Today marks the thirty-sixth anniversary of former Supervisor Dan White’s murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in their offices at City Hall. Gary Murakami and I marched that night in the silent candlelight parade from the Castro to Civic Center.
I saw the opening of Gus Van Sant’s superb film Milk at the Castro Theatre six years ago last night. It really managed to capture the time and brought back so many bittersweet memories!
I had bought two tickets online for the seven o’clock show and gave one to Tom, a tenor at Grace, but there were so many people that I never did find him. But I’m sure he went. I sat in the middle of the front row of the balcony, which is usually closed.
From my vantage point I was able to see several other acquaintances from a distance, including one who doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore. But that just added to the evening’s internal drama.
The film was brilliant in so many ways: the acting, the screenplay, the direction, cinematography, music, editing. I was overwhelmed. Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, and Alison Pill, as well as others, were simply wonderful in their roles. Sean Penn, however, was in a class by himself.
Of course, typical of me, I noted several factual inaccuracies. They were perfectly fine and in no way detracted from the overall effect. I was amused, though, to see the Chapel of Grace at Grace Cathedral —with its marvelous Samuel Yellin wrought iron gates— depicted as a Roman Catholic parish for Dan White’s son’s christening. Robert Hillsborough’s name was mentioned at least twice. The movie stated he was murdered in the Castro. That’s a slight inaccuracy. I knew Robert. We were involved briefly. He was murdered at a fast food place on South Van Ness and 18th, which is the heart of the Mission and not the Castro. But that’s beside the point. His hate-murder did arouse the entire city just before the Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1977, and I went to his funeral in the full nave at Grace Cathedral, and may have even sung in the choir.
I hadn’t realized that Harvey Milk’s Hispanic lover Jack hanged himself. That was almost too much for me to take, because of the association with Gary Murakami.
Maureen Dowd’s column in the New York Times on Sunday November 23, 2008 referred to Dianne Feinstein’s involvement on that tragic day. She had discovered Milk’s body, and then was the one who announced the double tragedy to the Press, and as President of the Board of Supervisors, Feinstein succeeded the murdered mayor.
Maureen Dowd wrote:
Dianne Feinstein is not sure she’ll ever be able to watch the movie “Milk,” even though she’s in it.
There is 1978 footage of a stricken Feinstein in the opening minutes of the new Gus Van Sant biopic of Harvey Milk, her colleague on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay elected official in American history. (Sean Penn soars as Milk.)
“I was the one who found his body,” the California senator told me Friday, on route from the airport to her home in San Francisco. “To get a pulse, I put my finger in a bullet hole. It was a terrible, terrible time in the city’s history.”
The movie, chronicling the rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces in the ’70s to prevent discrimination against gays, is opening amid a rancorous California fight of gay activists against church-backed forces to prevent discrimination against gays.
Maureen Dowd’s entire column is worth reading.
(Please refer to my postings “Jury Duty” 11/12/08 and “California State Proposition 8” 11/6/08.)