Tory Hartmann
Writer and Editor
The year the movie Milk came out, John Ryckman and I were asked to ride in the Gay Pride Parade. The side of the car said Tory Hartmann and John Ryckman, Friends of Harvey Milk and Consultants on The Milk Movie. All we did was have dinner with Sean Penn one night and tell Harvey stories. John was Harvey's campaign manager when my husband was Harvey's treasurer. Harvey's races were neighborhood events.

On Harvey Milk  

Reflections on Milk  

Harvey's Return to City Hall   

My tribute page to my old friend, Harvey Milk
Essays by Tory Hartmann

"You've got to
give 'em hope."

— Harvey Milk


1978 was a tumultuous year in San Francisco

Milk is elected as the first openly gay office holder in the nation.

By March Harvey writes anti-gay discrimination legislation and it’s passed into law.

The Brigg’s Initiative and laws like it against gays and “gay sympathizers” are proposed all over the nation.

Over the summer and into the fall, Harvey debates John Briggs and Proposition 6 up and down the state.

November 6th the Brigg’s Initiative fails. What a celebration!

November 17th over 800 people, many from San Francisco, lose their lives in Jonestown, Guyana.

November 27th, Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are murdered in City Hall.


The Ghost of Harvey Milk
           A Screenplay by Tory Hartmann and Shea Kerry

The Ghost of Harvey Milk, both a love story and a tragedy, begins in 1978, a tumultuous year in San Francisco.

In the midst of this tumult, two people, a teacher and a reporter, fall in love and are cruelly wrenched apart by a violent anti-gay attack that left one of them disfigured. In the screenplay, Harvey Milk is not only chronicled in 1978 as the historical figure he is, but in 2008, he comes back from the beyond to the bedside of dying journalist and anchorman Jack Simon. Is Harvey real? Or is he a figment of the dying reporter’s imagination? Harvey insists Jack confront his past. His old lover now has a family while Jack is dying alone. Jack Simon wrestles with regret and finally confronts the secrets he would never admit.

It's a great concept," Hartmann said, "but best of all, I had the privilege of writing Harvey's quick wit. No one can match Harvey's superb off-th-cuff style. His words tumbled across the page. Maybe I was channeling Harvey! I love the story and I think audiences will too."

The key idea for the screenplay came from Kerry. Hartmann says, “Shea Kerry rented a copy of the documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, picked up my name from the cast list, and e-mailed me. After corresponding for a month or so, he wanted to read some of my work and I forwarded him some of my short stories as well as a short screenplay. He said he wanted to talk about a project and we met in the Castro for a cup of coffee. We talked for four hours and hashed over his screenplay idea. I got excited and agreed to write it.” It was about to be produced when Kerry had an accident. The screenplay has been lying fallow ever since.

"Maybe we should do that Kickstart thing," Hartmann said, "and get it done!"



   An Essay on Harvey Milk
   By Tory Hartmann

In the 1970’s my husband and I moved into Eureka Valley and bought a house on 18th Street just below Castro. The local film developing place was called Castro Camera. Who knew what was to come? Harvey Milk, a charismatic fellow with a shaggy beard and a lover named Scott and a dog named Kid were to become a part of our lives. Harvey was dynamic, had a biting wit, and was always on the go, organizing the merchants, lending a hand to neighbors, and generally expounding on current events to anyone who would listen. The camera store was ground zero.

I never knew how Harvey would see an issue. A businessman who looked like a hippy, he was an ex-Wall Street type who knew business must be strong, yet neighborhoods were the heart of the city. Generally perceived as liberal, he wasn’t anti-business, but had a strong social conscience. The ultra liberal element in the neighborhood wanted the whole place to be gay. He disagreed. He call that a ghetto! He wanted to have schools, senior citizen centers, lots of strong small businesses, and a neighborhood that was free of blight and crime. Well, so did my husband Bill and I and that’s why we supported him. Bill became his Treasurer for two elections—yes, it took Harvey a long time to achieve officehood. He nearly made it to the California Assembly, but at the last minute some big money came in for Art Agnos and Harvey lost by a hair. Onward… he ran for Supervisor and made it.

Along the way, Harvey changed his act, became clean-shaven and wore suits purchased from the local second hand store. I was working for the Democratic Party and gave his scheduler tips on where to send him, and sometimes got him tickets to different events. He ran on the cheap, painted his own house signs, silk screened T-shirts, painted banners on canvas. Those were fun times!

Eureka Valley changed so much in the 70’s that it became known as The Castro. Many of our friends cautioned us against living in a “gay” neighborhood. How could we raise children there? Well, we found it to be a peaceful place to raise children. Our neighbors were educated, well-mannered, and lovely. The stores and shopkeepers were superb. We stayed for 20 years.

When the horrible killings happened at City Hall in November of 1978, the world seemed to shift. A supervisor killed the mayor and Harvey Milk in cold blood. In 1982, I was interviewed for the documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk. It’s a remarkable movie and won an Oscar in 1984. If you’ve never seen it, rent it. You won’t be disappointed. It still plays on Public Television.

Right now, Sean Penn is making a movie called Milk. It will be out at the end of 2008. Sean Penn, I know, will be fabulous. I had the pleasure of having dinner with him last January with about 8 other “Milkites.” We all told Harvey stories so Penn could get a feeling for the character. He was excited and really getting into it. The makeup people changed his nose (Harvey had a big one!) and re-furbished Castro Camera to look like the old days. Wow. That was déjà vu! Nearly had vertigo walking in. A month later, all of it was gone! Back to normal. The miracle of Hollywood!

