February 9, 2017
The Chicago Tribune review:
"'The Times of Harvey Milk' is anything but a dispassionate documentary. It was intended to be a portrait of a man who advanced the cause of homosexual rights in San Francisco in the 1970s and paid for that victory with his life when he was shot down in cold blood, along with Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco, by a disgruntled arch-conservative politician angry that supervisor Harvey Milk and the mayor had worked together to oust him from his job.
"The film achieves exactly what it sets out to do: We are charmed by Harvey Milk's passion for the oppressed (which included more than just gay men and women); we are outraged at his murder; and we are stunned at the light sentence the killer received. Supervisor Dan White, found guilty only of voluntary manslaughter by reason of diminished capacity (because of his so- called "Twinkie" defense of having eaten too much junk food), received a 7 1/2 year sentence and served just five years in prison before being released one year ago.
"As the film recounts the gay-led riots that followed the verdict, we are led to the conclusion that had Milk not been gay, the jury might have been tougher on the killer.
"The documentary does not go the extra mile to interview the jurors about their astonishing verdict and it does not get into the widely reported issue that a lousy prosecution was at least partially to blame. And yet we do not doubt for a moment that the film's thesis is essentially true: Harvey Milk died not for his sins but for his good deeds. Can you imagine the killer of the mayor of Chicago and a key alderman being sentenced to only 1/2 years in prison?
"Politics is a funny business, to say the least, in that even the most idealistic politician has a public and personal agenda, and the personal agenda must come first; without being elected first, they can't do much for anyone else.
"And Harvey Milk, a camera store owner, is shown in the early part of the film to be a natural politician with a sure sense of how to concoct a media event–purposely stepping in dog droppings while being interviewed about a pooper-scooper ordinance.
"But his genuine idealism also is on view as we listen to all sorts of his friends and colleagues relate stories about Milk's dedication to the poor, the Oriental and the aged of San Francisco. Sure, he may have been trying to build a power base, but at least he was doing it with people who genuinely needed help. How much more venal it is for a politician simply to sell himself out to serve as spokesman for an already established power base--big business or big labor.
"By stimulating such thoughts, "The Times of Harvey Milk" works best as a civics lesson. Here we see the forces–personal and financial--that shape a city and its leaders. And with its breathy, emotion-laden narration by playwright Harvey Fierstein, 'The Times of Harvey Milk' also is very sad.
"Dan White, who lived to kill, is alive and roaming Southern California; Harvey Milk and George Moscone, who lived to serve others and themselves, are dead.
"Even writing about what happened to the three of them makes one sad.
"'The Times of Harvey Milk' is playing only at the Fine Arts Theatre, 418 S. Michigan Ave."
IMAGE: Woke Up Black – Windy City Times October 27, 2010
IMAGE: Fire Island – Windy City Times July 31, 1986
IMAGE: Man from La Mancha – Windy City Times October 31, 1991
IMAGE: Emerald City Night Club – Gay Chicago August 14, 1997
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Thanks go to publishers Michael Bergeron for Chicago Gay Crusader, Ralph and Craig Gernhardt for Gay Chicago, Grant Ford and Chuck Renslow for Gay Life, Malone Sizelove for Babble/Gab, David Costanza and others for Chicago Free Press, Jeff McCourt for Windy City Times, Stacy Bridges and Mark Nagel for GRAB, and Tracy Baim for all the publications at the Windy City Media Group, which aided the above research. St. Sukie de la Croix is an internationally published reporter, playwright, photographer and historian. He is also the author of Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall published by the University of Wisconsin Press.