In his own
Strange de Jim
Wanders Backstage at San
Francisco's 2013 Gay Pride Parade
Hi, I'm Strange. Harvey Milk popped up everywhere on
Gay Parade day. I ran into Allan Baird, one of
friends and most powerful political allies, on Castro Street on my way
to the MUNI underground.
Allan had been the
Teamster official charged with
getting all the bars in San Francisco to quit serving Coors beer. He
went into Harvey's camera shop on Castro and asked if Harvey could get
Coors taken out of gay bars. A short time later, Coors had been
dropped, not just in San Francisco, but in gay bars from Oregon to the
Mexican border. Allan knew he'd teamed up with a real firecracker. He
asked what Harvey wanted in return for his feat, and was immensely
impressed when, instead of asking for support in his own run for
political office, Harvey asked for the hiring of a few gay truck
drivers. The teamsters were leery, but Allan convinced them it was the
right thing to do. When Harvey ran for office, Teamsters came into the
camera store to work the phones and stuff envelopes, and learned gay
people were just people. Amazingly, Harvey became an openly gay
candidate endorsed by the Teamsters, firefighters and construction
workers unions. Harvey and Allan were staunch allies up until Harvey's
And, no, James Franco didn't play him. Allan was delighted to play
himself in the "Milk" movie.
Now I hopped on the subway and hit backstage at the Pride Parade.
As soon as I arrived, Stu Smith (left)
grabbed me and said, "I have someone you have to meet."
Lord love a duck, it was Pat Montandon, whose new
barn burner of a
book is "Peeing on Hot Coals." I assume it's something to do with
replenishing the ozone layer.
Matt DeCoster caught
our meeting and posted it on Facebook.
I assume "Dave Earl"
must be the name Pat uses when she checks into a honeymoon hotel. Matt
also caught Pat
not peeing on hot coals.
Anyway, Pat and I
have known OF each other for
decades, and we're FB friends who regularly "like" each other's posts.
Two books written by her son Sean Wilsey and herself shook up San
Francisco high society and fascinated me. As I remember it, in "Oh the
Glory of It All"
Sean tells how his dad Al Wilsey moved out of the
his mom, Pat, for her best friend, Dede, who immediately became Sean's
best friend, spending hours a day with him, taking him wonderful
places, sharing all his troubles and concerns. Then Al's and Dede's
respective divorces became final and they married. Half the time, Sean
lived with his dad and Dede and two new step-brothers in a Pacific
Heights mansion. Sean was stuck in a little room in the attic and was
forced to sit apart from the others at meals. Dede told him that,
frankly, he didn't fit in. Sean cites evidence that Al and/or Dede used
Al's key to sneak into the penthouse, take Pat's jewels out of the
safe, and hide them under Sean's mattress. Luckily, Sean had found the
jewels and taken them to Pat before Al (I think) called and told Pat he
thought Sean was a thief. The
story hit home with me, because, after our mom died. the woman dating
our dad was my brother John's and my best friend. At her house or our
house she was always asking if she could get us a drink, fix us some
food. Every Saturday while our dad was golfing she'd take John and me
to the movies and go out for hamburgers and ice cream sodas afterwards.
When we came home after the wedding I asked for a sandwich and was told
I was a lazy good-for-nothing who could get his own damn sandwich. She
took us to the movies again. But it's ok, I'm over it now. Oh, and
after our dad died, she gave John and me a good home and helped pay our
Anyway, then Pat took her turn.
Pat's book, "Oh the Hell of it All"
like for your husband and best friend to screw you and
mistreat your son. Then she tells of the international children's peace
started that had her mixing with heads of state and world
religious leaders and got her proposed by
several countries for the Nobel Peace
Oh, and Dede went on to become the main force behind building San
Francisco's new De Young Museum. She's raised billions for the
We're all good and bad. Very hard to judge.
And if you fall in love with "Oh the Hell of it All," you might try ...
Also, speaking of the arts, I could see this image of a young lady in
red balloons hanging on the wall of the new San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art when it reopens in a few years.
Here's Robert Potter, whom I've known for a few
years. He's very active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. When he was a
young man he used to frequent the Black Cat and other gay bars, which
the S.F. police would raid, cart the patrons off to jail, and then
print their names and addresses in the "S.F. Chronicle," often ruining
their lives. Robert survived.
Then I spotted Smirnoff showing us what a gay bar SHOULD look like in
today's enlightened times. I soaked up the atmosphere for a few
minutes, then made a graceful exit.
And speaking of graceful exits ...
At this point, oddly enough, I ran into Steven Underhill, one of the
best photographers around, famous for his photos of gorgeous men.
Steven's a Facebook friend. That night he posted a photo he'd taken of
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and philanthropist Jim Hormel.
Representative Pelosi had strongly supported Jim in his successful bid
to become the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador.
I was really sorry I hadn't run into them. I'd met Jim Hormel and his
partner Michael Nguyen at the 2010 Pride Parade
when he was Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal. He knew me from my
quips in Herb Caen's "Chronicle" column (www.strangebillions.com/herb/).
