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Author Topic: The Mayor of Castro Street  (Read 162363 times)

Offline Nikki

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #75 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.
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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #76 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.

« Last Edit: January 15, 2009, 06:10:20 PM by dejavu »
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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #77 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.)
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Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #78 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
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

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Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #79 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
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #80 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.
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Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #81 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
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #82 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....
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

Offline michaelflanagansf

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #83 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  :-\).
I do my thing, & you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other - it is beautiful. If not it can't be helped.

Fritz Perls - A Gestalt Prayer

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #84 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.
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Offline Ellen (tellyouwhat)

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #85 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.
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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #86 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.
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Offline Nikki

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #87 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.
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Offline Nikki

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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #88 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.
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Re: The Mayor of Castro Street
« Reply #89 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.
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