29th June 2009
Steve Sailer remembers the inconvenient stuff.
A great tragic story could be made about how Milk’s gay liberation movement unleashed its own nemesis. Within two decades of Milk’s arrival, gay rights had transformed Castro Street into the plague spot of the Western world, with AIDS killing its 10,000th San Franciscan in 1993.
Left out is almost everything that could add context and flavor, such as Milk’s alliance with Jim Jones’s Maoist Peoples Temple cult. Just ten days before Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered by working class politician Dan White, 907 ex-San Franciscans drank the Kool-Aid in Jonestown.
At least on TV, the suave candidate displayed only a hint of his native Long Island accent, while Penn plays him as an annoying noodge. And, oddly enough, the real Milk was better looking than the movie star. Penn, who in the 1980s would add slabs of muscle for roles as rapidly as Mickey Rourke did for “The Wrestler,” is now, at only 48, as wrinkled as a Shar Pei puppy.
During television appearances, Milk came across as a calm, moderately masculine presence, with only slight gay mannerisms. In contrast, Penn’s histrionic act sets your gaydar clanging like the meltdown siren at a nuclear power plant. That’s important, because Penn’s decision to play Milk as utterly unable to pass for straight robs Milk’s story of much of its interest. The real man, who had served without incident as a Naval officer, chose to come out of the closet.