We couldn't be more pleased to feature two excerpts from the just published MILK: A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF HARVEY MILK. Tomorrow, one by Milk screenwriter and Oscar nominee Lance Black. But first, author Armistead Maupin offers not just another look at Harvey Milk, but also another man. Maupin is, of course, best know for his Tales of the City.
It’s not hard to imagine the joke Harvey Milk might have made about being the subject of an “oral history.” He was a bawdy and unembarrassed guy—“sex-positive,” as we now so tiresomely call it—so he never missed a chance to send up his own libido; he was part satyr, part Catskill comic, and both instincts energized his political career.
I can’t say that I knew Harvey well, but we were brothers in the same revolution. In the late 70s while he was campaigning for supervisor in the Castro, I was across town on Russian Hill cranking out “Tales of the City” for the San Francisco Chronicle. Since both efforts were predicated on the then-radical notion that queers deserved a voice in the culture, Harvey and I often found ourselves on the same bill, headlining events that ran the gamut from pride marches to “No on 6” fundraisers to jockstrap auctions at the Stud. We had come of age in a time when homosexuality was not only a mental disease but a criminal offense, so to be oneself and make lemonade from such long-forbidden fruit was exhilarating beyond belief.
Ridiculous as it seems to me now, Harvey and I had both been naval officers and Goldwater Republicans. Like so many gay folks who defected to San Francisco in the early 70s, we’d finally had enough of the shame and secrecy that had stifled our hearts to the point of implosion. Now we were catching up on everything we’d missed, the full fireworks of adolescence: the free-range sex and clumsy puppy love and the simple, giddy freedom of standing-on-the-corner-watching-all-the-boys-go-by.
Harvey was fond of saying that he never considered himself a candidate, that the gay movement itself was the candidate. I’m not sure he believed that completely—look at him on the back of that convertible—but it does show how brilliantly he understood the nature of the army he’d assembled. This really was about us: the clerk at Macy’s, the dyke cop on Valencia, that old tranny singing torch songs in the Tenderloin. It was a movement born of our long frustration and the comforting interconnectedness of everyone who had chosen that moment in history to tell the truth; it was born of a love that could finally speak its name.
Let me tell you a story.
In the last month of his life, Harvey Milk met a cute twenty-five-year-old named Steve Beery at the Beaux Arts Ball in San Francisco.
Continued, AFTER THE JUMP...
BELOW: Harvey Milk on the steps of San Francisco City Hall at his swearing-in ceremony. This scene is depicted in the movie. Just as Harvey was getting ready to be sworn in, and it started to rain, he said, "A few weeks ago, Anita Bryant blamed the drought in Northern California on the gays. Who's she going to blame the rain on?" (c) Jerry Pritikin 1978