Two Men and a Myth

Former Advocate publisher David B. Goodstein is portrayed as one of Harvey Milk’s political nemeses in Gus Van Sant’s new movie. Oftentimes imperious, Goodstein would seem perfectly cast in that role. But only in the movies does every white hat have a black counterpart.

BY Mark Thompson

October 22 2008 12:00 AM ET

Who knows whether both men would have continued to bump into one another had they lived? David mellowed a lot as he aged. And Harvey, had he lived longer, surely would have been seasoned by a scandal or two. Like the one just beginning to brew before his murder: Few knew that Harvey Milk was under investigation by the FBI for misappropriation of public funds.

It seems that as a city supervisor, Harvey and an aide had redirected $375,000 in grant money, earmarked for the nonprofit Pride Foundation, toward his own recently created organization, San Francisco Gay Community Corp. Pride needed the money to expand and relocate from 330 Grove, a city building targeted to make way for a parking garage. (It would ultimately take nearly 24 years before a new community center opened its doors.) But Harvey wanted to be top dog, and Mayor George Moscone backed his ambitions in exchange for Harvey’s support in the upcoming mayoral election. Supervisor Dan White -- an open backer of the Pride Foundation -- considered Harvey a crook because of his internecine double-dealing.

When White resigned from his job, then just as abruptly asked for it back, Harvey led the chorus in the mayor’s office to deny the request. Nothing got sorted out, of course, because in a matter of days White would murder both men. Maybe it was a parking garage that ultimately did Harvey in. History is full of sidetracks and surprises like that. One thing I can fairly say for certain is that had they both lived, David Goodstein and Harvey Milk would be friends today. Politics -- and the passage of time -- makes strange bedfellows. Each a visionary in his way, Harvey and David weren’t the complete odd couple Milk makes them out to be.

Tags: Film

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