This letter has an amazing story behind it... To start with, the first photo that Harvey mentions is the one that gave me an important footnote in gay history... and helped to introduce Harvey nationally as a gay rights spokesperson on June 6,1978... Orange Tuesday.
When he was elected in November, I dropped off 2 copies of that image at Harvey's camera shop... one for himself, and the other that I asked him to sign for me.
On January 9th, 1978 I armed myself with my cameras and trekked on down to the Castro to take photos of the day that Harvey Milk was to be sworn into office as the first elected openly gay male politician in the country. It was a cool gray day, and I took a few images of Harvey, being interviewed by Jeannine Youmans of KRON, in front of his shop, (and featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary "The Times of Harvey Milk"), and some other media on hand to record that historic day.
Harvey being interviewed by Jeannine Youmans
1/9/1978 (c) Jerry Pritikin
There was a nice crowd of well wishers... including a lot of neighborhood children, and many of Harvey's supporters. Then Harvey, flanked by his then lover, Jack Lira, started to walk toward Market Street... I snapped a few more as they crossed 18th Street. They passed Cliffs Hardware store and walked in front of the "Something Special" bar... I decided to walk a head of the crowd toward the Castro Theater. I happened to notice the theater marquee... "A SPECIAL DAY" - a gay themed movie was playing, and positioned myself so I could get Harvey and Jack, as they neared the famed theater. At the right moment... I yelled out to Harvey to look up at the marquee... and the attached image was the result...
A Special Day 1/9/1978 (c) Jerry Pritikin
I only snapped one frame (slide) and then ran ahead of the crowd to get a few more images. As Harvey was nearing a bookstore on Market Street, I had another "PHOTO-GLYPHIC" moment... that's what I call my images that have a word, or words within a frame of a photograph. However, this time I did not ask Harvey to stop... and it resulted in "Harvey in the Limelight", the name of the bookstore... surrounded by young kids and District 5 supporters...
Harvey in the LIMELIGHT 1/9/78 (c) Jerry Pritikin
I managed to get ahead of the crowd and positioned myself on a perch above the steps at the Polk Street entrance of City Hall for the swearing-in ceremonies, but for now... I'll stick to the letter only. He mentions the "End-Ford" T-shirt with the holes, and about a week after getting this letter, I was on Castor Street, and Harvey was cleaning up the new location of his camera shop... and he was wearing the T-shirt... and I had my camera, and the attached image was caugh t on film...
Since I did not develop my own film or slides... it took a few days to get the results. (This was years before digital and instant images other than Polaroid). I took my film to Harvey's store, and when the slides came back I ordered 2 copies, and when they were finished... I dropped one off at City Hall for Harvey, and left a note asking if he had found the signed "SAVE OUR RIGHTS" ... and as the letter states... he had Anne (Kronenberg) look for it... and he sent it to me... it was signed with a ball-point pen, (not too legible), and it was tattered from being in the files... but it's one of my treasured keepsakes.
About a week later I dropped off the original slide at Harvey's store... for him to keep... I never thought of my images as recording history (then). During the next few months... I helped Harvey, when he was having hearings on San Francisco's "dog shit" problem... and he dropped me a hand-written note to that effect for helping him... but sadly someone stole that note from me.
In the following months our paths crossed at different political events. Once, at a party given by former U.S. Olympian Dr.Tom Waddell, Harvey hit on my date... but I won out!
I knew both Harvey and Mayor Moscone as friends... At one of the many aftermath happenings of the assassinations in the Castro, I noticed a young man wearing one of my T-shirt creations... "HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL". I did not sell them, and gave them to just a few politicians ... I introduced myself, and I remember he said his name was Denton Smith, and that was the only time I ever met someone named Smith, with that first name. I asked the young man where he got the T-shirt. He said Harvey Milk had given it to him... and as Harvey had said in his letter, that T-shirt would be worn and it was.
Denton Smith wearing Harvey's T-shirt
(c) Jerry Pritikin, December 1978
I though t of leaving San Francisco... but did not do so until the late1980's. In the early 1990's, I returned to S.F. and one of the things I planned to do was to give the owner of the "LIMELIGHT" book store a copy of the "Harvey in the Limelight" image I took on the day Harvey was sworn in. I walked into the store, with that photo in an envelope... and introduced myself to the owner... and within seconds he was complaining how much he disliked Harvey... needless to say... I did not give him the picture!
A short time later, I was walking down Castro Street... and Scott Smith (Harvey's camera store partner and former lover), came running out of Cliff's Hardware Store and stopped me. He asked me if I had time to go with him... and we walked over to his apartment on 17th Street. He went to his desk, opened up a drawer and handed me an envelope with my name on it... and inside was the "Special Day" slide. He said he knew it was mine, and wanted me to have it... and now you know the story behind Harvey's letter...