Milk Does a Neighborhood Good
BY Regina Marler
October 22 2008 12:00 AM ET
Some businesses plan to do Milk-themed window displays, like the one in the works at A Different Light bookstore, centered on Randy Shilts's Milk biography, The Mayor of Castro Street , along with other gay history titles from the period. The store is also organizing relevant readings and other events. Assistant manager Stephen Quinones says he's already seeing a boost in customer traffic and excitement related to the movie. Friends who acted as extras have p been sending trailers of the film around, he notes. And while rising rents are making it harder for many younger gay men and lesbians to live in the Castro, Quinones is optimistic that the hype surrounding Milk may help fill the void. "Hopefully this will bring the community back a bit and reintroduce some energy," he says.
Walking tours of the Castro have always stopped at the site of Milk's pioneering business, Castro Camera, one of the district's first gay-owned shops. But thanks to the current occupant of the storefront, home-interior store Given, tourists now have more to look at than in the past. Owner Nick Romero commissioned a mural of Milk by local artist John Baden for the inside wall of his store when he moved in last year. "I wanted something controversial, something obvious, visible," he says, pointing to the gun at one edge of the image. The mural, he says, has "become a community symbol" -- just as Milk was when he ran his campaign operations from that same spot in the 1970s.
Romero allowed the producers of Milk to take over his store during filming (the movie was shot primarily in the Castro). Unlike the previous business owners, who he says played down the site's history, Romero's happy to talk to visitors about the shop's lineage. "Milk did so much to further our rights," Romero says. "I'm a husband, father of two kids, and I owe that in part to him." Romero too has noticed an upsurge of interest in all things Milk, and he's responding with Milk-specific marketing. "We use the mural imagery in our promotions," he says, "and I'm hoping to get some T-shirts made."