Harvey Milk was born May 22, 1930 in
Woodmere, Long Island, New York. He became a successful Wall
Street investment analyst and supported Barry Goldwater for president.
In the late 1960's he got involved in Tom O'Horgan's Broadway
production of HAIR through his boyfriend Jack McKinley, the stage
manager. Exposure to the counterculture began eroding his conservative
values. When HAIR opened in San Francisco in 1969, McKinley became
the stage manager, and Harvey soon followed him west and took
a job as a financial analyst in the City. Unhappy with the political
scene, he decided that he wanted to be Mayor of San Francisco!
His new found liberalism, his charisma, weird sense of humor,
and belief in politics as theater, set the stage for his San
Francisco political career.
Harvey's relationship with Jack
soured and he returned to New York and the Broadway scene where
he soon met the new love of his life, Joseph Scott Smith. In
1972 they headed west and eventually settled in San Francisco.
They opened "Castro Camera" at 575 Castro Street and
Harvey soon began making waves on the political scene. He didn't
agree with the strategy of the established gay politicians who
worked to elect gay-friendly straight politicians. Unable to
sway their thinking, Harvey Milk set out on his own to represent
the gay community in City Hall. He used the store as his political
office. Castro Camera was simply a desk and chair near the front
door, with only the basic essentials in photo supplies. There
was a barber chair for the customer to sit comfortably while
being treated to Harvey's wit, showmanship, and latest political
plans. The rest of the area was more like a living room with
several couches and easy chairs. It served as Harvey's political
conference room and campaign headquarters. It was mostly Scott's
efforts that made the camera store successful. Scott and Harvey
lived in the flat above the store.
Harvey ran unsuccessfully for Board
of Supervisors in 1973, and later for State Assembly against
Art Agnos. He took advantage of every opportunity to make his
name known and worked relentlessly for the issues he considered
essential to the gay community. His dedication to the people
of the Castro earned him the title "Mayor of Castro Street".
It is probably true that he coined the phrase himself, but he
loved the title and played the role well. He pioneered in new
forms of coalition politics, getting support from labor unions
in exchange for getting the gay community to boycott Coors beer.
He engineered a political alliance between the gay and Chinese
communities. He achieved several important victories for the
emerging gay political movement by leading the fight against
anti-gay attacks from State Senator Briggs and others. But it
was his charm, his sparkling eyes, his smile, his goodness and
his warmth that endeared him to the people of the Castro and
eventually to the entire city. Finally in 1977, he won a seat
on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.