We traded e-mail addresses and
have had a few intereactions in the intervening years. He's always
been exceptionally caring and courteous.
In 2011 he wrote "Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private
Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S.
Ambassador." When he was 6 months
old, "James Caterwood Hormel" topped a list of kidnap prospects found
in the pocket of a dead gangster. He thus grew up in Austin,
Minnesota, in a house with 26 bedrooms and 25 bathrooms, but whose 200
acres were patrolled by armed guards. He and his two older brothers
were driven by the guards to the school door in the morning and picked
up at the school door each afternoon. I was fascinated by his story of
growing up heir to the Hormel Foods fortune, marrying and fathering
children, finally admitting to himself and others that he was gay,
being divorced in the '60s, and becoming immersed in the New Age
spiritual movement, especially est, Erhard Seminary Training. In fact,
he and his lover moved to San Francisco, where he met David Goodstein,
publisher of the national gay magazine "The Advocate," and ended up
running the San Francisco office of The Advocate Experience, a gay
version of est.
In the 80's he supported the Human Rights Campaign, StopAids, The
Shanti Project, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Open Hand,
California Pacific Medical Center Foundation and AMFAR, the American
Foundation for AIDS Research. He donated $4 million to more than 40
AIDS organizations and joined more than a dozen boards. He donated
$500,000, his largest gift ever, to establish the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian
Center at San Francisco's Main Library.
Then things got interesting. I won't even try to relate all the things
that happened when President Clinton proposed him as U.S. Ambassador to
highly recommend reading his description of it.
And while we're being political, back at the parade, here's State
Senator Mark Leno: popular,
powerful, effective, seemingly
quite intelligent ...
But do you know what he did just under a year ago?
For my 70th birthday he wrote a lot of nice things, including, "Your
zest for living is matched only by the ecstasy you share with each
person whose life you touch. The world becomes a better place thanks to
the role you continue to play in it. Congratulations, thanks and joyeux
Sometimes it's nice to be
Mark got the Senate to approve this Certificate of Recognition and had
his aide Anna Damiani present it to me at my birthday party at the
internationally something-or-othered Cafe
And speaking of Mark's aide Anna Damiani, here's the photo I posted on
Facebook last week of Anna air-kissing Sister Roma at the Castro Street
party celebrating the Supreme Court victories.
At that same Castro Street celebration I ran into Dan Nicoletta.
Here's Dan in the 1970s when he worked in Harvey Milk's camera store on
Harvey and his lover Scott Smith and Dan were like family. They went
everywhere together, and Dan acted as Harvey's personal photographer.
When Arcadia Publishing asked me to compile the photo history "San
Francisco's Castro," Dan offered his entire Harvey photo file, and we
figured out which pictures would best tell the story. I'd talked to
other people and read all the books on Harvey, so I told what I'd
learned in photos and captions, and then Dan read it and made
Some of Dan's photos of Harvey are behind glass in Harvey Milk
Plaza under the giant Rainbow Flag. Dan was instrumental in getting a
bust of Harvey in City Hall. He was official photographer on the "Milk"
movie, in which he was played by Lucas Grabeel.
Dan gave copies of "San Francisco's Castro"
to all the principals on the "Milk" movie, so they all already knew who
I was. I chanced upon (l. to r.) the two producers, Harvey Milk's
cousin Stuart Milk, director Gus Van Sant, and screenwriter Dustin
Lance Black at the 2008 Pride Parade, and we had a friendly chat.
Stuart, Dusty and I later became Facebook friends.
Dan Nicoletta has taken thusands of photos of gay
people and events, even some snaps of yours truly. I
really like this one with the legendary Connie Champagne.
Dan let me use his photos for an online biography of Harvey Milk (www.strangebillions.com/harvey/)
(Whew, back at the Pride Parade.) I looked across the street. There
Mayclem, Emmy award-winning host and producer of CBS 5 TV's "Eye on the
Bay." We've met at several events, and he's
a really nice guy. We chatted for a minute. Then ...
Here was one of my heroes! Now he's California's Lieutenant Governor.
was Mayor of San Francisco, in 2004, Gavin Newsom began allowing gay
couple's to marry, even if he might not have had the authority. When we
first met he knew of me from my hundreds of quips in Herb Caen's "San
Francisco Chronicle" column. I gave him a copy of my then-new
Francisco's Castro." He told our mutual friend, Dr. John Newmeyer, that
he liked it, so when I ran into him at the next Pride Parade, I dared
to pop the question. He
graciously moved my camera strap from in front of my lens and posed for
a publicity picture, which may help account for the healthy sales of
Today de Gavin was
holding his daughter Montana while greeting well wishers.
Now, unless I've mixed up the photos, this is
where de Gavin spotted me and dropped Montana. That's his wife
Jennifer on the left.
But everything was OK. Montana was clinging or reclinging to his neck
came over and said, "Hi, Strange."
I told him my Supreme Court gay marriage joke, and he said Herb
Caen would have loved it. I reluctantly left
de Gavin, Jennifer and their 2-1/2 kids. (She would give birth July 3
to a daughter Brooklynn.)
