Goodstein showing this need, and essentially gave him a brush-off when it came to riding in the same car.  In this way, Harvey was demonstrating that independent streak again; now that he had won his supervisor’s seat, he wanted to show that he didn’t need Goodstein.

The rivalry was a holdover from earlier days when Goodstein refused to endorse Harvey, as well as from previous campaigns in which Harvey ran against candidates supported by Goodstein, like Rick Stokes.  The rivalry did seem petty at the time of the inaugural balls, as it appeared that Harvey and Goodstein were competing with each other.  But as serious challenges for gays – like Briggs – presented themselves during the coming year, deep and serious political differences remained between Goodstein’s camp and Harvey’s camp.  These differences went beyond petty personal differences, or the lifestyle differences of mansion-dweller vs. camera shop owner.  The fact was, Harvey and Goodstein still differed sharply on how to campaign on gay issues.  The fight against the Briggs Initiative would prove this, when Harvey opposed a brochure developed by people aligned with Goodstein.  Even Harvey’s political will reflects the distrust which he felt for Goodstein and his “moderate” crowd.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 28, 2009, 02:33:05 PM
Quote
2.)  When the Board of Supervisors sat to elect their president Harvey refused to make the vote unanimous for Diane Feinstein in a courtesy vote - saying 'I'm not concerned about the Emily Post attitude to life.'  In the long run would intransigence like this have gotten in his way as a politician?  In response to Harvey's 'hope' line Diane Feinstein said 'Hope is fine, but you can't live on hope.'  Had he lived do you think they would have continued to clash?  What do you think was the basis of their conflict?

Debby, I agree with you that this showed intransigence and was unnecessarily rude. Harvey hated to lose an argument, always had to have the last word. He doesn't seem to have thought beyond the moment--or he honestly believed he didn't need to compromise or make nice, which is troubling if true. Harvey's political instincts were sometimes excellent and sometimes really off-base. I get the feeling that Harvey felt entitled to grandstand because of the importance of his cause and that despite his position he had a lot of contempt for politicians who did nothing to help minorities and cut deals to support opponents even if those deals involved betraying commitments they had made. He spoke to his supporters after his swearing-in about throwing bricks at "Silly Hall".

I also agree with you that he and Dianne Feinstein had major personality differences. She was decorous and moderate, and she was uncomfortable with PDAs and what she saw as unnecessary flaunting of bodies and sexuality. She also disapproved of the bath houses and multiple partners. Needless to say she had no real grasp of what the closet and years of persecution had been like. Dianne was fairly conventional and as you say, she was well-heeled. And she most definitely was a professional politician.

I think, however, that Harvey took politics very personally and passionately opposed her support of downtown interests, real-estate developers and the police and military. Those views so colored his outlook that he failed to note that she could have been a valuable ally at times. It was all or nothing for Harvey. I don't know if they would have continued to clash, but it seems unlikely to me that Harvey would have mellowed much, and once he got an idea into his head it took an awful lot to get it out.   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 02:43:07 PM
Regarding question 2, Feinstein and Harvey

{snip}
I think, however, that Harvey took politics very personally and passionately opposed her support of downtown interests, real-estate developers and the police and military. Those views so colored his outlook that he failed to note that she could have been a valuable ally at times. It was all or nothing for Harvey. I don't know if they would have continued to clash, but it seems unlikely to me that Harvey would have mellowed much, and once he got an idea into his head it took an awful lot to get it out.   


This is true, Jenny.  In addition to their personal differences, they did have major philosophical or political differences about the issues that you mention.  I can see them continuing to disagree on those issues of substance, and I don't see a problem with that, because they were representing different constituents, so that was their job.

But like you say, they could have been better allies on other issues, were it not for what strikes me as some hardheadedness on both sides.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 02:44:48 PM
Jenny and Debbie - just a quick note to let you know that I concur that the Harvey/Diane conflict had a lot to do with the fact that Harvey took politics personally.  He seemed to have a particular axe to grind against Diane Feinstein and I have to wonder how much of this related to class politics.  It seems as if he cut Dan White more slack than Diane Feinstein - and I can't help but wonder if it was because he was working class and Harvey identified with him because of that.

More later - off to write more questions. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 03:53:07 PM


1.) On the day Harvey was sworn in as supervisor he led a procession of 150 supporters from Castro Camera to City Hall and announced, 'This is a walk of reconciliation with a nation of people...this is a walk that will give many people hope.'  Why do you think he led the procession to City Hall?  Was this just for publicity?  Did it seem appropriate to you?  Do you think that he did it with the Dade ordinance which had been overturned in mind?


Thiis was political theater Harvey style, and if it garnered pubicity, it was all  to the good.  Harvey wanted to being everyone together in harmony.  He  thought this walk would give people hope.   With or without the Date ordinance, I think Harvey would have led his people to City Hall -- it showed he was ready to give his people hope. 



Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 04:13:00 PM
4.)  Jack Lira behaved strangely at the inaugural dinner - yet Harvey told Tory Hartmann that he was 'the love of his life.'  Why do you think Harvey was attracted to him?  Do you think Lira's odd behavior made Harvey feel needed?  How do you compare the relationship with Lira to the relationship with Scott Smith?

I have to start off here by saying that I thought Scott Smith was the best person Harvey ever had a relationship with.  They were business partners as well as lovers, and remained business partners even after their sexual and romantic relationship broke up.  Scott was there until the end, helping pick out Harvey’s final clothes after he died, and tying up loose ends with Harvey’s estate.  The best word that comes to mind to describe Scott is “loyal.”  He couldn’t live with the campaigning, but otherwise, he was there when Harvey needed him.  He seemed like a very solid and stable personality.  He didn’t seem to need Harvey nearly as much as Harvey needed him.

Jack Lira was the complete opposite, a very needy and unstable personality.  Yes, I think he made Harvey feel needed – Harvey was always telling friends that he recognized Lira’s flaws, but “he needs me” and therefore Harvey couldn’t leave him.  The analysis that there was a co-dependency going on seems right on the mark.  Harvey knew from the moment he met Lira that he drank too much, but Harvey overlooked this.  Aside from neediness, I think the attraction was in large part due to Lira’s sexual appeal.  Lira was “good sex,” Harvey also told people, and he gave Harvey a means of relaxing away from politics at the end of a stressful day.

Unfortunately, Lira was very immature and apt to become emotionally distraught.  He was unable to perform the role of “political spouse.”  His neediness made him want to be with Harvey at dinners, for example, but he couldn’t handle the pressures and protocols.  Sometimes he wanted more attention than his role warranted; at other times he was overly shy and had breakdowns rather than mix with strangers. 

Harvey didn’t learn until after Lira’s suicide that there had been previous suicide attempts.  I can’t help but wonder whether, had Harvey known about this, he might have realized that Lira was unsuited to be his boyfriend.  In that case, perhaps Harvey might have befriended Lira and tried to give him hope, as he did with other young people, without becoming involved romantically with him.  But I’m not sure.  Maybe Harvey’s need for someone was so great, after Scott left, that he would have plunged into this unwise relationship anyway.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 04:26:20 PM

2.)  When the Board of Supervisors sat to elect their president Harvey refused to make the vote unanimous for Diane Feinstein in a courtesy vote - saying 'I'm not concerned about the Emily Post attitude to life.'  In the long run would intransigence like this have gotten in his way as a politician?  In response to Harvey's 'hope' line Diane Feinstein said 'Hope is fine, but you can't live on hope.'  Had he lived do you think they would have continued to clash?  What do you think was the basis of their conflict?


Harvey was always independent; he did things his way, and devil take the hindmost.  IMO Harvey and Feinstein would have always clashed -- she was an ally of business interests and conservative gays; Harvey was a liberal whose following were radical gay activistis.  Harvey was an in-your-face politician; Feinstein was a modrate from a well to do background. Feinstein was careful of her political career; Harvey was a risk taker -- he courted the gay activists and radicals among his constituents.  IMO the  only thing that would have brought them together was mutual political benefit. IMO they were never buddies.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 28, 2009, 04:28:39 PM
Re Goodstein and Q. 3

I think this is another case where personality and politics both clashed. Goodstein wanted to be a kingmaker, wielding political influence but not officially in politics. He believed strongly in the alliance with liberal democratic politicians and he believed that being too "out there" would alienate them and make things worse for gays. He also didn't like an outsider like Harvey coming in and demanding that he lead the parade; SF was his territory and Harvey knew nothing about how politics worked as far as he was concerned. Further, he and his allies felt that with liberals in office they were really starting to get somewhere: repeal of the sodomy law, a D.A. who wasn't prosecuting gays, people who would put forth gay rights legislation in Sacramento and in Congress. And Harvey wanted to go in and upset the apple cart. I think he sincerely believed that Harvey would be disastrous for the gay cause.

Goodstein thought Harvey was crazy and would "embarrass the shit out of us." Hippies, populists and out queens were not his thing. He tried to stop contributions and he supported more moderate and less strident gay voices. When Harvey finally won, Goodstein was eager to cozy up to him. He tried to draw Harvey into his political circle. But Harvey had already put Goodstein on his enemies list as a spineless collaborator who cared more about being comfortable than putting gay rights at the top of his agenda. Goodstein was part of the elite and an Uncle Tom.

I suspect part of the enmity was that Goodstein was almost exactly what Harvey had been like before he was converted by the events of the late '60s and the change in attitude of young and militant gays. Harvey had left that man behind, but I think he still felt some guilt or shame that he had been like that. Converts tend to be the most convinced and militant supporters of the faith they convert to. And Goodstein really did feel what I would call some homophobia towards the more flamboyant members of the community. How gays in the Castro actually lived was something he'd have preferred to keep secret--it embarrassed him to be put in the same box with them.

Yes, the rivalry was petty in the face of Prop. 6 and the anti-gay ordinances being passed across the country, but I think it would have simmered, whatever they might do in public. Goodstein was waiting to jump on any setback that could be blamed on Harvey, and Harvey was not above taking jabs at Goodstein whenever he had an opportunity.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 04:41:26 PM
Jenny, that's a very good and in-depth analysis of Question 3.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 28, 2009, 04:50:03 PM
Sorry for a stupid question, but is Goodstein the one who had to do with the Advocate?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 04:56:35 PM
Sorry for a stupid question, but is Goodstein the one who had to do with the Advocate?



Yes, Fritz.  Not a stupid question at all.

Goodstein boughtht The Advocate at some point after he'd been a gay politician for some time.

Somewhat stupid answer, but that's just off the top of my head without looking for the reference in the book.  I could find details later (or someone else probably will).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 04:59:32 PM
Sorry for a stupid question, but is Goodstein the one who had to do with the Advocate?

Yes Fritz - David Goodstein was the publisher of the advocate.  Here's his obit:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E2D61139F935A15755C0A963948260

Here's the wikipedia article on the 'Advocate':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Advocate

Here is a 'where are they now' piece that may help with individual players:

http://www.filminfocus.com/article/where_are_they_now_

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 05:01:12 PM
Here is the second set of question.  Sorry for the delay - but I found this set particularly hard to do....

17.) Cleve Jones told Harvey that if Proposition 6 passed he thought there would be riots - and Harvey responds that he hopes their would be.  Do you think there would have been violence if it had passed?  What do you make of Harvey's reaction?  How do you think that his reaction fits in with other psychological reactions covered in the book - the apathy that some people felt and the fear that some professionals felt?

18.) Why do you think that John Briggs tried to go to Halloween on Polk Street?  Do you think he was trying to provoke an incident?  As the public didn't much like him as a spokesperson, do you think it would have made any difference if there had been violence against him?

19.) When Harvey heard the news that Dan White had resigned he said 'Now I've got my sixth vote.'  He spent most of the weekend calling people saying the same thing.  Do you think that this got back to Dan White?  Do you think that (given his response to the psychiatric treatment facility vote) he held a grudge regarding this?  Do you think that this - and Harvey's insistance that he not be re-instated on the Board of Supervisors was why Dan White went after Harvey after he shot Moscone?

20.) John Molinari noticed that Dan White seemed relieved after he resigned.  That's why he was surprised after White said he wanted his seat back.  What do you think the Realtors and P.O.A. said to him to convince him to ask for his job back?  What do you make of his change of mind?

21.) Moscone first offered White his seat back and then decided not to.  Do you think Harvey had a major effect on his decision to do this?  A police beat reporter read graffiti on the police station bathroom wall that read 'Who's going to get the mayor?'  Do you think this supports what Margo St. James said regarding a plot to kill the mayor - or was this meaningless?

22.) Harvey told Doug Franks that Dan White was dangerous and that he was a closet case.  Why do you think he thought that?  Do you think that Harvey was just picking a personal fight with Dan White - much like he had with Diane Feinstein and David Goodstein?  Do you think that Harvey really believed that Dan White was a closet case?  Why do you think he asserted that Dan White of mental instability?

23.) Prior to Moscone's decision Dan white told a reporter from a gay newspaper "Let me tell you right now, I've got a real surprise for the gay community--a real surprise."  What do you think he meant by this?  He told a television interviewer that when the smoke cleared he would be a supervisor again.  Do you think he intended to get back onto the Board and fight the gay community?  Or do you think he had already decided to assassinate George Moscone and Harvey Milk?

24.) What do you make of Harvey's note to Tom O'Horgan and his desire to make small talk on the night before his death.  Do you think he had a feeling about what was coming - or do you think that we just think that in hindsight looking at the events of his life?

25.) Given that White loaded his Smith & Wesson, got hollow point bullets and entered City Hall through a lab window, do you think he had already made his decision to kill Moscone and Milk before meeting with them?

26.) Do you think that if Diane Feinstein had been able to get to Dan White first and talk with him that she would have been able to stop him from murdering Harvey Milk?  Or do you think that given that her aide stopped him between killing Moscone and Milk do you think he had already made his mind up?

27.) What do you think of the tapes that Harvey left?  What do you think of his choices for who should succeed him?  Are you surprised that he was still fighting his 'enemies' from the grave?  What of the message to carry on and come out?

28.) What are your thoughts regarding the memories of various people after Harvey's death - Tom O'Horgan, Medora Payne, Frank Robinson, Joe Campbell, Scott Smith and the unnamed labor leader?  What did you find particularly touching at this point in the book?

29.) On the night of Harvey Milk & George Moscone's assassination 40,000 people walked from Castro Street to City Hall in memorial for the slain leaders with candles.  What do you think of this tribute?  Do you think Harvey would have liked it?  In the movie 'The Times of Harvey Milk' a man is reported to have yelled to the crowds "Where is your anger?"  Do you think this response was appropriate - or do you think the crowd should have been angry?

30.) Were you surprised to hear that originally George Moscone's body alone was going to lie in the City Hall rotunda?

31.) Joe Campbell commented to Robert Milk that 'Harvey left a lot of fractures in his life.  He was rash and left a lot of things behind.  We're just some of the fractures.'  And yet when lesbians and gay men passed out flowers to strangers later that day people had already started talking about the Harvey Milk legend.  What do you think that it says about the complexity of Harvey's life and his message that both of these things occured on the same day?

32.) The book presents many stories of the effects of the death - including the story of Steve Hollonzine and Rick Stokes and the dreams of Scott Smith and Cleve Jones.  Which of these stories particularly affected you? 

33.) On November 18, 1978 Leo Ryan and four other people were killed in Jonestown, Guyana and 909 temple members, many from the bay area, died from homicide or suicide.  Then on November 27, 1978 Dan White killed Moscone and Milk.  What do you think the cumulative effects of these events were on the city and its people.  How do you think the nation and the world viewed these events?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 28, 2009, 05:09:32 PM
Thanks, Debbie and Michael!

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 05:33:56 PM
Here is the second set of question.  Sorry for the delay - but I found this set particularly hard to do....

Wow, Michael!   :o

No need to apologize for the delay -- we've only just begun on the first set.

I see some really thought-provoking questions here right off, and I think they will be particularly hard to answer......

So I hope we can plod away, in no particular hurry.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 05:35:07 PM
I see some really thought-provoking questions here right off, and I think they will be particularly hard to answer......

 :'( :'( :'(

You bet.  No hurry!  This was a tough set to do.  I think I'm going to go out for a walk now....
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 05:52:03 PM


4.)  Jack Lira behaved strangely at the inaugural dinner - yet Harvey told Tory Hartmann that he was 'the love of his life.'  Why do you think Harvey was attracted to him?  Do you think Lira's odd behavior made Harvey feel needed?  How do you compare the relationship with Lira to the relationship with Scott Smith?


Again, Harvey was attracted to a young man who had problems with substance abuse and alcohol.  Even though Harvey's friends warned him away from Lira, Harvey said he was helping out  a 'troubled kid' and that he was 'dynamite sex.'  Even though Harvey's attraction to needy, flawed, young men seemed to form a pattern, sex was always at the heart of his relationships.

 While Harvey was out playing with Lira, Scott stayed at the Camera Shop working on the campaign and running the business.  Lira was Harvey's boy toy -- he had no responsibilities, indeed, he offered no help, and hung around watching TV or drinking with friends.  If Harvey was aware of the feuding Scott and Lira, he made no attempt to encourage Lira to become part of his campaign. While Scott worked doggedly on, Lira and Harvey continued their sexual trysts.  Scott was the worker bee; Lira was the queen.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 05:52:54 PM
I see some really thought-provoking questions here right off, and I think they will be particularly hard to answer......

 :'( :'( :'(

You bet.  No hurry!  This was a tough set to do.  I think I'm going to go out for a walk now....

...maybe you need a drink ;) ;)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 06:24:46 PM


5.)  Do you think that Dan White was out of his depth in City Hall?  Do you think his election shows a flaw in the district elections that Harvey had fought so hard for?  Do you think that part of Harvey's tolerance for White was due to the fact that White came to the board directly as a result of district elections?


White reflected working-class, traditional, Catholic San Francisco - conservative and religious. His election didn't show a flaw anymore than the election of other neophytes to big city politics,  but he was untried and new to the game.  Harvey felt he could teach White -- he thought White was just 'stupid' and filled with a lot of prejudices. White seemed to reflect a number of repressed issues which was reflected in his uptight demeanor. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 06:49:07 PM
5.)  Do you think that Dan White was out of his depth in City Hall?  Do you think his election shows a flaw in the district elections that Harvey had fought so hard for?  Do you think that part of Harvey's tolerance for White was due to the fact that White came to the board directly as a result of district elections?

I don’t think Dan White was temperamentally suited for a job as supervisor, because of flaws in his personality.  But I don’t think it follows that there was a flaw in the concept of district elections. 

On the night of White’s post-campaign fund raiser, Doris Silvestri noticed that White seemed “wound up too tight,” robotic, and programmed, rather than interacting in a normal fashion with the crowd.  His behavior during a softball game which was supposed to be “just for fun” was too rigid, and he argued with the umpire when calls didn’t go his way.  Since he was a political novice with a police and fire background, Dianne Feinstein attempted to mentor him.  But he was a poor study, mainly because he wouldn’t compromise and couldn’t stand to lose on votes.

More than likely, another candidate who might have been elected from District 8 would have shared White’s conservative background, and perhaps the police and/or fire background.  But another candidate might have been better able to interact with people.  Surely some other District 8 candidate would not have had those same character and personality flaws that White had. 

Harvey didn’t seem to notice White’s personality flaws at first, and was more concerned with White’s conservative voting stance.  That, in turn, he attributed to ignorance; he tolerated White, in part, because White was a novice.  Harvey kept saying “He’ll learn” and “he’s educatable.”  Harvey must have realized that district elections had allowed one conservative vote to slip onto the board, because District 8 ended up being a conservative district.  But I think Harvey still would have been proud of the diversity which those elections had produced.  So he probably tended to think of White more as an individual who could be persuaded to soften his stance, rather than as the inevitable result of district elections. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 07:00:50 PM


6.)  Harvey said 'I'm number one queen now.  You can work with me or fight me.  But if you fight me, be ready for me to do my best to make sure you don't get reelected.'  Does this attitude seem productive to you?  What do you think Harvey was trying to do with this attitude - was he attempting to act as a power broker for the gay electorate?  Was this attitude a holdover from the contentious elections that brought him to power?


Harvey threw down the gauntlet and issued his challenge which stemmed from his usual mantra: You're never given power, you've got to take it.  Harvey was fighting for his gay constituency, and this attitude had made him a power in the Castro and beyond.  This could have been counterproductive in another time and another place, but it worked here in SF.  Moscone ordered that gay complaints be funneled through Milk, and promised to appoint a gay member to the Police Commission.  In return, Milk became Moscone's strongest political ally on the board.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 07:15:44 PM


7.)  Harvey was the lone dissenting vote on a resolution that asked the Pentagon not to close the Presidio.  The Presidio eventually closed in 1995 and is now a National Park.  Do you think that this shows foresight on Harvey's part and was part of his focus on neighborhoods?  Or was he merely being contrary and a thorn in Diane Feinstein's side?


Yes it does show forfesight.   Harvey thought it would make a good park -- now it is.  He also thought it would make good housing for senior citizens, one of his favorite interest groups.  At the same time, by closing the Presidio, the less SF had to do with the military, the better.  It did seem that Harvey was being a thorn in Feinstein's side, but his reasons were valid --  a park and sr.citizen housing were worthy concepts.  If at the same time, Feirnstein got screwed in the fallout, so much the better.  Harvey never seemed concerned about her opposition.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 07:26:20 PM

8.)  Harvey recounts a story (to Michael Wong) of a fund raising dinner where he suggests that, regarding donors he does not agree with, that he will cash their checks and 'screw the donors.'  Does his attitude seem naive to you?  Do you think he would be shooting himself in the foot in the long run with this attitude if he ever wanted to run for higher office?


He definitely would. It's not only naive, it's dishonest and disingenuous. It would ruin any future he had for higher office once the story got out -- and it would! 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 28, 2009, 07:34:46 PM
It's almost bedtime for me, so I hope to continue in the afternoon tomorrow.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 07:38:47 PM

9.)  The initial conflict between Harvey and Dan White concerned a psychiatric treatment center in Dan White's district.  What is your opinion of the way Harvey handled this incident?  Given Harvey's political beliefs would it have been better for him to tell White from the beginning that he supported the institution?


It's  like the NIMBY issue that causes so much furor in many neighborhoods.  Voters usually hate this type of faciility in their neighborhoods, and White knew how to pander to the constituents.  It sounded like Harvey hadn't given much thought to the issue  to begin with,  and when he decided to switch his vote he should have mentioned it to White, since he had indicated he was voting with White originally. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 28, 2009, 08:16:59 PM

10.) After Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center Dan White voted against the gay rights ordinance.  Yet even after this Harvey maintained there was a difference between Dan White's oposition and Diane Feinstein's reservations.  Do you agree with Harvey's viewpoint?  Why would Harvey continue to believe this, given that Diane Feinstein eventually supported the gay rights ordinance?  What do you make of the change in Dan White's attitude toward the ordinance after Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center?


The difference between White's opposition and Feinstein's reservations against the gay rights ordinance was personal on White's part.  White was retaliating against Harvey for his vote against the psychiatric treatment center,while Feinstein felt the right of an individual to live his own lifestyle "can become offensive to others."  Later she overcame her concerns and voted for the bill.  Harvey always felt Feinstein was intelligent enough to be more progressive, while White's "conservatism stemmed from ignorance."

White felt a sense of betrayal on Harvey's part - - he had persuaded Feinstein to appoint Harvey to the committee governing the city bus system. He also said, regarding the psychiatric center,  "Harvey voted against me, so I voted against Harvey."  White barely spoke to Harvey later, and began to align himself with downtown corporations and real estate developers - a group Harvey violently opposed.



Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 28, 2009, 10:26:03 PM
Quote
4.)  Jack Lira behaved strangely at the inaugural dinner - yet Harvey told Tory Hartmann that he was 'the love of his life.'  Why do you think Harvey was attracted to him?  Do you think Lira's odd behavior made Harvey feel needed?  How do you compare the relationship with Lira to the relationship with Scott Smith?

I find the riddle of Harvey's choice of men fascinating. Obviously he liked young men, and he also seems to have liked playing the role of mentor. He felt for the kids struggling with coming out and their identity as gay men; by 1973 he saw himself as a champion and, to some extent, role model for them. Sexual attraction and passion was clearly very important: Harvey had pretty insatiable appetites, and I think sex was a way of draining some of that all-consuming driven feeling away. It's very likely, too, that he needed to be needed, both because it bolstered his self-esteem and because it made love safer: someone is less likely to leave you if they need you.

Jack Lira was the most damaged, IMO, though Jack McKinley runs a close second. He was an alcoholic by the time Harvey met him, and accustomed to being pampered. He clearly needed to be taken care of and wanted to be the center of attention. He was, apparently, irresistibly attractive to Harvey as a sexual partner, and his lack of interest in politics and inability to converse intelligently were pluses: Harvey didn't have to try to really have a life with him, he could coast on sex and sweet gestures. He also needed to be saved; he had a father who had rejected him and no real friends, since they abandoned him when his drinking and moodiness got to be too much. What is interesting is that Harvey held onto him for so long, despite the drunkenness, the failure to even try at any of the jobs Harvey got for him, and the tantrums. Jack liked the idea of being at the side of a powerful man, but he couldn't deal with the level of exposure; I suspect it triggered all of his feelings of self-hatred. He was an embarrassment, partially because he was testing Harvey's devotion by creating scenes.

The explanation of codependency that Anne Kronenberg found so compelling fits pretty well; codependents are very often high-energy overachievers who think of themselves as helpers and find dealing with others' problems distracts them from their own and bolsters their self-esteem. It would be interesting to know if there were any alcohol problems in Harvey's family: there don't seem to have been. It's not necessary to have grown up with it to develop codependency, however. Harvey's mother may have modeled codependency in helping Bill Milk get through life; he sounds like a restless drifter who had a lot of social deficiencies, some of which Harvey also had, but none of Harvey's charm. He wasn't nearly as problematic as Jack Lira, of course, but he doesn't sound as if he was particularly successful; he worked in his father's business but his father wouldn't allow him to run it, preferring to sell. All speculation, of course.

I agree with you, Debby, that Scott sounds as if he came the closest to being a real partner to Harvey. He managed the store, he managed Harvey's first few campaigns and continued to help support him both financially and politically even after their sexual relationship ended. He was there when Harvey was a Hippie who was part of Tom O'Horgan's circle, working on Hair, and he was there when Harvey was a footloose adventurer driving through California. He had met and been with Harvey during his happiest days. He was young and Harvey got him jobs, but he was not terribly damaged emotionally and doesn't seem to have had a substance abuse problem. I think Harvey fought with Scott because he loved him and felt he was losing him (which he was, because of his single-minded obsession with politics.) But neither of them could really cut the cord, even after Harvey got himself a clingy trophy wife. Scott was probably Harvey's most emotionally important partner, even though Joe Campbell was his first and lasted longest.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 28, 2009, 11:34:33 PM
I find the riddle of Harvey's choice of men fascinating. Obviously he liked young men, and he also seems to have liked playing the role of mentor. He felt for the kids struggling with coming out and their identity as gay men; by 1973 he saw himself as a champion and, to some extent, role model for them. Sexual attraction and passion was clearly very important: Harvey had pretty insatiable appetites, and I think sex was a way of draining some of that all-consuming driven feeling away. It's very likely, too, that he needed to be needed, both because it bolstered his self-esteem and because it made love safer: someone is less likely to leave you if they need you.

Jack Lira was the most damaged, IMO, though Jack McKinley runs a close second.

I certainly agree.  But it does make me wonder about something - do you think Harvey lost interest in the men that he mentored if or when they become independent?  The relationships with both Joe Campbell and Scott Smith seemed to have lost passion after they became stronger - Joe Campbell started hanging with the Warhol crowd and Scott Smith worked well with Harvey during the (many) campaigns and proved himself competent.  I wonder if that cooled Harvey's ardor?

I came across a reference to one of Harvey's earlier relationships from a different perspective in 'Stonewall' by Martin Duberman.  It talks about Craig Rodwell's relationship with Harvey and subsequent suicide attempt (Harvey left Rodwell after he gave him an std) - Rodwell was 20 and fell apart when Harvey left him.  However, he went on to a very active (and activist) life.  Rodwell was a power in his own right - he opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop two years before Stonewall.

There's sort of a dichotomy in Harvey's boyfriends - or so it seems to me.  Some were really damaged - like Lira - and some actually did reasonably well (or really well in the case of Rodwell).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 06:34:47 AM
I find the riddle of Harvey's choice of men fascinating. Obviously he liked young men, and he also seems to have liked playing the role of mentor. He felt for the kids struggling with coming out and their identity as gay men; by 1973 he saw himself as a champion and, to some extent, role model for them. Sexual attraction and passion was clearly very important: Harvey had pretty insatiable appetites, and I think sex was a way of draining some of that all-consuming driven feeling away. It's very likely, too, that he needed to be needed, both because it bolstered his self-esteem and because it made love safer: someone is less likely to leave you if they need you.

Jack Lira was the most damaged, IMO, though Jack McKinley runs a close second.

I certainly agree.  But it does make me wonder about something - do you think Harvey lost interest in the men that he mentored if or when they become independent?  The relationships with both Joe Campbell and Scott Smith seemed to have lost passion after they became stronger - Joe Campbell started hanging with the Warhol crowd and Scott Smith worked well with Harvey during the (many) campaigns and proved himself competent.  I wonder if that cooled Harvey's ardor?

I came across a reference to one of Harvey's earlier relationships from a different perspective in 'Stonewall' by Martin Duberman.  It talks about Craig Rodwell's relationship with Harvey and subsequent suicide attempt (Harvey left Rodwell after he gave him an std) - Rodwell was 20 and fell apart when Harvey left him.  However, he went on to a very active (and activist) life.  Rodwell was a power in his own right - he opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop two years before Stonewall.

There's sort of a dichotomy in Harvey's boyfriends - or so it seems to me.  Some were really damaged - like Lira - and some actually did reasonably well (or really well in the case of Rodwell).

There also seems to be a parallel between Harvey's rise up the political ladder and his neglect or loss of interest in his BFF of the moment.  Politics becomes all consuming for Harvey, and  since he needs Scott to run the shop, business, and campaign, and Scott is good at it and wants to do it, he is the only one who was a permanent fixture in Harvey's life.  None of the other BFFs had the abilitiy that Scott had or, if they did, they were too unstable emotionally to give evidence of it. On the other hand, maybe Harvey didn't like his boy friends to be anything more than a sex partner.  Remember Campbell finally got tired of being a sex toy, and McKinley had his own problems. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 09:55:13 AM
6.)  Harvey said 'I'm number one queen now.  You can work with me or fight me.  But if you fight me, be ready for me to do my best to make sure you don't get reelected.'  Does this attitude seem productive to you?  What do you think Harvey was trying to do with this attitude - was he attempting to act as a power broker for the gay electorate?  Was this attitude a holdover from the contentious elections that brought him to power?

Harvey was talking to Mayor George Moscone when he said this.  It does seem like his typical in-your-face politics, and not the kind of language that would be expected from a person in a lesser political position like a new supervisor.  But ultimately, the attitude was productive because he got what he wanted from Moscone. 

As Shilts points out, Harvey was acting on Machiavellian instincts when he insisted that a politician is never “given” power – “you have to take it” [power].  Yes, he was attempting to become the number one power broker for the gay electorate, IMO.  Previously Moscone had been one of the “liberal friends” of the gay moderates, and he had told gays to take their concerns to the Goodstein/Foster/Stokes contingent.  After Harvey not only won his election, but gave his ultimatum to Moscone, Moscone began referring gays to Harvey with their complaints.  Harvey, not Goodstein & Company, now had the power to reach the mayor.

I do think the attitude was a holdover from Harvey’s past encounters with Goodstein & Company, when they had opposed him directly (by withholding endorsements and running other candidates against him) and indirectly (by favoring different strategies to achieve gay rights).  I’m sure Harvey was pleased to have the chance to show Goodstein that he, Harvey, now had the inside track.     

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 10:20:49 AM
7.)  Harvey was the lone dissenting vote on a resolution that asked the Pentagon not to close the Presidio.  The Presidio eventually closed in 1995 and is now a National Park.  Do you think that this shows foresight on Harvey's part and was part of his focus on neighborhoods?  Or was he merely being contrary and a thorn in Diane Feinstein's side?

I remember when base closings were a hot issue, and it seems like every community affected put up a fight to keep their nearest base open.  I’m assuming that concern about losing civilian jobs, and the expected loss of revenue for nearby businesses serving the bases, had a lot to do with this.

Before even considering the issue of personal animosity between Feinstein and Milk, it makes sense that they could be on opposite sides of this issue.  Feinstein supported businesses in general, whereas Milk had visions of bettering neighborhoods.  It’s not a clear-cut distinction here, because I’m guessing that many of the businesses who would be negatively hurt by the base closing could have been small businesses, and the people who might lose jobs could have been local residents of the closest neighborhood.  With this background in mind, I can see Feinstein definitely on the side of keeping the base open.  Harvey, it seems, could have ended up on either side, although his anti-military bias gave him one more reason not to oppose the closing.

In addition, Harvey didn’t feel any necessity to “play nice” and go along with Feinstein, but I don’t think he was striking out just for the sake of being contrary.  He was aware of the beautiful setting of the Presidio, and showed vision, IMO, by imagining that the grounds could be put to use as a park if the base were closed.  His idea to use the base housing for senior citizens is right in line with some of his earlier campaign platforms, because he had long included seniors as one of the groups for whose benefit he intended to work.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 10:49:26 AM
8.)  Harvey recounts a story (to Michael Wong) of a fund raising dinner where he suggests that, regarding donors he does not agree with, that he will cash their checks and 'screw the donors.'  Does his attitude seem naive to you?  Do you think he would be shooting himself in the foot in the long run with this attitude if he ever wanted to run for higher office?

I actually thought that Harvey told the story the way someone would stand up and tell a joke, because he started out by relating the tale of another politician who did that with oil company checks.  The punch line, at the fund raising dinner where Harvey was speaking, came when Harvey said he would do the same thing with the checks he had received that night.

