Tags: milk

San Francisco

30 Years Ago

30 years ago tonight, November 28, 1978, between 25,000 and 40,000 San Franciscans took to the streets in a spontaneous candlelight procession to mourn the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone by Dan White the previous day. The procession stretched for blocks and was a sight to behold.

San Francisco, November 28, 1978
It is strange that it's been 30 years since that day. I still remember the shock of the assassinations, the procession and the riots that followed the Dan White verdict several years later.

Even stranger to me is that 2008 has been, for me, a giant deja vu. This whole year so far has been a strange time warp for me back to the future. Starting with early in the year where I got cast in the movie "Milk", recreating the events of 30 years ago in the same locations, seeing the Castro transformed back to what it look liked in the 70's, wearing clothes styles I haven't worn in 30 years. Noticing how many of the actors playing the key roles looked so young. Were we ever that young?

One of the scenes we recreated were the spontaneous protests that ocurred in San Francisco after the successful passages of laws in other states restricting the rights of gays and lesbians. Another scene was the spontaneous candlelight march that happened after the assassinations. It was odd during the filming to be amongst many people who probably weren't even born when those events we were recreating took place.

In May, on Harvey's birthday, I was invited to the unvieling of Harvey Milk's bust in San Francisco's City Hall. I looked around at the crowds and there weren't very many young people there. Hopefully I thought, they will eventually discover his story and if nothing else, his statue will remain there to tell his story long after those who were there are long gone.

Later as the fight for Proposition 8 heated up in California, I had another strong sense of deja vu of 1978's Proposition 6, the Briggs Initiative and Harvey's successful fight to defeat it. Unfortunately, we lost this fight. I still think this was our fight to lose and apathy won.

Last month, I saw the premiere of Milk. The parallels between then and now seemed to hit home again. Seeing people at the premiere who didn't know anything about Harvey Milk talking about him after the movie was bittersweet.

The success of Proposition 8 and the resulting backlash protests across the nation was also another bittersweet experience. It was refreshing to see all those young faces, but I still don't have a feeling that the protests have a strong sense of focus or momentum. Once again it was strange as the spotaneous protests resonated with those that happened 30 years ago. In Austin, I lead the group in chants that were used 30 years ago.

Today, I had been a slug all day. I stayed in bed until I heard helicopters overhead. I had completely forgotten about the anniversary. I hurriedly grabbed my electric candle which i had used for the filiming of Milk, it is 2008 after all and I was not about to do the drippy wax walking thing, and hurried down Market Street.

I caught up with the crowd of about 1,000 on Market Street marching toward the Castro.

We marched up Castro street, past the Castro Theater, where a line stretched down Castro street and around the block. It was a sold out crowd to see "Milk" at the Castro Theater.

Milk at the Castro Theater
San Francisco Police shut down Castro Street and the group gathered in front of the former site of Harvey Milk's Camera shop in the Castro. During the filming of Milk, they converted the store back into Harvey's camera shop.
Several politicians made speeches in front of the former site, including Mark Leno and Bevan Dufty.

San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty

My friend, Danny Nicoletta, who was also a personal friend of Harvey Milk and had sucessfully documented much of GLBT culture in San Francisco these past 30 years, stood next to me, snapping pictures. Part way through the ceremony, they called out Danny's name, and a cheer went up through the crowd. I pointed out Danny's location and the crowd got louder.

Danny Nicoletta

Crowd Stretching Down Castro Street

Afterwards, the crowd broke up. I stuck around and caught up with Danny for a while. Several television stations were there doing interviews, including Univision, the Hispanic station.
Univision Doing an Interview in Español

Poster of Harvey in his Former Apartment Window

It was strange to think that the candlelight procession was 30 years ago, and it was even stranger to see people lining up to see a movie of the events that occurred 30 years ago while we walked by in remembrance of those events. It's even stranger that I recreated those events earlier this year that those people were lining up to watch. My head hurts. I feel like i've become unstuck in time.
There are more pics I took on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cop4cbt/sets/72157610392625324/
San Francisco

Walking the Red Carpet

Just got home from the premiere of the movie "Milk" at the Castro.They put down the red carpet in front of the Castro theater and did the whole "Hollywood" thing. The paparazzi were out in force and were taking pictures of anyone strolling down the red carpet. Some paparazzi is probably looking over his digital prints, seeing me and saying, "Who the hell is this guy?" right about now.

