The Ultimate Brokeback Forum

Author Topic: The Mayor of Castro Street  (Read 157721 times)

Offline Nikki

  • Ephemera
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6842
  • Never enough time, never enough
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #15 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.
The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Offline CellarDweller115

  • Faithful Friend
  • Administrator
  • Obsessed
  • ******
  • Posts: 212235
  • twiddle your spaghetti
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #16 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.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2009, 05:39:34 PM by CellarDweller115 »

Offline CellarDweller115

  • Faithful Friend
  • Administrator
  • Obsessed
  • ******
  • Posts: 212235
  • twiddle your spaghetti
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #17 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.

Offline Nikki

  • Ephemera
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6842
  • Never enough time, never enough
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #18 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.
The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Offline CellarDweller115

  • Faithful Friend
  • Administrator
  • Obsessed
  • ******
  • Posts: 212235
  • twiddle your spaghetti
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #19 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.

Offline Nikki

  • Ephemera
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6842
  • Never enough time, never enough
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #20 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.
The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Offline CellarDweller115

  • Faithful Friend
  • Administrator
  • Obsessed
  • ******
  • Posts: 212235
  • twiddle your spaghetti
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #21 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.

Offline dejavu

  • may the snowy egret live
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 85562
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #22 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.
Jack's from Texas.
Texans don't drink coffee?

Offline Stilllearning

  • Daily Sheet Staff
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 2559
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #23 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.


Quote
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.

Quote
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.



Offline dejavu

  • may the snowy egret live
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 85562
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #24 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. 

Jack's from Texas.
Texans don't drink coffee?

Offline Stilllearning

  • Daily Sheet Staff
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 2559
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #25 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.

Offline dejavu

  • may the snowy egret live
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 85562
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #26 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.
Jack's from Texas.
Texans don't drink coffee?

Offline Nikki

  • Ephemera
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6842
  • Never enough time, never enough
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #27 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.
The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Offline Nikki

  • Ephemera
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 6842
  • Never enough time, never enough
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #28 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!
The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.

If he does not force his attention on it, it might stoke the day, rewarm that old, cold time on the mountain when they owned the world and nothing seemed wrong.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven!

Offline dejavu

  • may the snowy egret live
  • Obsessed
  • *****
  • Posts: 85562
Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #29 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.
Jack's from Texas.
Texans don't drink coffee?