Since many in attendance came from the Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses of all sizes but, in particular, the “downtown business interests” which Harvey opposed, I have no doubt that he would end up working against the interests of some of the donors there.  It occurred to me to wonder why the Chamber of Commerce types would attend the fund raiser in the first place, since they must have realized that Harvey’s positions were opposed to theirs in many ways.  But I think the answer may be that organizations with money, like the Chamber of Commerce, will support politicians on all sides of the spectrum, in an attempt to gain as much influence as they can.

If this is true, then Harvey’s punch line still comes across as humorous.  The donors had come to buy influence, and he wasn’t necessarily going to be bought.  I think both sides were playing a political game and they both knew how it worked.  At least Harvey wasn’t being hypocritical.  There was a “stunned” reaction in the audience, at first, when they heard Harvey actually say it, but finally the audience began to clap, either appreciating the freshness of Harvey’s directness, or out of social nervousness.

I wouldn’t call Harvey’s attitude naïve because I think he knew what he was doing in this instance.  I also think that all politicians spend their funds in the manner that Harvey alluded to.  If they receive donations from all sides, they can’t support legislation to please everyone.  But I do agree that, if he had run for higher office, he would have had to be more circumspect about admitting to an audience how the financing really worked.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 10:59:32 AM


11.) Do you think that Harvey's record of neighborhood activism - getting stop signs for the district, filling in the pot holes and saving the local library and elementary school - is ignored or forgotten when he is remembered solely as an icon of gay activism?  Do you think that this work would have been as important in the long run as his gay activism had he lived?  Do you think that it might have led to his ideal of a more integrated gay community in the long run?


It's hard to answer this, since I don't live there.  Judging from this type of neighborhood activism in Phillly and other areas, I think it would be very important to his constituents, as Harvey said, ...everytime they vote they'll always remember that pothole in front of their house.  This is the sort of day-to-day problem that people face coming and going -- it affects them where they live literally.  As Shilts writes, "Such matters represented the heart of politics [to Harvey]."  Harvey always knew how to appeal to the rank and file; it didn't have to be some arcane matter -- just the ordinary problems that affect people, and Harvey was astute enough to zero in on it.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 11:35:22 AM


12.) Margo St. James was asked by a police contact how she felt about Diane Feinstein for mayor before Moscone was killed.  Her contact goes on to tell her that Moscone will be dead by Christmas.  Do you think that Shilts presents a credible case here that their was an inside plot to kill Moscone?  What is your opinion - do you think that because of the conflicts between Moscone and the police that there was a conspiracy against him?  And does this mean that Harvey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps that his conflicts with Dan White put him in the crosshairs?


It sounds credible to me.  The rank and file hated Moscone and Gain from the beginning -- Moscone for his new-breed liberal bent, and Gain for his remarks about accepting gay cops on the force. Additionally, Moscone had worked out a settlement with the OFJ who had filed a claim citing discrimination against minorities, which the regular cops detested.  The mayor and Civil Service Commission had announced a push to get openly gay cops on the force. The departmental newsletter was constantly filled with letters of complaint.  In such a hate-filled atmosphere, it doesn't surprise me that a murder plot was a viable solution to the FOP's anti-Moscone stance.  I did wonder how  much of Joe the Pig's info was truth, or was he just pulling St.James' leg to get her upset.  Also, did Shilts get this info from a reliable insider or St. James?

As for Harvey, his problems with White were a separate issue altogether.  White's issues with Harvey came to a head when Moscone and Harvey refused to let White rescind his resignation to the board.  I guess you could say that his conflicts with White put him in the crosshairs.  I do wonder if Harvey would not have been killed by someother means, an FOP conspiracy, or a civilian honophobe. Harvey did seem to walk around with a bulls eye on his back IMO.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 29, 2009, 11:46:09 AM

I certainly agree.  But it does make me wonder about something - do you think Harvey lost interest in the men that he mentored if or when they become independent?  The relationships with both Joe Campbell and Scott Smith seemed to have lost passion after they became stronger - Joe Campbell started hanging with the Warhol crowd and Scott Smith worked well with Harvey during the (many) campaigns and proved himself competent.  I wonder if that cooled Harvey's ardor?

I came across a reference to one of Harvey's earlier relationships from a different perspective in 'Stonewall' by Martin Duberman.  It talks about Craig Rodwell's relationship with Harvey and subsequent suicide attempt (Harvey left Rodwell after he gave him an std) - Rodwell was 20 and fell apart when Harvey left him.  However, he went on to a very active (and activist) life.  Rodwell was a power in his own right - he opened the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop two years before Stonewall.

There's sort of a dichotomy in Harvey's boyfriends - or so it seems to me.  Some were really damaged - like Lira - and some actually did reasonably well (or really well in the case of Rodwell).

To some extent: I think Harvey liked being the more sophisticated and experienced one, and as his lover ceased to need his guidance he started to want a new protege. Further, I think his insecurity kicked in: "He doesn't need me any more, so he'll stop loving my less attractive and older self; better to find someone who will need me as he used to before he pulls the plug." But some of it probably had to do with a normal weakening of passion as the relationship continues, to be replaced by the warmth of intimacy and the desire to express one's love physically. I'm not sure if Harvey was willing to accept that; he seems to have felt a need to live at maximum intensity and to experience as much as possible before he reached his (literal) deadline.

I agree with you that Harvey's serious relationships did seem to swing between relatively whole young men and very damaged ones, but Scott Smith followed Craig Rodwell, and Rodwell, though he attempted suicide when Harvey left, proved well able to make a life for himself, and Scott Smith, who was such a rock for Harvey during his entry into politics, needed help to overcome clinical depression after Harvey's death (haven't found anything much about his later life except his death in 1995 of AIDS-related complications.) And then we have Lira. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 11:53:27 AM


13.) Much is made of Harvey's media savvy.  Along with this Randy Shilts says that 'thinly veiled queer joking was always considered good copy in San Francisco paper.'  Do you think that Harvey's style of media manipulation would work today - or would the public see through this now?  Would the 'queer joking' offend people now?  Regarding the pooper scooper law Harvey said 'all over the country people are reading about me and the story doesn't center on me being gay - it's just about a gay person who is doing his job.'  Do you think that this would have caused Harvey to gain more widespread support at the time, given the backlash going on in the country then?  Do you think he was too humorous about his job - that he was in danger of becoming making himself look silly?


Harvey could still manipulate the press today IMO.  He knew how the media craved a sound bite, and the public practically salivates over any titillating story about public figures.  He thought that politics was theater and the press were the reviewers.  The more you got your name in the papers, the more famous you became.  Robinson said, "Harvey and newspapers were made for each other; they were bound to have a love affair."  The public today might see through it, but I believe they would still enjoy it.  The 'queer joking' might offend people today -- unless you lived in SF.

I think Harvey was being a bit naive to think that the story only centered on 'a gay person who was  just doing his job.'  Given the backlash against gays at that time, I don't think it mattered how good a job a gay man was doing.  There would still have been a negative reaction if he was gay.

I believe Harvey's sense of humor could have reduced his job to absurdity, if he didn't soft pedal it.  Politics was serious business, and Harvey didn't appear always to be serious even though he got results.  There was a bit too  much devil-may-care in his attitude.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 11:59:07 AM
9.)  The initial conflict between Harvey and Dan White concerned a psychiatric treatment center in Dan White's district.  What is your opinion of the way Harvey handled this incident?  Given Harvey's political beliefs would it have been better for him to tell White from the beginning that he supported the institution?

Just based on the information that Shilts presents, I can’t fault Harvey too much for the way he handled the incident.  He and White were both new supervisors, and since the issue concerned a local matter in White’s district, I can believe that it was “before learning much about the issue” that Harvey indicated he would probably vote with White to oppose the center. 

Harvey was probably caught off-guard when White initially asked for his support; if he’d heard anything at all about the issue, it was probably White’s campaign rhetoric about “arsonists, rapists and other criminals” coming to the site of the former convent.  Harvey’s initial impression may have been that this would, indeed, be bad for White’s neighborhood.  A vote against the center might have fallen in line with Harvey’s political philosophy, if that was the full story about the center.

I don’t see how Harvey could have told White from the beginning that he supported the institution (i.e., that he was going to oppose White), because I don’t think he did support it at that time.  Shilts says that it was only after Harvey learned more about the center that he considered switching his vote.  In the end, when Harvey learned that San Francisco children would be sent to a state hospital far away from their families, this new information caused him to change his viewpoint, and support the center.  This newfound support for the center also seems to agree with Harvey’s political philosophy about protecting neighborhoods, and neighborhood children.

Perhaps Harvey should have been more candid initially and told White that he needed time to look into the matter, so that White would not later feel betrayed.  But Harvey probably didn’t consider his initial statement about probable support to be a firm promise, and he could not have foreseen the quirks in White’s personality which made White hate so much to lose anything.  In other words, I don’t feel that Harvey could have predicted that White would feel betrayed.  And he shouldn’t have been expected to understand that a fellow politician – in a game where favors were often traded – would take a matter like this so personally.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 12:32:25 PM
10.) After Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center Dan White voted against the gay rights ordinance.  Yet even after this Harvey maintained there was a difference between Dan White's opposition and Diane Feinstein's reservations.  Do you agree with Harvey's viewpoint?  Why would Harvey continue to believe this, given that Diane Feinstein eventually supported the gay rights ordinance?  What do you make of the change in Dan White's attitude toward the ordinance after Harvey voted for the psychiatric treatment center?

I understand what Harvey was talking about regarding the difference between White and Feinstein in their negative remarks about a gay rights ordinance, but I think he oversimplifies things.  He felt, at one point, that Feinstein was intelligent enough to be more progressive, and that her reservations stemmed from her extreme sense of propriety.  But he thought that ignorance accounted for White’s conservatism, and hence, his opposition.

Harvey was right about Feinstein, IMO (and she did eventually vote for the measure, showing no personal animosity toward Harvey).  But I think Harvey got White’s motivation wrong, in this case.  Yes, White was conservative, but his earlier statements at a committee meeting (when he talked about his combat experiences with “blacks, Chinese, gays, whites”) showed that White could be in favor of ending discrimination, including discrimination against gays.

What happened to change White’s mind, between then and the final vote on the gay rights measure, was that Harvey had just voted against White’s pet issue and major campaign promise (to oppose the psychiatric center).  IMO, White’s subsequent vote against the gay rights ordinance was a retaliatory strike against Harvey.  He admitted it to Dick Pabich:  “Harvey voted against me, so I voted against Harvey.”  This section of the book also discloses that White had once helped get Harvey an appointment to the bus system committee, but now, in White’s eyes, Harvey had betrayed him.  Again, White took it personally:  he helped Harvey; Harvey betrayed him.  Therefore, retaliation was called for.

I probably sound very prejudiced against Dan White, in light of his later role in the book.  But even if that tragedy hadn’t occurred, I think his kind of black-or-white, all-or-nothing attitude shows immaturity and was a poor characteristic for a politician.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 01:06:31 PM
11.) Do you think that Harvey's record of neighborhood activism - getting stop signs for the district, filling in the pot holes and saving the local library and elementary school - is ignored or forgotten when he is remembered solely as an icon of gay activism?  Do you think that this work would have been as important in the long run as his gay activism had he lived?  Do you think that it might have led to his ideal of a more integrated gay community in the long run?

I have to qualify my statement the same way Nikki did hers, by saying that, since I don’t live in San Francisco or in the Castro, I don’t know how well Harvey is remembered there for what Shilts calls his “alderman brand of realpolitik.”  For as much of Harvey’s legend as survives nationally, I think this aspect of his politics is largely forgotten, because across the country, people looked up to him as a gay icon and weren’t affected by local issues like stop signs and pot holes.

However, this neighborhood activism showed a different side of Harvey than what we think of if we remember him solely as a gay activist.  Stop signs, pot holes, street sweeping, schools and libraries are important to any neighborhood.  If he had lived, I think this work would have continued to be important, especially for as long as he remained in city government where he could really do something about these issues.  If he’d gone on to an Assembly seat later on, he would have had less influence over these local matters.  It’s worth noting that, even in the beginning, he gained a lot of respect for taking on and solving these problems which at first glance appear to be minor annoyances.  “Even Harvey’s most bitter opponents soon had to admit that Harvey was not the disaster they had predicted he would be,” writes Shilts.

Michael, in your Question 11, when you refer to an “integrated gay community,” I assume you’re tying this in with demographic patterns in the Castro area, and  mean an integrated gay/straight community, where heterosexuals don’t all move out when gays move in?  So I’ll answer the question in that way:

Problems like stop signs, pot holes, street sweeping, schools and libraries affect everyone in a neighborhood, not just gays.  There were a lot of other issues working against the likelihood of maintaining integrated gay/straight neighborhoods at that time (and the onset of AIDS would work against it even more, IMO), but I think that basic neighborhood improvement work like Harvey was doing would have helped increase the likelihood of maintaining an integrated community.  His work would have helped give the neighborhood a reputation for being a good place to live.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 02:52:50 PM
12.) Margo St. James was asked by a police contact how she felt about Diane Feinstein for mayor before Moscone was killed.  Her contact goes on to tell her that Moscone will be dead by Christmas.  Do you think that Shilts presents a credible case here that there was an inside plot to kill Moscone?  What is your opinion - do you think that because of the conflicts between Moscone and the police that there was a conspiracy against him?  And does this mean that Harvey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps that his conflicts with Dan White put him in the crosshairs?

I found the story of Margo St. James and police officer “Joe the Pig” to be creepy, whether or not there was actually a police plot to kill Moscone.  There are several ways to analyze the credibility of her story, starting by looking for some way that it might be false. 

First, Shilts could have made the story up, but I think he’s a better journalist than that, and his references (Margo St. James, to start with) could have been checked by others, so I’m ruling that out. 

Second, a somewhat more likely possibility is that St. James made up the story after-the-fact, after Moscone had been killed, and told Shilts a false story because of the shock value, or to get attention for herself.  Some people might be inclined to disbelieve her testimony, given that she was the organizer of a group representing the interests of prostitutes.  But Shilts may have checked out her story with other sources: by locating her police contact, “Joe the Pig,” or by talking to Moscone’s office to see whether he did in fact receive a warning and get a bodyguard during the August before his death.

Third, it’s possible that “Joe the Pig” was just trying to impress St. James with his supposed insider knowledge, and that he really knew of no plot to kill the mayor now, and had known of no plot to kill Police Chief Charles Gain the previous year.  But the way he explained the sequence of events to her (the right-wing police hated Chief Gain, but hadn’t been able to “get” him, so had decided to “do the next best thing and get the guy [Moscone] who put him there”) sounds like the way an assassination plot might unfold.

So I don’t see anything in here that would disprove Shilts’ case, but I still find it creepy and somewhat hard to  believe.  Perhaps if he could give evidence that there had actually been a failed plot against the police chief, this would give more credibility to the idea that Moscone was targeted a year later as the next best thing.  I do, however, believe that Shilts presents ample evidence throughout other chapters of the book to demonstrate why the rank-and-file police might WANT to do away with Gain or Moscone.  I am just not sure that the police would have done such a criminal and immoral act; but, we were in the era of political assassinations, after all.

If there really was a plot to kill the mayor, there are several reasons why Dan White might have been selected to carry it out.  He was an unlikely suspect who wouldn’t have raised eyebrows when he went to City Hall to do his job, and he might have been able to find a way to get the mayor alone when the bodyguard wouldn’t have been watching.  White’s police background probably meant that he was a good marksman, and his conservative political position might have made him willing to kill the liberal Moscone.  Perhaps White, who badly needed money, was even paid to do it.  If any of this is true, then White might have been recruited to kill Moscone, and decided for himself to take on the extra task of killing Harvey because of the recent personal animosity between them.

This all makes sense on one level, but I also still find it quite incredible.  We can piece together for ourselves some reasons why it could be true, I don’t think Shilts really laid out a case for why the deaths were part of a grand plot.  He didn't take it step-by-step, as a prosecuting attorney would, and I don't think that was his intent in this book.  The book still left me feeling that the murders were the work of one unstable killer acting on his own. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 05:01:10 PM


14.) Art Agnos speculated that Harvey wanted to become mayor - and Harvey as much as told Michael Wong the same thing.  If he had lived do you think that he would have tried to become mayor?  Do you think he would succeed the first time - and if he did not, would he continue to fight to become mayor like he did to become supervisor?


Definitely.  He was already mending fences with Foster, Stokes, and Goodstein -- gays who had opposed him.  Harvey was also building bridges with Moscone and Agnos -- trying to get back in their good graces, and he was making overtures to Chinese voters.  Agnos thought Harvey would run and win.  Wong thought SF wasn't ready for a gay mayor, but Harvey wasn't so sure, and thought it wouldn't hurt to let people know he was interested in the job. Harvey told Baird that anyone could be mayor if they worked hard, and he had proved that when he ran for supervisor.

Yes, there was a good possibility that Harvey would have succeeded in becoming mayor in the future.  By now, he had name recognition -- he was the Mayor of Castro St,-- the gay constituency was a lock, and he had already won the unions, the fire fighters, and the construction trades.  He was the darling of the press, and would have used them to further his ambition to become mayor -- the press would have loved this story for the headlines alone, "First Gay Supervisor Becomes First Gay Mayor."  With his penchant for politics as theater, Harvey would have held rallies and parades, again with press coverage.  IMO he probably would have succeeded in the first run for mayor!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 05:37:38 PM
13.) Much is made of Harvey's media savvy.  Along with this Randy Shilts says that 'thinly veiled queer joking was always considered good copy in San Francisco paper.'  Do you think that Harvey's style of media manipulation would work today - or would the public see through this now?  Would the 'queer joking' offend people now?  Regarding the pooper scooper law Harvey said 'all over the country people are reading about me and the story doesn't center on me being gay - it's just about a gay person who is doing his job.'  Do you think that this would have caused Harvey to gain more widespread support at the time, given the backlash going on in the country then?  Do you think he was too humorous about his job - that he was in danger of becoming making himself look silly?

Some of Harvey’s approaches to manipulating the media would still work today – for example, the way he managed to get press attention when he served as acting mayor while Moscone was on vacation.  Holding a press conference as the first openly gay (acting) mayor gave him a chance to talk seriously about the themes of his typical hope speech.  Parking the mayor’s limousine on Castro Street still would be all right.

But the ‘thinly veiled queer joking’ might be considered inappropriate today when there’s so much concern about being politically correct.  Not all of this joking was done by Harvey, I would like to note; that which was done by the press (“number one most ineligible bachelor,” for example) would come off as more offensive today than anything a politician like Harvey might say about himself.  It’s always more acceptable to poke fun at yourself (or your group) than to poke fun at someone or some group from the outside.  Harvey’s speculation about the mayor’s desk as a seduction site was just a comment to his friends, so I see no harm in that.  The quip to reporters, at a business opening, about “cutting the ribbon and then wearing it” seems funny and harmless, but he could have been in danger of making himself look silly if he kept that up for too long in situations where the public expected more seriousness and decorum.

As for the pooper-scooper law, Harvey referred to “people all over the country” looking at his anti-dog-shit campaign and seeing that he was just a gay person doing a job for the benefit of all the people.  I do agree that this was a popular cause with broad appeal to heterosexuals as well as gays – to anyone who walks outside.  IMO, this would have caused him to gain support, if people actually identified the pooper-scooper movement with this one man in San Francisco, and realized that that man was gay.  With the backlash against gays going on at the time, some people would have stopped paying attention the minute they realized that this was the pet project of a gay man, but not everyone in the country was part of that backlash; some might have had their eyes opened a little.

However, I just don’t remember enough of the facts on the pooper-scooper issue to know whether people across the country would have credited a gay San Francisco supervisor with the idea.  I remember when pooper-scooper stories made the local news here, and the idea got a lot of attention and support.  But I don’t remember whether local pooper-scooper efforts came about as a result of Harvey’s efforts in San Francisco.  Was he a pioneer on this subject?  Does anyone remember? 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 06:25:41 PM


15.) Harvey became central in the fight against the Briggs Initiative.  Do you think that he was essential in winning the campaign against the Briggs Initiative?  What do you think of his campaign - was it a good idea to debate Briggs in Fullerton and throughout the state?  Do you think it was a good idea for him to form his own group to fight prop 6 - as opposed to joining the radicals or the moderates?  Do you like the way he turns the words on the Statue of Liberty and the Declaration of Independence against Bryant and Briggs?  Do you think that it was essential to have a central figure to fight Briggs?  Do you think we could learn lessons from this campaign in fighting against initiatives like California's Proposition 8?


Harvey was probably the only gay leader who could have led the campaign against the Briggs Initiative, since so many of the gay groups were polarized. By forming his own group, Harvey utilized his philosophy of realpolitik. Those who knew gays personally, had no problem  voting against Prop.6.  The only danger in debating Briggs was the threat of assassination, and that never bothered Harvey -- "it'll happen when it happens."  A central figure to fight Briggs was needed, and not just anyone.  It had to be someone with Harvey's charisma and connections, and who attracted invitations from around California. Who else could have marshalled the forces  in the gay community like Harvey.  He turned the words of the Declaration of Indep. and  the Statue of Liberty into a slap in the face against Bryant and Briggs -- it was masterful -- "That's what America is -- Love it or leave it."

It would be interesting to see what Harvey could have done with a modern campaign against Prop.8.  He would probably have done the same as he did against Prop. 6, just with a bigger crowd. 




Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 29, 2009, 06:54:27 PM

16.) In the midst of the fight against Proposition 6 Jack Lira committed suicide.  Do you think that it is worthwhile to ask why he did this - or was this the irrational act of a depressed and alcoholic person?  Do you think he was striking out at Harvey?  Shilts talks about codependency regarding Harvey and Jack's relationship.  Does this make sense to you?  Do you think this is true of all of Harvey's love relationships?  Were you surprised that given this death that Harvey was able to continue to work on the fight against Proposition 6?


Lira was depressed, alcoholic, and his family life had been filled with rejection. No doubt he was striking out at Harvey from the grave --- he set the stage in a macabre depiction of theater, he left multiple letters around the apartment and in Harvey's underwear for Harvey to find.  I guess Shilts is right about codependency, except that Lira was more dependant on Harvey than vice versa, and it is also an example of enabling on Harvey's part.  All of Harvey's friends were against this relationship, but he didn't listen -- the sex was good, and Lira fit Harvey's penchant for young, attractive men.  Harvey always seemed to attract flawed men who were needy and dependent.  They were also young, naive, and uneducated.  Harvey needed to be needed to coin a phrase, and he loved to be admired and adored.  All his men fit the bill.

Within a week Harvey found a new lover, so I'm not surprised he continued to work on Prop.6.  His guilt about Lira was alleviated when Lira's sister told Harvey that Lira had tried to commit suicide a few times in the past.  Although Harvey never talked about Lira, he said he had failed with Lira, because he had wanted to offer him hope.   He plunged into several affairs pretty quickly, and even lectured Doug Frank on his 'sphere of love' -- 'You can love more than one person at a time, they can do the same - it can open up a bigger sphere.'

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 29, 2009, 08:03:43 PM
14.) Art Agnos speculated that Harvey wanted to become mayor - and Harvey as much as told Michael Wong the same thing.  If he had lived do you think that he would have tried to become mayor?  Do you think he would succeed the first time - and if he did not, would he continue to fight to become mayor like he did to become supervisor?

Definitely.  He was already mending fences with Foster, Stokes, and Goodstein -- gays who had opposed him.  Harvey was also building bridges with Moscone and Agnos -- trying to get back in their good graces, and he was making overtures to Chinese voters.  Agnos thought Harvey would run and win.  Wong thought SF wasn't ready for a gay mayor, but Harvey wasn't so sure, and thought it wouldn't hurt to let people know he was interested in the job. Harvey told Baird that anyone could be mayor if they worked hard, and he had proved that when he ran for supervisor.

Yes, there was a good possibility that Harvey would have succeeded in becoming mayor in the future.  By now, he had name recognition -- he was the Mayor of Castro St, -- the gay constituency was a lock, and he had already won the unions, the fire fighters, and the construction trades.  He was the darling of the press, and would have used them to further his ambition to become mayor -- the press would have loved this story for the headlines alone, "First Gay Supervisor Becomes First Gay Mayor."  With his penchant for politics as theater, Harvey would have held rallies and parades, again with press coverage.  IMO he probably would have succeeded in the first run for mayor!

I agree with most of this, Nikki.  Harvey was in the process of mending fences, and he was very ambitious.  I feel sure that he had the mayor’s job in mind, as indicated by his discussions with Agnos and Wong and Baird.  The next election for mayor would evidently be in 1979, because Wong had teasingly asked Dan White if he was going to challenge the mayor at that time.  Harvey apparently didn’t plan to run for mayor that soon; he planned to be re-elected supervisor in 1979 and then become president of the board of supervisors.  But after making several gradual steps forward in his career, he would have run for mayor eventually.

Harvey had some important groups who would have opposed his candidacy for mayor – the police, the conservative voters in District 8 (Dan White’s district), the downtown business interests, real estate developers, possibly the well-off Pacific Heights residents in Diane Feinstein’s neighborhood, and so on.  Some of those groups would have had a lot of money to spend opposing him.  Harvey had won his supervisor’s seat under the district elections scheme, but to become mayor, he would have to win a citywide election.  So it wouldn’t have been a cakewalk. 

But he had the support of the groups you mention, he had name recognition, he knew how to use the press to his advantage, and he was learning the fine art of politics on the job as supervisor.  Puttng aside for the moment the future impact of AIDS (which changed everything in the early 1980s), Harvey’s supportive gay constituency would have continued to increase.  He was becoming more thoughtful and less impulsive in his approach to politics, he studied issues in great detail, and he could relate to the issues which diverse groups of voters found important.  These things would have continued to win him respect and broaden his appeal.

I think he may have won the first time, but if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have been deterred by defeat.  Harvey knew how to pick himself up and keep on campaigning:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” could have been his motto. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 10:09:42 AM
15.) Harvey became central in the fight against the Briggs Initiative.  Do you think that he was essential in winning the campaign against the Briggs Initiative?  What do you think of his campaign - was it a good idea to debate Briggs in Fullerton and throughout the state?  Do you think it was a good idea for him to form his own group to fight prop 6 - as opposed to joining the radicals or the moderates?  Do you like the way he turns the words on the Statue of Liberty and the Declaration of Independence against Bryant and Briggs?  Do you think that it was essential to have a central figure to fight Briggs?  Do you think we could learn lessons from this campaign in fighting against initiatives like California's Proposition 8?

I do think it was essential to have a central figure to fight Briggs, because the debate was an effective format, and by definition that means having one person represent each side of the issue.  Harvey had an eloquent speaking style and proved to be a great debater.  He could answer Briggs’ charges with clever sound bites (such as “how do you teach homosexuality? – like French?”) and by describing how he had come from a heterosexual family and culture, yet had turned out gay without any instruction needed.

I  don’t think any of the radicals or moderates could have fulfilled this role.  The moderates preferred quiet, private conversations in comfortable living rooms.  In all likelihood, they were too circumspect to debate Briggs publicly, and if any of them had tried, I doubt they would have been able to get off the one-liners necessary to beat back Briggs’ accusations.  Their style was not to sit on a podium and interrupt the other speaker.  The radicals, meanwhile, preferred street demonstrations to debates.  If they had tried to debate Briggs, I don’t think they would have been able to connect with the vast majority of mainstream viewers whose votes were necessary to defeat the Briggs Initiative.  That left Harvey in the middle, between these two groups.  I don’t think the debates could have been effective without him, so that made him an essential figure in the campaign. 

By forming his own organization, Harvey could set his own course in other ways.  The moderates sought endorsements; the radicals held street demonstrations and rallies; but Harvey campaigned as he best knew how, with precinct work and voter registration.

When Harvey spoke at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade, his position as an elected official and gay hero gave him a special status when he went up to address the huge crowd.  I thought he gave a great speech, and used the words from the Statue of Liberty and the Declaration of Independence against Bryant and Briggs in a stirring way (“You cannot erase those words…”).  I also liked his closing lines, “That’s what America is.  Love it or leave it.”

One lesson we could learn from this campaign in fighting initiatives like Prop 8 might be that a charismatic figure is needed to lead the fight.  But you can’t just manufacture people like Harvey.  Another lesson might be that it’s necessary to connect directly with voters and give them a reason not to fear gay people.  That’s a harder lesson to apply on something like Prop 8, when so much of the opposition stemmed from religious interpretations of what “marriage” means.  Still, making committed gay couples who lead ordinary lives more visible to voters might convince heterosexuals not to fear gay marriage.  I have a suspicion, however, that this was tried in California and still didn’t convince enough people.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 10:58:46 AM
16.) In the midst of the fight against Proposition 6 Jack Lira committed suicide.  Do you think that it is worthwhile to ask why he did this - or was this the irrational act of a depressed and alcoholic person?  Do you think he was striking out at Harvey?  Shilts talks about co-dependence regarding Harvey and Jack's relationship.  Does this make sense to you?  Do you think this is true of all of Harvey's love relationships?  Were you surprised that given this death that Harvey was able to continue to work on the fight against Proposition 6?

There’s a lot of guesswork involved in answering this question.  Jack Lira was a needy person; we have seen that since the day Harvey met him.  We could just dismiss the suicide as a result of him being depressed and alcoholic, but Lira struck me as someone who could be very giddy and flighty at times, too.  Perhaps he was manic-depressive, rather than just depressed, but that’s just a guess. 

In any case, he responded to Harvey with gratitude when Harvey first took him in.  Harvey had more time to lavish on Lira in the beginning.  But as Harvey became wrapped up in the fight against Prop 6, his schedule became more hectic than ever before.  I think this would have left Lira feeling neglected.  If Lira was ever going to make a suicide attempt while with Harvey, it seems logical that it would have happened during the Prop 6 fight.

So Lira may have concocted an “attempted suicide” scheme as a way to get back at Harvey.  Lira had been following Harvey’s movements on the day in question.  He had timed his final moment to occur just as Harvey walked in the door, but Harvey arrived 45 minutes late.  Maybe Harvey could have saved him if he’d come home on time, or maybe not, but Lira may have thought so in the back of his mind.  He would have thought that even if Harvey couldn’t save him, Lira would make a dramatic departure.  I do think he was striking out at Harvey, especially since he left Harvey’s political literature strewn in a dramatic pathway throughout the house.  Lira’s suicide note, referring to the circus, after Harvey had recently worn a clown suit, strikes me as quite vindictive.

The co-dependence theory makes sense to me, and we’ve talked about it before.  Jenny, I think, had some excellent insights about this idea.  Harvey was attracted to needy types who were young and needed support.  We’ve also speculated that perhaps Harvey lost interest in men, like Scott Smith, after they grew strong in their own right.  I am supposing there are other forms of co-dependence which don’t center around alcohol – certainly Lira was an alcoholic, but not all of Harvey’s boyfriends were.  But many fit the pattern of needy men, and Harvey may have been satisfying a need within himself by finding someone who did need him.

There are two reasons why it doesn’t surprise me that Harvey was able to continue working on Prop 6 after Lira’s death.  First, he had already decided “that Lira had to go,” as Shilts puts it.  Harvey was shocked to discover the suicide, and felt guilty, but he didn’t need Lira in his life in order to go on.  Second, when Harvey discovered at Lira’s funeral that Lira had attempted suicide before, this removed a lot of guilt from Harvey.  So Harvey was now free, both from Lira’s physical presence and from the guilt.  He reacted the way a lot of people do after the end of a relationship, by plunging non-stop into activity, burying himself in work.  The Prop 6 issue gave Harvey a good outlet for those energies.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 01:44:38 PM
I remember when base closings were a hot issue, and it seems like every community affected put up a fight to keep their nearest base open.  I’m assuming that concern about losing civilian jobs, and the expected loss of revenue for nearby businesses serving the bases, had a lot to do with this.

Before even considering the issue of personal animosity between Feinstein and Milk, it makes sense that they could be on opposite sides of this issue.  Feinstein supported businesses in general, whereas Milk had visions of bettering neighborhoods.  It’s not a clear-cut distinction here, because I’m guessing that many of the businesses who would be negatively hurt by the base closing could have been small businesses, and the people who might lose jobs could have been local residents of the closest neighborhood.  With this background in mind, I can see Feinstein definitely on the side of keeping the base open.  Harvey, it seems, could have ended up on either side, although his anti-military bias gave him one more reason not to oppose the closing.

In addition, Harvey didn’t feel any necessity to “play nice” and go along with Feinstein, but I don’t think he was striking out just for the sake of being contrary.  He was aware of the beautiful setting of the Presidio, and showed vision, IMO, by imagining that the grounds could be put to use as a park if the base were closed.  His idea to use the base housing for senior citizens is right in line with some of his earlier campaign platforms, because he had long included seniors as one of the groups for whose benefit he intended to work.

It's interesting Debbie because I can see how Milk and Feinstein would have clashed on this.  It's very true that this fit in with Harvey's notion of neighborhood politics - and I kind of think that with all of the emphasis on Harvey's gay legacy this gets lost.  I think Harvey would have loved to see the Presidio turned over to the National Parks Service.  And sure enough the base housing has been converted over to housing - although I'm unsure how much of it is affordable to seniors.

One thing I didn't mention when I wrote up this question was that Harvey might have objected to one of the provision in the transfer - businesses can have their campuses in the park - Lucasfilms is one of the companies that has space there.

It's just one of the things that I'll always have to wonder about because of Dan White's bullets....
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 01:48:15 PM

11.) Do you think that Harvey's record of neighborhood activism - getting stop signs for the district, filling in the pot holes and saving the local library and elementary school - is ignored or forgotten when he is remembered solely as an icon of gay activism?  Do you think that this work would have been as important in the long run as his gay activism had he lived?  Do you think that it might have led to his ideal of a more integrated gay community in the long run?