  Reflections on Harvey Milk

  An essay by Tory Hartmann

The Times of Harvey Milk, an Oscar winning documentary about the murder of San Francisco politicians Harvey Milk (first gay office holder in the nation) and Mayor George Moscone,seems to be making a come-back. Even though the story happened in 1978 and is thirty years old, the drama is still fresh and startling.

I was pleased and honored to be included by director Rob Epstein as one of the interviewees in the film. I must admit, the experience was humbling and daunting— since none of the friends and neighbors of Harvey were allowed to talk about the murders after they happened, due to a gag order imposed by the court, I had never grieved and "processed" all that had happened. Then several years later, to be asked to recount
old Harvey Milk stories and remember that day: where I was, what I did, and the candlelight march to City Hall...was difficult, yet somehow liberating.

Director Rob Epstein has a gentle manner and elicited the wonderful interviews from all who participated in the movie. If this story of murder and politics is new to you, rent or buy The Times of Harvey Milk. It truly is a must-see. Yes, boys and girls, not only did the Twinkie Defense really happen, it actually worked! Dan White, the man who shot two innocent people, a mayor and a supervisor, in cold blood that day in San Francisco's city hall and then confessed that same day to police officers, only received a seven year sentence for manslaughter.
What you may not know…

Like a Greek tragedy or a heartrending opera, the dreadful saga of the murders at city hall did not end. Former firefighter and cop Dan White, Milk and Moscone’s convicted murderer, came out of prison sixty months later to a less than hearty welcome. The same people who earlier pumped their fists in the air and said things like, “Go get ‘em Danny” and “Right on, Danny, glad you got the fag and the fag-loving mayor,” didn’t flock to his side when he returned home.

Who would want this murderer in their home? Who would give him a job? Without work and a purpose to his life, a deep depression descended on Dan White.

Then one foggy morning, White sat in his car and played tapes of Irish music, hooked up the garden hose to his vehicle, and fed the dangerous gases into the cab. The tragedy continued... a wife became a widow... beautiful children, fatherless.

And for those who knew them all, Milk, Moscone, and White, the hurt will never end.
Copyright 2009 Tory Hartmann
All rights reserved

  Harvey's Return to City Hall

  By Tory Hartmann

May 22, 2008 Is Pure San Francisco

Tonight a statue of Harvey Milk will be dedicated at City Hall. The Rotunda looks like a stage setting for Beach Blanket Babylon. The celebration of both Harvey’s birthday and homecoming is made more perfect by the California Supreme Court’s declaration a few days earlier that every individual has the right to marry. For this event, it makes wearing bride costumes de rigeur. Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams’ “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” dream ’twas never so gay.

Guests stroll under giant hoops of balloons and wild colored streamers. They gawk and laugh at (and with) the brides in drag as well as the Latin gods wearing feathers and other YMCA-type characters who have dressed for the occasion. Oh yes, there are also the rest of us: the plain ones, the ones in suits, and the ones fresh from the nine to five trenches stopping off on our way home to pay our respects, gloat, or perhaps sing Happy Birthday Harvey.

Those of us who were young and fresh-faced in the 1970s in that small area of San Francisco once called Eureka Valley and now referred to as The Castro, stand around drinking good wine, eating appetizers and talking about the old neighborhood, all of us wishing Harvey could be here. Of course in a way, he will be.                                                                              Photo by Daniel Nicoletta

The mayor speaks, supervisors speak, even people who weren’t originally on the program elbow themselves into the merriment. We, Harvey’s old friends, practically kin now, wait upstairs, slowly recognizing each other thirty years after the fatal shooting and inquiring about health, family, and asking the inevitable question “Whatever happened to…” All the while remembering how young we were, how dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal and that if we pulled together we could accomplish anything. Harvey Milk, a simple man who owned a camera store, became the first gay office holder. He was also a neighborhood builder, a man who knew a nice place to live needed the elderly as well as children and whose political action revolved around the word “community.” Yes, how right we were to pursue our lofty goals. We just didn’t think Harvey would be killed over it.

Now with the endless tutelage of Danny Nicoletta, Castro Camera employee and photographer, and the Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial Committee, a statue of Harvey Milk, a mere Supervisor among the statues of mayors, will be ensconced in City Hall, mere steps away from where he and Mayor George Moscone were brutally slain by Supervisor Dan White that fateful November day in 1978. Amazing. I never thought I would see this. I thought (silly me) that placing Harvey’s statue in City Hall was one of those things you supported, but actually had little chance of metamorphosing into reality. But now my husband, Bill, Harvey’s former campaign Treasurer, and I wait at the top of the grand staircase with the old Harvey campaign gang. Down on the main floor, our grown sons, Rob and Will, are in the audience. Finally, the cue is given, eight across, we link arms and march down the grand staircase to show our support, perhaps also to show we are still alive. Yes indeed, Harvey would have loved it.

And when finally, the drape is removed from the veiled statue, we behold Harvey Milk, unbelievably real, unbelievably life-like. People pose in front of him, toast to his successful new reign at City Hall, and Harvey, frozen in stone and forever middle-aged, his smile ceaselessly jovial, laughs back at us from the other side, reminding us that indeed, anything is possible.

This is my old friend Danny Nicoletta, who was only eighteen when I first met him in Castro Camera. He had on a little red ski hat and looked like he was fourteen years old. He still looks young! Danny is a top notch photographer and keeps in contact with all of us who lived in Eureka Valley in the 1970s.

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