Saturday, May 19, 2012

Harvey Milk and the Castro (c) Jerry Pritikin

First castro Street fair (that's me in the striped shirt) (c) J. Pritikin
Castro Street Fair-1978 From 18th St Looking towards Market st. (c) J.Pritikin

First castro St. fair (c) J Pritikin
Changing Neighborhood 18th near castro-1974 (c) J. Pritikin

Everyday is an Anniversary. That is how it feels as you get as old as I am. For me the month of May has always been marked with birthdays for My Sister Toby, her husband Marvin and my mother's on the 20th. Plus Mother's day. Recently added, it's been Harvey Milk Day. I happen to believe it's missing the addition of the name of Mayor George Moscone to make it complete. I was fortunate to have known them both as friends. I remember what it was like to be gay in San Francisco before George Moscone was elected in 1975. When I first arrived in the 1960s, there were many landlords that would not rent an apartment to two guys,period! There was a popular Hamburger place on Van Ness Called Hypo's that had a sign over their bar IF YOUR QUEER-STAY OUT OF HERE. There were gay bars spread all over town... but they were in seedy areas, or after 5 P.M. in the financial district. There were laws on the city's law books that if you dressed in drag, you had to wear a lapel-like tag I AM A BOY, or you could be arrested, even on Halloween!

In the early 70's, the Castro was awakening to a new beat. It was a gay invasion into a sleepy working-class neighborhood in the Eureka Valley. Rents were reasonable, as was property. Gay real estate companies made their entry into the CASTRO equation. Store fronts were cheap, and anchored in family owned restaurants, pharmacies and taverns. Most people used MUNI, and it was a hub of transfer points for streetcars and buses. I asked the owner of the Georgianna bakery shop if I could display my photos in her store front display windows. It was located at 420(before 420 was known as 420) Castro Street just steps away from today's Harvey Milk Plaza. People looked in, laughed and enjoyed them. I recall on a Saturday morning, I received a call from someone at the other end asking me "to shoot her kids! " Her name was Juana, and had her own local -TV show on Channel 44. It turned out to be It was a very memorable shoot.

A couple of years ago I received an email from her. She was doing a search for Harvey Milk name, and noticed my name. It was gratifying to hear that her girls recalled that day over 30 years later, as one of their best childhood memories. She was getting ready to re-released her 1978 interview with Harvey Milk ( Link ) a few years ago.

Tomorrow will mark another Harvey Milk Day. It reminds me of the best of times. CHECK OUT MY ARCHIVES,there are a few stories about how I first met Harvey Milk and his lover,Scott Smith. In those days.... Harvey's camera shop was gay center earth at 575 Castro Street. The atmosphere was similar to that portrayed hundreds of times in Hollywood movies as the general store in a small town, with neighbors talking politics in front to the potbelly stove, and that was the only thing missing at Harvey's camera shop. Harvey was 7 years older then me... and I often think what if? What if Harvey and George had lived, like I think the same of JFK,RFK, and MLK. However, it was their leadership that opened a lot of doors,and possibilities for openly-gay citizens... first in San Francisco, then here in Chicago and Now, throughOUT the world.

Note in the bakery shop window the young girl in the window with a doll, she's one of Jauan's children( and me in the reflection).

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