It's hard to answer this, since I don't live there.  Judging from this type of neighborhood activism in Phillly and other areas, I think it would be very important to his constituents, as Harvey said, ...everytime they vote they'll always remember that pothole in front of their house.  This is the sort of day-to-day problem that people face coming and going -- it affects them where they live literally.  As Shilts writes, "Such matters represented the heart of politics [to Harvey]."  Harvey always knew how to appeal to the rank and file; it didn't have to be some arcane matter -- just the ordinary problems that affect people, and Harvey was astute enough to zero in on it.

Again this is one of these instances where you can see that Harvey's politics were much more than simply gay politics - he really did care about the people in his districts, imho - gay AND straight.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 01:56:06 PM
12.) Margo St. James was asked by a police contact how she felt about Diane Feinstein for mayor before Moscone was killed.  Her contact goes on to tell her that Moscone will be dead by Christmas.  Do you think that Shilts presents a credible case here that their was an inside plot to kill Moscone?  What is your opinion - do you think that because of the conflicts between Moscone and the police that there was a conspiracy against him?  And does this mean that Harvey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps that his conflicts with Dan White put him in the crosshairs?

It sounds credible to me.  The rank and file hated Moscone and Gain from the beginning -- Moscone for his new-breed liberal bent, and Gain for his remarks about accepting gay cops on the force. Additionally, Moscone had worked out a settlement with the OFJ who had filed a claim citing discrimination against minorities, which the regular cops detested.  The mayor and Civil Service Commission had announced a push to get openly gay cops on the force. The departmental newsletter was constantly filled with letters of complaint.  In such a hate-filled atmosphere, it doesn't surprise me that a murder plot was a viable solution to the FOP's anti-Moscone stance.  I did wonder how  much of Joe the Pig's info was truth, or was he just pulling St.James' leg to get her upset.  Also, did Shilts get this info from a reliable insider or St. James?

As for Harvey, his problems with White were a separate issue altogether.  White's issues with Harvey came to a head when Moscone and Harvey refused to let White rescind his resignation to the board.  I guess you could say that his conflicts with White put him in the crosshairs.  I do wonder if Harvey would not have been killed by someother means, an FOP conspiracy, or a civilian honophobe. Harvey did seem to walk around with a bulls eye on his back IMO.

It seems credible to me too Nikki - good to hear your opinion because it makes me feel a little bit less like a conspiracy crackpot.  ;) :D

One of the thing which is most interesting to me about this is the line from White about how he has a surprise for the gay community.  It feels (to me) almost as if the P.O.A. wanted him to get rid of Moscone and he thought that if he was going to have to sit through a trial for one public figure he should go for two and get rid of Milk while he was at it.

I do wonder how much of this was homophobia on White's part and how much was just his childish attitude - he seems to have been very vindictive with regard to city politics.  If you look at the quotes on this page he actually says that he wanted to shoot 4 people - including Carol Ruth Silver and Willie Brown:

http://thecastro.net/milk/soledadpage.html
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 01:58:30 PM
It would be interesting to see what Harvey could have done with a modern campaign against Prop.8.  He would probably have done the same as he did against Prop. 6, just with a bigger crowd. 

Amen.  And I think one of the central problems in the Prop 8 campaign was that there was not a central figure like Harvey - no 'go to' person.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 02:03:45 PM
16.) In the midst of the fight against Proposition 6 Jack Lira committed suicide.  Do you think that it is worthwhile to ask why he did this - or was this the irrational act of a depressed and alcoholic person?  Do you think he was striking out at Harvey?  Shilts talks about co-dependence regarding Harvey and Jack's relationship.  Does this make sense to you?  Do you think this is true of all of Harvey's love relationships?  Were you surprised that given this death that Harvey was able to continue to work on the fight against Proposition 6?

There’s a lot of guesswork involved in answering this question.  Jack Lira was a needy person; we have seen that since the day Harvey met him.  We could just dismiss the suicide as a result of him being depressed and alcoholic, but Lira struck me as someone who could be very giddy and flighty at times, too.  Perhaps he was manic-depressive, rather than just depressed, but that’s just a guess. 

Yes, well there's a lot of guesswork in many of the questions and here I have to thank all of the participants in indulging me - we can't, of course, know these things - but it is certainly interesting (I hope) to speculate on them.

Debbie, I have to tell you that the germ of this question came to me while I was watching the movie the first time.  Jack Lira is on the phone with Harvey shortly before his suicide and there are cans of Coors beer sitting all around him on the table!!!  :o :o :o

I had wondered if this wasn't license on the part of Gus Van Sant - but NO!  There on page 233 it says there were cans of Coors (as well as wadded up anti-Briggs flyers) sitting around the apartment.

Clearly Jack Lira had some serious, serious problems (and I would guess some daddy issues as well).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 04:25:39 PM


17.) Cleve Jones told Harvey that if Proposition 6 passed he thought there would be riots - and Harvey responds that he hopes their would be.  Do you think there would have been violence if it had passed?  What do you make of Harvey's reaction?  How do you think that his reaction fits in with other psychological reactions covered in the book - the apathy that some people felt and the fear that some professionals felt?


Yes, I do.  After he left Spain, Jones realized that the gay movement was bigger than anyone realized -- there was "too much anger that lay beneath the surface all over the world." The gays of SF saw themselves in the forefront of a new movement that offered gays a sense of 'manifest destiny.'  Opposition to gay rights became violent around the country, and courts provided no hope or judicial remedies.  Fear and anger was a prevailing force among the young gays in SF, and Jones stated, "Now is the time to get our army together." The papers were filled with stories of various initiatives -- IMO there would have been violence and riots if Prop. 6 passed.   Harvey was thrilled -- he believed that young gays all over the country would read of gay rights as a civil issue, not just an issue of sin and perversity that the fundamentalists and ultra right conservatives preached about.  Harvey always preferred that gay rights get talked about, and he always relished the publicity. 

I think there was still fear and apathy within some of the gay community, who were often fractionalized and polarized when major issues were on the table.  The gay moderates would probably have spoken against violence and argued for the community to keep their heads down. Harvey was never apathetic, and encouraged his followers to stand up for the cause.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 05:22:11 PM


18.) Why do you think that John Briggs tried to go to Halloween on Polk Street?  Do you think he was trying to provoke an incident?  As the public didn't much like him as a spokesperson, do you think it would have made any difference if there had been violence against him?


Briggs was losing at this point, so by alerting the SFPD that he would show up in four hours on Polk St. he hoped to garner media coverage.  When asked why he was appearing on a night that was special to gays, Briggs replied, "I'm going because this is a children's night, and I'm interested in children."  When the police took him to a special delegation of the mayor, Milk, and Gain a few blocks away, Briggs was shocked when they greeted him.  Rather than trying to provoke an incident, Briggs may have wanted to show that he wasn't afraid to appear in the heart of the gay community on a night that was a traditionally gay holiday.  However, the mayor and police seemed to believe it wasn't a good idea for him to be there and spirited him away. 

If there had been violence against Briggs, it would have redounded against the gays even though the fact of Briggs' presence would have undoubtedly been provocative, since he had no reason to be there in the first place.   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 05:33:11 PM
17.) Cleve Jones told Harvey that if Proposition 6 passed he thought there would be riots - and Harvey responds that he hopes there would be.  Do you think there would have been violence if it had passed?  What do you make of Harvey's reaction?  How do you think that his reaction fits in with other psychological reactions covered in the book - the apathy that some people felt and the fear that some professionals felt?

Yes, I do.  After he left Spain, Jones realized that the gay movement was bigger than anyone realized -- there was "too much anger that lay beneath the surface all over the world." The gays of SF saw themselves in the forefront of a new movement that offered gays a sense of 'manifest destiny.'  Opposition to gay rights became violent around the country, and courts provided no hope or judicial remedies.  Fear and anger was a prevailing force among the young gays in SF, and Jones stated, "Now is the time to get our army together."

I agree with what Nikki says here, regarding the likelihood of violence if Prop 6 passed.  Harvey had a newspaper column in a paper with a gay audience.  His writing  there was designed to put its readers in a fighting mode, even if he couldn’t, as a public official, directly endorse violence.  “At what point do we stand up – as  a total group – and say we will not allow it to happen any more?  Enough is enough!” he wrote.  He went on to write about Anita Bryant’s “camps” being built – an indirect reference to the Nazi camps. 

If Harvey stated such a strong opinion in his printed column, I’m not surprised that he admitted to Cleve Jones privately that he wanted to see riots in case Prop 6 passed:  “There goddamn better be.”  This stance reflected Harvey’s determination that gays would fight back to show the world that they wouldn’t be pushed around any longer.  It was a declaration that gays weren’t going to quietly be fired from their jobs without protesting.  Times were different now than when gays walked quietly, without resistance, into the paddy wagons in the New York City of Harvey’s youth.

As for other people’s reactions to the possibility of Prop 6 passing, those who were did nothing out of apathy probably felt “it can’t really happen to me” (that they might lose their jobs), or maybe they were still closeted at work and preferred to remain that way, rather than tackling the issue head-on by coming out and then waiting to see what the employment consequences were.  Those who did nothing because of fear included many gay teachers, pediatricians, and other professionals who worked with children.  They probably felt that they were in enough danger as it was, if their employers knew or suspected that they were gay; they were so consumed by their fear that they could only focus on their own lives and dared not put themselves in greater danger by taking part in public protests against Prop 6.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 05:48:20 PM
There’s a lot of guesswork involved in answering this question.  {snip}
 

Yes, well there's a lot of guesswork in many of the questions and here I have to thank all of the participants in indulging me - we can't, of course, know these things - but it is certainly interesting (I hope) to speculate on them.
{snip}

Definitely, Michael.  And the question you raised about Jack Lira doesn't even involve as much guesswork as some of the others.

I am very grateful to you for being able to look beneath the surface of this text and come up questions which hadn't even occurred to me as being questions!  Your questions take a lot of probing analysis, and really give me a chance to ponder and wonder why things happened the way they did.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 05:49:09 PM

19.) When Harvey heard the news that Dan White had resigned he said 'Now I've got my sixth vote.'  He spent most of the weekend calling people saying the same thing.  Do you think that this got back to Dan White?  Do you think that (given his response to the psychiatric treatment facility vote) he held a grudge regarding this?  Do you think that this - and Harvey's insistance that he not be re-instated on the Board of Supervisors was why Dan White went after Harvey after he shot Moscone?


"Harvey spent most of the weekend calling political cronies."  I wouldn't be surprised if Harvey's reaction got back to White.  White was competitive and hated to lose, he also seemed to be the type that bore a crudge, so I think he was still smarting about the psychiatric facility vote.  White's animosity toward Harvey had apparently been building -- the grudge vote and Harvey's refusal to reinstate White on the Board coupled with Harvey's homosexuality were certainly motivating factors in White's murder of Harvey. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 06:08:28 PM


20.) John Molinari noticed that Dan White seemed relieved after he resigned.  That's why he was surprised after White said he wanted his seat back.  What do you think the Realtors and P.O.A. said to him to convince him to ask for his job back?  What do you make of his change of mind?


Apparently White met with the POA and Realtors in a closed meeting. Perhaps they offered to give White a loan to supplement his Supervisor's salary if he was reinstated.  Since the POA and the Realtors were conservative and anti-gay and, knowing White was the swing vote on the Board of Supervisors, they were motivated to help him financially, so they promised him help if he would ask for his job back.  White was probably pleased with the attention and financial help -- they may have even discussed the fact that he was the swing vote among the liberals. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 06:21:03 PM
18.) Why do you think that John Briggs tried to go to Polk Street on Halloween?  Do you think he was trying to provoke an incident?  As the public didn't much like him as a spokesperson, do you think it would have made any difference if there had been violence against him?

 I thought this was a peculiar story.  I think it happened because, unlike in the early days of the campaign when Briggs had a large margin of support in the polls, the race had now become too close to call.  Briggs was getting desperate, with gays having seized the momentum and the public losing interest in him.  He wanted to do anything he could to grab publicity, and an incongruous appearance on Polk Street on Halloween, in the midst of gays partying in the streets, would have made big news headlines.

He probably expected to provoke an incident of some kind:  maybe a confrontation with gays who would turn on him verbally, with name-calling and booing, or maybe even some rock throwing or bottle throwing.  He could have come away from such an incident looking like a victim in the papers and crying foul about the atrocious behavior of the Polk Street gays.  This could have painted gays (or reinforced an impression among heterosexuals who already didn’t like gays) as a crazy group unsuited to holding positions of authority among children.

Clearly Briggs was trying to tie his appearance to the subject matter of Prop 6 (jobs associated with children), when he said that Halloween was a night for children and he was interested in children.  It seemed like a rather high-and-mighty comment, implying that those people entrusted to educate or doctor children should not participate in Halloween revelry.  It completely overlooks the fact that many heterosexual adults attend grown-up parties on Halloween.  But I think he was just making an excuse for his appearance there, anyway.   His purpose was to cause some sort of scene in public.

I thought it was very wise for the mayor and police chief to turn Briggs away from the heart of the Polk Street action, citing the best interests of law and order.  I also laughed when I read that four of the most liberal politicians in town stepped forward to greet Briggs.  He must have been extremely disappointed and uncomfortable.

Even though the public didn’t like Briggs, he may have gained some sympathy votes if he had actually been attacked, or if he had been photographed confronting any spontaneous demonstration which may have erupted against him.  Harvey, one of the four politicians who greeted Briggs, would have realized that, and he made a good political calculation by going along with the decision to keep Briggs off of Polk Street.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 06:29:18 PM


21.) Moscone first offered White his seat back and then decided not to.  Do you think Harvey had a major effect on his decision to do this?  A police beat reporter read graffiti on the police station bathroom wall that read 'Who's going to get the mayor?'  Do you think this supports what Margo St. James said regarding a plot to kill the mayor - or was this meaningless?


Definitely.   Harvey reminded Moscone  that White's swing vote had hurt some of the mayor's proposals, White was the only anti-gay politician, and Moscone was up for reelection next year, so White's reinstatement would not sit well with the gay voters.  Moscone changed his mind after his discussion with Harvey.

Whether it supports St.James' story about the plot to kill the mayor or not,  the graffiti on the police bathroom wall certainly indicated an atmosphere  of hate against Moscone in the SFPD.  There certainly must have been conversations on the police grapevine, whether a plot was afoot or not.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 06:47:56 PM

22.) Harvey told Doug Franks that Dan White was dangerous and that he was a closet case.  Why do you think he thought that?  Do you think that Harvey was just picking a personal fight with Dan White - much like he had with Diane Feinstein and David Goodstein?  Do you think that Harvey really believed that Dan White was a closet case?  Why do you think he asserted that Dan White of mental instab


I don't remember reading anything about Whte being a closet gay.  If Harvey thought White was closeted, he must have known or had some indication.  He didn't seem to be picking a fight, he was talking to Doug at the time of the remark.  The change in Harvey's demeanor indicated how serious he was when he said White was dangerous, and  "more hostile to anyone who is open." Shilts writes that some of Harvey's friends thought Harvey and White "might have had a run-in that hardened Harvey's feelings toward White."  Later Harvey suggested to a 'Chronicle' reporter that they should look into Dan White. "He has a record of mental instability."  I think Harvey may have had some inside info on White, or was he basing all this on White's actions, or was he just saying White was a whack job?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 06:55:39 PM
I don't remember reading anything about Whte being a closet gay.  If Harvey thought White was closeted, he must have known or had some indication.  He didn't seem to be picking a fight, he was talking to Doug at the time of the remark.  The change in Harvey's demeanor indicated how serious he was when he said White was dangerous, and  "more hostile to anyone who is open." Shilts writes that some of Harvey's friends thought Harvey and White "might have had a run-in that hardened Harvey's feelings toward White."  Later Harvey suggested to a 'Chronicle' reporter that they should look into Dan White. "He has a record of mental instability."  I think Harvey may have had some inside info on White, or was he basing all this on White's actions, or was he just saying White was a whack job?

I can't decide whether or not Harvey was just using that as an excuse to oppose/not like Dan White after he had told so many people that he could be educated, Nikki.  The section I'm talking about is on page 257.  He is only reported to have said it to one person, so who knows... ???
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 30, 2009, 07:49:30 PM
I don't remember reading anything about Whte being a closet gay.  If Harvey thought White was closeted, he must have known or had some indication.  He didn't seem to be picking a fight, he was talking to Doug at the time of the remark.  The change in Harvey's demeanor indicated how serious he was when he said White was dangerous, and  "more hostile to anyone who is open." Shilts writes that some of Harvey's friends thought Harvey and White "might have had a run-in that hardened Harvey's feelings toward White."  Later Harvey suggested to a 'Chronicle' reporter that they should look into Dan White. "He has a record of mental instability."  I think Harvey may have had some inside info on White, or was he basing all this on White's actions, or was he just saying White was a whack job?

I can't decide whether or not Harvey was just using that as an excuse to oppose/not like Dan White after he had told so many people that he could be educated, Nikki.  The section I'm talking about is on page 257.  He is only reported to have said it to one person, so who knows... ???

That's the page I referred to.  Was there ever any gossip around SF that you might have heard?  Or do people still talk about it?  I guess with the film out they do.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 30, 2009, 08:17:44 PM
That's the page I referred to.  Was there ever any gossip around SF that you might have heard?  Or do people still talk about it?  I guess with the film out they do.

Well actually as I remember someone drops a comment about him being closeted in the film too.

I haven't heard any speculation...honestly, it seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but as it was mentioned in the book I thought I'd bring it up.  Roger Ebert mentions it in the review here:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081124/REVIEWS/811240297
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 08:17:57 PM
19.) When Harvey heard the news that Dan White had resigned he said 'Now I've got my sixth vote.'  He spent most of the weekend calling people saying the same thing.  Do you think that this got back to Dan White?  Do you think that (given his response to the psychiatric treatment facility vote) he held a grudge regarding this?  Do you think that this - and Harvey's insistence that he not be re-instated on the Board of Supervisors - was why Dan White went after Harvey after he shot Moscone?

It would make sense, that if the news of Harvey’s glee over having his sixth vote did get back to Dan White, White would have held a grudge regarding it.  His response to the psychiatric treatment facility vote showed that he was a man prone to holding grudges.  I have two reservations about the theory, though.  One is that, according to Shilts, Harvey spent the weekend “calling his political cronies with the good news.”  Outside of City Hall, White didn’t move in the same social circles as Harvey’s political cronies, so it doesn’t seem likely that he would have heard the news from any of them.  And it is hard to imagine Harvey’s political cronies spreading the news to anyone close enough to White that he could have heard about Harvey’s personal reaction through a third party.

My second reservation is that, even when White did hold a grudge against Harvey stemming from the psychiatric center vote, his way of carrying out the grudge was to not speak to Harvey and to vote against Harvey’s gay rights bill.  He didn’t show a tendency then to use violence to carry out his grudge.

But we know that White did kill Harvey, along with Mayor Moscone.  Perhaps White heard about Harvey’s “sixth vote” reaction from someone at City Hall, such as another supervisor, when he went to the meeting with the POA.  Shilts does say that Supervisor Molinari observed White in City Hall at that time.  However, White seemed cheerful prior to the POA meeting – not like a man carrying a grudge.  So I really don’t think he had a grievance against Harvey in mind at that time.

I think White’s antipathy toward Harvey must have resulted from something more than just Harvey’s initial “sixth vote” crowing.  What I suspect is that something made White change his mind and decide to get his office back, and only when he found out that he might be prevented from doing so, did he develop a grudge sufficient enough to cause the violence.  Moscone was a natural target, since he was the one making the decision whether or not to re-instate White.  If White became aware that Harvey was attempting to influence Moscone to not reappoint White, then that may be why Harvey became a target, too.  But once again, we can’t prove whether or not White would have become aware of that background information about Harvey’s involvement.  Moscone didn’t mention Harvey’s name in his discussions with White, and I couldn’t find any reported conversation with a reporter (for example) in which Harvey’s name was mentioned to White at that time.  White may have found out somehow that Harvey had been lobbying against him, or he may have had some other reasons for wanting to kill Harvey.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 08:23:37 PM
That's the page I referred to.  Was there ever any gossip around SF that you might have heard?  Or do people still talk about it?  I guess with the film out they do.

Well actually as I remember someone drops a comment about him being closeted in the film too.

I haven't heard any speculation...honestly, it seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but as it was mentioned in the book I thought I'd bring it up.  Roger Ebert mentions it in the review here:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081124/REVIEWS/811240297


There was one other place in the book where my eyebrows rose a little, but I'll have to look it up when I get to the question.

Can't remember the exact circumstances, but someone confronted White with a "rumor" that he might be anti-gay, and White's reaction was to turn stone-cold-frozen.  Seemed like Shilts was hinting that the question hit on a sensitive nerve and was something that White didn't want to talk about, and it might have had that effect if White really was closeted.  But this was just one stray piece of questionable "evidence" if that was the point Shilts was trying to make.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 30, 2009, 09:46:35 PM
20.) John Molinari noticed that Dan White seemed relieved after he resigned.  That's why he was surprised after White said he wanted his seat back.  What do you think the Realtors and P.O.A. said to him to convince him to ask for his job back?  What do you make of his change of mind?

Dan White’s resignation stemmed from personal and financial problems.  He wasn’t making enough money to support his family on his supervisor’s salary, and the fried potato stand needed his attention.  It must have given him a feeling of relief to know that the supervisor’s job wouldn’t be tying him down financially any longer.  Also, he hadn’t been a particularly good supervisor:  his biggest campaign promise, opposing the psychiatric center, had gone down to defeat, and he hadn’t seemed to introduce any other major legislation.  So he may have been relieved just to be away from a job he was poorly suited for.

For starters, the Realtors and POA must have reminded White that he was the swing vote on the board, and that the liberals (including Harvey, whether they mentioned his name or not) would now be able to get their proposals through.  I suspect that this meeting was the first time that Harvey’s new “sixth vote” concept was really brought to White’s attention.  He still may have felt, “Well, I understand, but that’s not my problem any more because I’m out of here,” since he wanted time for his personal life.  I suspect that he was pressured in some way to ask for his seat back.  If he had been offered money, some sort of pay-off or kick-back in return for going after the seat, that might have been enough to change his mind. 

If the conspiracy theory is to be believed, perhaps the someone in the POA added a qualification about killing the mayor at the time this money was offered.  I’m still not convinced that that’s an accurate description of events, though.  The Realtors and POA could instead have offered White such a large amount of money (with no mention of killing the mayor) that when White realized he wouldn’t be able to reclaim his seat (and thus get the money), he took matters into his own hands and decided to kill everyone responsible, starting with the mayor.  And then, at some point, he added Harvey (and possibly others) onto that hit list, because he had reason to believe that they agreed with the mayor’s decision.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 30, 2009, 10:50:12 PM

11.) Do you think that Harvey's record of neighborhood activism - getting stop signs for the district, filling in the pot holes and saving the local library and elementary school - is ignored or forgotten when he is remembered solely as an icon of gay activism?  Do you think that this work would have been as important in the long run as his gay activism had he lived?  Do you think that it might have led to his ideal of a more integrated gay community in the long run?

I have to qualify my statement the same way Nikki did hers, by saying that, since I don’t live in San Francisco or in the Castro, I don’t know how well Harvey is remembered there for what Shilts calls his “alderman brand of realpolitik.”  For as much of Harvey’s legend as survives nationally, I think this aspect of his politics is largely forgotten, because across the country, people looked up to him as a gay icon and weren’t affected by local issues like stop signs and pot holes.

However, this neighborhood activism showed a different side of Harvey than what we think of if we remember him solely as a gay activist.  Stop signs, pot holes, street sweeping, schools and libraries are important to any neighborhood.  If he had lived, I think this work would have continued to be important, especially for as long as he remained in city government  {snip}

Problems like stop signs, pot holes, street sweeping, schools and libraries affect everyone in a neighborhood, not just gays.  There were a lot of other issues working against the likelihood of maintaining integrated gay/straight neighborhoods at that time (and the onset of AIDS would work against it even more, IMO), but I think that basic neighborhood improvement work like Harvey was doing would have helped increase the likelihood of maintaining an integrated community.  His work would have helped give the neighborhood a reputation for being a good place to live.

I agree with you, Debbie, that this aspect of his politics is generally forgotten. Although I'd be interested in your answer, Michael, as to whether anyone remembers or remembered this. Unfortunately, you need more time than Harvey had to establish the kind of reputation for getting things done for your district that lasts, IMO. The fact that he was the first openly gay man to be elected and that he was a gay activist who was assassinated is so much more salient, especially to people outside SF, that this part of Harvey's work probably just vanished from collective memory. In fact, I think most people had forgotten or never knew about the coalitions Harvey built with labor, etc. before the movie came out.

I also think that if Harvey had had more time, and especially if he had gotten elected mayor, this aspect of his politics would be much better remembered. Harvey would have continued to work for local improvements, especially for the less advantaged, and he would have used his genius for publicity to push them through. That would have made more of an impression on both the local and national scene, and they would have become more interested in how Harvey was doing his job than in the fact that he was gay.

I don't think the integrated community would have come into being easily or quickly. Harvey would have been a strong voice for it, and that might help some, but as Cleve Jones pointed out, there was a lot of rage simmering in the gay community; there was also still a great deal of misunderstanding, fear and repulsion amongst the straight community, I think. AIDS would have exacerbated the situation. I think that a lot of the gay "immigrants" might have preferred to have a gay or mostly gay neighborhood where they could unwind and be themselves amongst people who understood and shared their experiences.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 31, 2009, 12:53:04 AM
Well...he is still remembered at the elementary school he saved - they changed their name to the 'Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy' in the 90s:

http://www.harveymilk.com/

And the library he saved is named after him:

http://sfpl.lib.ca.us/librarylocations/branches/eurekavalley.htm

But in an essay here he is called the 'forgotten populist':

http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/milk.html
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 08:39:10 AM
That's the page I referred to.  Was there ever any gossip around SF that you might have heard?  Or do people still talk about it?  I guess with the film out they do.

Well actually as I remember someone drops a comment about him being closeted in the film too.

I haven't heard any speculation...honestly, it seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but as it was mentioned in the book I thought I'd bring it up.  Roger Ebert mentions it in the review here:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081124/REVIEWS/811240297


Ebert writes that White "all but revealed [himself] in a drunken tirade to Milk."  It seems strange that Shilts didin't include this in the book.  I wonder how Ebert learned of this.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 08:50:02 AM


  Outside of City Hall, White didn’t move in the same social circles as Harvey’s political cronies, so it doesn’t seem likely that he would have heard the news from any of them.  And it is hard to imagine Harvey’s political cronies spreading the news to anyone close enough to White that he could have heard about Harvey’s personal reaction through a third party.

My second reservation is that, even when White did hold a grudge against Harvey stemming from the psychiatric center vote, his way of carrying out the grudge was to not speak to Harvey and to vote against Harvey’s gay rights bill.  He didn’t show a tendency then to use violence to carry out his grudge.




White didn't have to be in the same social circles to hear about Harvey's boasting to cronies.  It only takes one person to pass along a comment to someone else -- it happens in ordinary life. Harvey was outspoken about everything, and Shilts doesn't know how many 'cronies' Harvey bragged to.

White had a way of pouting and sulking when he didn't get his way.  It seemed that there were people around City Hall who didn't always pick up on his moods.  He could have been seething with anger --who knows.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 08:56:13 AM
That's the page I referred to.  Was there ever any gossip around SF that you might have heard?  Or do people still talk about it?  I guess with the film out they do.

Well actually as I remember someone drops a comment about him being closeted in the film too.

I haven't heard any speculation...honestly, it seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but as it was mentioned in the book I thought I'd bring it up.  Roger Ebert mentions it in the review here:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081124/REVIEWS/811240297


There was one other place in the book where my eyebrows rose a little, but I'll have to look it up when I get to the question.

Can't remember the exact circumstances, but someone confronted White with a "rumor" that he might be anti-gay, and White's reaction was to turn stone-cold-frozen.  Seemed like Shilts was hinting that the question hit on a sensitive nerve and was something that White didn't want to talk about, and it might have had that effect if White really was closeted.  But this was just one stray piece of questionable "evidence" if that was the point Shilts was trying to make.

Yes, Debbie, I remember that passage, but can't find it now, and don't have time. 


ETA - Debbie, just found that passsage on p.258 --  White to Milk --see my post below.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 09:14:49 AM


23.) Prior to Moscone's decision Dan white told a reporter from a gay newspaper "Let me tell you right now, I've got a real surprise for the gay community--a real surprise."  What do you think he meant by this?  He told a television interviewer that when the smoke cleared he would be a supervisor again.  Do you think he intended to get back onto the Board and fight the gay community?  Or do you think he had already decided to assassinate George Moscone and Harvey Milk?



It would be easy to say  that White had already planned to kill Moscone and Milk from this remark.  However, his 'real surprise for the gay community' could relate to his statement that 'when the smoke cleared he would be supervisor again.'  He had to know that if he committed murder, he certainly would not have been reinstated to the Board.  IMO if he had gotten back on the Board, he would have used his swing vote to fight the gay community; he already knew his vote scuttled some of Moscone's proposals in the past.

OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 09:37:53 AM
Ebert writes that White "all but revealed [himself] in a drunken tirade to Milk."  It seems strange that Shilts didin't include this in the book.  I wonder how Ebert learned of this.

Not that we're talking about the movie right now, but I do remember something that puzzles me.  There was a scene in the movie when White was standing outside in a lobby while a function was going inside a large room.  Harvey comes out of the room, sees White, and comes over to him, and White starts talking very drunkenly and aggressively toward Harvey.  Harvey looks confused, shrugs, and I think just leaves.  But I don't remember White's words.  I wonder if this confrontation portrayed in the movie is the one that Ebert was talking about.  While watching the movie, I wasn't aware of White "all but revealing himself."   ???
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 31, 2009, 09:38:38 AM
OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.


I trust even he would have realized that these options would have been mutually exclusive.  ;)

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 09:43:34 AM

24.) What do you make of Harvey's note to Tom O'Horgan and his desire to make small talk on the night before his death.  Do you think he had a feeling about what was coming - or do you think that we just think that in hindsight looking at the events of his life?


Michael, this is another one of those questions that's easy in hindsight.  I posted a while back that if Harvey were Irish, he'd be called 'fey.'  His constant remarks about dying before he was 50 seemed to lend an air of doom to his otherwise outgoing personality.  That night seems to bare this out -- both  Bob Tuttle and Don Amador remarked that it was unlike Harvey to call just to chat.  His remark to O'Horgan, "Ah - life is work living" certainly lends poignancy to the idea that he may have had precognitive feelings the night before his death. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 09:45:51 AM
OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.


I trust even he would have realized that these options would have been mutually exclusive.  ;)



True Fritz, but from all we've read about White I don't think he was always playing from a full deck.  His emotions were so screwed up by then...I don't know.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 10:04:23 AM
Outside of City Hall, White didn’t move in the same social circles as Harvey’s political cronies, so it doesn’t seem likely that he would have heard the news from any of them.  And it is hard to imagine Harvey’s political cronies spreading the news to anyone close enough to White that he could have heard about Harvey’s personal reaction through a third party.

My second reservation is that, even when White did hold a grudge against Harvey stemming from the psychiatric center vote, his way of carrying out the grudge was to not speak to Harvey and to vote against Harvey’s gay rights bill.  He didn’t show a tendency then to use violence to carry out his grudge.

White didn't have to be in the same social circles to hear about Harvey's boasting to cronies.  It only takes one person to pass along a comment to someone else -- it happens in ordinary life. Harvey was outspoken about everything, and Shilts doesn't know how many 'cronies' Harvey bragged to.

White had a way of pouting and sulking when he didn't get his way.  It seemed that there were people around City Hall who didn't always pick up on his moods.  He could have been seething with anger --who knows.

Yes, Nikki, that's a good point: we don't know who all Harvey's "cronies" were.  I was thinking at first of his gay supporters, but it could have been someone else in city hall, maybe in labor, maybe a broader group of people -- and then it would be more likely that a remark could get back to White.

I still lean toward thinking that the comments about a "sixth vote" weren't what made White mad enough to want to kill Harvey -- and also the mayor.  Especially since he didn't go after Harvey first, as would seem more likely if it was just a personal grudge.  I think he didn't really get angry enough to kill until (1) he was persuaded to go after his seat again, and (2) he learned that he wouldn't be able to get the seat back.

But I may get a clearer picture of all this as I work through the rest of the questions.   ;)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 10:29:25 AM
Quote from: Michael aka Buckle Bunny
25.) Given that White loaded his Smith & Wesson, got hollow point bullets and entered City Hall through a lab window, do you think he had already made his decision to kill Moscone and Milk before meeting with them?

Although the Mayor had not yet told White he would not be reappointed, and Harvey only learned of the Mayor's decision that morning, White came prepared with his weapon and ammo which indicated he had already made up his mind IMO.


Edited to fix quote
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 10:40:20 AM

26.) Do you think that if Diane Feinstein had been able to get to Dan White first and talk with him that she would have been able to stop him from murdering Harvey Milk?  Or do you think that given that her aide stopped him between killing Moscone and Milk do you think he had already made his mind up?


No,I don't think so, and White might have shot Feinstein had she interfered.  When she called to White, he told her "I have something to do first."  By then he was on his way to Harvey's office and fired as soon as he entered.  He didn't seem to be sidetracked by anything or anyone and shouted to his aide for her car keys.  IMO he was a man on a mission, and nothing or no one could have stopped him.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 31, 2009, 10:48:05 AM
OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.

I trust even he would have realized that these options would have been mutually exclusive.  ;)

He seemed pretty delusional Fritz.  I often have wondered if he wasn't an undiagnosed bipolar person - it would explain the excessive drinking, the wild mood swings (moving from being elated after resigning to becoming homicidal) and the suicide.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 31, 2009, 10:55:40 AM
I wanted to share this website with you all - I came across it last night.  Carol Ruth Silver has some pretty interesting things to say about Dan White and his motivations for killing people:

http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=7461
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 10:58:02 AM
OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.

I trust even he would have realized that these options would have been mutually exclusive.  ;)

He seemed pretty delusional Fritz.  I often have wondered if he wasn't an undiagnosed bipolar person - it would explain the excessive drinking, the wild mood swings (moving from being elated after resigning to becoming homicidal) and the suicide.

