Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Celebrity Chef and Martyred Milk
The famous food writer Anthony Bourdain had a book signing last week during lunchtime at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books on Van Ness.
The back room, where Bourdain did a short reading and then answered questions, was packed to the gills, with lots of student chefs from the nearby California Culinary Academy in attendance.
Bill Selby, above, is a total fan and credits Bourdain with transforming him from a lifelong scared, picky eater into someone who will put just about anything into into his mouth.
One of the many fans in the room waiting to get their book signed was none other than San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, the old friend and protege of the martyred Harvey Milk.
On Friday evening, there was an art opening in City Hall that was much more downscale than the corporate event being set up in the rotunda for a corporate party later that night.
It was one of District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi's monthly "art" events held in his City Hall offices.
This month featured an exhibition devoted to Harvey Milk memorabilia.
Though I didn't see Supervisor Ammiano at the event, there were certainly a lot of political stalwarts attending such as Marc Powell and Jane Morrison...
...along with political aides from Supervisor Chris Daly's office...
The exhibit itself was fairly pathetic, but it did remind me of what was so radical about Harvey.
What people don't remember is that his being a hippie probably scared off more voters than his being an open homosexual.
When he was first running for office, and losing, and having great losing night election parties that were usually hosted by the infamous marijuana activist Dennis Peron, he was quite defiantly a leftist hippie fag.
By the time district elections of San Francisco supervisors arrived in the late 1970s (for the first time, before their repeal and subsequent reinstatement), Harvey was prevailed upon to cut his hair. Because the district had been carved almost deliberately to have a "gay" seat, the competition was odd and fierce. One of his major opponents was a conservative gay real estate speculator named Rick Stokes who argued that Harvey was a terrible example of a "respectable" homosexual.
Milk won that election, passed the pooper scooper law for dogs, and was soon shot by fellow Supervisor Dan White, turning into a handy martyr for the gay civil rights movement which was just starting to explode all over the world.
Now that he's an Official Martyr, he is the subject of movies, television programs, an opera, books, and god knows what else.
I remember him simply as a good person, who liked to drink, was funny, gave great impromptu speeches and who didn't live long enough to become a sleazy politico which seems to be the fate that befalls most of his colleagues in the end.