San Francisco Happening: Remembering Harvey Milk

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San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood has undergone a timewarp transformation over the past few days for the filming of Milk, Gus Van Sant‘s new movie based on the life and times of Harvey Milk. Milk was a 1970s-era activist and politician who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most remarkable people of the 20th century for being, as they put it, “the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the planet.”

Castro neighborhood circa 1977, photographed 2008
Vintage cars line Castro Street for the filmming of Milk.
Photo by katerw. See larger photo.

Milk was elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1977 only to be shot and killed, along with Mayor George Moscone, one year later by fellow Supervisor Dan White in an assassination at City Hall. One of my favorite documentaries, The Times of Harvey Milk, recounts the events surrounding the campaign, his time in office and the aftermath of his tragic death, including White’s ridiculous “twinkie defense,” and the stirring candlelight vigil march held in Milk’s honor, in vivid, moving detail. The film won an Academy Award for best documentary in 1984.

Critical Condition
Sean Penn as Harvey Milk on the megaphone on Monday night in the Castro.
Photo by sfjim123. See larger photo.

Earlier this week, a large crowd of extras dressed in retro hippie garb took to the streets to re-create a Harvey Milk campaign speech. Documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein made an appearance earlier in the evening for a free screening of The Times of Harvey Milk that was shown to extras in the Castro Theater (which has undergone a $12K facelift for the filming). This Friday, hundreds of extras will re-create the candelight vigil march that took place after Milk was killed. (Watch footage from the real march courtesy of the Internet Archive.)

If you want to take a real trip back to the 70s, watch The Times of Harvey Milk, but if a simulated flashback-like experience intrigues you, here’s a Flickr slideshow of images uploaded in the past few days by local SF photographers. My personal favorites are the real estate listings in which an entire building in San Francisco is for sale for $42,000 — pretty mind blowing stuff.

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