Milking the Castro's Queer History

San Francisco’s Castro district is bracing for a flood of tourists after its star turn in Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk. Shot on location, the movie stars Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay men elected to public office.



4. 429 Castro St.: Castro Theatre
The 1920s movie palace’s marquee and neon
sign were restored to their disco-era look for the
film. Van Sant used the roof to shoot scenes of TV
reporters covering the marches Milk led from the plaza
across the street.

5. 499 Castro St.: corner of 18th and Castro streets
This corner store space doesn’t appear in
the movie but is being used to mount a special
historical exhibit tied to the release of Milk. The show
traces San Francisco’s emergence as a gay mecca and
includes the suit Milk wore November 27, 1978, the day
he was killed.

6. 50 Scott St.: Harvey Milk Center for Recreational
Arts, Duboce Park

City officials renamed the center in
Milk’s honor six months after his death. It
sits atop Duboce Park, where Milk, seeking media attention
for his law requiring dog owners to pick up their
pooches’ poop, planted a pile of doggy do-do to
pick up for the cameras. The renovated center is set
to reopen in January with a new exhibit/art installation
about Milk. A 1988 outdoor mural about Milk was
painted over and replaced by a rendering of the
supervisor’s quote “The American dream starts
with neighborhoods.”

7. 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place: San Francisco City Hall
The film crew gained access to the Beaux-Arts
style building’s Manchurian oak–paneled
board chambers for filming, and other scenes were shot
throughout the landmark building’s marble corridors.
Atop the grand staircase underneath the ceremonial
rotunda -- where gay and straight couples hold wedding
ceremonies -- sits a bronze memorial bust of a smiling
Milk, his tie blown backward by the wind. It is the first
such tribute to a gay American to be placed in a seat
of government.

Van Sant’s Milk is scheduled for wide release
December 5.

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