It was sold out, but there was assigned seating. I lucked out and got a decent aisle seat. There was a very large and noisy "No on 8" crowd across the street from the theater blocked off by police barricades.

I really wish they would have released the movie before the election. The parallels between 1978 and 2008 are hauntingly striking, but even more disturbing are the differences between the two eras. Having lived through San Francisco 1978 and being still here today, I keep wondering how the fight against Prop 8 would have went if someone like Harvey were still around. Back then, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter both publicly stated that they were against the Briggs Initiative. In 2008, we have both Obama and Biden taking the "safe" road by playing both sides of the fence.

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World Premiere of Milk Tomorrow Night

I received an invitation to attend the world premiere of the movie "Milk" tomorrow, October 28th, at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be surprised if I see myself on the big screen, but who knows. It's the life of a background actor, where you're lucky if they show the backside of your head for a few frames. I do recognize some of my friends/fellow background actors in the trailer quite clearly though, so there's hope!

The premiere tomorrow night is a big shindig with all the stars of the movie and the production crew attending. They're going to close down Castro Street in front of the Castro Theater afterwards for a party. I'm not sure if the party is open to the public. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to bring any recording devices, including cameras to the event. I guess I will have to rely on the paparazzi for pictures!

Milk hits U.S. movies theaters in limited release on November 26, 2008 with a wider release starting December 5, 2008. I only wish they would have been able to release it prior to the election. The parallels between Prop 6 in 1978 and Prop 8 in 2008 are quite stunning.
San Francisco

You Gotta Give 'em Hope

The trailer for the movie "Milk", a biographical film of Harvey Milk by Gus Van Sant, is now available online. Milk trailer: www.apple.com/trailers/focus_features/milk/

I had a great time working on this film. It's been the most fulfilling roles I've played so far and I really hope people see it when it comes out on November 26, 2008. They had originally tried to shoot for a late October release in time for the 2008 Election, but the timeline slipped. It's unfortunate because the topics the movie touches upon are extremely timely for this election.
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Harvey Milk Day

May 22nd, 2008 was Harvey Milk Day here in California. It's Harvey's birthday and this year would have been his 78th birthday. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to office in the United States. He was elected to the position of Supervisor for San Francisco in 1977 and was assassinated along with San Francisco mayor George Moscone on November 27th, 1978. The subsequent manslaughter verdict a few years later would trigger riots in San Francisco.

To honor him, the city of San Francisco unveiled a statue of Harvey in San Francisco's City Hall. 30 years after his death, Harvey is still making history and he is now the first openly gay public official to be memorialized in a government building with a statue. The statue was inspired by a picture of Harvey Milk that Danny Nicoletta took and features Harvey's grin and his tie flapping in the breeze.

The unveiling was open to the public and strangely enough, coincided with the one week anniversary of the California Supreme Court's decision to allow same sex marriages. There was a fairly good crowd that attended, but honestly, there were far fewer people there than I had thought would have shown up.

It's unfortunate that more people don't know about Harvey and his legacy. Hopefully that will change this year since there is a feature film, "Milk", coming out starring Sean Penn in October, 2008. It follows Harvey's rise to power in San Francisco, his successful fight in defeating California Proposition 6 (Briggs Initiative) and his eventual death. As a strange coincidence, this year California will once again be deciding on
a proposition that could have a drastic effect on gays and lesbians. The more things change..as they say...

Here are some pics from the ceremony after the cut... Collapse )