Good point, Michael.  It would  also explain why someone who was supposed to be a good and observant Catholic would commit suicide.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 11:16:57 AM
I wanted to share this website with you all - I came across it last night.  Carol Ruth Silver has some pretty interesting things to say about Dan White and his motivations for killing people:

http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=7461

Michael, this was very interesting, especially since Silver was part of it and knew Harvey, Moscone, and White.   Feels like it was part of the Shilts book.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 31, 2009, 12:52:36 PM
OTOH White could have been mulling over whether to kill Moscone and Milk or run again for Supervisor.

I trust even he would have realized that these options would have been mutually exclusive.  ;)

He seemed pretty delusional Fritz.  I often have wondered if he wasn't an undiagnosed bipolar person - it would explain the excessive drinking, the wild mood swings (moving from being elated after resigning to becoming homicidal) and the suicide.

Good point, Michael.  It would  also explain why someone who was supposed to be a good and observant Catholic would commit suicide.

I think it would explain a lot Nikki - the 'cold' attitude he got that Debbie referred to and also his behavior toward his wife.  I've often thought how difficult it must have been for her to have an infant and a husband who committed two slayings.  He certainly didn't take her wellbeing (or his child's) into account when he did what he did.

It would also, now that I think of it, explain why Harvey thought he was dangerous - and perhaps even why he thought he was in the closet.  Harvey may have been sensing that something wasn't quite right about Dan White and so he put it on being in the closet - a situation that Harvey was all too familiar with from earlier in his life.  To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail, as they say.

(edited to correct sentence structure)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 04:00:00 PM


Michael, on one of the links you posted (can't remember which one) there is a blog by Uncle somebody of Castro St. (I think that's the name, or similar.)  In the article he writes that when the cop who interviewed White, Falzon, I think, said years later that White told him after he was paroled that he,White, had wanted to kill 4 people: Moscone, Milk, Silver, and a man with an hispanic name. I know this is very muddled.  Maybe you remember it, and can vouch for the authenticity of the writer.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 31, 2009, 04:04:03 PM
Uncle Donald's Castro Street.

http://thecastro.net/

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 04:06:37 PM
21.) Moscone first offered White his seat back and then decided not to.  Do you think Harvey had a major effect on his decision to do this?  A police beat reporter read graffiti on the police station bathroom wall that read 'Who's going to get the mayor?'  Do you think this supports what Margo St. James said regarding a plot to kill the mayor - or was this meaningless?

Yes, I think Harvey influenced Moscone’s decision not to reappoint White.  At first, Moscone had told reporters, “A man has a right to change his mind.”  But then, Harvey came to warn Moscone of the consequences of reappointing White.  First, with White on the board, Moscone had lost many 6-5 votes, but Moscone now had a chance to appoint someone who could give Moscone’s liberal proposals a 6-5 majority vote.  This 6-5 majority would be lost again if White returned.  And second, White had an anti-gay reputation among gay voters, and Moscone could lose their vote when he ran for re-election the following year if he returned White to the board.  It was after this discussion with Harvey that Moscone changed his mind and began legal maneuvers to block White from taking his seat.  These maneuvers included an opinion from the city attorney, and a requirement that White would have to prove that voters in his home district still supported him.

The graffiti in the police station (“Who’s going to get the mayor?”) shows, without question, the level of animosity which rank-and-file police felt toward Moscone, partly because he appointed a police chief they didn’t like, partly because they didn’t like his liberal attitude, and partly because Moscone was pushing for settlement of a discrimination suit, which could bring more minorities to the police force.  It supports Margo St. James’ assertion that a contact of hers on the police force had become aware of talk which sounded like threats against Moscone.  I am not sure that it is enough to prove that a serious plot was underfoot, however.  It indicates that there could have been.  I just have to wonder, if there really were such a plot, whether the plotters wouldn’t have kept quiet about it until after it was carried out.  Public threats like graffiti might have been more intended to express anger and scare Moscone, rather than being a serious rallying cry for killing him.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 04:07:21 PM
22.) Harvey told Doug Franks that Dan White was dangerous and that he was a closet case.  Why do you think he thought that?  Do you think that Harvey was just picking a personal fight with Dan White - much like he had with Diane Feinstein and David Goodstein?  Do you think that Harvey really believed that Dan White was a closet case?  Why do you think he asserted that Dan White of mental instability?

We’ve discussed this a little already, so I’ll just add some of my own speculation.  Perhaps Harvey picked up some kind of “vibe” from White when he attended the baby shower for Dan and Mary Ann’s newborn child.  The book only includes one sentence about this, but the movie shows White inviting Harvey, and then Harvey attending the shower.  In the movie, Harvey appeared to think the invitation was odd (maybe wondering why the presence of a gay Jew would be wanted at this Christian ceremony), and was reassured that other supervisors had also been invited; but then when he arrived at the shower, White brushed Harvey’s questioning look off and explained that the other supervisors hadn’t been able to come.  It may have looked like a set-up to Harvey, as though White was going out of his way to show off his heterosexual family – which could have indicated to Harvey that White felt insecure about his sexuality.  I also remember reading somewhere (not in the book or the movie), in a discussion of White’s motivation for the murder, that White alleged that Harvey had “winked” at him at some point, possibly at the shower (Harvey does smile and wave, in the movie).  Becoming offended by a gay man’s wink also sounds like something that an insecure man (closeted even to himself) might do.

I don’t think Harvey was just picking a fight with White when he remarked to Doug that, “That man is dangerous.”  Shilts reports that “every trace of Milk’s humor dropped from his voice.”  In other conversations in which Harvey mentioned that White was “dangerous,” Shilts says “Harvey was not engaging in his normal political hyperbole.”  This sounds different than the kind of political sparring that he had done with Feinstein or Goodstein.  Something had happened to make Harvey think that White really was dangerous.  White might have made other anti-gay remarks to Harvey that gave Harvey reason to feel that White was actually closeted, “fighting that inside himself,” because he did say to Doug that a “closet case” is “that much more dangerous to anyone who is open.”  From a psychological point of view, this sounds valid.  Similar feelings of internalized homophobia have been present in other murders of gay people – I posted earlier that John Cordova, who killed Robert Hillsborough, might also have had a similar motivation.

The only other piece of evidence presented in the book, that I saw, for White possibly being closeted comes on page 258 (thanks, Nikki, for the page number).  A gay publisher mentioned to White that there were rumors that White might be anti-gay.  This comes as no surprise, because he had already voted against the gay rights bill and made negative remarks about the Gay Freedom Day Parade.  But White took this remark by Charles Morris as a personal attack:  “He got so cold…that hell couldn’t have melted him.  It sent chills down my spine.”  Rather than White admitting openly that he had some objections to gays, there was something about the entire subject that he wanted to avoid discussing.

Closeted or not, however, I don’t think White would have killed unless he was either mentally unstable, or acting on behalf of others who had paid him to do the job (the conspiracy theory again).  Harvey probably suspected White of mental instability because he had been around him long enough to know that White’s stiff and robotic way of carrying himself was not the way most people interact with others.  He may not have had enough contact with White earlier, when he first said White could be educated, but by now, Harvey had seen White close-up enough to changed his mind.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 04:13:53 PM
Uncle Donald's Castro Street.

http://thecastro.net/



That's it!! Tks Fritz.  How did you find it so quickly?  Is Uncle Donald a real person, and is he credible?  His comments were very interesting about the murder and trial.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 04:16:44 PM
He seemed pretty delusional Fritz.  I often have wondered if he wasn't an undiagnosed bipolar person - it would explain the excessive drinking, the wild mood swings (moving from being elated after resigning to becoming homicidal) and the suicide.

Good point, Michael.  It would  also explain why someone who was supposed to be a good and observant Catholic would commit suicide.

I think it would explain a lot Nikki - the 'cold' attitude he got that Debbie referred to and also his behavior toward his wife.  I've often thought how difficult it must have been for her to have an infant and a husband who committed two slayings.  He certainly didn't take her wellbeing (or his child's) into account when he did what he did.

It would also, now that I think of it, explain why Harvey thought he was dangerous - and perhaps even why he thought he was in the closet.  Harvey may have been sensing that something wasn't quite right about Dan White and so he put it on being in the closet - a situation that Harvey was all too familiar with from earlier in his life.  To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail, as they say.


This is all very interesting discussion.  I was away from my computer this afternoon while it was going on.

Just above, I posted an answer to Question 22 and discussed possible reasons why Harvey might have thought White was in the closet, with the idea of looking at the possibility that White really was in the closet.  Harvey might have been sensitive enough, because of his background, to pick up on this if it were true.

But the opposite is a good possibility, also.  Maybe there was something "wrong" with Dan White psychologically (delusional, bipolar, etc.) and Harvey picked up on that, and attributed it to being in the closet even if White really wasn't.  The hammer and nail analogy is a good one, Michael.  In any case, there are good reasons for why White could be considered dangerous.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on January 31, 2009, 04:16:56 PM
When Michael linked this site, I checked it out and bookmarked it immediately. He is a real person, but I don't have much other details about him. Michael surely knows.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on January 31, 2009, 04:35:16 PM
When Michael linked this site, I checked it out and bookmarked it immediately. He is a real person, but I don't have much other details about him. Michael surely knows.



Well, tks anyway, Fritz.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on January 31, 2009, 04:58:51 PM
When Michael linked this site, I checked it out and bookmarked it immediately. He is a real person, but I don't have much other details about him. Michael surely knows.

I suggest everyone immediately bookmark the pages I post.  :D :D :D

[Just kidding]

Uncle Donald is a real guy.  Here's the info on him from his website:

http://thecastro.net/udpage/udindex.html
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 07:54:32 PM
23.) Prior to Moscone's decision Dan white told a reporter from a gay newspaper "Let me tell you right now, I've got a real surprise for the gay community--a real surprise."  What do you think he meant by this?  He told a television interviewer that when the smoke cleared he would be a supervisor again.  Do you think he intended to get back onto the Board and fight the gay community?  Or do you think he had already decided to assassinate George Moscone and Harvey Milk?

Earlier I indicated that I wasn’t sure whether Harvey’s initial pleased reaction about White’s resignation could have gotten back to White.  What is clear to me now, however, is that after White asked to have his job back, White would have been able to figure out that Harvey was opposed to that.  Shilts says newspapers carried stories that “an unnamed supervisor” opposed the reappointment, and that it was an open secret in town that this supervisor was Harvey Milk.  Even if White didn’t have access to inside information about Harvey’s reactions, White could read the newspaper once the story got published there.

So when White talked to the reporter from the gay newspaper, he had reason to be holding a grudge against Harvey.  He might have been planning Harvey’s murder at that time, and that might have been the “real surprise for the gay community” that he was referring to.  It seems credible to me, especially in light of his phrase later in that same conversation about “when the smoke clears” – that could have been a literal reference to the smoke from a gunshot.

On the other hand, at that point, White might have still been convinced that he would win his seat back by arguing persuasively with Moscone on Monday.  In that case, the expected “smoke” could have been the aftermath of an argument, and the “real surprise” could have been his expectation that he would win back his seat by persuading or threatening Moscone and then surprise the gay community by continuing to be a thorn in their side.

If we believe the conspiracy theory, and White was recruited for the murder by the police, I would say White had already made up his mind to kill Moscone and Harvey Milk sometime after his meeting with the realtors and POA.  If there wasn’t a conspiracy, then it’s still possible that White hadn’t thought of assassinating anyone at the time he mentioned the “real surprise.”  Perhaps he didn’t make up his mind about the killings until he heard that the mayor intended to appoint a new supervisor on Monday.  He received several calls from reporters over the weekend, first one from the Chronicle, followed by one from a KCBS reporter on Sunday night.  When the KCBS reporter told White that the mayor had decided not to reappoint him, the reporter said White seemed surprised.  If White had been making plans to force his way back onto the board on Monday, and then work against gays in his role as supervisor, he may have had to make a sudden change in plans on Sunday night.  As he sat up all night moping, that may have been when he worked out the details of a plan for the Monday morning assassinations. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 07:55:37 PM
24.) What do you make of Harvey's note to Tom O'Horgan and his desire to make small talk on the night before his death.  Do you think he had a feeling about what was coming - or do you think that we just think that in hindsight looking at the events of his life?

In general, I don’t believe in precognition about events like death, especially unexpected death like being killed by an assassination.  Harvey expected to die early and had come to expect being assassinated at some point, but I think he expected it to happen when he was out in public, in a parade or rally, like when he went up to speak on Gay Freedom Day.  I don’t think he expected a bullet to come from someone inside City Hall – he probably trusted the people there.  And even though he had called Dan White “dangerous,” I doubt that he felt that White was personally dangerous to him.  He didn’t seem to show any fear of being alone with White – if he had been afraid, he probably wouldn’t have gone to White’s office with him.

I don’t think the note to O’Horgan was particularly strange – Harvey was in a good mood and didn’t indicate that anything was wrong.  It was a very short note, for one thing.  We probably read the closing line now (“Ah – life is worth living”) and find it ironic that he wrote that on the Saturday night before he died, but it sounds quite upbeat.  He was probably looking forward to enjoying more good times when he would be able to go to the opera – something he hadn’t had time for in a long while.

And yet, Harvey was in a strange mood on the night (Sunday night) before his death.  It does seem like something had changed in his mood between Saturday and Sunday nights.  When he made the two phone calls, he made small talk, but the main characteristic that struck the people on the other end of the phone as strange was that the conversations lasted for so long.  The length of the conversations was not at all like the brief note that he wrote to O’Horgan the night before.  Amador was a confidante of Harvey’s, but wanted to get off the phone.  In the other conversation, he was calling Bob Tuttle, but was happy enough to talk to his roommate when Tuttle wasn’t home – just to have someone to talk to.  Shilts observes that Harvey seemed lonely that night.  It does seem like he was trying to keep up human contact with people, as though this might be his last chance.

IMO, Shilts does a good job of showing a possible parallel in the thoughts of Harvey and Dan White, on that Sunday night.  White may have just been making up his mind to carry out the assassinations, and Harvey acted as though he was receiving some intuitive sense that he was about to die.  It makes for a good story, but as I indicated above, I’m not sure that such an ability to sense the next day’s events really exists.  It’s in the realm of parapsychology, and essentially unprovable.  But if he didn’t really sense what was coming, he sure left enough intriguing evidence behind to make us think that he might have been able to foresee it.       

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 07:56:59 PM
25.) Given that White loaded his Smith & Wesson, got hollow point bullets and entered City Hall through a lab window, do you think he had already made his decision to kill Moscone and Milk before meeting with them?

Definitely.  White’s actions that morning have all the characteristics of premeditated murder.  By the time he left the house on Monday morning, I don’t think he intended to go to the board meeting and “take his seat whether Moscone appointed him or not.”  He did apparently argue briefly with Moscone during a private meeting in Moscone’s office, but I think White knew by then that he wouldn’t win the argument, and going into Moscone’s office was mainly a way of getting him in a vulnerable position.  With Harvey, it was even clearer:  White asked to see him, but didn’t attempt to talk to him once he was alone with Harvey.  He shot him immediately, first chance he had.

One thing caught my eye when I reread the paragraph about how White got his ammunition ready.  He first took his gun and checked to see that the chamber was loaded.  This gave him five bullets (regular bullets, apparently) to use in his first assassination (Moscone).  Then he counted out ten “special” hollow-point bullets,  two rounds’ worth: enough to reload two more times.  That would have been enough to kill two more people (Harvey and someone else), if he was going to use a full chamber each time.  So maybe it’s true that he planned to kill Carol Ruth Silver and/or someone else, as well.  Maybe he didn’t have time to couldn’t locate his third intended victim, or maybe he just panicked and left City Hall when he realized that other people (Feinstein, and Carl Carlson) had seen leave Harvey’s office amid an odor of gunpowder.

As for climbing through the lab window, that shows that White had thought ahead and realized that the metal detector would go off if he tried to enter City Hall’s main entrance.  More indications of premeditated murder, IMO.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on January 31, 2009, 08:47:33 PM
26.) Do you think that if Diane Feinstein had been able to get to Dan White first and talk with him that she would have been able to stop him from murdering Harvey Milk?  Or do you think that given that her aide stopped him between killing Moscone and Milk do you think he had already made his mind up?

I don’t think there was anything Feinstein could have done to stop White, at that point.  Someone, Nikki I think, said that if Feinstein had tried to interfere, White might have killed her first.  That’s a possibility, given the kind of irrational behavior White had engaged in at other times in the book when he felt he’d lost a battle.  But as he went down the hall toward Harvey’s office, White seemed like a man on a mission who was determined not to let anything stand in his way.  He hadn’t lost his final battle (killing Harvey) yet. 

If White had been thinking at all rationally (and the way he carried out his entrance into the building demonstrated rational forethought and clear thinking, IMO) he probably would have realized that if he’d shot Feinstein, her assistant Peter Nardoza would have tackled him before he ever got to Harvey’s office.  If Feinstein had tried harder to stop White, I think he would have ignored her, or pushed her aside physically if necessary, but he wouldn’t have taken his eye off the “prize,” which was Harvey.  He would not have taken the time for a conversation with Feinstein, but he wouldn’t have risked killing someone else before he could get to Harvey, either.  Besides, Feinstein had been White’s mentor, and agreed with him on many police and realtors issues, so he probably would have wanted to spare her. 

The fact that Nardoza did call out to White (“Diane would like to talk to you”) before White could get to Harvey, but that White kept right on going, saying he had something to do first, confirms to me that he had already made up his mind to kill Milk.  Nothing, other than being restrained, could have stopped him, and since no one knew yet that White had already killed Moscone, there was no reason to restrain him at that moment. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 31, 2009, 10:49:03 PM
Quote
5.)  Do you think that Dan White was out of his depth in City Hall?  Do you think his election shows a flaw in the district elections that Harvey had fought so hard for?  Do you think that part of Harvey's tolerance for White was due to the fact that White came to the board directly as a result of district elections?

I have been doing some research of my own about Mr. White. He was 31 when he won his seat, and had only a high school education and no previous political experience, though he had served in Vietnam and been a policeman and then a fireman, and their members supported him. So he was a bit naive and, it seems, over estimated what he could do as a supervisor.  He had grown up in his district and knew just about every Irish Catholic resident. He also knew and probably shared his constituents' view that recent influxes of Asians, Hispanics and Gays were changing the character of their close-knit, working-class neighborhood, and that they were deeply concerned about crime. He won over 11 other candidates.  So I think his election shows that the local district election system was working just as it had been intended to. Of course some of the new district supervisors were not going to be as savvy politically or prepared personally to do the job, but only Dan White had his particular personal make-up with a capacity for serious depression and violence when overwhelmed. I'm not quite sure what Ruth Silver meant when she said he had always been a failure, though he did fail as a Supervisor. I suspect that the way she describes him now is, very understandably, colored by his horrible act; it would be interesting to know more of what she had in mind.

Dan had been able to help Dianne Feinstein become president of the Board and shared her emphasis on supporting law enforcement. She took him under her wing. So he did have a very savvy mentor. But there's no evidence that he was homophobic or struggling with his sexuality, though it's possible. He had a gay campaign manager who became his aide. And initially, he was quite supportive of Harvey Milk's political aims. He helped get Harvey appointed to the Streets and Transportation Committee, he voted with Harvey to save the Pride Center, voted for a resolution honoring a lesbian couple on their 25th anniversary and initially supported Harvey's Gay Rights Ordinance. Dick Pabich was quoted in a gay newspaper saying : "A really neat thing is how supportive some people around here have been, Dan White in particular. He's supported us on every position, and he goes out of his way to find out what gay people think about things." (quoted by Mike Weiss, former Chronicle reporter, in his book Double Play: The San Francisco City Hall Killings.) I suspect that's part of why Harvey said he was educatable.

But he didn't do well advancing his own causes: when he announced the formation of neighborhood watch teams to combat rising street crime, the press accused him of vigilantism, according to Jerry Roberts, a former Chronicle reporter now with The Santa Barbara Independent. (http://www.independent.com/news/2008/dec/11/harvey-dan-70s-show/) He was able to torpedo a settlement between the city and the Officers For Justice, a minority organization that had sued SF over discrimination on the force, by leaking the terms to Mr. Roberts, who wrote an article that was important in stirring up public opposition to them. (This is a different story than Shilts tells, and I think he's talking about a later vote, but I'm not sure.) The odd thing is that when White was a police officer he had to quit after preventing a fellow officer from beating a handcuffed black suspect and filing a report with the officer's name given, which was unheard of. He also stuck up for three black trainees in his firefighting class, who were in danger of flunking out because of some of the written tests. This was allegedly a fire department practice to get around anti-discrimination laws. He also tutored the trainees. So he seems to have been supporting his supporters in the POA rather than acting out of a strong prejudice against blacks.

But the most important issue for White was the defeat of the proposal to build a Youth Campus for juvenile offenders who had committed serious crimes like murder, arson and rape. (John Geluardi, San Francisco Weekly http://www.sfweekly.com/2008-01-30/news/white-in-milk/1) This description of the facility doesn't jibe with Ruth Silvers'. One would have to do more research to find a more complete description of what was proposed. I was surprised to find that this city-financed project was supported by the Catholic Church, who wanted to build it on the site of an old convent. So Dan was going up against his church in support of his constituents. He yelled at the priest in charge of the project and threatened to "fuck him" if he opposed White on the issue, according to Ray Sloan.

Here is Geluardi's account of what happened, quoting Dan's former campaign manager and aide, Ray Sloan and Quentin Kopp, a conservative Supervisor: On the Friday before the Youth Campus came before the board, White asked Milk if he had his vote. Sloan, who was taking a head count of likely votes, recalls Milk saying, "Dan, you've really earned your $9,600 on this one." White and Sloan took that to mean Milk would side with White, Sloan says.

But on Monday, Milk voted for the Youth Campus. White had lost his most important issue, and he was embarrassed in front of a chamber full of Portola residents whom he had invited to witness their victory.

"I knew Harvey wasn't going to vote against the Youth Campus," Kopp says. "For crying out loud, it was a liberal vote. White came up to me right afterward and says, 'I guess a leopard never changes its spots.' He was mad. Very mad."
  A bit different than the way we saw it portrayed in Milk, and the way that Shilts wrote it up. For White it was a public humiliation.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 31, 2009, 11:15:38 PM
Quote
12.) Margo St. James was asked by a police contact how she felt about Diane Feinstein for mayor before Moscone was killed.  Her contact goes on to tell her that Moscone will be dead by Christmas.  Do you think that Shilts presents a credible case here that their was an inside plot to kill Moscone?  What is your opinion - do you think that because of the conflicts between Moscone and the police that there was a conspiracy against him?  And does this mean that Harvey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or perhaps that his conflicts with Dan White put him in the crosshairs?

After he lost that vote, White became a passionate opponent of Harvey's, voting against anything that Harvey was for. He spoke out against gays and joined more closely with the conservative members of the Board, favoring developers and downtown businesses. White seemed to take his losses very personally, easily becoming enraged. He also appeared tense and "wound up". (Despite this, he contributed $100 to the campaign against Prop. 6. Might have been an attempt to mend fences or a political move to avoid alienating the gay vote entirely.)  In the fall he began to withdraw and lose interest in his job, avoiding constituents and seldom showing up at his office in City Hall. He was having financial troubles, too. He resigned without telling anyone, but got a rush of phone calls from constituents, firemen and police who were angry about his decision. Sloan claims that he talked him into trying to get his job back,  despite the fact that Dan had mental problems.     

Moscone was initially favoring giving him the seat, but Milk lobbied against it, citing both legal and political arguments. It seems quite possible to me that White found out about the lobbying, and then learned that Moscone was not going to reappoint him. That would have ignited his strong sense of having been betrayed by both men. Ruth Silver's comment that she sat between him and Harvey and tried, with Harvey, to persuade him to support various liberal proposals, which he wouldn't, could have put her on his enemies list, too.

I find it hard to believe that White was the pawn of a police conspiracy. I’m sure many members of the force spoke angrily about getting Moscone, and derisively about Milk and Silvers. It's possible, that there was some sort of action planned against Moscone. I’m sure Dan White heard the talk. But I think it was White alone who decided to go to City Hall with his loaded gun. If there was a conspiracy, he may have decided to take on the role of assassin himself, but I doubt they discussed it with him. At this point, Dan White was clearly extremely disturbed.


Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on January 31, 2009, 11:46:30 PM
Quote
22.) Harvey told Doug Franks that Dan White was dangerous and that he was a closet case.  Why do you think he thought that?  Do you think that Harvey was just picking a personal fight with Dan White - much like he had with Diane Feinstein and David Goodstein?  Do you think that Harvey really believed that Dan White was a closet case?  Why do you think he asserted that Dan White of mental instability?

I wonder whether Dan White had some of the same father issues that many of Harvey's boyfriends had--not because he was gay, but because his father subjected him to harsh criticism and perhaps made him feel worthless, unable to win his approval. Harvey did a lot of talking to him at first, and Dan seems to have tried hard to win Harvey's approval for awhile. Harvey, in turn, seems to have been sympathetic towards him and tried to help him find his feet as a Supervisor. He also supported White as educable long after others had told him it wouldn't happen. That sounds like his tendency to hold onto troubled young men like Jack Lira and Jack McKinley. I don't think there was necessarily any sexual attraction on Harvey's part or homosexual urges on Dan White's part, but there may have been an emotional attachment that seemed, to Harvey, to feel very similar to the ones he had with young gays coping with their homosexuality. I don't think Harvey was picking a personal fight with Dan White; he may have believed Dan was actually a closet case, and attributed his rage at Harvey to his fear of being queer.

The dangerous part, though: I think Harvey observed what everyone else was observing. By the time Doug Franks came on the scene, Dan was losing his temper repeatedly over votes that went against him and acting strangely in general. As you said, Michael, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 01:00:04 AM
I have just returned from spending time with a friend - who lives on the peninsula and was talking about the book club and the film 'Milk' and got an interesting perspective.  The person who was first mentioned when her boss burst through the door to tell her of the assassinations over thirty years ago was not Harvey Milk...but George Moscone.  I thought I'd post a few articles in his memory to show you why.  Moscone's legacy and Milk's compliment one another - and it seems only right to remember them both.  It also helps to flesh out the man that drew so much animosity from Dan White.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 01:02:59 AM
Remembering George Moscone
When other victims of that 30-year-old tragedy are remembered, San Francisco's murdered mayor is almost forgotten.

By Josh Getlin
November 23, 2008


Thirty years ago this week, on the morning that San Francisco Mayor George R. Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death, I sat at my desk in City Hall and locked eyes with the killer.

My boss, the mayor, was about to make a new appointment to the Board of Supervisors, a move that would finally give him the majority he needed to push through a flurry of city reforms. But at 10:30 a.m., the man he was going to replace on the board, former Supervisor Dan White, suddenly appeared in the hall near my desk. He stared nervously at me, nodded tersely and walked toward the mayor's office, two doors down. His visit -- and his demand to meet alone with Moscone -- were unexpected. As I worked on a news release announcing White's successor, I thought I heard fireworks or a car backfiring outside. But I didn't think twice about it.

Minutes later, all hell broke loose.

White -- who had quit his job 17 days earlier and was turned down by Moscone when he tried to get it back -- shot the mayor four times, twice in the head as he lay on the floor of his private back office. Standing astride the body, he reloaded his .38-caliber revolver and then raced down a long hallway toward the supervisors' chambers. There he demanded to meet with Milk, the city's first openly gay elected official. Neither had much use for the other: White had voted against the city's first gay-rights ordinance, and Milk had lobbied Moscone not to reappoint him. Nobody in the supervisors' offices knew anything yet about Moscone's death, so Milk readily agreed to meet with his colleague. When the two were alone, White shot Milk five times and then fled the building. He later surrendered to police.

In the shock and horror at the mayor's office, some aides collapsed in grief. Others were frozen in silence. The phone in the press office began ringing incessantly, but I couldn't bring myself to answer it. I could barely speak. For those of us who loved George Moscone, his senseless death was impossible to believe. A sunny, compassionate man who had just turned 49, he left behind a wife and four kids. The city was already reeling from the deaths of more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, a week before. (Jim Jones' cult had been based in San Francisco, and many of the dead were from the Bay Area.) Now the city had lost its first modern, progressive mayor.

No one who lived through that morning at City Hall would be surprised that people remain fascinated by the story years later. But how these murders have been remembered is surprising, and saddening, to those of us who saw the story unfold behind the scenes. The mayor who was at the center of events on Nov. 27, 1978 -- and whose leadership helped make San Francisco the model of diversity and inclusion it is today -- has been largely forgotten.

This week, the city is once again hosting ceremonies marking the killings, and Milk's story will, for many, be a primary focus. Although he was known chiefly in California circles at the time of his death, he has become a national martyr for gay liberation. His courageous story has inspired books, an opera and an Oscar-winning documentary. "Milk," a new feature film starring Sean Penn that opens this week, dramatizes it once more.

White has also earned his place in the history books. The disgruntled politician who killed two defenseless public officials has been the subject of a nonfiction book, a stage drama and a TV movie. His 1979 trial for murder became a fiasco when a jury found him guilty only of voluntary manslaughter. Although White admitted to the killings -- and had slipped into City Hall through a window so he could elude metal detectors -- he spent only a little more than five years in custody. His legal team sold the jury on a diminished-capacity defense, the now-famous "Twinkie" defense, arguing that stress, sleepless nights, dark mood swings and junk food caused him to snap. He killed himself two years after his release.

But there is precious little recollection of George Moscone.

His family has chosen to mourn its loss in private, and he's had few historical cheerleaders. The definitive book about his richly evocative life and times has yet to be written. Today, Moscone is remembered largely for a downtown convention center that he helped construct and that bears his name. If you ask many San Franciscans what he accomplished as mayor, you'll get puzzled looks.

Three decades ago, however, his impact was unmistakable.

In the years leading up to Moscone's 1975 election, San Francisco was run by a tight-knit coalition of labor unions, downtown business leaders and old-line Democratic Party officials. All that changed when Moscone, a native son and former state senator, won a hard-fought mayoral election on a platform of inclusion.

Overnight, he opened up City Hall to people who had been excluded from power, including gays, blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, grass-roots activists and liberal Democrats. He appointed scores of them, including Milk, to powerful boards and commissions.

The mayor campaigned against racial and gender bias in Police Department hiring, he pushed for curbs on runaway downtown development, he kept the San Francisco Giants from leaving town and he promoted greater public access to the city's waterfront. Earlier, as majority leader of the state Senate, he helped create California's school lunch program; he also passed a bill reducing penalties for simple possession of marijuana and a landmark law legalizing sexual behavior among consenting adults.

To his supporters, Moscone was a man who welcomed and embraced change. But many San Franciscans were alarmed. They deplored the emergence of new groups, especially gays, and felt their power slipping away. Despite its freewheeling image, San Francisco was bitterly divided, and the mayor's daunting task was to push through changes while respecting sensitivities on the other side. It was then -- and remains today -- a tough job for any politician. Harvey Milk gets a lot of attention because he was fighting for a cause out on the edges -- provocative, visible and angry. Moscone gets less credit because he worked quietly within the system, trying to bring divergent groups together.

Some, like White, could not handle change. He had been elected from a largely white, working-class district, and his campaign urged voters to "Unite and Fight" against the city's new political landscape. In a fiery election pamphlet, he declared: "I am not going to be forced out of San Francisco by splinter groups of radicals, social deviates and incorrigibles."

A former cop, White was dogmatic and insecure, ill-suited for the give-and-take of politics. When he abruptly quit his job, saying he couldn't make ends meet on the $9,600 salary, Moscone saw a golden opportunity: With a new appointee who was loyal to him, he'd finally have a 6-5 majority on the 11-member board that had rejected many of his proposals by one vote. When White asked for his job back, the mayor said no. And that's what brought the killer to City Hall. On the day Harvey Milk became a martyr, George Moscone was the main target.


Thirty years later, Moscone remains an enigma to all but a handful of us who knew him. But this year, and every year, we mourn the loss of our friend who did so much to shape the modern face of San Francisco. And we continue to hope that history will one day give him his proper due.

Josh Getlin, a former Times staff writer, was a deputy press secretary and speechwriter for the late Mayor George R. Moscone.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-getlin23-2008nov23,0,2044431.story
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 01:07:31 AM
Moscone's Time Was Anything But Quiet
His election, style reflected S.F.'s changing demographics

Susan Sward, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, November 26, 1998

George Moscone is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma beneath a marker that bears his name, dates of birth and death and a simple inscription: ``We love you, Dad.''

There is no monument distinguishing the grave from the scores around it, no sign it is the resting place of a mayor who presided over San Francisco in a time of great tumult. That upheaval culminated in the City Hall assassinations of Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at the hands of former Supervisor Dan White on Nov. 27, 1978 -- 20 years ago tomorrow.

Since the day a 70-car, police-escorted funeral cortege took Moscone to his grave, the city he loved has changed dramatically. How much of that change flows from the bullets White fired is a debate that rages even now.

To some, the 49-year-old mayor was cut down after he had already left a mark on the city that could never be erased -- opening government jobs to diverse groups, linking highrise construction to developer concessions and promoting big sewer and convention center projects.

``He was the first truly progressive mayor of San Francisco,'' said San Francisco State University political scientist Rich DeLeon, author of a study of San Francisco politics titled ``Left Coast City.'' ``To get elected, he didn't go downtown -- he demonstrated there was this new grassroots coalition of previously excluded groups.''

To others, Moscone fizzled as mayor -- failing to

exhibit the showman skills of his predecessor, Joe Alioto, and demonstrating little of the administrative abilities and zeal of his successor, Dianne Feinstein.

``I really loved George Moscone, and I thought he would make significant changes for all of us and especially for those on the margins of society,'' said the Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church. ``But somehow as you looked at his genuine concern for people, at times he fell short of making it fully come together for himself and the city.''
The San Francisco that existed when Moscone was mayor is far removed from the city of today.

While the city's population of 735,000 is only about 60,000 more than it was 20 years ago, the number of whites has dropped sharply. At the end of the 1970s, whites made up 53 percent of city residents, compared with 40 percent today.

