Harvey Milk’s groundbreaking political career made him a symbol for a whole community but his success was built slowly and with the help of a network of adept and loyal friends and colleagues. As Gus Van Sant’s new film Milk shows, Milk’s partner Scott Smith was a pivotal figure as he established himself as a prominent figure in the Castro and later on Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg were energetically joined his fight to have their voices heard.
Below, FilmInFocus looks at the people who dedicated themselves to Milk’s cause and find out what happened to them following Milk’s tragic death in 1978:
THEN: Cleve Jones was an intern in Milk’s office during his time studying political science at San Francisco State University.
NOW: Following the death of Harvey Milk, Jones remained active within politics in San Francisco and the surrounding region. In 1983, he co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and two years later conceived the idea for the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which has grown to become the largest community arts project in the world. For the past two decades, his name has become synonymous with the fight against AIDS, and in 2000 he published a memoir, Stitching a Revolution. He worked as the historical consultant for the film Milk. His various projects can be viewed at www.clevejones.com.
Read about Anne Kronenberg >>
THEN: Anne Kronenberg worked as an aide to Harvey Milk after acting as campaign manager on his successful 1977 bid to become a City Supervisor.
NOW: Kronenberg has worked in the San Francisco Department of Public Health and currently serves as its Deputy Director for Administration and Planning. Previously, she worked for Senator Ted Kennedy and Assemblyman John Vasconcellos as well as playing a significant role in fighting homelessness and other issues in the Bay Area.
Read about Danny Nicoletta >>
THEN: Danny Nicoletta worked in Harvey Milk’s photography store and was a campaign worker in his bids for State Assemblyman and San Francisco City Supervisor.
NOW: Nicoletta is now a freelance photographer whose work has focused mainly on the LGBT community. His pictures have been featured in a number of books––including Randy Shilt’s book The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk––and been displayed at exhibits and museums in San Francisco, New York and Berlin. An online gallery of his work can be viewed here.
Read about Michael Wong >>
THEN: Michael Wong, nicknamed "Lotus Blossom” by Harvey Milk, worked as a political advisor on Milk’s campaigns.
NOW: Wong’s diaries were a major component of piecing together the details of Harvey Milk’s life for both Dustin Lance Black’s Milk screenplay and Randy Shilt’s book The Mayor of Castro Street. He still lives in San Francisco.
Read about Dennis Peron >>
THEN: Dennis Peron was a friend and political associate of Harvey Milk.
NOW: Peron is a gay and medical marijuana activist. He has done notable work for the decriminalization of cannabis as the co-founder of the Cannabis Buyers Club and a co-author of California Proposition 215 (aka the Compassionate Use Act) which was passed in 1996, allowing people prescribed marijuana by a doctor to possess and grow it themselves. In 1998, he was a Republican candidate for Governor of California. He still lives in San Francisco.
Read about Dick Pabich >>
THEN: Dick Pabich, along with his business partner Jim Rivaldo, was a campaign consultant for Harvey Milk.
NOW: Pabich died in 2000, aged 44. He previously worked with Harry Britt, Milk’s political successor, and Assemblywoman Carole Migden. He worked to advance LGBT rights and liaised with San Francisco mayor Willie Brown on AIDS issues even past his retirement from politics.
Read about Scott Smith >>
THEN: Scott Smith was Harvey Milk’s lover and the co-owner of his camera shop when it opened. He subsequently served on his early political campaigns.
NOW: Smith was assigned to be the administer Milk’s will and estate following his death. He was present to witness the staging of Stewart Wallace’s biographical opera Harvey Milk in 1994. Smith died of complications resulting from AIDS in 1995.
Read about David Goodstein >>
THEN: David Goodstein was the publisher of The Advocate and a political ally of Harvey Milk.
NOW: Goodstein was a prominent figure in the LGBT movement. During his tenure as The Advocate’s publisher, he transformed it from a regional magazine to the most influential gay publication in the world. He was also the co-founder with Rob Eichberg of The Advocate Experience, a course designed to transform the lives of individuals in the LGBT community for the better. Goodstein died in 1985.
Read about Jim Rivaldo >>
THEN: Rivaldo was a political consultant for Harvey Milk.
NOW: Rivaldo remained active as a consultant in San Francisco politics, working for numerous figures such as Supervisor Bevan Dufty and District Attorney Kamala Harris, until his death from liver cancer in 2007. Along with his business partner, Dick Pabich, Rivaldo was pioneering figure in the election of openly gay, progressive politicians.