Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reprise: Got Milk?

UPDATE: The following entry was originally posted on September 7, 2008, but I thought it made sense to repost it now since "Milk" is finally in theaters. Drea and I saw it yesterday and enjoyed it very much. The pacing lags a bit in the second half of the film and a couple of the characters are thinly drawn, but overall we thought it was great and that there were several strong acting performances in it.


Here is the trailer for Gus VanSant's new film, "Milk," starring Sean Penn. It looks great. Check it out:

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person to hold a major political office in the United States when he became a City Supervisor for San Francisco in 1976. (TIME Magazine has named him one of the 100 heroes of the 20th century.) Known as "The Mayor of Castro Street," Milk was an advocate for the rights of gays and lesbians, as well as an advocate of civil rights, more broadly. In 1978, Milk and S.F. Mayor Willie Moscone were gunned down at the capitol by a disgruntled former supervisor, Dan White, who then got off with a very light sentence after a controversial "twinkie defense" defense by his lawyers. White later committed suicide in 1985.

On the historic night of his election, Harvey Milk told supporters, "This is not my victory -- it's yours. If a gay man can win, it proves that there is hope for all minorities who are willing to fight." In his famous "Hope speech," Milk said,
"[Y]ou have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home got too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up….

So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I’ve found one overriding thing about my personal election, it’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you, you have to give people hope."
In an audio note he left, which was to be listened to only upon his assassination, Milk wrote, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door." You can listen to the audio tape here:

After the assassinations, Beat poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, wrote, "An Elegy To Dispel Gloom":

Let us not sit upon the ground
and tell sad stories
of the death of sanity.
Two humans made of flesh
are meshed in death
and no more need be said.
It is pure vanity
to think that all humanity
be bathed in red
because one young mad man
one so bad man
lost his head.
The force that through the red fuze
drove the bullet
does not drive everyone
through the City of Saint Francis
where there's a breathless hush
in the air today
a hush at City Hall
and a hush at the Hall of Justice
a hush in Saint Francis Wood
where no bird tries to sing
a hush on the Great Highway
and in the great harbor
upon the great ships
and on the Embarcadero
from the Mission Rock
to the Eagle Cafe
a hush on the great red bridge
a hush in the Outer Mission
and at Hunter's Point
a hush at a hot potato stand on Pier 39
and a hush at the People's Temple
where no bird
tries its wings
a hush and a weeping
at the Convent of the Sacred Heart
on Upper Broadway
a hush upon the fleshpots
of Lower Broadway
a pall upon the punk rock
at Mabuhay Gardens
and upon the cafes and bookstores
of old North Beach
a hush upon the landscape
of the still wild West
where two sweet dudes are dead
and no more need be said.
Do not sit upon the ground and speak
of other senseless murderings
or worse disasters waiting
in the wings.
Do not sit upon the ground and talk
of the death of things beyond
these sad sad happenings.
Such men as these do rise above
our worst imaginings.

There is also an excellent 1984 documentary, "The Times of Harvey Milk." If you'd like to watch it via YouTube, click here:

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10

Here is the review from "Siskel and Ebert"

Here is the original tv news report of Milk and Moscone's murder.

Here is footage of the "white night riot" after Milk's assassination and White's light punishment.

Here is footage of the gay pride parade in San Francisco in 1978.

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