In the realm of highrise, concrete and glass, the city is very different: About one-third of the city's skyscrapers were approved for construction during Feinstein's tenure.

And in the political milieu, the combat is far less explosive than it was when Moscone served as the city's 37th mayor.

Two decades ago, acts of political violence were not uncommon. One group alone, the New World Liberation Front, had been linked to more than 70 bombings, mostly in Northern California.

Many whites dwelling in conservative neighborhoods, such as White's Excelsior District, felt increasingly hemmed in. Gays were flocking to the city, and immigration was bringing thousands of Latinos and Asians into areas formerly populated by Irish, Italians, Germans and Russians.

``Moscone came into a culture particularly hostile to the massive demographic flows changing the city,'' DeLeon said. ``You have to measure his accomplishments against the opposition arrayed against him -- the resistance from the longtime old guard.''

In San Francisco in that time, paranoia and recrimination were prevalent, said historian Kevin Starr.

``Everything happening at that time was bruising,'' said Starr. ``Up to the point of the Moscone-Milk assassination, this city had a fierce ideological edge to it, and opponents fiercely demonized each other. West of Twin Peaks demonized the gays. The gays demonized West of Twin Peaks. The old sons and daughters were demonizing the newcomers.

``You had one group that had dominated the city since the 19th century that was being displaced, and the group that was being displaced still had great force.''

continues:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/11/26/MN73299.DTL&type=printable
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 01:22:22 AM
George Moscone empowered S.F.'s diversity
Willie Brown
Sunday, November 30, 2008

There's no doubt that Harvey Milk made history and changed gay politics forever, and he's certainly deserving of a biography like the new movie "Milk." But many people forget that it was George Moscone who made San Francisco the city it is today.

I met George in the late '50s when we were both at Hastings Law School. He was two years ahead of me. We both hung out and played chess full time in the student lounge. We were both on the janitorial crew as well, so we became "broom brothers" sweeping the halls.

John Burton was in with us as well, until he went up to USF, and so was his brother, Phil Burton.

But of all of us, George was the bridge between the old San Francisco and the emerging city.

His background was pure Westside. He came out of St. Ignatius and the Catholic Athletic League, and his uncle was part of the Italian operation that ran Sunset Scavenger.

But when George was elected mayor, he made a point of opening the doors of government for all the people in the city, not just the swells who had been running the show up until then.

Power in San Francisco in those days was really centered at the ground level, in the commissions and boards that oversaw the parks, the port, the police and a dozen other departments. George was the first mayor to open up the commissions to someone besides the old guard.

So now, every one of those boards has an Asian on it, a black on it, a gay on it - in other words, they look like the San Francisco you see today. George was the one who made that happen.

And George had style. In those days the mayor didn't even have an official car, let alone a driver. The mayor drove his own car.

George wasn't a Buick kind of guy. He had a reddish-purplish Alfa Romeo that we used to ride around in.

We didn't have a lot of money to pay for anything, but we could always eat at Lorenzo Petroni's restaurant.

Lorenzo was very conservative and considered George a flaming communist. So they would get into these arguments I never understood, because when they got excited they'd speak in Italian.

That was George. Full-time politics and full-time fun.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/29/BAGA14DQLT.DTL
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 01:27:49 AM
Memories of George Moscone
A Former Friend of the Assassinated San Francisco Mayor Reflects

Thursday, December 11, 2008
By Benjamin Bycel

I will not see the movie Milk.

The assassination of Harvey Milk horrified me, but it did not touch me personally. Another killing, only moments earlier — that of Mayor George Moscone in the San Francisco City Hall — did. Even though it’s been 30 years since the killings, I simply do not have the stomach to relive that awful day. I worked closely with Moscone as a press aide during his unsuccessful race for governor, drafting detailed position papers for his progressive platform, and the brutal and public way he died shook me to the core.

At the time of the murders, Moscone was far better known than Milk. But in the intervening years, the mayor’s legacy and accomplishments have been almost totally eclipsed by the gay rights icon (which, I know, would not have bothered Moscone). The fact is that without Moscone’s push for neighborhood elections of supervisors and his vigorous support of gay rights, there would not have been a Supervisor Harvey Milk — at least not at that time.

Most people today associate Moscone with a convention center in downtown San Francisco. They know Moscone the building, not the man. But my memories of Moscone are vivid: He was a vibrant, handsome, intelligent, lovable, self-deprecating man who taught me, by example, how elected officials should conduct the people’s business.

Moscone ran for governor on a platform calling for “change” more than 30 years ago. Sound familiar? Whether he would have eventually been able to bring changes as governor or even as president, we will never know. But we do know that he called for changes that would give the poor, the disabled, racial minorities, and gays and lesbians a seat at the political table.

Once, before I knew him well, I asked if he realized that his opposition to the death penalty would cost him votes. To this day, I remember his response: “I’d rather lose the damn election than twist my views to fit popular opinion.” George always stayed on-message because he had only one: If government protected and served all the people — not just those who could afford a lobbyist or a hefty campaign contribution — our state would be better for it.

I remember one morning when an aide to farm labor leader César Chávez called us for help. They were striking, and the California Highway Patrol had not assigned enough officers to protect them from violent protests. George told me to get the (expletive deleted) commander of the CHP on the phone. “Commander? Hey, George Moscone here,” he said, his arms waving in the air. “Wanted to discuss with you a little problem my friend César Chávez is having down in the valley. If we can’t solve that, then we can spend some time discussing the Highway Patrol budget for next year.” He then winked at the gathered staff. “Okay, good,” he said, while hanging up the phone and smiling. “Glad you’ll take care of that for me.” The next day, Chávez and company were surrounded by Highway Patrol officers.

That was George at his best, using political power not to line his or his friends’ pockets, but to help the little guy.

continues:

http://www.independent.com/news/2008/dec/11/memories-george-moscone/
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 01, 2009, 07:39:19 AM

Michael, the articles about Moscone are very interesting and revealing to me.  Since they are written by people who knew, worked with, and admired the Mayor, they reveal his personality and accomplishments that were overshadowed by the accounts of the murders of the two men, and White's subsequent trial.  Unfortunately, history has not been as kind to Moscone maybe because he was not as flamboyant as Milk, or maybe because the minutiae of mayoral politics are not as interesting as the iconic, charismatic Milk, and maybe because many readers, like myself, are not as familiar with SF politics of that era.  That's why reading about Moscone from these insiders' points of view are important to me as a reader of the history and struggle for gay rights.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 01, 2009, 08:18:11 AM


27.) What do you think of the tapes that Harvey left?  What do you think of his choices for who should succeed him?  Are you surprised that he was still fighting his 'enemies' from the grave?  What of the message to carry on and come out?


IMO the tapes didn't surprise me given that Harvey had always been in control and, by leaving the tapes, he wanted to ensure the fight for gay rights would be carried on by people he, himself, chose.  If it did seem Harvey was fighting his 'enemies' from the grave, it was also "Harvey, the actor, still performing exquisite political theater."  Robinson had no desire to be supervisor,  Ross had not been close to the younger followers, and Britt was not taken seriously by anyone. I was surprised that the consensus appeared to favor Kronenberg, since she had become his campaign manager later in the struggle for gay rights.  I wonder did his choices came from the fact that he liked them personally rather than that he actually considered how they would be accepted by the rank and file of the gay community.   He did say these four should be "considered" to replace him which seems to leave open the possibility for other nominees. I also wondered why he did not include Scott Smith who had worked so hard and loyally.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 08:28:33 AM
I find it hard to believe that White was the pawn of a police conspiracy. I’m sure many members of the force spoke angrily about getting Moscone, and derisively about Milk and Silvers. It's possible, that there was some sort of action planned against Moscone. I’m sure Dan White heard the talk. But I think it was White alone who decided to go to City Hall with his loaded gun. If there was a conspiracy, he may have decided to take on the role of assassin himself, but I doubt they discussed it with him. At this point, Dan White was clearly extremely disturbed.

Jenny, I really appreciate reading all the research you have done into Dan White.  I went to bed last night still shaking my head over him, and woke up this morning hoping to tie some thoughts together about what really made him tick.  Much of what you say makes a lot of sense. 

I'm in agreement with your paragraph I quoted above.  There might have been a police conspiracy against the mayor, but I doubt they directly asked White to carry it out.  And I doubt the police would have included Harvey as a victim in any planned conspiracy:  too messy, to get two people, if nothing else.  The idea that White was clearly disturbed rings very true.  I do believe he came up with his final plot on his own.

Was he closeted, and bothered by something that Harvey did that made him feel insecure?  You give good reasons for thinking that this wasn't the case.  And if this was his motive, why wouldn't he have gone after just Harvey, rather than including the mayor?

He was in financial trouble, and concerned about his family, so was he paid to do it?  More likely he was given money -- or a loan -- to ask for his seat back.  Then if the prospect of not being reappointed meant that he wouldn't be able to get that money/loan from the realtors or police, that is the most likely thing that set White off.  And I see how he could have learned about both Harvey's and Moscone's role in preventing his reappointment.

But I am back to agreeing with yesterday's discussion here:  if he was so concerned about his family, surely he must have been disturbed if he didn't consider the consequences for them of having him arrested and jailed.  That had to mean much harder financial times ahead for them.  And I can see why his wife would "stand by him" at the trial, but not want to live with him after he was released (as one of the reference links reported).  She must have been afraid of him; it was too dangerous to have a disturbed person around her child.

The actual execution of the murders showed great detailed planning which appeared to be rational (checking the bullets, climbing in the window, etc.).  But in a larger sense, the whole undertaking seems like the work of a very disturbed person.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 08:47:07 AM
Michael, the articles about Moscone are very interesting and revealing to me.  Since they are written by people who knew, worked with, and admired the Mayor, they reveal his personality and accomplishments that were overshadowed by the accounts of the murders of the two men, and White's subsequent trial.  Unfortunately, history has not been as kind to Moscone maybe because he was not as flamboyant as Milk, or maybe because the minutiae of mayoral functions are not as interesting as the iconic, charismatic Milk, and maybe because many readers, like myself, are not as familiar with SF politics of that era.  That's why reading about Moscone from these insiders' points of view are important to me as a reader of the history and struggle for gay rights.

There are a few things that are particularly interesting to me, Nikki, in this story and how it unfolded.  One is that Harvey Milk was probably not the reason for the assassination - the true beef that Dan White had was with George Moscone.  In an article that was of particular interest that I didn't post a link to (because of a virus warning on the page) it pointed out that both Dan White and George Moscone were from particular San Francisco traditions of Catholicism - White from the Irish hardscrabble tradition and Moscone from a more expansive tradition - a tradition of the same sort of tradition as the Catholic men and women who worked on the civil rights movement.  He was involved in expanding government and making it more inclusive because he believed that it was the right thing to do.  In this way he is from a school of though influenced by people Dorothy Day.

It's also interesting to me that Moscone had been in the State Assembly and had come back to San Francisco to govern.  There was talk of his running for Governor - but he came back to the place he loved because he believed he could do good work here.  In a way that may be part of the reason that Harvey has eclipsed his memory as time has gone by - Harvey didn't have the chance to move on and up into a higher office and we will always be left with thoughts of what could have been.  However Moscone had already had a huge effect in California - serving as the majority leader of the Assembly and enacting programs like the school lunch program as well as shepherding through the bill which overturned the sodomy law in California (over 25 years before the rest of the country would catch up). 

Ultimately it may have been Moscone's work in racial politics and not in sexual politics which set the stage for his assassination - for the integration of the police department and the inclusion of black and Hispanic workers in the department was a large part of what set up the animosity between himself and old guard people in the police department - a group that Dan White grew out of.  It's important to remember that as Harvey was helping to create a neighborhood that would eventually become the Castro and alienating the working class Irish there that Moscone was doing something on a citywide basis that was alienating the same group.

I mentioned my friend on the peninsula and how she was the genesis of my renewed interest in Moscone.  She also had an interesting take on the conspiracy theory notion that I've bandied about here.  At the time there were people who thought that what had happened was that there were insiders in the P.O.A. who may have realized that Dan White was unstable and used him as their tool to rid themselves of Moscone.  So (in this scenario) Dan White was not part of some overarching conspiracy himself but was the unstable person that was pointed at the mayor.

Also on the website that I didn't post the link to was an interesting fact that I'm not sure was mentioned in the short passage about Margo St. James and her inside source in Shilts' book.  Margo and George Moscone had known each other for years and were friends.  So when she got in touch with his office and told him about the scuttlebutt going around he took her seriously - she wasn't just some radical who had an agenda, she was a friend of the mayor.  And that's why he hired the additional bodyguards in August of 1978 after her suggestion.   Ultimately he probably feared that he would be targeted by someone from the underworld with police connections and not by someone as high profile as an ex-supervisor - but he still took the threat seriously.

One of the reasons that Milk is now remembered more than Moscone may have as much to do with Harvey's understanding of the media as the importance of his role in gay politics and stopping Proposition 6.  When I read Randy Shilts book I'm impressed by how Harvey used media from his beginnings in San Francisco when he was writing a column for the gay newspaper in town.  That he had gotten enough attention that he was being covered in both the television and print press on a nearly daily basis by the time of his death [something that you can see in 'Milk' from the news reports that were both recreated and the actual archival footage of news shows].  Harvey presented a charming engaging face to the media - from things like the dog poop ordinance to his dressing as a clown and talking to tourists on the cable cars.  He was seen as fun and interesting in a way that politicians - even politicians like George Moscone, who was no slouch when it came to la doce vita - were not.  So by the time White had assassinated them Milk already had something of the power of a star in San Francisco - which the mayor did not.  His life had a certain panache which made 'The Mayor of Castro Street' a natural as a book - and has gone on to have enough of a resonance as a martyr figure that an alternative rock band from Georgia named themselves after him in the 90s - not the kind of thing that a mayor, even a good one, has going for him.  It's one of the things that I believe would have continued to propel Harvey in his political career.

Moscone's story in this drama is still, I fear, largely untold and unremembered.  I hope I've done a bit here to flesh him out.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 08:53:42 AM
I'm in agreement with your paragraph I quoted above.  There might have been a police conspiracy against the mayor, but I doubt they directly asked White to carry it out.  And I doubt the police would have included Harvey as a victim in any planned conspiracy:  too messy, to get two people, if nothing else.  The idea that White was clearly disturbed rings very true.  I do believe he came up with his final plot on his own.

I'm tending to believe something between this and the conspiracy theory - as I indicated in my last post.  Actually I think that some people in the P.O.A. may have wanted to get rid of Moscone - but I doubt that they actually sat White down and discussed this with him.  I do think that they may have thought he was enough of a loose cannon that if they pushed him he might snap and do something like this.  And I do think that he came up with the final plot on his own as well - witness that he had his own 'hit list' that included not only Moscone and Milk but Willie Brown and Carol Ruth Silver.

Here, by the way, is another interesting article that talks about the last interview that Dan White did [in the section 'One Last Thing']:

http://www.francesfarmersrevenge.com/stuff/archive/oldnews/twinkie.htm
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 09:07:22 AM
Okay!  I've found a text only version of the conspiracy theory website that I mentioned above.  It makes for interesting reading even if you discount the author's beliefs.  One big caution I would mention - do NOT go to the website referred to in the article [http://www.notfrisco.com/colmatales/moscone] - that is the website that triggered the virus alert on my computer.  You can read the text here - it's the same article - and not expose your computer to that threat:

Dan White, Assassin pt. 1:

http://www.mail-archive.com/ctrl@listserv.aol.com/msg29887.html

Dan White, Assassin pt. 2:

http://www.mail-archive.com/ctrl@listserv.aol.com/msg29888.html

Dan White, Assassin pt. 3:

http://www.mail-archive.com/ctrl@listserv.aol.com/msg29889.html

From the Conspiracy Theory Research List

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 09:16:30 AM
I wonder whether Dan White had some of the same father issues that many of Harvey's boyfriends had--not because he was gay, but because his father subjected him to harsh criticism and perhaps made him feel worthless, unable to win his approval. Harvey did a lot of talking to him at first, and Dan seems to have tried hard to win Harvey's approval for awhile. Harvey, in turn, seems to have been sympathetic towards him and tried to help him find his feet as a Supervisor. He also supported White as educable long after others had told him it wouldn't happen. That sounds like his tendency to hold onto troubled young men like Jack Lira and Jack McKinley. I don't think there was necessarily any sexual attraction on Harvey's part or homosexual urges on Dan White's part, but there may have been an emotional attachment that seemed, to Harvey, to feel very similar to the ones he had with young gays coping with their homosexuality. I don't think Harvey was picking a personal fight with Dan White; he may have believed Dan was actually a closet case, and attributed his rage at Harvey to his fear of being queer.

You know, Jenny, I had been thinking for some time now that Dan White reminded me of Jack Lira during his temperamental and unbalanced emotional states, but I hadn't focused on the father angle of it.  But I can see the similarity of these relationships (minus the sexual part).  Harvey was, at first, supportive of White, who was younger and less experienced in politics than Harvey, and tried to help him out -- or "educate" him.

What strikes me now, in light of this "father figure" angle, is that maybe that's why White invited Harvey to his son's christening.  I'm fairly sure that Harvey was the only supervisor invited, and that by saying, oh, the others couldn't make it, White was just trying to reassure Harvey.  Maybe White was somehow trying to include Harvey as part of the family.  Strange, but just maybe.  There had to be some reason why he invited Harvey, and this is the best one I've been able to come up with.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 09:19:06 AM
Thanks, Michael, for all of the above on Moscone, also on White and conspiracy -- I haven't had a chance to read them yet, but will do that soon.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 10:31:10 AM
I mentioned my friend on the peninsula and how she was the genesis of my renewed interest in Moscone.  She also had an interesting take on the conspiracy theory notion that I've bandied about here.  At the time there were people who thought that what had happened was that there were insiders in the P.O.A. who may have realized that Dan White was unstable and used him as their tool to rid themselves of Moscone.  So (in this scenario) Dan White was not part of some overarching conspiracy himself but was the unstable person that was pointed at the mayor.

This makes sense, Michael.

Also on the website that I didn't post the link to was an interesting fact that I'm not sure was mentioned in the short passage about Margo St. James and her inside source in Shilts' book.  Margo and George Moscone had known each other for years and were friends.  So when she got in touch with his office and told him about the scuttlebutt going around he took her seriously - she wasn't just some radical who had an agenda, she was a friend of the mayor.  And that's why he hired the additional bodyguards in August of 1978 after her suggestion.   Ultimately he probably feared that he would be targeted by someone from the underworld with police connections and not by someone as high profile as an ex-supervisor - but he still took the threat seriously.

And so does this.  Knowing that Margo and Moscone were friends makes her story much more credible.

And the last part of what you say also seems logical -- he didn't fear an ex-supervisor, so he was willing to meet with White alone that day.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 01, 2009, 11:14:47 AM

I'm tending to believe something between this and the conspiracy theory - as I indicated in my last post.  Actually I think that some people in the P.O.A. may have wanted to get rid of Moscone - but I doubt that they actually sat White down and discussed this with him.  I do think that they may have thought he was enough of a loose cannon that if they pushed him he might snap and do something like this.  And I do think that he came up with the final plot on his own as well - witness that he had his own 'hit list' that included not only Moscone and Milk but Willie Brown and Carol Ruth Silver.


I agree Michael. IMO the police were loathe to try and discuss the murder plans with White, because they knew how unstable he was, and he may have unwittingly mentioned it.  As you say, he was enough of a loose cannon that they were able to push him into doing what they wanted.  He may have created the hit list after he talked with the police.  Still a conspiracy of sorts if this was the scenario.  Didn't one of the reporters say that a cop patted White on the bottom as if he had been in a football game? And wasn't the police "gentle" police interrogation mentioned later?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 01, 2009, 12:10:16 PM
Quote
I'm tending to believe something between this and the conspiracy theory - as I indicated in my last post.  Actually I think that some people in the P.O.A. may have wanted to get rid of Moscone - but I doubt that they actually sat White down and discussed this with him.  I do think that they may have thought he was enough of a loose cannon that if they pushed him he might snap and do something like this.  And I do think that he came up with the final plot on his own as well - witness that he had his own 'hit list' that included not only Moscone and Milk but Willie Brown and Carol Ruth Silver.

I'm somewhat dubious about their thinking this, though it's certainly possible. Dan was certainly a loose cannon, but I don't quite see them counting on his snapping in this way. I tend to believe that the POA (and the realtors) pushed him hard to rescind his resignation, pointing out that they needed his vote and that if he was gone their "enemies" on the Board would have the upper hand, perhaps, telling him that he would be letting them down if he left. I suppose that individual officers could have fueled his rage and agreed that Dan should "fuck" his enemies, bolstered his sense that Moscone and Milk had ruined his life, and that Dan was a hero who had to keep fighting. But pointing him towards assassination, specifically, or making him a cats paw in a scheme--I'm not convinced. I think it was learning that Moscone would not reappoint him from the press, after Moscone had indicated he would, and learning that Harvey Milk, who had betrayed him before, was lobbying hard against him that made him decide to pick up his gun and carry the dum dum bullets. Apparently he also planned two other murders--I keep wondering how he knew Willie Brown would be there--of people he blamed for supporting Moscone and Milk in their political attack on the police, him and his constituents.

It seems most likely to me that Dan White planned a murder-suicide that would finally destroy the liberals who were oppressing the police, justify their faith in him and make him a front page hero. What would happen to his family was simply not significant in his thinking. That's quite typical of serious depression. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 01, 2009, 12:37:53 PM
I did read the articles but don't have time to comment on them right now. I would point out, however, that there are errors of fact in the second part of the "conspiracy archive": Dan was born in 1946, not 1939 and the author claimed he was not born in San Francisco, which I couldn't find confirmation of anywhere. I also couldn't find any confirmation that White went to Alaska or wanted to be a writer, or that he thought his books and a mattress would be enough. No mention is made of Dan's work as a firefighter.

I'm wondering about Moscone's reputation as a philanderer who employed prostitutes. Is that substantiated anywhere? I'm not sure why members of the force couldn't have leaked that information earlier. I've never heard about a rally that Sloan and White attended in which Dan argued publicly with former supporters. If all of this is true, perhaps I'd feel a bit more willing to give credence to the author's long explanations of Dan's thinking.

 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 02:28:08 PM
^^^^

I just finished the articles.  Didn't pick up those inconsistencies Jenny mentions (she's done more research on White than I have), but I did wonder about the overall credibility of the articles.

A lot in them does jive with other articles and with the book.  And there were juicy tidbits, like the background on Moscone's mistresses and his association with prostitutes.  But I didn't see a lot of information in them to indicate that White was working for a conspiracy -- even though some police were happy afterwards to see Moscone gone.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: fritzkep on February 01, 2009, 02:36:21 PM
Perhaps this question is beyond the scope of this thread, since it pertains to events after the time of Harvey Milk's death. But if I might:

Michael, did you find the attitude of the San Francisco Police two years after the assassinations, when you arrived in 1980, to be about the same as it was around 1978, or had it already begun to improve vis-à-vis the gay community in the city? And if it had not, about when did it start to change, or when did the city politics force the change on the police as a group?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 03:38:24 PM
27.) What do you think of the tapes that Harvey left?  What do you think of his choices for who should succeed him?  Are you surprised that he was still fighting his 'enemies' from the grave?  What of the message to carry on and come out?

Harvey’s tapes do make it seem that he had predicted his assassination, but this is not surprising to me.  He made the tapes just over a year before his actual death, right after being elected supervisor.  He was being realistic when he said, “I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed with themselves.”  This is different than thinking that he could have foreseen the assassination on the night before it happened, when he made those strange, long phone calls, as though he knew it was his last night.

My reaction to those first words on the tape is that Harvey had a good understanding of the psychology of a person who might want to kill him.  It makes me think that, if he had had a chance, he could have forgiven a person like White, understanding that it was White’s own demons which made him do it.  It sounds like Harvey expected to be killed by a lone gunman with emotional or mental problems, and that it didn’t occur to him that any sort of conspiracy might make plans against him.

I thought it was more important that Harvey specify who should not succeed him, rather than pick a particular group of people from whom a successor should be chosen.  He did want to ensure “from the grave” that the gay moderates with whom he had fought for so long would not inherit his seat.  He was able to look backward, to eliminate those people.  As for his preferred choices of a successor, I think it may have been premature for Harvey to pick people in 1977 and then expect one of them to be chosen sometime in the future, because he would not have known how times might change and how these people might perform in the changing times to come. 

Frank Robinson  had worked with Harvey for a long time, so I wasn’t surprised to see his name on the list, but he wasn’t interested and had no direct political experience.  I was surprised to see gay publisher Bob Ross listed, because he had only been mentioned twice previously in the book (once in relation to finding Harvey cheap clothes).  Harry Britt, the mailman, seemed an unlikely choice.  I wasn’t too surprised to see Anne Kronenberg listed, even though she was young, because she knew Harvey’s brand of politics well, but it was somewhat of a surprise that he would think a lesbian could represent the primarily male Castro district.

As he neared the close of his tape, Harvey urged people not to demonstrate violently, but instead to seize power by coming out – everyone, everywhere, “stand up and let the world know….That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine.”  I was glad that he included this message, because I think it’s a valid message which embodied what he stood for.  And the final words about hope, reminiscent of all his “hope speeches,” were a moving way to end the tape.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 05:06:11 PM
I had a question related to this section. 

The title of the chapter where Harvey is killed is "No Cross, No Crown."  Can someone with more of a literary or religious background interpret this?  I'm not sure what it means, or why it was chosen for this chapter.

Would appreciate any thoughts you might have.  Thanks.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 05:38:56 PM
28.) What are your thoughts regarding the memories of various people after Harvey's death - Tom O'Horgan, Medora Payne, Frank Robinson, Joe Campbell, Scott Smith and the unnamed labor leader?  What did you find particularly touching at this point in the book?

So many people who had known Harvey at earlier points in their lives were shocked to hear the news, and they heard the news in such a variety of ways. 

One of the saddest memories was that of Medora White, who had worked in Harvey’s campaign while still a pre-teen.  She had burst out crying when he’d lost that campaign; now, in high school, she broke into tears when she heard that he had been killed.  He had been an adult hero to her, when she had been so young.  I found it sad to think of her walking for hours around the high school track, trying to cope with her grief by remembering the envelopes she’d licked and the brochures she’d handed out.

Tom O’Horgan was old enough to cope with the news, but he had one of the oddest experiences, because he received a letter from Harvey after he already knew Harvey was dead.  The line in that letter, “Life is worth living” probably shook him up and made him feel that Harvey had been cut down just when he had so much to look forward to.  Most likely, O’Horgan felt badly for Harvey, even more than he grieved for Harvey personally.

Joe Campbell never paid any attention to politics and had drifted completely away from Harvey, but when someone did finally get through to him that the “mayor” story also involved the death of Harvey Milk (“Shot in the head,” his hitchhiker said casually), Campbell completely lost it.  I was touched to hear him say, “That’s my lover,” so many years after they had separated.  When he showed up at a memorial service later that night, Campbell was back to being what I would have expected from him: confused because the “Harvey” in politics didn’t sound like the man he had once known.

Jack McKinley’s reaction (a drunken binge, and extreme anger) seemed in line with his personality from his earlier days.

Scott Smith seemed to be in a state of shock when he helped Jim Rivaldo pick out clothes for Harvey’s final attire.  That’s typical of a spouse or ex-spouse or family member, when there is so much to be done in preparation for a funeral.  But during the memorial service at City Hall, Smith broke down when someone mentioned a line (“What do you think of my new theater?”) that brought back memories of the living Harvey.  I felt that Smith had never stopped loving Harvey, even though they had become incompatible as lovers.  Smith realized at that point how much he missed Harvey.

The unnamed labor leader was probably Jim Elliot, who made the remark about “fruits and kooks” earlier in the book (p. 150-151).  He had since become a supporter of Harvey Milk.  Still, I was impressed that he used Harvey’s death as an occasion to go over to his gay daughter’s house and really make up with her.  It was very moving to read about how they had comforted each other that night.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 06:13:32 PM
I had a question related to this section. 

The title of the chapter where Harvey is killed is "No Cross, No Crown."  Can someone with more of a literary or religious background interpret this?  I'm not sure what it means, or why it was chosen for this chapter.

Would appreciate any thoughts you might have.  Thanks.

Here is a blog that digs into the meaning - the notion is that without sacrifice there is no glory - no cross on earth means no crown in heaven.  The modern expressions 'no pain, no gain' and 'no guts, no glory' are related to the expression:

http://recycledknowledge.blogspot.com/2006/05/no-cross-no-crown.html

The phrase is often used to refer to Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday.  This is seen as a humble martyrdom - as opposed to Christ's triumphant return at the last judgment.  See here:

http://www.preaching.com/resources/from_the_lectionary/11546991/

And here is the William Penn essay that is referred to in the above citation:

http://www.gospeltruth.net/Penn/nocrossnocrownIndex.htm

I understand the use of Randy Shilts expression in the context of Harvey Milk's life - but I think it tells us as much about Shilts own religious background as anything else.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 06:22:41 PM
29.) On the night of Harvey Milk & George Moscone's assassination 40,000 people walked from Castro Street to City Hall in memorial for the slain leaders with candles.  What do you think of this tribute?  Do you think Harvey would have liked it?  In the movie 'The Times of Harvey Milk' a man is reported to have yelled to the crowds "Where is your anger?"  Do you think this response was appropriate - or do you think the crowd should have been angry?

I think Harvey would have loved the candlelight procession.  It was great theater, and it tied together the two places where he performed his own theater:  Castro Street, and City Hall.

I do understand one man yelling, “Where is your anger?”  Harvey had said in his political will, “I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad.”  But I think the response of the crowd – a peaceful march – was appropriate, and was what Harvey would have wanted.  He had asked that there not be demonstrations, which I took to mean, angry demonstrations or riots.  But this march was a memorial, a way of mourning.  There were gay people and straight people in the march, so in that sense it helped bring gays and straights together to show that they all mourned Harvey.  It was also a way for those gays who were there to make their presence known by their sheer numbers, to show that they intended to stand up with dignity and not be pushed around even if their leader was gone.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 06:49:41 PM
Here is a blog that digs into the meaning - the notion is that without sacrifice there is no glory - no cross on earth means no crown in heaven.  The modern expressions 'no pain, no gain' and 'no guts, no glory' are related to the expression:

I understand the use of Randy Shilts expression in the context of Harvey Milk's life - but I think it tells us as much about Shilts own religious background as anything else.


Thanks, Michael.  Now I can see why he would use that phrase in writing about a person who was assassinated, then became a legend.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 07:00:36 PM
30.) Were you surprised to hear that originally George Moscone's body alone was going to lie in the City Hall rotunda?

No, I wasn’t surprised, because it seemed like one final insult.  Moscone and Harvey had started out fighting each other politically (when Moscone was a “liberal friend” of the gay moderates).  Then they had become liberal allies, after Harvey became a supervisor.  Moscone still outranked Harvey, however, and his staff technically had the right to put his body in the place of highest honor, leaving Harvey’s body in the City Hall lobby.

However, this would have been a bad political calculation, IMO.  Harvey had a huge following, and his supporters weren’t about to be treated like second class citizens again without making some sort of protest.  It was a good thing that Harvey’s aides argued against the plan, and that Mosone’s staff finally changed their minds and allowed the two men to be treated with equal respect during the lying in state.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 07:11:35 PM
No, I wasn’t surprised, because it seemed like one final insult.  Moscone and Harvey had started out fighting each other politically (when Moscone was a “liberal friend” of the gay moderates).  Then they had become liberal allies, after Harvey became a supervisor.  Moscone still outranked Harvey, however, and his staff technically had the right to put his body in the place of highest honor, leaving Harvey’s body in the City Hall lobby.

What's interesting about this Debbie is that they almost proved what Harvey had been saying all along about 'liberal friends' here - that when it comes down to it they won't necessarily be there to back you up.  They think their priorities (and their deaths) are the more important ones.

I'm glad they relented.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 01, 2009, 08:17:55 PM
That's true, Michael.

Too late for me to do any more questions tonight.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 08:22:44 PM
Here are two websites I found interesting related to Harvey.  The first one is related to a children's book about his life - links from their website related to Harvey:

http://www.harveymilkstory.com/legacy.html

The second one gets a bit more into next week's topics (the White Night riots, particularly) but as it is sometimes difficult for me to find things a second time I'm posting it now - with an advisory that it is about next week's topics:

http://shapingsf.ctyme.com/cgi-bin/library?e=d-000-00---0ssf--00-0-0--0prompt-10---4------0-1l--1-en-50---20-home-suicide--00031-001-1-0utfZz-8-00&cl=search&d=HASH0150553ff62967621939fe16&x=1
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 01, 2009, 10:09:59 PM

29.) On the night of Harvey Milk & George Moscone's assassination 40,000 people walked from Castro Street to City Hall in memorial for the slain leaders with candles.  What do you think of this tribute?  Do you think Harvey would have liked it?  In the movie 'The Times of Harvey Milk' a man is reported to have yelled to the crowds "Where is your anger?"  Do you think this response was appropriate - or do you think the crowd should have been angry?

I think Harvey would have loved the candlelight procession.  It was great theater, and it tied together the two places where he performed his own theater:  Castro Street, and City Hall.

I do understand one man yelling, “Where is your anger?”  Harvey had said in his political will, “I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad.”  But I think the response of the crowd – a peaceful march – was appropriate, and was what Harvey would have wanted.  He had asked that there not be demonstrations, which I took to mean, angry demonstrations or riots.  But this march was a memorial, a way of mourning.  There were gay people and straight people in the march, so in that sense it helped bring gays and straights together to show that they all mourned Harvey.  It was also a way for those gays who were there to make their presence known by their sheer numbers, to show that they intended to stand up with dignity and not be pushed around even if their leader was gone.

