When “Milk” was filming in San Francisco, actor Josh Brolin stayed in an apartment overlooking the Castro District, long known as a haven for the city’s gay residents. This seemed appropriate for a movie about Harvey Milk, a former Castro resident who was elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors, making him the first openly gay politician to take a major public office in California. But Brolin plays the villain in the story, Dan White.
It was White who assassinated Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on Nov. 27, 1978, bringing the political careers of both men to a tragic end. So, Brolin couldn’t help but wonder what sort of reception he’d get in the Castro.
“That’s where I’d go shopping for my groceries and all that stuff,” he said. “I was afraid at first because I knew San Francisco was embracing this story and this movie so much. Not a lot of movies get done here anymore. So, I was a little afraid when I’d go down shopping, you know, being recognized. ‘Oh yeah, you’re the guy playing Dan White’ (pantomimes spitting in disgust).”
Brolin needn’t have worried.
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In 1977, Harvey Bernard Milk became the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in California. A year later, the San Francisco city supervisor was in the national spotlight again, one of two victims of a double homicide.
Thursday is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Both were gunned down by Dan White, a former supervisor who had resigned his post and become angry when Moscone refused to re-appoint him.
White’s defense team argued that he was depressed and not fully responsible for his actions, citing his consumption of mass amounts of junk food. The argument was called the “Twinkie defense.”
The anniversary of the killings is being commemorated this week by the release of the film “Milk,” with Sean Penn in the starring role. The film opens today in the Bay Area and other major markets today, with arrival in Reno scheduled for Dec. 12.
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