Oops! I kicked myself. I forgot to tell Gavin how impressed I am with
new book "Citizenville." It has amazing ideas on how government on all
levels can be brought into the digital age. For instance, since
it's nearly impossible for the government to hire enough ace
programmers, why not make public data accessible and open a government
app store, just like the Apple app store? "Apple makes millions of
dollars annually by selling apps that other people have created for it.
Simply by offering an open API -- a platform on which people can build
apps easily -- Apple created immense value, not only for itself, but
also for its customers."
People love games. Farmville players spend millions of real dollars to
buy fantasy assets to help them win. But in Citienville people would
spend money or effort on actual improvements in the player's
neighborhood -- say, an hour of professional landscaping or fresh paint
to cover up graffiti. It would be a competition that would benefit
How about putting government agencies on Yelp? You go to the DMV and
describe the service you receive. Sure, they're a monopoly, but soon
everyone could compare the San Francisco DMV to all the others in the
state or to other government departments in San Francisco. Do you think
government employees and supervisors wouldn't take note of what people
were saying about them and what their ratings were?
Instead of using the slow, expensive, sometimes-corrupt government
system to hire someone to design something or solve a particular
problem, make it a competition and let anyone enter. Actually, this has
already been started. Challenge.gov
contests from agencies across the board and tells you
how much money you'll get if you win.
There could be government www.donorschoose.org
single parents to get off unemployment and food stamps and take jobs.
We could vote directly with our dollars to
restore the recent budget cuts and threatened cuts to systems like
Medi-Cal, which are in place and work. I wonder if PACs, instead of
annoying TV ads and politicians, could restore and even improve needed
services. Then, instead of having to say, "We
This is just scraping the surface of "Citizenville."
Meanwhile, who was happening at the Parade? It was Harvey Milk protege and gay rights leader Cleve
good! Among many other things, Cleve started the AIDS Quilt and was
instrumental in getting "Milk" filmed.
Saturday afternoon Cleve was walking down Castro Street with
"Milk" screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, and author of "The Towering
Inferno" and Harvey Milk's speechwriter Frank Robinson. We all hugged.
Afterwards I started thinking. Here are Dustin de Lance Black and James
de Franco, to choose two people at random.
They've already worked together on "Milk." Imagine them writing,
directing, and starring as themselves in "Dusty & Jimmy." I wonder
if they'd come up with a romance, a comedy, a buddy film? or what. I
imagine it woud be something we couldn't even imagine.
Anyway, back to Cleve Jones. Friday night he was late for his
appearance at Faetopia because he was at City Hall watching
California's Attorney General Kamala Harris marrying Sandra Stier and
Kris Perry from the Supreme Court case. Now at the Parade I heard
cheers, turned around,
and Kamala Harris, of all people, was
getting into her designated parade car beside gay columnist Wayne
The cheers and applause felt
heartfelt. I love this photo.
After all the excitement it was time to cool down. Oops! Actor, singer
and Celebrity Grand Marshal Cheyenne Jackson had spotted me. He didn't
wave me over.
I walked over. I know what you're thinking. He's now saying, "Hi,
Strange," in that resigned-through-gritted-teeth tone so popular with
de young folks these days.
But, no. This isn't the magical 1970s. Cheyenne and I had never met.
He was just obliging de old geek who'd asked to
take his picture.
Ah, Community Grand Marshal Bebe Sweetbriar. Singing
her friends, she seemed a really warm person.
Celebrity Grand Marshal Alex Newell has one of the
strongest voices and personalities on "Glee." Sweet and softspoken in
person. And not afraid to wear horizontal stripes! Unlike the next
Even from a block away I would have known. It was Bruce Beaudette!
Finally, Philanthropist Al Baum, an old pal, was the Lifetime
Marshal. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to know that when I first tried
tagging this photo on Facebook it kept insisting he was Strange de Jim.
Well, he IS rather handsome and distinguished looking.
Well, that's the Parade. But how can we possibly end
this story? With
a picture you could put on a T-shirt
HAPPY 2013 SAN
Heck, you might as
well check out all my
my "San Francisco's Castro" appear in David Weissman's award-winning
documentary "We Were Here," which interviews heroes from the AIDS
crisis. The top photo shows James Harning in his healthy days. He
worked in an ice cream shop, and he'd trade me free ice cream for free
massages. Win-win-win. When he got sick he locked himself away. His
Mitchinson brought him to me for a massage. I'd volunteered to massage
terminal patients, but seeing a close friend covered with lesians was
heartwrenching. At the end, another friend and I carried James to the
car for his final ride to the hospital. The bottom photo shows James
between Marcus on the left and Stephen Pullis on the right.
I highly recommend the "We Were Here" DVD.
||Milk is out on DVD (Left) and Blu-ray (right)
Milk movie: photos and
videos of the making of the film and the
subsequent openings, award ceremonies, etc. See http://www.flickr.com/groups/milkmovie/
CDs & DVDs I
Found Good &/or Funny
Here are Amazon.com's
Current Top Gay
Amazon's Top Humor
Stand-Up Comic DVDs