Yes indeed, Debby. It was wonderful theater, guaranteed to to get the front page for Harvey Milk one more time. And it seems to me to be an obvious response; how many times had gays converged on Castro St. when there was trouble, and how many times had Harvey and his core group led them to City Hall? It also seems to me that one usually mourns first, before the anger comes: at the time Dan White was in custody, and no one yet knew how his case would be handled and what his sentence would be. The anger would come and the so would the riot so often predicted.

What also occurred to me was that it was a fulfillment, in a way, of what Harvey wished: I hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, a hundred, a thousand would rise. There were 40,000 people that night, and that was an undeniable statement of political power to anyone who hoped Harvey's death would mean the end of what he had started. And it didn't. But the combination of gay activist, populist and media-savvy elected official who wouldn't compromise his beliefs, no matter how inconvenient, but somehow remained likable--that didn't happen again, I think. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 01, 2009, 10:29:53 PM
But the combination of gay activist, populist and media-savvy elected official who wouldn't compromise his beliefs, no matter how inconvenient, but somehow remained likable--that didn't happen again, I think. 

That combination didn't happen again, Jenny.  But I really think of Larry Kramer and ACT-UP (and, by extension, Queer Nation) as being the descendants of Harvey Milk.  Larry Kramer certainly wouldn't compromise his beliefs, no matter how inconvenient.  Kramer's essay '1,112 and Counting', published in 1983, certainly didn't compromise his beliefs - but it may have not been very likable:

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2003/05/66488.html?c=on

And ACT-UP was certainly media-savvy.  There is no question in my mind that without them we would not have had the sped up drug trials that brought ups protease inhibitors in the 90s:

http://www.actupny.org/video/

And there are people who have been able to be out and be likable as well - Ellen DeGeneres comes to mind.

So there are little bits of his legacy that have existed separately.  And there are probably well more than a thousand who have risen to taken up the challenge - including Cleve Jones and Bill Kraus.  But we've never seen anyone who put it together quite so well in one package as Harvey, that's for sure.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: janjo on February 02, 2009, 03:29:39 AM
I recently ordered the paperback edition of "The Mayor of Castro Street" from Amazon. It was delivered today only there was a mistake with the order and they have sent me two copies. If anyone would like a brand new copy of the book I would be only too happy to send it on.
It would be £7.50 plus what ever it will cost me in postage.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 07:11:16 AM



So there are little bits of his legacy that have existed separately.  And there are probably well more than a thousand who have risen to taken up the challenge - including Cleve Jones and Bill Kraus.  But we've never seen anyone who put it together quite so well in one package as Harvey, that's for sure.


 I agree Michael. I never knew as much about Harvey Milk until I read this book.  Of course, I remember his murder and the publicity about him and Moscone.  Now that I've learned more  about Harvey, I believe that he was a man for the time. His flamboyant personality and flare for the theatrical  coupled with his dedication to gay rights were just what the gays in SF needed.  He did, indeed, combine it all in one package.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 09:25:54 AM
31.) Joe Campbell commented to Robert Milk that 'Harvey left a lot of fractures in his life.  He was rash and left a lot of things behind.  We're just some of the fractures.'  And yet when lesbians and gay men passed out flowers to strangers later that day people had already started talking about the Harvey Milk legend.  What do you think that it says about the complexity of Harvey's life and his message that both of these things occured on the same day?

There were fractures in Harvey’s life:  living people whom he had left behind along the way.  He’d been estranged from his brother Robert for years, and specifically excluded Robert from his will.  He’d left a trail of former lovers along the way; of these, Joe Campbell stands out because his relationship with Harvey lasted longer than any of Harvey’s other relationships, and yet Joe barely recognized the person being described at the City Hall memorial service for Harvey-as-slain-politician.  Harvey had gone through so many other changes earlier in his life, leaving behind careers in teaching and finance and insurance.  If he’d had mentors in these careers, he’d left them behind, as well.  And there had been fractures in his relationships with other gay politicos, like Goodstein, Foster and Stokes.  He wrote them out of his political will, also.  Harvey had also gone through many stages during his life with Scott Smith, from the end of his conservative years to his years as a hippie, from a well-off opera lover to a neighborhood store owner, from a street activist to a man with a three-piece suit position in City Hall and a position as a statewide champion of gay rights.  It’s no wonder that his relationship with Scott had fractured before Harvey achieved his greatest success; Scott always cared about Harvey, but couldn’t keep up with the changes and the constant flurry of campaigning.

To me, this shows that Harvey was a multidimensional person who couldn’t seem to fit the pieces of his own life together so that he could find peace and harmony with all the important elements of that life.  And yet, he had been able to inspire his masses of followers with his twin messages of hope, and power.  He was also able to reach out to a wide range of people, and bring together coalitions, in his political life.  So there was reconciliation, as well as fracture, in his legacy.  It was interesting to see the gays and lesbians at the larger memorial service passing out flowers to everyone afterwards.  In the most obvious sense, this was a practical solution of what to do with thousands of floral arrangements; there is often that question of how best to use the flowers after a funeral, and that’s one reason why families often request charity donations in lieu of flowers.  But there was something symbolic about the distribution of Harvey’s flowers, too.  First, the phrase “nothing should be allowed to die here” referred not only to the flowers, but also to Harvey’s legend which shouldn’t be allowed to die.  Second, the way the flowers were offered, not just to gays and lesbians, but to everyone on the streetcars and buses, seemed like a symbolic way of trying to reconcile all the disparate people in Harvey’s life.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 11:27:18 AM

28.) What are your thoughts regarding the memories of various people after Harvey's death - Tom O'Horgan, Medora Payne, Frank Robinson, Joe Campbell, Scott Smith and the unnamed labor leader?  What did you find particularly touching at this point in the book?



Since all of the above mentioned were close friends or lovers and had worked with Harvey at various times in his life, it was not surprising how affected they were on a personal level.  However, I found the unnamed labor leader's reactions particularly touching.  He had met Milk and known him for years and, though he had worried about 'the fruits and the kooks,' he had come to admire Harvey as a friend of the union and a voice for men like him -- the regular guys.  He felt he needed to go to his lesbian daughter's apartment in the wake of Harvey's murder where he fell into her arms sobbing.  Later he said, "Knowing Harvey Milk was a blessing." IMO Harvey would have been pleased at such a reaction from someone outside of the gay community whose life had been touched and changed to such a great extent.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 11:53:00 AM


29.) On the night of Harvey Milk & George Moscone's assassination 40,000 people walked from Castro Street to City Hall in memorial for the slain leaders with candles.  What do you think of this tribute?  Do you think Harvey would have liked it?  In the movie 'The Times of Harvey Milk' a man is reported to have yelled to the crowds "Where is your anger?"  Do you think this response was appropriate - or do you think the crowd should have been angry?




The muffled drums, flags, the sound of 40,000 marching feet -- what spectacular theater! -- Harvey would have loved it!! I can imagine him watching with tears in his eyes as these friends, lovers, followers, marched in tribute to their fallen leader.  He would probably have thought that his life and death were vindicated by this display of devotion, and may even have wondered if his message of hope had finally reached them.

As for the angry man, I can understand how he felt, but I think the 40,000 who marched in silent grief was a more eloquent tribute to Harvey than an anger crazed mob.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 11:56:50 AM
32.) The book presents many stories of the effects of the death - including the story of Steve Hollonzine and Rick Stokes and the dreams of Scott Smith and Cleve Jones.  Which of these stories particularly affected you? 

The story of 19-year-old Steve Hollonzine, who carried the California flag on TV and was then abandoned by his parents, hit me hard because it was both sad, and it made me mad.  These parents, the father a rabbi and both of them Auschwitz survivors, flew in to demand whether or not Steve was a “sodomite.”  When he wouldn’t return home to Toronto with them, they told him he was no longer their son, and never contacted him again.  We had never met Steve in this book before, so it was a total surprise to learn that he had a malignant brain tumor, that his parents knew it, and that he would die soon.  I can appreciate that the parents had a very conservative religious background, but it was an act of cruelty for them to leave Steve alone in life under those circumstances.

Rick Stokes’ reaction, after learning that he was on the “enemies list” in Harvey’s political will, was predictable.  Nevertheless, I thought it was in poor taste for him to state publicly that “We had a hero,” inferring that Harvey was no longer a hero.  But this story didn’t affect me too much because it seemed like “just politics.”

The dreams of Scott Smith and Cleve Jones were very different in tone.  Scott’s dream was bittersweet, when he dreamed that Harvey was alive and grinning, and sitting in a Paris café, having somehow decided to take a break from death.  That was the sweet part; the bitter part came when Scott woke up and realized that Harvey was still dead.  Because of their long relationship, this brief dream indicated to me that Scott was going to be dealing with the emotional aftermath of Harvey’s death for a long time.

Cleve Jones’ dream was the scariest and most vivid, because he was actually reliving Harvey’s death, but putting himself in the place of the one being pursued by someone like Dan White.  The dream contained the elements of danger, running to escape, long hallways, and the sound of keys which meant that someone was coming to get him and getting closer.  When the dream shifted to the sight of Harvey’s body, Jones was back to being himself in the dream, witnessing again the horror of what he had actually seen.  Instead of sobbing after waking up, as Scott had done, Jones erupted in a fit of anger and nearly destroyed his room.  This to me shows that Jones would continue being the angry activist, leading protests in the future.     

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 12:06:54 PM

32.) The book presents many stories of the effects of the death - including the story of Steve Hollonzine and Rick Stokes and the dreams of Scott Smith and Cleve Jones.  Which of these stories particularly affected you? 

The story of 19-year-old Steve Hollonzine, who carried the California flag on TV and was then abandoned by his parents, hit me hard because it was both sad, and it made me mad.  These parents, the father a rabbi and both of them Auschwitz survivors, flew in to demand whether or not Steve was a “sodomite.”  When he wouldn’t return home to Toronto with them, they told him he was no longer their son, and never contacted him again.  We had never met Steve in this book before, so it was a total surprise to learn that he had a malignant brain tumor, that his parents knew it, and that he would die soon.  I can appreciate that the parents had a very conservative religious background, but it was an act of cruelty for them to leave Steve alone in life under those circumstances.


Debbie, I'll use part of your answer, because Hollonzine's story affected me more than the others.  It was so cruel and insensitive of his parents.  Regardless of religion, and I've known orthodox Jews who would not have acted this way, their actions were unjustifiable.  It was profundly sad, especially since they left their son to face his death alone.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 12:27:00 PM

31.) Joe Campbell commented to Robert Milk that 'Harvey left a lot of fractures in his life.  He was rash and left a lot of things behind.  We're just some of the fractures.'  And yet when lesbians and gay men passed out flowers to strangers later that day people had already started talking about the Harvey Milk legend.  What do you think that it says about the complexity of Harvey's life and his message that both of these things occurred on the same day?


Joe Campbell may have still been smarting from his broken love affair with Harvey which makes his remarks seem bitter IMO.  Harvey was a complex man who may have been difficult to understand, but it was that complexity  which made his appeal to such a diverse number of people credible.  That he made such a profound effect on his followers is manifested by the lesbians and gays who passed out flowers to strangers that day.  It was only a matter of time until the Harvey Milk legend began.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 12:41:30 PM
No, I wasn’t surprised, because it seemed like one final insult.  Moscone and Harvey had started out fighting each other politically (when Moscone was a “liberal friend” of the gay moderates).  Then they had become liberal allies, after Harvey became a supervisor.  Moscone still outranked Harvey, however, and his staff technically had the right to put his body in the place of highest honor, leaving Harvey’s body in the City Hall lobby.

What's interesting about this Debbie is that they almost proved what Harvey had been saying all along about 'liberal friends' here - that when it comes down to it they won't necessarily be there to back you up.  They think their priorities (and their deaths) are the more important ones.

I'm glad they relented.

... I wondered if it wasn't a political ploy by Feinstein and her staff -- beginning to distance themselves from Harvey litterally and politically.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 01:20:42 PM


33.) On November 18, 1978 Leo Ryan and four other people were killed in Jonestown, Guyana and 909 temple members, many from the bay area, died from homicide or suicide.  Then on November 27, 1978 Dan White killed Moscone and Milk.  What do you think the cumulative effects of these events were on the city and its people.  How do you think the nation and the world viewed these events?



I remember the news of the deaths of Harvey and Moscone, and the suicide of White, but I didn't read about them in depth at that time.  However, the deaths of Leo Ryan and the  909 temple members hit the headlines like a ton of bricks and garnered much more press than the others.  To be fair, I guess the deaths of the temple followers garnered so much publicity because of the shear number of deaths and the manner in which they were accomplished.  I remember Leo Ryan's death was a shock and attracted a lot of press as well because of who he was.

I guess you would have had to live in SF to appreciate the effects of these events.  The cumulative effects on the city must have been disastrous. How could they not?  Grief over Harvey and Moscone was ongoing while the word from Guyana must have seemed incredible.  I had to wonder if the residents of SF had anymore sorrow to spare -- they were still grieving over their fallen leader, and probably had no time or inclination to think about anything else.  Also, I suspect the citizens of SF were more affected by this turn of events than the rest of the world.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 01:23:29 PM
33.) On November 18, 1978 Leo Ryan and four other people were killed in Jonestown, Guyana and 909 temple members, many from the bay area, died from homicide or suicide.  Then on November 27, 1978 Dan White killed Moscone and Milk.  What do you think the cumulative effects of these events were on the city and its people.  How do you think the nation and the world viewed these events?

To anyone like Tory Hartmann who knew the inside story of how Harvey had once used members of People’s Temple to distribute his campaign literature, the combination of these events must have seemed chillingly ironic – too close to home.  The same could be said for people who knew of Moscone’s connections to Jim Jones in San Francisco city government – again, too close to home.  For politicians all around Bay Area and vicinity, it must have seemed like they were a hunted species, with Moscone and Harvey Milk joining Congressman Leo Ryan among the victims. To other people in the city, who hadn’t known much about People’s Temple but were learning about its San Francisco connections after the Jonestown massacres, it must have seemed like too much tragedy was striking the city all at once.  The depression resulting from the loss of the city’s mayor and a popular supervisor was compounded by the awareness of, not only Congressman Ryan’s death, but the deaths of so many ordinary folks from the local area who had been duped – or maybe doped --  into following Jim Jones to Jonestown.

From the outside, after these events, the nation and world developed an even stronger notion of San Francisco as a crazy place.  First there had been the hippies and free love, then various local radical groups and associated killings.  Now, in the nation’s eyes, the city was the birthplace of a cult which indoctrinated members into something called the People’s Temple; it was the birthplace of a crazy cultist who led these people to their deaths in Jonestown; and it was the site of two political assassinations inside its City Hall.  Shilts alludes to how the two events, cumulatively, put San Francisco’s longstanding reputation as “Kook Capital” back into the forefront of people minds across the country and beyond.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 01:48:42 PM


One thing I found profoundly sad was when Rivaldo and Smith went to pick out Harvey's final attire, they found that most of his clothes from his suits to his underwear were tattered and threadbare. They had a hard time finding socks without holes.  Harvey had given up everything to lead the fight for gay rights and died in poverty and debt.  Of course, it wouldn't have bothered him to know what he was buried in, and maybe the jeans, plaid shirt, and sneakers that Rivaldo had first suggested would have been more 'Harvey' after all.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 02, 2009, 01:51:56 PM

Michael, the articles about Moscone are very interesting and revealing to me.  Since they are written by people who knew, worked with, and admired the Mayor, they reveal his personality and accomplishments that were overshadowed by the accounts of the murders of the two men, and White's subsequent trial.  Unfortunately, history has not been as kind to Moscone maybe because he was not as flamboyant as Milk, or maybe because the minutiae of mayoral politics are not as interesting as the iconic, charismatic Milk, and maybe because many readers, like myself, are not as familiar with SF politics of that era.  That's why reading about Moscone from these insiders' points of view are important to me as a reader of the history and struggle for gay rights.

I agree with you, Nikki, and you, Michael, that Moscone is an overlooked piece of the puzzle. It's interesting that the memory of Moscone as a man and a mayor has faded so much, leaving him to be the "assassinated mayor", Dan White's other victim, and the man for whom the convention center is named. At most, he seems to be known as the mayor who supported Harvey Milk and brought minorities into City government. That is clearly unfair to him.

I think, though, that it's really because Harvey became a gay icon, not just a murdered politician, that Moscone is so overshadowed. As Brown's piece points out, it was Moscone who made it possible for Harvey to be elected, by passing district elections, and it was Moscone who appointed minority commissioners. It was Moscone who appointed Chief Gain and was trying to integrate the police department. Moscone was a progressive and a populist, very much like Harvey in his politics, but necessarily having to balance the needs and desires of more interest groups.

I also agree, Nikki, that Moscone is less well remembered because both his successes and failures are, for the most part, grounded in the city's political history and development. So most of us don't really know much about what he had to contend with or what he did for the city. A convention center and a rebuilt sewer system, keeping a sports team from moving and trying to make sure that downtown development doesn't come without consideration of its impact on poor and minority residents just aren't likely to rivet one's attention. I certainly didn't know that he began his mayoralty with a huge deficit and a very unfriendly Board of Supervisors. I didn't know he survived a recall election in 1977.

I also didn't know about what he had done in the State Senate. In Sward's Chronicle piece, she notes: In 1966 Moscone is elected to the state Senate. Colleagues pick him to be majority leader, a post he holds until he is elected mayor in 1975. He pushes through landmark legislation on bilingual education, sex between consenting adults, marijuana decriminalization and hot meals for needy schoolchildren. The "sex between consenting adults" legislation referred to is the law decriminalizing sodomy.

And significantly, I didn't know that The People's Temple was involved in his election, or that he named Jim Jones a Housing commissioner, or that he decided not to investigate Jones after he fled to Guyana, despite allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Moscone would have had a lot of trouble with that connection had he not been killed nine days after the news of the murders and suicides at Jonestown broke. He might well have lost the mayoralty at the next election.

His friend's comment that no one remembers what kind of man he was or what a terrible tragedy his death was for his mother, wife and four children is sadly true. It's only recently that his children have talked about what kind of father he was, the day of his death and how it affected them afterward. He sounds like a charming, compassionate man who wanted everyone to have a say and was trying to make a difference in the city he loved. And he did.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 02, 2009, 02:09:11 PM
Just a quick note and a question.  First I'm reminding everybody that the next (and final) set of questions will be posted on Wednesday.  And second - would there be any interest in discussing the documentary 'The Time of Harvey Milk' when we're done with the book - maybe for comparison between them and the new film?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 03:23:05 PM
I'd be interested in discussing both the documentary and the new film, preferably under these conditions:

1.  If we could finish all the Part 4 book questions before going on to post questions for the films

2.  If you or someone here could locate and re-post the link for viewing the documentary online (I won't be getting the DVD)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 03:37:33 PM
Just a quick note and a question.  First I'm reminding everybody that the next (and final) set of questions will be posted on Wednesday.  And second - would there be any interest in discussing the documentary 'The Time of Harvey Milk' when we're done with the book - maybe for comparison between them and the new film?

I planned to rent the doc 'Time of Harvey Milk' on Netflix, but I haven't seen 'Milk.'  It's now showing once a day, and I have almost daily commitments, so don't know when I can see it, although I'd love to discuss at least the documentary whenever you want to schedule them.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 03:40:52 PM

Michael, the articles about Moscone are very interesting and revealing to me.  Since they are written by people who knew, worked with, and admired the Mayor, they reveal his personality and accomplishments that were overshadowed by the accounts of the murders of the two men, and White's subsequent trial.  Unfortunately, history has not been as kind to Moscone maybe because he was not as flamboyant as Milk, or maybe because the minutiae of mayoral politics are not as interesting as the iconic, charismatic Milk, and maybe because many readers, like myself, are not as familiar with SF politics of that era.  That's why reading about Moscone from these insiders' points of view are important to me as a reader of the history and struggle for gay rights.

I agree with you, Nikki, and you, Michael, that Moscone is an overlooked piece of the puzzle. It's interesting that the memory of Moscone as a man and a mayor has faded so much, leaving him to be the "assassinated mayor", Dan White's other victim, and the man for whom the convention center is named. At most, he seems to be known as the mayor who supported Harvey Milk and brought minorities into City government. That is clearly unfair to him.

I think, though, that it's really because Harvey became a gay icon, not just a murdered politician, that Moscone is so overshadowed. As Brown's piece points out, it was Moscone who made it possible for Harvey to be elected, by passing district elections, and it was Moscone who appointed minority commissioners. It was Moscone who appointed Chief Gain and was trying to integrate the police department. Moscone was a progressive and a populist, very much like Harvey in his politics, but necessarily having to balance the needs and desires of more interest groups.

I also agree, Nikki, that Moscone is less well remembered because both his successes and failures are, for the most part, grounded in the city's political history and development. So most of us don't really know much about what he had to contend with or what he did for the city. A convention center and a rebuilt sewer system, keeping a sports team from moving and trying to make sure that downtown development doesn't come without consideration of its impact on poor and minority residents just aren't likely to rivet one's attention. I certainly didn't know that he began his mayoralty with a huge deficit and a very unfriendly Board of Supervisors. I didn't know he survived a recall election in 1977.

I also didn't know about what he had done in the State Senate. In Sward's Chronicle piece, she notes: In 1966 Moscone is elected to the state Senate. Colleagues pick him to be majority leader, a post he holds until he is elected mayor in 1975. He pushes through landmark legislation on bilingual education, sex between consenting adults, marijuana decriminalization and hot meals for needy schoolchildren. The "sex between consenting adults" legislation referred to is the law decriminalizing sodomy.

And significantly, I didn't know that The People's Temple was involved in his election, or that he named Jim Jones a Housing commissioner, or that he decided not to investigate Jones after he fled to Guyana, despite allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Moscone would have had a lot of trouble with that connection had he not been killed nine days after the news of the murders and suicides at Jonestown broke. He might well have lost the mayoralty at the next election.

His friend's comment that no one remembers what kind of man he was or what a terrible tragedy his death was for his mother, wife and four children is sadly true. It's only recently that his children have talked about what kind of father he was, the day of his death and how it affected them afterward. He sounds like a charming, compassionate man who wanted everyone to have a say and was trying to make a difference in the city he loved. And he did.

I didn't know a lot of these facts re Moscone either, Jenny. It's all very interesting, no?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 03:56:45 PM
I planned to rent the doc 'Time of Harvey Milk' on Netflix, but I haven't seen 'Milk.'  It's now showing once a day, and I have almost daily commitments, so don't know when I can see it, although I'd love to discuss at least the documentary whenever you want to schedule them.

If it's of any help, Nikki, "Milk" has been cut back to only once a day (at 6:00 PM) at Neshaminy, but I see that it just opened at Oxford Valley, too (3:30 PM and about 9:00-something at night).  Maybe that would give you a little more flexibility.

As for the documentary, I don't get things on Netflex, but did watch the online link once and would do so again before a discussion.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 02, 2009, 05:10:06 PM
I planned to rent the doc 'Time of Harvey Milk' on Netflix, but I haven't seen 'Milk.'  It's now showing once a day, and I have almost daily commitments, so don't know when I can see it, although I'd love to discuss at least the documentary whenever you want to schedule them.

If it's of any help, Nikki, "Milk" has been cut back to only once a day (at 6:00 PM) at Neshaminy, but I see that it just opened at Oxford Valley, too (3:30 PM and about 9:00-something at night).  Maybe that would give you a little more flexibility.

As for the documentary, I don't get things on Netflex, but did watch the online link once and would do so again before a discussion.

Tks Deb.  I checked out the time.  Surprised it's at Oxford Valley now.  Still have commitments daily. Where's the online link?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 02, 2009, 05:30:25 PM
I'd be interested in discussing both the documentary and the new film, preferably under these conditions:

1.  If we could finish all the Part 4 book questions before going on to post questions for the films

2.  If you or someone here could locate and re-post the link for viewing the documentary online (I won't be getting the DVD)

1.)  I'm more than willing to wait as long as you would like till we start discussing the films.  I'm planning on posting the final questions on 2/4 and would be more than willing to wait till 2/11 or 2/18 (or later if you think appropriate) to discuss the films.

2.)  'Times of Harvey Milk' is now available on Hulu - an online film distribution network.  I haven't used it, but have heard it's pretty good.  I would imagine that using this kind of technology would require a high-speed internet connection (at least DSL).  Here is a webpage that has the information on the movie online:

http://laughingsquid.com/the-times-of-harvey-milk-documentary-now-on-hulu/

So let me know what you think!  I'm feeling very relaxed about both the book club and discussing the films as this is sort of a one time thing for me - so there is absolutely no pressure on my part as far as deadlines go.  The only thing I want is for us to have fun and a good discussion - both of which we have been doing so far (give yourselves a hand!  thanks!).


Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 02, 2009, 07:06:42 PM
I'd be happy to participate in that discussion, but I'd like a little break--maybe a week? in between. I'd like to look at the documentary again, and maybe even see Milk again (Dunno about that, but I might. :))
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 07:23:09 PM
I'd be happy to participate in that discussion, but I'd like a little break--maybe a week? in between. I'd like to look at the documentary again, and maybe even see Milk again (Dunno about that, but I might. :))

I think that's a good idea, so I'll vote with Jenny on this.  The book club has become very all-consuming of my time.  You all know that I haven't participated for a long time, but I've really enjoyed this one. 

But there are some other things I have to catch up on right about now.  So that week's break would allow me to better get ready for the documentary and the movie discussion, and think about them some more.

(Jenny, I hate to say it, but I could be persuaded to see Milk again, too.   :D )
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 02, 2009, 07:32:38 PM
^^^ I'm going to see it again this week Debbie.  I talked a friend into it who hasn't seen it yet.  She's the one who motivated me to do the Moscone posts.

So...if I post the last set of questions on 2/4 and we take a week off that would mean that we discuss the film/films on 2/18 - does that sound good to you?  I'd prefer to start before the Oscar broadcast (which is 2/22).

Opinions?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 02, 2009, 07:49:22 PM
^^^^^

Sounds good to me, Michael.

Some of us are going up/into to NYC on Friday 2/13 (and I'm not coming back until the next day) so that is a good weekend for us to skip anyway.  Starting on 2/18 would be much better.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 02, 2009, 09:03:39 PM

27.) What do you think of the tapes that Harvey left?  What do you think of his choices for who should succeed him?  Are you surprised that he was still fighting his 'enemies' from the grave?  What of the message to carry on and come out?

IMO the tapes didn't surprise me given that Harvey had always been in control and, by leaving the tapes, he wanted to ensure the fight for gay rights would be carried on by people he, himself, chose.  If it did seem Harvey was fighting his 'enemies' from the grave, it was also "Harvey, the actor, still performing exquisite political theater."  Robinson had no desire to be supervisor,  Ross had not been close to the younger followers, and Britt was not taken seriously by anyone. I was surprised that the consensus appeared to favor Kronenberg, since she had become his campaign manager later in the struggle for gay rights.  I wonder did his choices came from the fact that he liked them personally rather than that he actually considered how they would be accepted by the rank and file of the gay community.   He did say these four should be "considered" to replace him which seems to leave open the possibility for other nominees. I also wondered why he did not include Scott Smith who had worked so hard and loyally.

I agree with Nikki that Harvey wanted to ensure that the fight for gay rights would be carried on by people who understood and shared his viewpoint. I think he also wanted to make sure that he would have a political heir, and the 'old school' gay politicos who hadn't thought the world was ready for an elected gay and preferred to be "discreet" about their sexuality and count on liberal friends to do the right thing wouldn't take over the leadership of the movement, when he felt that they never understood the movement...They used it...I would hope that the mayor would understand that appointing somebody who actively opposed me or subtly opposed me or kept quiet, stuck their head in the sand, would be an insult to everything I stood for, would be an affront to the campaigns and the people who worked."

I suppose it was theatrical, but I don't see it as a theatrical gesture as much as an attempt to guarantee that his movement would continue in the direction he had been taking it. He also meant it to be a set of directions for his followers in the event of his death: no angry demonstrations, continue emphasizing the importance of coming out and showing the world how many and how varied gay people are, don't have any religious services (because organized religion encourages and is the source of a lot of hatred and misunderstanding about gay people, and because even those who thought the religious leaders who spoke against gays were wrong and were twisting the Bible wouldn't speak up or do anything to challenge them) and keep giving them hope. It did ensure that Harvey would be at the center of the discussion about his succession. But I'm not sure that he thought its whole contents would ever be made public--I think he wanted his wishes conveyed to Moscone, who was a strong ally, and to his chosen political successors. The existence of his will and the fact that he gave his blessing to the particular candidate, yes, his desire to avoid angry demonstrations, continuing to come out, no religious services, yes, but the whole contents?

The oddest thing, to me, is that he didn't talk to any of the four nominees he suggested about it, ever, or to anyone else about his picks. Frank Robinson would have told him no, his young staff would have expressed their concerns about Bob Ross, and Harvey could have talked to and counseled Harry Britt and Anne Kronenberg. IMO,  Kronenberg was much the best qualified politically; unfortunately she had to deal with Mayor Feinstein, not Mayor Moscone, and Anne couldn't bring herself to do what she needed to do to get the job, which was pledge loyalty to the woman who had so often voted against Harvey. Harry Britt got the nod: his gay rights credentials were good, but he wasn't charismatic or skilled at using media, and wasn't a particularly good speaker. Nevertheless, both Harvey's people and gays on the 'no' list supported him, and I imagine he managed to surprise Feinstein in the end, as he served on the Board from 1979 through 1991, and was responsible for working for domestic partnerships in San Francisco. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 02, 2009, 10:50:32 PM
The oddest thing, to me, is that he didn't talk to any of the four nominees he suggested about it, ever, or to anyone else about his picks.

That is very odd, isn't it?  You would think that if he really believed that he was going to die he would want to prepare the person who was going to take over.  Of course it could have been that he just got too caught up in the day to day business of his job and thought there would be more time.

Having read the book I'm rather surprised that Anne Kronenberg never sought public office after that first try - but perhaps she felt that she shouldn't run for supervisor with Harry Britt on the board - and by the time he was off the board there were already two lesbians - Carol Migden and Roberta Actenberg - on it.  Regardless she has a long record of public service in San Francisco:

http://www.filminfocus.com/account/anne_kronenberg/
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 03, 2009, 02:27:59 PM

31.) Joe Campbell commented to Robert Milk that 'Harvey left a lot of fractures in his life.  He was rash and left a lot of things behind.  We're just some of the fractures.'  And yet when lesbians and gay men passed out flowers to strangers later that day people had already started talking about the Harvey Milk legend.  What do you think that it says about the complexity of Harvey's life and his message that both of these things occurred on the same day?

There were fractures in Harvey's life:  living people whom he had left behind along the way.  He'd been estranged from his brother Robert for years, and specifically excluded Robert from his will.  He'd left a trail of former lovers along the way; of these, Joe Campbell stands out because his relationship with Harvey lasted longer than any of Harvey's other relationships, and yet Joe barely recognized the person being described at the City Hall memorial service for Harvey-as-slain-politician. Harvey had gone through so many other changes earlier in his life, leaving behind careers in teaching and finance and insurance. {snip} 

To me, this shows that Harvey was a multidimensional person who couldn't seem to fit the pieces of his own life together so that he could find peace and harmony with all the important elements of that life.  And yet, he had been able to inspire his masses of followers with his twin messages of hope, and power.  He was also able to reach out to a wide range of people, and bring together coalitions, in his political life.  So there was reconciliation, as well as fracture, in his legacy. {snip}

That's how the line about fractures struck me, too, Debbie. Harvey was a man who went through dramatic changes throughout his life, trying to reconcile who he was inside with who he had been born and trained to be. He lived the double life of the closet at first, but his relationship with Joe Campbell was, in many ways, open to view, though not acknowledged. Joe knew his family and he knew Joe's. They both inhabited the NYC gay scene where both had spent their adolescence. They were closer in age to each other than Harvey was to any other boyfriend. They lived a stable, comfortably middle class, monogamous life for six years. I think both of them thought of it as a safe place to hide and as a marriage. But Joe didn't understand and didn't know how to handle Harvey's anger and sense of vulnerability to an ignorant, unhappy majority looking for a scapegoat. He didn't understand Harvey's powerful sexual appetite. The man Joe loved was, mostly, the "visible" Harvey; only their sexual connection didn't fit the outer image. Like a lot of marriages, they were defeated by the seven year itch. Joe remained Harvey's friend, but he moved to a farm in Marin and "dropped out" of a rising gay militancy he didn't understand. Joe thought of being gay as an inconvenience, even a curse. He would much rather have been heterosexual, given the choice. Harvey was no longer anywhere near that place, emotionally or intellectually.

Between '62 and '69 Harvey went from being a conservative Republican who worked on Wall Street to a Hippie who disdained materialism and worked with Tom O'Horgan on the production of Hair. His mother had died and he was estranged from his father and brother. He had gone to San Francisco and loved it. He was a member of the counterculture, smoking marijuana and protesting the war.  His politics were liberal Democratic and his lover was a nice southern boy with an Equity card and experience as a stage manager: Scott Smith. The free-spirited Hippie went back to California to stay roamed the state until he had to get a job and found himself a small businessman in the Castro. The city government officials and Watergate turned him into a man who burned to change the world, or at least his part of it. He was out, he was proud and he had a mission and a message and a whole city for a stage. In the end he became consumed by it, and Scott Smith got burned out by this man he hadn't bargained for, though they remained friends and confidantes and Scott continued to work on Harvey's campaigns.

Yes, Harvey brought people together politically, forged alliances and worked for the common good. But personally, I think Harvey was also a lonely man who was afraid of becoming an old queen, and a man who no longer really had the time and energy for intimate relationships that encompassed all his dimensions. There were the political friends, the doomed rescue that was Jack Lira and the boyfriends who stayed briefly. But only Scott was truly a "widow" and the one who kept Harvey Milk, the man, a living presence. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 04, 2009, 12:47:47 AM
Here is some late breaking Harvey related news!

America’s First Gay Bookstore Closes
by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Editor-In-Chief
Tuesday Feb 3, 2009

The Oscar Wilde Bookshop opened in 1967, when it was still illegal for a man to dress as a woman, or a woman as a man. When the police could--and very often did--raid bars to arrest any men they deemed were cruising. When coming out of the closet usually meant the loss of one’s job, one’s family and one’s residence.

