Since Focus Films released the movie "Milk" last November, that is now up for 8 Academy Awards... millions and millions of people of all ages, gay and straight have been introduced to Harvey Milk, and that era in San Francisco's gay rights history, here in America and around the world.
In this age of blogs, the WWW, CNN, BBC, and Satellites... news actually travels at the speed of light... but in the 70's, the fastest way news made its way into the print and broadcast media outlets in the U.S.A. was via Associated Press and United Press International, and a few other lessor known wire services. Chances of reading or hearing anything about gay news in any media other than the gay press at that time was almost nil. Yet in the span of less than a month I was able to crash that barrier several times. Outing myself nationally in early May,1977 when I created a gay theme T-shirt, and again on June 7,1977 with my photo of Harvey Milk making the A.P. wires... and becoming one of the most important dates in gay history. It helped establish Harvey Milk as a gay-rights spokesman nationally, 5 months before he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and a footnote to gay history, again.
Former "Miss America" runner-up, and spokesperson for the Florida Orange Juice Association, Anita Bryant made it possible both times. Thanks to her, she provided the gay rights movement... movement! At Dade County Florida, Bryant led voters to rescind a gay rights housing ordinance that had been in effect for several months. The national press gave her, and a group of "Christian Right" Preachers, a pulpit for their "SAVE OUR CHILDREN" anti-gay campaign. What happened on June 7,1977 in Florida was a turning point. Unlike the N.Y. Stonewall riots... the ripple was felt all the way across the country in the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco. It was not a planned march; it was an impromptu response to the anti-gay results of that election.
Keep in mind, there's a 3 hour difference between coasts, and when the polls closed in Florida... it was still mid afternoon in San Francisco. The evening news came on at 11 P.M. and there were prior updates showing that the Anita Bryant led forces had won the election. I remember, I decided to go to the Castro about 10:00 P.M... and as I was leaving my apartment... I grabbed my camera gear. To this day, I do not know why... I wasn't expecting anything special to happen. When I arrived a few minutes later... there was a small crowd of people coagulating at Castro and Market Street, known today as "Harvey Milk Plaza". I noticed Tom Clancy, of KTVU channel 2 news, setting up (years later he became the afternoon anchor for CNN) and I asked him if he had a lead-in for his live feed back to the Oakland based station... he nodded "No". I recommended he call it "Orange Tuesday", and he said he liked it. That's how he opened his segment of the 11 O'clock news. There were no other broadcast media on hand. The crowd began to form at the Catholic Church, on Eureka Street... a block away. Harvey Milk arrived with a bullhorn, and boxes of candles that he passed out. He started an impromptu march (not in front of the Castro Theater, as depicted in the "Milk" movie). He started shouting "Out of the Bars, and into the Streets!" and within minutes there were nearly 500 hundred marchers heading down Market Street. Harvey leading the way... The bullhorn in one hand and a candle in the other and continuing the "Out of the Bars" theme, over and over like the Pied Piper of Castro Street... hundreds and hundreds more joined in from the gay and straight bars on Market... and with each passing block the impromptu march got bigger and bigger along the way. When he turned on Polk Street... most thought that Harvey was heading towards City Hall. However, he didn't stop there (as depicted in the movie) but went all the way downtown... across from the St. Francis Hotel on Powell Street, and into Union Square. By that time there were nearly 5,000 marchers that filled up the Square. Because it was an impromptu event... there were just a few signs... but the biggest cheer of the night came when a young black girl climbed a flag poll and unfurled a "GAY POWER" flag. Harvey was one of a few that spoke to the crowd... saying "if it can happen in Florida... it could happen elsewhere and San Francisco, too!" I snapped less than a roll of film, and after the crowd dispersed, with many going back to the Castro, I thought that the impromptu San Francisco event, about an election thousands of miles away, was newsworthy on a national scope. I decided to take the film over to the Associated Press at Fox Plaza... and I was right. They ran it on their wires "Datelined" from San Francisco... the next morning I had a call from the S.F. bureau of Newsweek magazine, asking if I had any other images they might use, and I said the only other one was too much like the A.P. photo. The afternoon Examiner put it on their front page, and it made the front page of the Sunday Chronicle's "World" Magazine. The impromptu march became the blue print for subsequent political marches over the next 9 months as gay right ordinances were rescinded at St.Paul Minnesota, Eugene Oregon, and Wichita Kansas.
It was not until 4 years after Harvey's assassination... that Randy Shilts asked me if he could use it in his book "THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET". I asked him to "tag" the caption "Orange Tuesday" under my image, and recommended that he call the chapter "Orange Tuesday". We exchanged a few tidbits about Harvey, and discussed several chapters in his new book about the emerging AIDS crisis "AND THE BAND PLAYED ON". When the "THE MAYOR OF CASTRO STREET" was finished, he gave me a signed copy.
It was then that I found out that he named a chapter "Orange Tuesday". Before the movie... that image became one of the best known image of Harvey Milk, and has been seen in several other books, including Josh Gottheimer's (President Clinton's speech writer) "Ripples of Hope", Chrisopher Pullen's "Documenting Gay Men" and the latest, The "Harvey Milk Pictorial" by Newmarket Press, in conjunction with Focus Films"MILK" movie. It has also been seen in several well known documentaries, various international magazines, many gay web-sites and exhibits.
Ironically, the following "NOW!" frame has never been published.
I had planned to make it a poster for the 10th anniversary of Harvey's assassination. Then I put if off for 20th, and last year the 30th anniversary... and still I produced no poster. Finally I was going to use it for the official poster for the "When Then Was... NOW!" exhibit at Gerber Hart Library that was suppose to open earlier this month... but because of their many delays, and controlling how I wanted to display my images, memorabilia, pins and posters... I cancelled the exhibit. It will be featured and published for the first time in a column by my friend... Felicia Dechter, in an article in this week's Chicago Skyline Press, and THIS posting of my blog.
Coming Soon... the history behind my Anita Bryant T-shirt... and outing myself nationally in May of 1977, via United Press International's wire service.