The following are excerpts from "94114"---the unpublished recollections
and history of the early Castro by Ron Williams.
January of 1973, I had ventured out on my own as a graphic artist and tried freelancing. I had a small storefront studio in front of the print shop on Castro between 18th and 19th. It was a convenient setup and I had just leased a new typesetting computer for $200 a month and had no idea how I was going to pay for it. But many of the local gay business kept me busy and I prospered.
Another new bar had opened and several of us were belting down cheap cocktails. It was "Happy Hour" at Dirty Dick's, a small, long and narrow bar, with little room between the bar stools and the wall. It was also the new headquarters for just about any type of drug you could want. The PLG (Polish Love Goddess) had declared the place his new headquarters. As happy hour continued and most of the bar's clientele were well on their way to oblivion, an unfamiliar face walked in and broke our alcoholic concentration. The guy obviously wanted something we didn't have. You could see the assertive look on his face as he approached several of us at the bar. He was handing out flyers and buttons for some political thing, and this crowd couldn't have cared less. I remember the hair, pony tail, strong eyes and friendly handshake. I was very apathetic towards politics, my interests were in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and I thought Harvey was just another political radical exploiting the gay vote. His political strategy was to get gay people to register to vote and get them involved in the political process. "Out of the closets and into the streets" (or was it, "Out of the bars and into the streets"?) -- in any event, people started to pay attention and Harvey's political momentum began to build.
Harvey's strategies were clever, he never let the gay press influence his political direction. Harvey didn't subscribe to the "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" philosophy. The press paid attention to Harvey because he demanded to be heard as a representative of the emerging powerful block of gay voters. Harvey was a true maverick -- he wanted political power for the gay community. His ambitions were not self-serving and he had the tenacious drive that eventually got him that seat on the Board of Supervisors. He knew that the gay community was a sleeping giant of political power that was just waiting to be aroused.
As the Castro was emerging as the new gay mecca, Harvey Milk found many issues to use as a vehicle for his fight against the established political machine. He brought the police department and the Castro residents together and forced the police to address the violence in the neighborhood. He formed a merchants association and successfully brought everyone together and organized the first Castro Street fair in 1973. The magic that Harvey brought to the gay community was remarkable, not because of Harvey but because the time was right, and Harvey was in the right place at the right time. The fruit of gay political recognition was ripe for the picking and Harvey had a vision.
I was never a political activist during the Milk years. I only remember his personality and some of the people in the early days of the Castro. I do remember that many people of those days were apathetic about gay politics and weren't really impressed with Harvey's style of politics. Even in those early years there was a conservative faction in the gay community. Harvey really wasn't canonized until after his assassination.