Only a few doors down from the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the bookstore became popular after the Stonewall Riots, which signaled the beginning of the modern gay rights movement in June 1969. In the 1970s, it became a beacon of the new activism as well as a meeting place and a template for other, similar bookstores around the country.

The store has weathered many economic storms. Several years ago, it was threatened by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s decision to expand the PATH commuter train station nearby.

More recently, it had to deal with the dearth of tourists and even New Yorkers to get below 14th Street in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when commerce in the area was greatly affected. It also survived heavy competition from A Different Light, the much larger bookstore that opened a few blocks away on Hudson Street, then moved (along with many of the gay residents) a few blocks north to the Chelsea neighborhood.

A Different Light closed a few years ago, a victim of overconfidence and high rent. But what finally is killing off the Oscar Wilde is not the usual New York story of a small retail establishment being pushed out by high rent.

In fact, the store’s owner-manager, Kim Brinster, told the New York Times, which broke the story, "This is one instance in New York where it’s not a case of the landlord gouging the tenant. Our landlord has always been remarkable with us."

At $3,000 a month, the rent is downright cheap by neighborhood standards. But even that has proved too much for Brinster. "Even if we were rent-free it wouldn’t be enough for us to cover the bills we have," she told the Times.

A Landmark in a Landmark
The Oscar Wilde was the brainchild of legendary owner Craig Rodwell, who opened on nearby Mercer Street and then to 15 Christopher Street. Rodwell opened other gay bookstores around the country subsequently. He also helped organize the city’s first Pride March to commemorate what happened down the street at the Stonewall.

Rodwell has some other interesting spots on his resume. He was an early lover of Harvey Milk, while Milk lived in New York. He is credited with getting Milk interested in gay activism.

After he died of cancer in 1993, one of its managers, Bill Offenbaker, bought it. Then came Larry Lingle in 1996. In 2003, Lingle threatened to close it. He ended up putting it on the market, and several gay bookstores, including Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, looked at it.

It was sold it to Deacon Maccubbin, the owner of Lambda Rising Bookstores in Washington, D.C. And finally, in 2006, Kim Brinster, the store’s manager since 1996, became the store’s fifth owner.

"It is with a sorrowful heart that after 41 years in business the Oscar Wilde Bookshop will close its doors for the final time on March 29, 2009," Brinster wrote in an e-mail message to customers on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 3.

"We want to thank all of our customers for their love and loyalty to the store over the years. You have helped make this store a world wide destination and all of us at the store have enjoyed welcoming our neighbors whether they are next door or half way around the world. Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to weather the current economic crisis and find it’s time to call it a day."

continues:

http://www.edgenewyork.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc2=news&sc3=&id=86781
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: janjo on February 04, 2009, 11:07:12 AM
Another effect of Amazon et al?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 04, 2009, 01:59:36 PM
Another effect of Amazon et al?

It goes on to say that at the end of the article...but the thing that finally killed the store was the decline of the Euro:

Independent bookstores around the city and the country have been closing at record rates in face of competition from the chains and especially Amazon.com. Brinster said two-thirds of her customers were foreign tourists, and blamed the decline in the value of the euro partly for the store’s demise.


[From the previously cited article]
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: janjo on February 04, 2009, 03:32:24 PM
The Euro looks pretty strong against the pound. It's a good time for Europeans or US citizens to buy things from the UK!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: CellarDweller115 on February 04, 2009, 06:38:51 PM
Hiya everyone!

I am on the phone with Michael Flanagan.

He's having connection issues, and it's being looked at.

As soon as he can get back online, he'll be here to post more questions.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 04, 2009, 06:39:29 PM
Thanks, Chuck.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 04, 2009, 09:44:16 PM
Sorry for the delay - there was an internet outage in my neighborhood and I've just gotten back online.  Here are this weeks questions on the final section of the book:

1.)  Shilts begins this section with a quotation from King Lear.  Why do you think he does this?   What does it mean to you?

2.)  Do you think that Harvey made his political will public knowledge so that whoever appointed his successor could not put a moderate in the seat?  Do you think this was presumptuous or simply asserting the desire to keep progress moving forward for the LGBT movement?  What do you make of Diane Feinstein's reaction to the tape?

3.)  Diane Feinstein had 3 seats to fill on the board.  She used a blue ribbon panel to replace herself.  Do you think this was a good idea?  Do you think it was appropriated that she followed through with Moscone's plans regarding Dan White's seat, or should she have used a blue ribbon panel there too?  What about using that idea to replace Harvey?

4.)  In responding to Feinstein's questions Kronenberg said 'I promise to give you every bit of consideration Harvey did.'  Do you think, as Randy Shilts indicates, that this ended her chances of being on the board?  Do you think Feinstein would have given her serious consideration if she had been more accommodating?  Does Kronenberg's response to Feinstein seem politically naive to you?

5.)  A 'political circus' ensued to replace Harvey on the board.  Do you think, given what you've read so far about San Francisco city politics, that this was business as usual - or was there something out of the ordinary about the 'circus' to replace Harvey?  Do you think that the woman who said she would 'don leathers or chains' showed a lack of understanding of the importance of Harvey's candidacy and a lack of sensitivity to gay people in Harvey's district?  What do you make of the candidacy of Scott Beach - does it seem opportunistic to you?

6.)  Police were wearing t-shirts saying 'Free Dan White' after the assassination.  Do you feel these officers should have been disciplined - or at least admonished at their lack of respect for both Moscone and Milk?  What do you think was meant by the John Donne Quote 'No man is an island entire to himself' on the t-shirts?  Do you think this indicates that they supported Dan White's actions?

7.)  Does the graffiti which appeared in the city - including 'Kill fags: Dan White for mayor' indicated that some people thought that because Dan White had killed Harvey Milk they were willing to overlook his killing the mayor?  Or do you think their hatred and homophobia extended to Moscone as well given his pro-gay policies?

8.)  The police quickly returned to their rough tactics regarding gay people after the deaths.  Do you think that they believed that without Moscone and Milk that things had returned to the climate of the early 70s, where gays were open game?  Do you think the antagonism of the police towards gays and lesbians contributed to the explosion of anger seen in the White Night riots?

9.)  Harry Britt suggested to Diane Feinstein that she appoint him to the Board of Supervisors from the list Harvey left.  Was this a wise move in retrospect (to keep the seat in an ally of Harvey's) or does it seem disloyal to Kronnenberg?  Anne's supporters who defected to Britt felt she shouldn't take it personally - that it was important to get someone's politics.  Do you think they were right?  Do you agree with Shilts that this action moved them away from Harvey's politics?

10.)  When Harry Britt's name surfaced gay moderates spread rumors that he was a communist.  Given that gay baiting and red baiting went hand in hand in the fifties does it seem odd that gays in the 70s would engage in red baiting?  Does this support Harvey's notion that the gay moderates were untrustworthy?

11.)  Randy Shilts says that press speculation surrounding Dan White's preliminary hearing may have won Schmidt the trial.  Does this make sense to you?  Does it seem likely that something that occured before a jury was selected could have had a large impact on the trial?

12.)  A top lieutenant of Jim Jones who was an Assistant D.A. lived in the D.A.'s offices and the D.A. was elected with the assistance of the People's Temple.  Should Diane Feinstein have removed the D.A. prior to the trial because of these connections and the possibility the prosecution could be compromised?  Some attorneys advised the D.A. to hand the case to a special prosecutor or the State Attorney General  Should he have done this?

13.)  D.A. Freitas invoked the clause from John Brigg's new capital punishment law that called for the gay chamber for any person killing a public official.  Do you think this risked generating sympathy for Dan White?  If Freitas had not done this do you think gay activists would have thought he was going easy on White?

14.)  Randy Shilts relates the incident at Peg's Place where 10 men, including 2 off-duty police men, invaded the bar.  He doesn't mention that Peg's Place is several miles away from the Castro.  Given the distance between this bar and what was commonly thought of as 'gay territory' and the lack of association between Milk and lesbians do you think that this was an attempt to pass along the message that it was open season on everyone - lesbian or gay?  Why do you think the men did this - did the assassination and the attitude of the police support this sort of thing, in your opinion?

15.)  In a 'Ladies Home Journal' interview Diane Feinstein said that she worried that gays flouting of community standards might 'set up a backlash' in the city.  She also said 'The right of an individual to live as he or she chooses can become offensive.'  Given White's defense was thought in the press to be because 'profound changes had occurred at City Hall that had offended White's sense of values' were Feinstein's words unwise?  Do you think this kind of sentiment would allow people doing things like invading Peg's Place to feel they had a friend in City Hall?  Do you think her sentiments played into the hands of White's defense?  Do you think her statements played into the 'dump Diane' sentiments in the gay community?

16.)  Schmidt asked potential jurors if they supported gay rights.  A heterosexual woman with gay friends was disqualified from the jury. He asked about church attendance.  Do you think he would have been able to do this today?  Do you think this unfairly tipped the jury?  Do you think that prosecutor Tom Norman should have used more of his challenges?

17.)  Shilts says Dan White acted like a zombie or robot in the courtroom - and didn't give any sign of recognition to his wife.  Do you think that this attitude was intentional and advised by his lawyer to support the manic-depressive defense of Schmidt - or do you think that he was truly incapacitated?

18.)  The prosecution played a tape of Dan White's interrogation.  Was this a major error?  What do you make of White's whining in regard to Milk?  Why do you think the police officer interrupted White when he was discussing what could have indicated premeditation in the case?  Do you think that, given the crying of the jurors and Mary Ann White that the prosecution should have known they were in trouble?  Why do you think the prosecution allowed Falzon to become a character witness for White?

19.)  Does Warren Hinkle's notion that homophobia should have been central to the prosecution seem accurate to you?  Does the information that Denman gave, that white had been treated almost as a hero while in jail and showed no remorse support the notion that even if there wasn't a conspiracy that Dan White's murders were supported by the police?  What do you think of Denman's notion of the nuanced support that Dan White felt?  Why do you think the Chronicle wouldn't run Warren Hinkle's story?

20.)  In the defense of Dan White his carrying extra rounds of ammunition was put down to being a 'security blanket', that he didn't want to embarrass a cop and that's why he crawled through the window.  He bought up homosexuality at every turn and even asked Carol Ruth Silver if she was gay.  Do you think that these maneuvers allowed the defense to make White look like the victim and portrayed Milk and Moscone as 'the bad guys' as Hinkle suggests?  Why do you think these maneuvers went unchallenged by the prosecution?

21.)  Former supporters of Dan White suggest that he had forsaken his district and that he was in the pocket of the police and real estate interests.  Why don't you think this information was used to refute the notion that White was widely loved in his district and was an honorable civil servant? Do you simply think that the D.A.'s office was inefficient or sloppy?

22.)  When Cleve Jones attempted to get the attention of the police concerning the level of anger in the gay community and the possibility of a violent reaction the police were bemused.  Given that they had already faced an angry crowd in the Castro on May 12th, why do you think they ignored him?  Do you think they simply didn't believe that gay men could pose a threat or danger?

23.)  After the verdict Cleve Jones said 'This means in America, it's all right to kill faggots.'  What are your thoughts regarding this sentiment?  Do you think much changed between the times of Harvey Milk and that of Matthew  Shepard?  Do you agree with Harry Britt that homophobia had to do with the verdict?  What should we make of the overheard 'Danny Boy' Francis Moriarty heard over the police broadcast?

24.)  Two dozen of Harvey's friends, lovers and cronies put their bodies between the crowd and city hall.  Do you think this message was lost in the riot - that there were people who stood up and prevented further violence to city hall?

25.)  Given the level of violence in the White Night riots why do you think the police didn't attack the crowd?  Are you surprised that no one was prosecuted for the riots?  Why, given the restraint shown at City Hall, do you think the police attacked the Elephant Walk?  Why do you think that (given their ignoring him in the previous weeks) they obeyed Chief Gain and left the Castro?

26.)  After Diane Feinstein was forced into a runoff with Quentin Kopp she apologized for her 'community standards' comment.  Why do you think she waited till she was forced into a runoff election?  Do you think that she bet that gays would lose clout after the White Night riot?

27.)  Both Russ Cone's speculations about the implications of the Milk & Moscone murders on the police discrimination suit and Warren Hinkle's article about the role of politics and homophobia in the trial didn't reach the press in San Francisco.  Given San Francisco's liberal reputation, why do you think this was?

28.)  In the epilogue Randy Shilts questions the implications of what happened after Milk's death.  He seems to indicate that the changes in the Castro did not follow the path Harvey would have desired and that the Democratic club with Harvey's name would not have supported a candidate who was abrasively anti-machine, like Harvey.  Do you think he is correct?  If this is the case does this mean that Harvey's struggles were in vain - or perhaps that the struggle had just evolved in the following years?  Do you think that the placards at the national march on Washington in October 1979 with Harvey's portrait show that by that point his struggle and his impact would be stronger on the nation at large - and is this true today?

29.)  There are four appendices to the book.  Which of the speeches at the end of the book were most moving to you - and why?  Do you feel that now that the movie 'Milk' is out that these writings will become better known?  Do you think that it was a good idea for Randy Shilts to include the appendices?

Of course as always if you have questions of your own please post them.  And remember - answer what you want to, this is meant to be fun.

Thank you for your participation.  I've had a wonderful time discussing Harvey with you all (and I'm sure I will continue to through the end of this discussion).
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 12:35:08 PM
1.)  Shilts begins this section with a quotation from King Lear.  Why do you think he does this?   What does it mean to you?

I hope someone with a better understanding of King Lear can give a more complete answer. 

The quotation ends with the line, “…which is justice, which is the thief?”  I took this to mean, in the most obvious sense, that the chapter would be about the Dan White trial, but it also indicated that there would be some question as to whether “justice was served.”  I thought Shilts did this to focus the reader’s attention on the following:  Was the verdict a fair one which pronounced true justice upon the accused, or was justice stolen by an unfair verdict?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 05, 2009, 12:50:03 PM
I just wanted to point out here a discussion that has been going on in another thread.  Debbie and I have both been discussing in the 'How Brokeback Affected Me' thread the implications of Harvey's life and the movie 'Milk' in regards to the messages we got from BBM.  My initial post associated with this is here:

http://www.davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=23626.msg1498624#msg1498624

And Debbie's comment is here:

http://www.davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=23626.msg1498722#msg14987

I would encourage you to consider how Harvey's life and death and messages - either in the book or the movie or both - have affected you.  This is one way that we can probably use the appendixes - a lot of his philosophy is there.  Please feel free to discuss this here.


Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 05, 2009, 01:31:24 PM
I hope someone with a better understanding of King Lear can give a more complete answer. 

It's your fault, you know.   :D  If you hadn't asked that 'No Cross, No Crown' question I wouldn't be paying such close attention to his quotes..... :D ;)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 01:41:11 PM
I hope someone with a better understanding of King Lear can give a more complete answer. 

It's your fault, you know.   :D  If you hadn't asked that 'No Cross, No Crown' question I wouldn't be paying such close attention to his quotes..... :D ;)

That's what I figured.   ::)    :D
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 02:32:16 PM
2.)  Do you think that Harvey made his political will public knowledge so that whoever appointed his successor could not put a moderate in the seat?  Do you think this was presumptuous or simply asserting the desire to keep progress moving forward for the LGBT movement?  What do you make of Diane Feinstein's reaction to the tape?

Actually, it wasn’t Harvey who made his political will public knowledge.  Back on page 183, Shilts says that Harvey told Harry Britt and Frank Robinson that he planned to write a letter to Moscone about his (Harvey’s) possible successors.  On page 275 (in Part III) Shilts says most of the people who initially listened to his tape after his death had known that he had made the tape.  But Harvey was already dead by the time word spread further than that, as far as I can tell.

I was unclear about the actual chronology of the release of information, so I tried to make some sense of it.  Parts of the political will were included in a press release from John Wahl, his lawyer, immediately after the murders (p. 277, Part III).  Shilts subsequently presents information to indicate that the names of the candidates who should not succeed him were not included in that initial press release by Harvey’s lawyer.  By page 290 there was “press speculation on three leading candidates,” and they all happened to be among those men whom Harvey wanted to exclude.  It was Harvey’s aides who leaked the “enemies list” to the press at point, while they were making their case for  Anne Kronenberg.  Kronenberg’s fliers, with their words, “Make sure we get the supervisor that Harvey Milk wanted:  Anne Kronenberg,” indicated that Harvey approved of her, but did not mention anything publicly about his other three approved choices.  In fact, on p. 294, Shilts says that Harvey’s aides made their case for supporting Kronenberg “based on the tapes they kept secret.” 

I did think that Harvey’s inclusion of an “enemies list” in his will, and his aides’ subsequent leaking of that list, was designed to prevent a moderate from being appointed to his seat.  I wouldn’t call it “presumptious” on Harvey’s part, because he feared backsliding for the GLBT movement if someone less aggressively outspoken about gay rights took over the seat.  It may have been presumptious for his aides to release the list without the approval of his lawyer; perhaps they could have worked behind the scenes, by presenting the list to Feinstein, without publicly embarrassing Jim Foster, Rick Stokes and the others. 

Feinstein had always been a person who maintained control and decorum.  She had maintained control of herself even when announcing news of the murders to the press.  But I can understand why she appeared shaken to actually hear Harvey speaking on the tape, when he was actually dead.  What he said was so pertinent to the present moment that it must have seemed that he knew he had died and was communicating his wishes from the grave.  I wasn’t surprised, however, that Feinstein recovered quickly from this moment, and turned her attention to the serious matter at hand: his successor.  I was impressed that she would at least try to find a successor in tune with Harvey’s populist views, even though she intended to judge candidates by some of her own qualifications, as well.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 02:58:26 PM
3.)  Diane Feinstein had 3 seats to fill on the board.  She used a blue ribbon panel to replace herself.  Do you think this was a good idea?  Do you think it was appropriate that she followed through with Moscone's plans regarding Dan White's seat, or should she have used a blue ribbon panel there too?  What about using that idea to replace Harvey?

By appointing a blue ribbon panel of district leaders to select from the applications for her own seat, Feinstein was ensuring a replacement who was in line with her own moderate policies.  This seems fair, because although she was now mayor, she had been the previous supervisor of that district in question.  A replacement in line with her policies would probably also be a person in line with the wishes of voters in that district.

I agree with Feinstein’s decision to appoint the man whom Moscone had already selected for White’s seat.   Her logic that a bullet shouldn’t alter “planned city policy” made sense.  That selection of someone more liberal, who would be the “sixth vote” Harvey had celebrated, had essentially been made.  White had been unhappy that he hadn’t gotten the seat back himself; the worst thing Feinstein could have done would have been to appoint someone who was more like a clone of Dan White in his views, thereby reversing that “sixth vote” outcome.  A blue ribbon panel and a new selection process might have resulted in just such a selection.

For Harvey’s seat, even though Harvey’s list of preferred choices left Feinstein in a quandary, I think it might have been worse had she worked with a “blue ribbon panel” of district leaders.  Rick Stokes and Jim Foster, from Harvey’s “enemies list,” lived in the district.  If they or their supporters had been part of that blue ribbon panel, they might have swung the selection in favor of a gay moderate, and away from anyone politically aligned with Harvey’s populist positions.  However, the fact that Feinstein stuck so closely to Harvey’s preferred list after she had eliminated the favorite, Kronenberg, from consideration, essentially meant that someone who wasn’t terribly qualified ended up being named to that seat.  Perhaps she should have listened primarily to the opinions of Harvey’s aides, but cast the net a little wider, while at the same time forcing Harry Britt to demonstrate support of the voters in his district before picking him. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 03:43:44 PM
4.)  In responding to Feinstein's questions Kronenberg said 'I promise to give you every bit of consideration Harvey did.'  Do you think, as Randy Shilts indicates, that this ended her chances of being on the board?  Do you think Feinstein would have given her serious consideration if she had been more accommodating?  Does Kronenberg's response to Feinstein seem politically naive to you?

Kronenberg was good at planning campaign strategy and would have made a fiery political orator herself, from what we saw of how she addressed the crowd at Harvey’s opera house memorial.  But she didn’t seem to understand that she was applying for a job when she was interviewed by Feinstein.  It’s necessary to bend one’s own opinions, sometimes, when putting the best foot forward to a prospective employer.  Above all, it’s a good idea to be polite.  In that respect, I thought Kronenberg’s response to Feinstein seemed politically naïve, because she didn’t realize that now was not the time to win points in an argument; now was the time to be hired and get her foot in the door.  It seemed a little sarcastic and even disrespectful for her to say, “I promise to give you every bit of consideration that Harvey did,” instead of simply, “Yes, I’ll be loyal,” when she must have known that Harvey had clashed with then-Supervisor Feinstein in the past.

  I wondered at first whether Supervisor Silver was correct in saying that loyalty would be Feinstein’s primary consideration, but that does seem correct, given that Feinstein came right out and asked a question about Kronenberg’s loyalty.  Had Kronenberg been more accommodating, it may have gone a long way to winning Feinstein over.  However, Feinstein still had questions about Kronenberg’s age, and appeared concerned about her “dress or leathers” comments at the memorial service.  Feinstein had not been enthusiastic even before she interviewed Kronenberg, when questions arose about the latter’s residency.  She may have actually been leaning away from Kronenberg, looking for any excuse to reject her.  In that case, only a superbly impressive performance and some feeling of connection, or joint purpose, between the two might have changed Feinstein’s mind.  Feinstein’s final question to Harry Britt – “If I can’t appoint Anne, who should I appoint?” – indicates that Kronenberg’s chances were over by then, enough so that Feinstein was willing to avoid appointing her even if it meant continuing a frustrating search for someone else.  (Harry’s mention of his own name, of course, altered he circumstances for Feinstein and made it easier for her to give up on Kronenberg completely.) 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: janjo on February 05, 2009, 03:45:21 PM
My own question.

Do you think Harvey called himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" because of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge?"
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 03:57:35 PM


1.)  Shilts begins this section with a quotation from King Lear.  Why do you think he does this?   What does it mean to you?


It's been a long time since I read 'Lear' in college.  Rather than do research on it and regurgitate facts, I'll just make a few comments as I remember them.

Lear has always been one of the more difficult of Shakespeare's plays to interpret.  There was a lot going on during the period of the play, social change, wars, and family fighting. Lear planned to divide his kingdom among his 3 daughters, but when Cordelia didn't give Lear the answer he wanted, he cut her out of his will. Afterwards, the infighting commenced.  IMO Shilts may have been comparing Harvey's "kingdom" metaphorically to Lear's in that Harvey designated his successors as did Lear.  The infighting in Lear's family could also be a metaphor for Harvey's followers who were not in accord -- the three or four he designated either did not want to succeed him, or were not considered fitting for the role.  I can't imagine why else Shilts would have used 'Lear" to begin this section, except this all seems to be borne out. 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 03:59:57 PM
My own question.

Do you think Harvey called himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" because of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge?"

Hi, Jess.

I'll have to pass on that one, but it sounds intriguing.

Never having read the novel you mention, I don't know how well it would fit with Harvey.  Maybe you can suggest some parallels? 
As for Harvey, he had been a teacher once, but he majored in math and history, not literature.  So I can't guess whether he would have read it either.

Hope Nikki or Jenny might have an opinion on this one.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 04:05:09 PM
It's been a long time since I read 'Lear' in college.  Rather than do research on it and regurgitate facts, I'll just make a few comments as I remember them.

Lear has always been one of the more difficult of Shakespeare's plays to interpret.  There was a lot going on during the period of the play, social change, wars, and family fighting. Lear planned to divide his kingdom among his 3 daughters, but when Cordelia didn't give Lear the answer he wanted, he cut her out of his will. Afterwards, the infighting commenced.  IMO Shilts may have been comparing Harvey's "kingdom" metaphorically to Lear's in that Harvey designated his successors as did Lear.  The infighting in Lear's family could also be a metaphor for Harvey's followers who were not in accord -- the three or four he designated either did not want to succeed him, or were not considered fitting for the role.  I can't imagine why else Shilts would have used 'Lear" to begin this section, except this all seems to be borne out. 

Oh, that's interesting, Nikki, thanks.  I didn't realize that Lear was about a kingdom being divided up, and the fighting between the heirs.  That does make sense, there are parallels with Harvey's political kingdom. 

Do you think that last phrase about justice and the thief has anything to do with the trial and apparent miscarriage of justice, or do you think that's on the wrong track?  Is there anything like that in Lear?  (I never studied it or read it myself....sorry.)
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 04:08:05 PM


2.)  Do you think that Harvey made his political will public knowledge so that whoever appointed his successor could not put a moderate in the seat?  Do you think this was presumptuous or simply asserting the desire to keep progress moving forward for the LGBT movement?  What do you make of Diane Feinstein's reaction to the tape?


Harvey and the gay moderates had always been at odds, so this seems reasonable although there was no guarantee his successor would abide by Harvey's wishes. In this light, I do think it was presumptuous whether or not he wanted to keep progress moving, but it was another example of Harvey in control.

I think it was only natural that Feinstein was shaken when she heard Harvey's voice on the tape.  It was like he had come back from the dead, and the impact on her must have been profound.  Even though the two of them had never been on the same wavelength, she didn't dislike him, she had worked closely with him on the committee, so she must have been quite moved to hear him on the tape.

 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 04:28:37 PM
5.)  A 'political circus' ensued to replace Harvey on the board.  Do you think, given what you've read so far about San Francisco city politics, that this was business as usual - or was there something out of the ordinary about the 'circus' to replace Harvey?  Do you think that the woman who said she would 'don leathers or chains' showed a lack of understanding of the importance of Harvey's candidacy and a lack of sensitivity to gay people in Harvey's district?  What do you make of the candidacy of Scott Beach - does it seem opportunistic to you?

There always had been somewhat of a “circus” in terms of opposing sides and candidates.  The main controversy that stands out concerns the various factions – gay moderates, gay radicals, and Harvey in the middle as a populist gay rights leader with support from non-gay union and neighborhood leaders.  But the business of finding a replacement for Harvey seemed like a more extreme “circus” than usual.  Maybe this had to do with the suddenness and the shock of Harvey’s death.  No one had predicted that this political vacancy would occur at this time, so no one had been able to lay groundwork for a campaign.  That left a lot of room for oddballs to throw their hats into the ring.

From what I’ve heard about former Air Force Sergeant Larry Matlovich, he might have made a good supervisor.  He had taken a defiant stand by coming out while in military service, and he probably had good managerial skills.  It might be, however, that he didn’t have the flair to conduct political rallies and would not have been able to convince the majority of younger gay voters that he was on their side – especially with his recent political background.  The fact that he had only lived in the entire city for six months was a strike against him, too.  Kronenberg was just moving into Harvey’s old district, but she was familiar with the city at large, so she had more claim to being “local” than he did.

The heterosexual woman who said she would don leathers or chains sounds totally off the wall, as though she had no understanding of what was needed to represent gay people.  I agree that it shows insensitivity both to gay people and to Harvey’s legacy.  Scott Beach, who was well known from the radio but had only announced that “he had been gay along” after Harvey was killed, was being opportunistic, IMO.  He had previously done commercials for one of Harvey’s opponents, so his true support of Harvey’s causes was questionable.  It’s even possible that he decided to come out at that particular time because he saw an opportunity hold political office.

(By the way, I noticed that one of the links we’ve looked at on this thread said that it was put up by “Scott Beach.”  Don’t remember now which link it was.  I wondered if that was the same person.)
 
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 04:42:23 PM


3.)  Diane Feinstein had 3 seats to fill on the board.  She used a blue ribbon panel to replace herself.  Do you think this was a good idea?  Do you think it was appropriated that she followed through with Moscone's plans regarding Dan White's seat, or should she have used a blue ribbon panel there too?  What about using that idea to replace Harvey?


Feinstein probably felt that by using a blue ribbon panel to replace herself, it made her seem less gratuitous and more willing to go along with consensus. After all, she had her eye on the prize when election time rolled around, and by using such a panel she indicated that she was not trying to control her backers, but was open to a free and clear election in the future.  Of course, the panel was certainly aware of Feinstein's politics, and certainly would not go against her.

It was not only appropriate that she follow through on Moscone's plan re White's seat, it was good politics. Moscone had been popular with the voters and, again, probably looking toward the future she said "the bullets from White's gun should not alter city policy." This comment showed strength, and probably appealed greatly to Moscone's base.

Replacing Harvey was more difficult. Feinstein had publicly promised to replace Harvey with a gay successor, but there weren't too many to her liking, so she dithered for weeks alienating gay voters while the police demonstrated for White. Had she used a blue ribbon panel to replace Harvey, she would have had as much trouble selecting the panel in order to placate the gay voters.






Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 04:52:11 PM
6.)  Police were wearing t-shirts saying 'Free Dan White' after the assassination.  Do you feel these officers should have been disciplined - or at least admonished at their lack of respect for both Moscone and Milk?  What do you think was meant by the John Donne quote 'No man is an island entire to himself' on the t-shirts?  Do you think this indicates that they supported Dan White's actions?

Note:  I corrected the question to say “John Donne quote”


Theoretically, the police are supposed to enforce the law, and one branch of the law allows suspects to be tried and then either released or sentenced.  But, as happened so often throughout this book, these police were not acting with the law foremost in their minds.

The “Free Dan White” t-shirts were taking a position saying that a suspect should be freed without waiting for a trial.  The shirts also could have prejudiced the community from which a jury would eventually be chosen.  In addition, they could have indicated police support for two killings.  Whether we call the shootings “murders” or not, they were still killings.

I think the t-shirts showed lack of respect for both of the White’s victims.  It was unlikely that the officers would have been actually disciplined, but I do think they should have been admonished and required to remove the t-shirts.  The shirts indicate after-the-fact support for White’s actions, although not necessarily conspiracy before-the-fact.

The John Donne quote about “No man is an island…” is talking about White, IMO.  It says that in some sense, White was not “an island, entire to himself.”  It raises the question of whether White acted “alone” by killing Harvey and Moscone, and might suggest that he did not.  However, I doubt the police would wear the shirts so blatantly if they knew White had been part of an actual plot.  Instead, I interpret the shirts to mean, “Dan White, you’re not alone, we won’t abandon you, we will stand by you through your trials and see that justice is served to you.”  This may relate back to the King Lear quote again:  whose justice is going to be served – justice for Harvey Milk and George Moscone, or justice for Dan White?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 04:59:48 PM

4.)  In responding to Feinstein's questions Kronenberg said 'I promise to give you every bit of consideration Harvey did.'  Do you think, as Randy Shilts indicates, that this ended her chances of being on the board?  Do you think Feinstein would have given her serious consideration if she had been more accommodating?  Does Kronenberg's response to Feinstein seem politically naive to you?


Pretty much, yeah.  Kronenberg said later that Feinstein would 'never have believed a blanket pledge of loyalty.'  IMO Feinstein didn't want her on the board to begin with. Her remark about Kronenberg, "Would Anne dress in leather when she attended board meetings?" says it all. 

I don't see how Kronenberg could be politically naive after working with Harvey as his manager, but I think she was a bit disingenuous in the way she handled Feinstein's questions.  I got the impression that her heart wasn't in the running.  She knew Harvey never considered Feinstein wholeheartedly about very much, so I think the reamark killed her chances.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 05:01:23 PM
My own question.

Do you think Harvey called himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" because of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge?"

Not really, I remember the title of Hardy's novel was a metaphor for castration.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 05:04:58 PM
It's been a long time since I read 'Lear' in college.  Rather than do research on it and regurgitate facts, I'll just make a few comments as I remember them.

Lear has always been one of the more difficult of Shakespeare's plays to interpret.  There was a lot going on during the period of the play, social change, wars, and family fighting. Lear planned to divide his kingdom among his 3 daughters, but when Cordelia didn't give Lear the answer he wanted, he cut her out of his will. Afterwards, the infighting commenced.  IMO Shilts may have been comparing Harvey's "kingdom" metaphorically to Lear's in that Harvey designated his successors as did Lear.  The infighting in Lear's family could also be a metaphor for Harvey's followers who were not in accord -- the three or four he designated either did not want to succeed him, or were not considered fitting for the role.  I can't imagine why else Shilts would have used 'Lear" to begin this section, except this all seems to be borne out. 

Oh, that's interesting, Nikki, thanks.  I didn't realize that Lear was about a kingdom being divided up, and the fighting between the heirs.  That does make sense, there are parallels with Harvey's political kingdom. 

Do you think that last phrase about justice and the thief has anything to do with the trial and apparent miscarriage of justice, or do you think that's on the wrong track?  Is there anything like that in Lear?  (I never studied it or read it myself....sorry.)

Don't be sorry -- it's been a looooooooong time for me, and although some think it was Shakespeare's greatest play, it was never my favorite.

So you can interpret anyway you want, and that sounds good to me ;)  I'm sure there will be some people foamng at the mouth to jump in with other interpretations.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 06:00:26 PM
My own question.

Do you think Harvey called himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" because of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge?"


Not really, I remember the title of Hardy's novel was a metaphor for castration.

 :D

Thanks for that info, Nikki.

In that case, it hardly sounds like the title for an activist/neighborhood leader/up-and-coming politician...who wanted power.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 06:11:35 PM

Well, Debbie, there was a  lot going on in the Hardy novel, but I personally haven't read it in years, and I can't remember anything that parallels Shilts' novel.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 05, 2009, 06:26:47 PM


 5.)  A 'political circus' ensued to replace Harvey on the board.  Do you think, given what you've read so far about San Francisco city politics, that this was business as usual - or was there something out of the ordinary about the 'circus' to replace Harvey?  Do you think that the woman who said she would 'don leathers or chains' showed a lack of understanding of the importance of Harvey's candidacy and a lack of sensitivity to gay people in Harvey's district?  What do you make of the candidacy of Scott Beach - does it seem opportunistic to you?


Sounds like so much infighting and indecision about Harvey's replacement, that it was more than business as usual.  In the past, business as usual might have meant 'political theater.'  Now it was serious more chaos than circus -- it needed someone like Harvey to restore order, but there was no Harvey -- and that was the problem.

I had to chuckle at the women who would 'don leathers or chains' to get on the gay seat.  She missed the point, and showed more of a lack of understanding of the importance of the seat rather than a lack of sensitivity to gay people.  Was she actually gay or was she a gay wannabe?

Beach sounds opportunistic to me.  Was he really gay -- funny he decided to 'come out' the day of the killings, while he had the live Harvey as an example and never 'came out.' The newspapers loved him, he was good copy, and nonthreatening.  I agree with the gays who said the media was trivializing gay issues. Doesn't sound like Feinstein gave him any consideration.  Maybe because he was a buffoon?

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 06:30:30 PM
7.)  Does the graffiti which appeared in the city - including 'Kill fags: Dan White for mayor' indicate that some people thought that because Dan White had killed Harvey Milk they were willing to overlook his killing the mayor?  Or do you think their hatred and homophobia extended to Moscone as well given his pro-gay policies?

The graffiti cited in this question is interesting, because it reflects upon both deaths.  “Kill fags” is what White did to Harvey.  “Dan White for mayor,” under other circumstances, would just sound like congratulatory praise, the way one might say, “John Doe for president.”  But in these circumstances it also combines the knowledge that the mayor’s job is (or was briefly) open, due to Moscone’s death.  The anti-Harvey message is loud and clear, whereas the anti-Moscone message is more subtle, but I think that even by mentioning the word “mayor” at this stressful time, there’s some hatred being expressed toward Moscone as well.

The hatred of Moscone isn’t all homophobia, IMO; it could have come from other sources of irritation, such as the proposed settlement of a police discrimination suit.  And not all of the graffiti was done by police.  Other graffiti noted by Shilts appeared to have nothing to do with gays or Harvey, such as, “Dan White Showed You Can Fight City Hall.”  This reflects a more offhand and generic exasperation with city government, almost a joking twist on the usual version of that statement, “You can’t fight City Hall.”  If it is directed at either of the victims, it is Moscone.  It could be argued that this second example of graffiti expresses amusement with, more than approval of, White’s actions.  The other verbal comment mentioned in this paragraph, by a White family friend, likewise expresses humor, this time at Harvey’s death.  It is offensive simply because makes a joke out of the death of a gay man, and it’s homophobic because of the nature of the remark (“…faggot’s death…blown away.”) (p. 302).

I don’t think the killing of the mayor was overlooked or “pardoned” in these people’s minds, just because White killed Harvey.  I think certain people, for various reasons, found an awful humor and satisfaction in both events.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 06:36:29 PM
I had to chuckle at the women who would 'don leathers or chains' to get on the gay seat.  She missed the point, and showed more of a lack of understanding of the importance of the seat rather than a lack of sensitivity to gay people.  Was she actually gay or was she a gay wannabe?

Beach sounds opportunistic to me.  Was he really gay -- funny he decided to 'come out' the day of the killings, while he had the live Harvey as an example and never 'came out.' The newspapers loved him, he was good copy, and nonthreatening.  I agree with the gays who said the media was trivializing gay issues. Doesn't sound like Feinstein gave him any consideration.  Maybe because he was a buffoon?

These were some pretty strange people, IMO, Nikki.

The woman who would don leathers or chains was said to be heterosexual.  So she really missed the point of what the "requirements" of the seat were.  She wasn't gay, from what I can tell, or even a true gay wannabe ... more like a pretend-gay willing to do whatever it took to get a political office.  Whatever she thought it would take to be a gay politician.

Buffoon ... I kind of like that word for the way Scott Beach was presented in the book.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 05, 2009, 06:47:49 PM
Note:  I corrected the question to say “John Donne quote”

Thank you.  :">

I've corrected it in the original.  What can I say - yesterday was somewhat hectic.  Thanks for letting me know!
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 05, 2009, 07:01:19 PM
Beach sounds opportunistic to me.  Was he really gay -- funny he decided to 'come out' the day of the killings, while he had the live Harvey as an example and never 'came out.' The newspapers loved him, he was good copy, and nonthreatening.  I agree with the gays who said the media was trivializing gay issues. Doesn't sound like Feinstein gave him any consideration.  Maybe because he was a buffoon?

I looked for any connection between Scott Beach and gay people after Harvey.  He was the Master of Ceremonies at the Gay Games II: Closing Ceremony in 1986.  Here's a bit of what I was able to find about him - his IMDB profile:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0063502/

Note that he is given special hanks in 'Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt'

Here's his obit from the Chronicle (which mentions his coming out):

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1996/02/14/MN73086.DTL&type=printable

And here is an extensive listing of his appearances, etc.:

http://www.nerf-herders-anonymous.net/ScottBeach.html
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 05, 2009, 07:02:48 PM
8.)  The police quickly returned to their rough tactics regarding gay people after the deaths.  Do you think that they believed that without Moscone and Milk that things had returned to the climate of the early 70s, where gays were open game?  Do you think the antagonism of the police towards gays and lesbians contributed to the explosion of anger seen in the White Night riots?

I do think that the police felt that the restraints which they had worked under during the Milk/Moscone years were gone now, and that they could get away with more or less whatever they wanted, when it came to gays. 

Shilts says that Police Chief Gain no longer had control of his officers, and therefore couldn’t control their harassment of gays.  I suspect that Gain’s loss of effectiveness came about because he no longer had Mayor Moscone backing him up.  In that way, Moscone’s death contributed to the return of the climate of the early 70s.

Without Harvey Milk, gays had lost a leader whom the police had come to grudgingly respect, so his death also contributed to the return of the climate of the early 70s.  The harassment wasn’t just by police, but also by “thugs” and “punks” who threatened or carried out violence while the police did nothing about it.  One person who mitigated this situation, to some extent, was Harvey’s trainee, Cleve Jones.  “Jones hadn’t spent his political stewardship under Harvey Milk for nothing…”  He knew how to work the press to get maximum publicity for the crimes.  But he still wasn’t Harvey.

As for the White Night riots, that was a complicated situation.  Many things factored into the explosion of anger, including the fact of the murders, the fact of the verdicts, and the fact of apparent police approval of White’s actions prior to the trial and verdicts.  But the bottled up rage resulting from the new outburst of police harassment greatly increased the anger which came pouring out during the White Night riots.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: michaelflanagansf on February 06, 2009, 12:44:57 AM
My own question.

Do you think Harvey called himself "The Mayor of Castro Street" because of the title of the Thomas Hardy novel "The Mayor of Casterbridge?"

I can find no reference online to his ever having discussed this with anyone and if he was making a literary reference I doubt he wouldn't hide it - particularly if he could have used it somehow to get votes.  He wasn't the shy type - if he were making a Hardy reference he would have at least told Frank Robinson, I would guess.  Between Shilts book and 'The Times of Harvey Milk' we have a pretty broad group of people who knew Harvey who have spoke on the record.  So I would guess not.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: janjo on February 06, 2009, 03:58:04 AM
I see absolutely no parallels between Harvey Milk and the Thomas Hardy novel, which is about a man who gets drunk and sells his wife at a fair, but who later becomes a respectable citizen and becomes mayor of his town ( Casterbridge is Dorchester in Dorset in reality), but is tortured by what he has done.
The only reason I asked the question was because there is a certain ring about it that is the same, and there are only a few letters that are different when it is written down.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 07:57:28 AM
I see absolutely no parallels between Harvey Milk and the Thomas Hardy novel, which is about a man who gets drunk and sells his wife at a fair, but who later becomes a respectable citizen and becomes mayor of his town ( Casterbridge is Dorchester in Dorset in reality), but is tortured by what he has done.
The only reason I asked the question was because there is a certain ring about it that is the same, and there are only a few letters that are different when it is written down.

I understand your point, Jango.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 08:17:29 AM

6.)  Police were wearing t-shirts saying 'Free Dan White' after the assassination.  Do you feel these officers should have been disciplined - or at least admonished at their lack of respect for both Moscone and Milk?  What do you think was meant by the John Donne Quote 'No man is an island entire to himself' on the t-shirts?  Do you think this indicates that they supported Dan White's actions?


Well, they should have been admonished at least, since it certainly showed a lack of respect for Harvey and Moscone.   I doubt that admonishment would have affected the SFPD given the homophobic climate in the police force.  I agree the Donne quote indicated that they supported White, and considered him one of their own, not just a man isolated from the main.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 08:29:51 AM

7.)  Does the graffiti which appeared in the city - including 'Kill fags: Dan White for mayor' indicated that some people thought that because Dan White had killed Harvey Milk they were willing to overlook his killing the mayor?  Or do you think their hatred and homophobia extended to Moscone as well given his pro-gay policies?


Since Moscone was a liberal and had appointed Chief Gain who was hated by the SFPD, it does seem that Moscone shared in the hatred exhibited by the graffiti writers who were apparently pro-White and homophobic.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 08:51:53 AM


8.)  The police quickly returned to their rough tactics regarding gay people after the deaths.  Do you think that they believed that without Moscone and Milk that things had returned to the climate of the early 70s, where gays were open game?  Do you think the antagonism of the police towards gays and lesbians contributed to the explosion of anger seen in the White Night riots?



I agree.  Gays were now open game, Gain had lost the little control he had, Harvey and Moscone were dead, and there was no one with the leadership qualities of Harvey to step up to the plate. Feinstein was rumored to be appointing a man from the ranks as police chief, and she was still dithering about who should replace Harvey.  SF was in freefall; the climate was seemingly worse than the 70s.

IMO the White Night riots were an explosion of anger at the treatment gays were now receiving from the police, but it was primarily a culmination of anger at the verdict in White's trial. 




Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 09:04:33 AM
IMO the White Night riots were an explosion of anger at the treatment gays were now receiving from the police, but it was primarily a culmination of anger at the verdict in White's trial. 

I agree, Nikki, that's why the riots were sparked at that particular time and place, so the verdict was the primary motivation.  The other things, like new police harassment, were all just part of the background that perhaps made the riots more intense and violent, and kept them from being a controlled demonstration.  Maybe there was more satisfaction in burning police cars now, because it was a way of getting back at police for the recent harassment.

I have to go out for a while, so won't be doing any more questions until later.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 09:41:59 AM



9.)  Harry Britt suggested to Diane Feinstein that she appoint him to the Board of Supervisors from the list Harvey left.  Was this a wise move in retrospect (to keep the seat in an ally of Harvey's) or does it seem disloyal to Kronnenberg?  Anne's supporters who defected to Britt felt she shouldn't take it personally - that it was important to get someone's politics.  Do you think they were right?  Do you agree with Shilts that this action moved them away from Harvey's politics?


Although Harvey's inner circle supported Kronenberg, she had seemed reluctant at first, and scuttled any chance she had with Feinstein in her interview when she told Feinstein she would give her the same consideration as Harvey had. Feinstein was preparing to run for Mayor in the election, and she needed someone who would be loyal to her and appeal to all voters across the board; Kronenberg wasn't the one.   When Kronenberg's supporters defected to Britt, they were right that she shouldn't take it personally -- it was politics -- and they were determined to get someone appointed in the Harvey political mode. They had marketed Anne, so now they would market Britt to get the  seat.  Politics often blurred the line between deception and reality, but if it gained Harvey's supporters someone who could bring stability and maturity to the gay community, they would promise Feinstein anything.  This pragmatic approach was the beginning of a move away from Harvey's brand of politics IMO.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 02:21:18 PM
9.)  Harry Britt suggested to Diane Feinstein that she appoint him to the Board of Supervisors from the list Harvey left.  Was this a wise move in retrospect (to keep the seat in an ally of Harvey's) or does it seem disloyal to Kronenberg?  Anne's supporters who defected to Britt felt she shouldn't take it personally - that it was important to get someone [who shared Harvey]'s politics.  Do you think they were right?  Do you agree with Shilts that this action moved them away from Harvey's politics?

Harry Britt had already endorsed Kronenberg, so I can see why his move might seem disloyal to her.  But I’m wondering if that wasn’t the best decision he could have made, given the circumstances.  His original endorsement of Kronenberg had come when Harvey’s supporters felt that she had a real shot at the seat.  By the time Britt met with Feinstein on New Year’s Day, it seemed clear that the mayor was not going to support Kronenberg under any conditions.  In fact, Feinstein was considering appointing an outsider who was unknown to gay political activists.  It didn’t seem likely that the mayor would consider anyone else from Harvey’s list.  Since Britt did feel that he had earned Feinstein’s trust (enough so that she had invited him over to discuss possible replacements), I think that by offering up his own name for the seat, he was making the only possible choice which would have kept the seat in the hands of someone who shared Harvey’s politics.  So I do agree with Anne’s supporters who felt that she shouldn’t take it personally.

Ironically, the selection of Harvey’s replacement ended up being a movement away from Harvey’s brand of ward politics.  Shilts talks about how Harvey’s aides had come into power, and were now using that power to create and market candidates in the manner of “typical politicians,” instead of letting their power come directly from the people.  But it wasn’t just Britt who ended up being created and marketed for public consumption, by promoters who emphasized conservative and traditional things in his background (like having been a Methodist preacher) and overlooked other more controversial aspects (like socialist leanings).  Kronenberg the candidate had been created and marketed, too.  Perhaps any replacement would have fared likewise in that situation.

The fact that the gay voters had not selected Britt themselves did cause him problems after he got into office, because the voters never listened to him the way they had listened to Harvey.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 02:44:33 PM
10.)  When Harry Britt's name surfaced gay moderates spread rumors that he was a communist.  Given that gay baiting and red baiting went hand in hand in the fifties does it seem odd that gays in the 70s would engage in red baiting?  Does this support Harvey's notion that the gay moderates were untrustworthy?

Harry Britt’s true politics “lay at the socialist end of the spectrum,” according to Shilts, but during the 70s, that was a far cry from being a communist.  Communism immediately brought to mind images of the Soviet Union, “Red China,” and the enemies the U.S. had fought during the Vietnam War.  Socialism was more of an economic and political philosophy which could exist within democratic countries.  So those were serious charges for the gay moderates to be making.

The consequences of being labeled a communist were not as bad in the 70s as they had been in the 50s, back when lives and careers could be destroyed by those charges.  But it does seem odd that the gay moderates, who had suffered from the negative consequences of having their homosexuality discovered (loss of careers, unwarranted psychiatric treatment, etc.), had so little sympathy for Britt that they would subject him to unwarranted charges about his political leanings.

In a way, this makes the gay moderates look untrustworthy, because it shows that they were not above making false (or exaggerated) charges to keep a candidate they didn’t want out of the vacant supervisor seat.  But looking at it from the moderates’ point of view, they were conservative people who may have been seriously concerned that Britt was unqualified for the job.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 03:31:47 PM
11.)  Randy Shilts says that press speculation surrounding Dan White's preliminary hearing may have won Schmidt the trial.  Does this make sense to you?  Does it seem likely that something that occurred before a jury was selected could have had a large impact on the trial?

First off, any press speculation which occurred before the jury was selected (and sequestered) could have been read or heard by any of the jurors.  So the jurors could have been influenced, if a convincing defense case could be made in the press speculation before the trial began.

As to the particulars of how White’s lawyer, Doug Schmidt, used the press, he mentioned that the defense would be based on a “broad spectrum of social, political and ethical issues.”  That statement was open enough that the press could take off with it, and come up with scenarios about how changes at City Hall had offended White’s sense of values.  Something got twisted during this pre-trial publicity, to the point where it seemed like the political establishment, more so than Dan White, would be put on trial.  Schmidt’s list of prospective witnesses, including so many politicians, supported this “broad spectrum” or “snake pit” theory about how Schmidt intended to conduct the trial. 

No one in the press argued that White was innocent of the killings, but the idea of a corrupt City Hall as the guilty party behind White’s actions probably appealed to public distrust of government.  This thinking could have gained some sympathy for White among potential jurors who bought the argument that “they made me do it.”  Shilts notes later that after the trial began, Schmidt did not pursue the “snake pit” defense argument, but by then I think the jurors could have been prejudiced by the pre-trial press speculation.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 03:44:49 PM


10.)  When Harry Britt's name surfaced gay moderates spread rumors that he was a communist.  Given that gay baiting and red baiting went hand in hand in the fifties does it seem odd that gays in the 70s would engage in red baiting?  Does this support Harvey's notion that the gay moderates were untrustworthy?


Yes it does, especially with the taint of McCarthyism attached to red baiting.  Harvey never trusted the gay moderates, they never liked his brand of street politics. Their aim was to align themselves with  straight voters, and maintain more decorum than Harvey brought to the table with his in-your-face campaigning.  It does seem to confirm Harvey's opinion about gay moderates, doesn't it?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 04:02:43 PM


11.)  Randy Shilts says that press speculation surrounding Dan White's preliminary hearing may have won Schmidt the trial.  Does this make sense to you?  Does it seem likely that something that occurred before a jury was selected could have had a large impact on the trial?


The press still has an impact on trials today, especially in sensational cases that garner mega coverage.  Defense attorneys will often ask for a change of venue, because of the notariety surrounding murder cases where the publicity cannot help but affect prospective jurors.  In some cases jurors are sequestered for weeks or months, and forbidden access to newspapers, magazines, etc.  In White's case, the 'well-timed leaks,'  and hints of White's possible defense were a masterful stroke probably geared to influence potential jurors, and it doesn't seem that White's attorney would be above using whatever he could to channel his defense to the public before the hearing.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 04:07:06 PM
12.)  A top lieutenant of Jim Jones who was an Assistant D.A. lived in the D.A.'s offices, and the D.A. was elected with the assistance of the People's Temple.  Should Diane Feinstein have removed the D.A. prior to the trial because of these connections and the possibility the prosecution could be compromised?  Some attorneys advised the D.A. to hand the case to a special prosecutor or the State Attorney General.  Should he have done this?

If you mean, should Feinstein have removed the D.A. from office prior to the trial, she would not have had the authority to do so, would she, given that the D.A. was an elected office?  Or would the mayor have had the authority to remove him just from prosecuting this case, while he continued to keep his job as District Attorney?  I suppose you mean the latter, Michael, but if not, I’m unclear on this question.

If the prosecution was tainted because of these connections, at first glance I thought that the result would have been that the prosecution would have come down harder, not softer, on White, because he had killed two men who had received campaign support from the Temple.  But it actually worked the opposite way.  In the wake of the deaths at Jonestown, the D.A. was not proud of his own prior connections with Jim Jones and the Temple.  I think Freitas may have been afraid to prosecute a popular defendant because he knew he was in political hot water already (because of his connections to Jim Jones), and he did not want to stir up any more public animosity against himself when he would be facing re-election shortly.   This could be why the prosecuting attorney, Tom Norman, who worked for D.A. Freitas, appeared to put on a very weak prosecution.

Shilts reported that some attorneys advised Freitas to hand the case over to a special prosecutor or to the state attorney general’s office.  Again, it sounded like those advisors assumed that Freitas’ close connections to Harvey and Moscone might bias the D.A. in favor of White’s guilt, because the D.A. would want to make sure White paid for killing the D.A.’s close associates.  But instead, it seems like there may have been prosecution bias against finding White guilty of the first-degree murder charges.   I think the whole nest of the connections which the D.A. had to both the victims and to the Temple people would have made it a good idea to hand the prosecution off to someone else who would not have been biased in either direction. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 04:21:16 PM
13.)  D.A. Freitas invoked the clause from John Briggs's new capital punishment law that called for the gay chamber for any person killing a public official.  Do you think this risked generating sympathy for Dan White?  If Freitas had not done this do you think gay activists would have thought he was going easy on White?

I do think that invoking the capital punishment clause risked generating sympathy for Dan White, particularly since the final jury ended up being straight white people, many of them men, from neighborhoods similar to White’s neighborhood.  White was someone many in that demographic could look up to, and they may not have been able to bring themselves to finding him guilty of the most serious charges, if that meant that he would die.  This may have occurred even if these jurors said, during jury selection, that they were not opposed to the death penalty…in theory.

The second part of this question is true, too; gay activists may have thought that Freitas was going easy on White if he had not invoked the death penalty.  However, since this was a new penalty, he may have been able to get away without invoking it, and still leave activists feeling that justice was being sought.

Unfortunately, I think an opportunity to sentence White to life in prison for first-degree murder may have been missed here.  In hindsight, I’m sure the gay activists would have preferred that outcome, to the manslaughter verdict which was actually returned.  At least a first-degree murder conviction without the death penalty would have shown that the loss of Harvey’s life was taken seriously.

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 04:23:29 PM

12.)  A top lieutenant of Jim Jones who was an Assistant D.A. lived in the D.A.'s offices and the D.A. was elected with the assistance of the People's Temple.  Should Diane Feinstein have removed the D.A. prior to the trial because of these connections and the possibility the prosecution could be compromised?  Some attorneys advised the D.A. to hand the case to a special prosecutor or the State Attorney General  Should he have done this?


Yes, she should have done it right away given that any hint of impropriety or chance of the case being compromised could have resulted in a mistrial. Doesn't sound like the D.A. was willing to do so, since he was ambitious and this case was probably his shot at the big time.  Seems like Feinstein dragged her fit throughout the aftermath of the murders, doesn't it?
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 04:50:32 PM


13.)  D.A. Freitas invoked the clause from John Brigg's new capital punishment law that called for the gay chamber for any person killing a public official.  Do you think this risked generating sympathy for Dan White?  If Freitas had not done this do you think gay activists would have thought he was going easy on White?


Probably, given the anti-gay and pro-White atmosphere at the time. I don't think there was a strong anti-death penalty then as there is now, but given that White was seen as a good guy who was motivated by ethical/moral issues which affected his 'sense of values,' and that he was the darling of the SFPD, it might have generated sympathy for White.

Probably the gay community watched closely to see what penalty Freitas would invoke, so he had to tread carefully not only to placate the gays, but to protect himself as a public official who might plan to run for election in the future for any office.  He covered his ass by invoking the death penalty which applied not just to White for murder, but because it applied to anyone assassinating a public official by preventing him form performing his duties.   
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 05:10:39 PM
14.)  Randy Shilts relates the incident at Peg's Place where 10 men, including 2 off-duty police men, invaded the bar.  He doesn't mention that Peg's Place is several miles away from the Castro.  Given the distance between this bar and what was commonly thought of as 'gay territory' and the lack of association between Milk and lesbians do you think that this was an attempt to pass along the message that it was open season on everyone - lesbian or gay?  Why do you think the men did this - did the assassination and the attitude of the police support this sort of thing, in your opinion?

Shilts doesn’t make the location of Peg’s Place clear, and I’m surprised to hear that it was so far away.  He left the impression (on p 306) that this was just another gay bar in the Castro area, when he talked about the brawl hitting the front pages of the newspapers: “…gay complaints that that the fracas was only part of a concerted increase in police intimidation of gays.”  Even though Harvey Milk hadn’t often associated with lesbians, Shilts makes it appear that gays were only too happy to embrace this violence as proof that a broader group, including both gay men and lesbians, was being victimized.

Without the assassination of Harvey, their leader, and prior police harassment of gay men, the gay men probably would not have rallied as quickly to condemn the Peg’s Place incident.  They would have been more likely to proceed as usual, leaving the women to fend for themselves with whatever press attention they could get, and unable to gather a lot of political steam in trying to complain to Feinstein. 

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 06:11:45 PM


14.)  Randy Shilts relates the incident at Peg's Place where 10 men, including 2 off-duty police men, invaded the bar.  He doesn't mention that Peg's Place is several miles away from the Castro.  Given the distance between this bar and what was commonly thought of as 'gay territory' and the lack of association between Milk and lesbians do you think that this was an attempt to pass along the message that it was open season on everyone - lesbian or gay?  Why do you think the men did this - did the assassination and the attitude of the police support this sort of thing, in your opinion?


Sounds like the cops were out to harass and intimidate gays regardless of gender or location.  I don't think the cops were aware of the relationship between Milk and lesbians, nor would they have cared, they were out of control and the violence against gays had been escalating since the murders.  Again, Feinstein dragged her feet before calling for prosecution of the cops involved, and this just added to latitude by City Hall toward the police.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 06:28:13 PM
14.)  Randy Shilts relates the incident at Peg's Place where 10 men, including 2 off-duty police men, invaded the bar.  He doesn't mention that Peg's Place is several miles away from the Castro.  Given the distance between this bar and what was commonly thought of as 'gay territory' and the lack of association between Milk and lesbians do you think that this was an attempt to pass along the message that it was open season on everyone - lesbian or gay?  Why do you think the men did this - did the assassination and the attitude of the police support this sort of thing, in your opinion?

Sounds like the cops were out to harass and intimidate gays regardless of gender or location.  I don't think the cops were aware of the relationship between Milk and lesbians, nor would they have cared, they were out of control and the violence against gays had been escalating since the murders.  Again, Feinstein dragged her feet before calling for prosecution of the cops involved, and this just added to latitude by City Hall toward the police.

Good answer, Nikki.  I kind of read this question the other way, taking "the men" (highlighted) to mean gay men, rather than policemen.
But if "the men" are the policemen, then I agree with everything you say.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Nikki on February 06, 2009, 06:39:29 PM


15.)  In a 'Ladies Home Journal' interview Diane Feinstein said that she worried that gays flouting of community standards might 'set up a backlash' in the city.  She also said 'The right of an individual to live as he or she chooses can become offensive.'  Given White's defense was thought in the press to be because 'profound changes had occurred at City Hall that had offended White's sense of values' were Feinstein's words unwise?  Do you think this kind of sentiment would allow people doing things like invading Peg's Place to feel they had a friend in City Hall?  Do you think her sentiments played into the hands of White's defense?  Do you think her statements played into the 'dump Diane' sentiments in the gay community?


Feinstein's remarks in the LHJ seemed weak and disingenuous. The remarks may not have made anti-gay demonstrators feel like they had a friend in City Hall, but it surely contributed to a laxity of discipline on Feinstein's part toward the police, many of whom had been offenders in the Peg's Place brawl and other violence against gays.  Feinstein's statements were unwise particularly during the pretrial buildup of sentiment for White, and anything she said could be twisted to  suit the White defense team. The posters which appeared around the Castro cartooning Feinstein indicated how the gay community reacted to her interview in the LHJ.
Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 07:19:54 PM
15.)  In a 'Ladies Home Journal' interview Diane Feinstein said that she worried that gays flouting of community standards might 'set up a backlash' in the city.  She also said 'The right of an individual to live as he or she chooses can become offensive.'  Given White's defense was thought in the press to be because 'profound changes had occurred at City Hall that had offended White's sense of values' were Feinstein's words unwise?  Do you think this kind of sentiment would allow people doing things like invading Peg's Place to feel they had a friend in City Hall?  Do you think her sentiments played into the hands of White's defense?  Do you think her statements played into the 'dump Diane' sentiments in the gay community?

I imagine Feinstein’s words were read directly mostly by middle-class women, age 30 to 50, around the country, because that’s the ‘Ladies Home Journal’ circulation.  Some of the women eventually chosen for the jury may have read the article, especially if their attention was caught by the San Francisco connection.  Some of the men chosen for the jury may have heard of her remarks in a more roundabout way, even without reading LHJ.  So I would say that Feinstein’s words were unwise in terms of prejudicing potential jurors, and could have played into the hands of White’s defense. 

I doubt that the police involved in the Peg’s Place incident actually read the article.  Maybe their wives did, or maybe other newspapers picked up on the gist of her remarks and reproduced them where SFPD officers could read them, or overhear discussions about them.  In any case, I do think the remarks may have fueled a prejudicial attitude in town toward gay people, and indicated that the mayor shared some of the anti-gay feelings of the police.  This would have allowed police to invade an establishment like Peg’s Place with little fear of recrimination.

I had been wondering what the source was of the “Dump Diane” sentiments, because Feinstein hadn’t seemed that unwilling to work with Harvey while he was alive.  These latest LHJ statements go a long way toward explaining the “Dump Diane” attitude.  Word-of-mouth helped spread an awareness of her “fretting” and “prudery” even among people who hadn’t read the LHJ article.  It seems like a general undercurrent of animosity developed towards Feinstein within the gay community at large, as witnessed by the posters of her in sadomasochistic drag.     

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: dejavu on February 06, 2009, 08:25:41 PM
16.)  Schmidt asked potential jurors if they supported gay rights.  A heterosexual woman with gay friends was disqualified from the jury. He asked about church attendance.  Do you think he would have been able to do this today?  Do you think this unfairly tipped the jury?  Do you think that prosecutor Tom Norman should have used more of his challenges?

It was obvious that Schmidt was trying to disqualify jurors who might be inclined to sympathize with Harvey, while trying to select jurors who would sympathize with White.  Defense attorneys have the right to determine attitudes of potential jurors which might impact the case, but rarely are they allowed to select on broad demographic criteria such as gay/straight, white/black, male/female, etc.  I am used to thinking of the concept “a jury of one’s peers” as meaning something broader than “a jury of people just like you.”  I would hope that some of this questioning wouldn’t be allowed today, but I don’t really know.

The judge had forbidden Schmidt from asking potential jurors directly if they were gay, but he found indirect ways of determining whether they might be gay, or whether they had friends who were gay, or whether they supported gay rights.  By asking about church attendance, he was able to select jurors who came from Catholic backgrounds like Dan White, and the same held true when he picked jurors with working class backgrounds.  I do think this unfairly tipped the jury, by constructing a jury which was closely aligned with the defendant, Dan White, and likely to sympathize with his actions, provided that he could provide a believable reason for why he did what he did.

It seems very odd to me that Tom Norman did not use more of his challenges.  He could have eliminated some of the people whose biographies were the closest to White’s, and that might have made room for other people with a wider variety of backgrounds.  Richard Aparacio, the former policeman who said he guessed that White killed the two politicians because of “social and political pressures,” would have been a good juror for Norman to challenge.  I agree with what is implied elsewhere in this book, that Norman didn’t seem to be working very hard for a guilty verdict.   

Title: Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
Post by: Jenny on February 06, 2009, 08:48:26 PM

1.)  Shilts begins this section with a quotation from King Lear.  Why do you think he does this?   What does it mean to you?

Debbie said:
The quotation ends with the line, “…which is justice, which is the thief?”  I took this to mean, in the most obvious sense, that the chapter would be about the Dan White trial, but it also indicated that there would be some question as to whether “justice was served.”  I thought Shilts did this to focus the reader’s attention on the following:  Was the verdict a fair one which pronounced true justice upon the accused, or was justice stolen by an unfair verdict?

Nikki replied:
Lear has always been one of the more difficult of Shakespeare's plays to interpret.  There was a lot going on during the period of the play, social change, wars, and family fighting. Lear planned to divide his kingdom among his 3 daughters, but when Cordelia didn't give Lear the answer he wanted, he cut her out of his will. Afterwards, the infighting commenced.  IMO Shilts may have been comparing Harvey's "kingdom" metaphorically to Lear's in that Harvey designated his successors as did Lear.  The infighting in Lear's family could also be a metaphor for Harvey's followers who were not in accord -- the three or four he designated either did not want to succeed him, or were not considered fitting for the role.  I can't imagine why else Shilts would have used 'Lear" to begin this section, except this all seems to be borne out. [/quote]

Since I had a somewhat different take from either of these, I'm answering this one, too. :) First, I think the quote describes what happens in the course of Dan White's trial very aptly:

A man may see how this world goes
    with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond
    justice rails upon yond simple thief. Hark, in
    thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which
    is the justice, which is the thief?


 It's from King Lear's mad scene, and the whole scene is about people who aren't what they seem, and the high cast down while the lowly rise up.  Dan White starts out as a confessed murderer of two high city officials, who clearly premeditated his actions. It would seem to be an open-and-shut case. Then Doug Schmidt, his lawyer, publishes a strange list of witnesses at the preliminary hearing, all city politicians, including some former supervisors who never worked with him. All he will say is that he's basing his defense on "a broad spectrum of social, political and ethical issues." But, several leaks later, the media is suggesting that White's defense will be that the climate in City Hall offended White's "all-American values" and enraged him to the point that he finally snapped. There's a lot of speculation on what social, political and ethical issues these might be, and the DA's connection with Jim Jones and the People's Temple comes front and center. His zeal to prosecute suddenly looks as though it could be in order to somehow "cover up" a political scandal. So the public, from which the jury will come, are already thinking of White as a guy with old-fashioned morals who was, in a way, expressing their fears about the changes that had come to the city and their outrage at some of the "goings-on" in the gay community. Add to that connections that Moscone had with Jones, including his refusing to investigate the Temple after Jones decamped for Guyana, and you have a subtext: Milk's gayness and Moscone's possible protection of Jones for political reasons made them unfit to hold their offices and make White's act understandable. Suddenly the victims begin to get blamed for their own deaths and White becomes a defender of the right. "Which is the justice, which is the thief?"

The police, who are charged with protecting the people and arresting the lawless become more and more lawless themselves, attacking gays and refusing to help them when others attack them. They should be part of the case against Dan White; instead they treat him as a hero and Falzon helps make the case for him by the way he questioned White during his confession and the character witness he becomes. The jury, which should reflect all of the people, is deliberately biased towards White by Doug Schmidt's use of questions and challenges and Tom Norman's lack of objections and failure to challenge. This sort of jury selection would never be allowed today. I'm not sure why the judge allowed it; obviously it appears biased. In fact Norman appears to mismanage every aspect of the trial, while Schmidt masterfully defends his client. It's not clear to me that Norman sabotaged it deliberately, but he couldn't see past his belief that the verdict was foreordained, given the facts presented.

The biggest elephant in the room, though, is Harvey's homosexuality and Dan White's oft expressed homophobia. Norman never suggests that as a motive, but Schmidt reminds the jury of it over and over in subtle ways. The political conflict between him and Harvey is never brought out in discussion of possible motive, though it would have been easy to document. So was the case "thrown" or "blown"? One argument, which also fits the quotation, is that Norman harbored a fair amount of homophobia himself, and was uncomfortable discussing it and unwilling to argue for it as a motive (justice and the thief can easily change places). Another is that he thinks Moscone has political dirty linen that shouldn&