Harvey Milk's friends: Interview

You talked about anger. I was at the White Night riot, and I wanted to ask if any of you were...

Anne Kronenberg: We all were.

Cleve Jones: I led the mob down there (laughs).

Anne Kronenberg: Go Cleve!

Can you tell me about what you felt that night?

Anne Kronenberg: I'm probably the most chicken of the group. I found it to be... I mean, we had so much anger and the verdict was so unfair. Just even 'How can Dan White murder two people, the mayor and a member of the board of supervisors, and that verdict?' It's just beyond rational thought. You couldn't make that up for a Hollywood film and yet it really happened. So, we were all so angry, but I'm basically a wimp and I got in the middle of that crowd and I was terrified. For me, it was really scary. Cleve talked, and Sally tried to talk, and Carol tried to talk. People were trying once we got there, and the things that had worked before weren't working. It was scary.

Cleve Jones: It was exhilarating.

Anne Kronenberg: He was exhilarated. I was scared.

Cleve Jones: I'm a Quaker, all right? I subscribe to violence. But I have to tell you one anecdote about that night. We arrived there, we stormed the front of the building. One cop car was burned. The lesbian caucus of the newly-formed Harvey Milk Democratic Club broke into the basement and tried to set City Hall on fire. And then the cops, masked gladiator style, up on Polk Street had their shields and they were beating their clubs and the crowd panicked. And they shot the tear gas into us and everybody began to stampede down toward Market Street. That was the point where I got frightened, because I thought people were going to get hurt, get stampeded, and die. And by then, I don't know who had the bullhorn. There had been a sound system, but the cops knocked over the generator. We had no ability to communicate to the crowd, and I got together with Bill Krause and maybe Ron Huberman, but we just started shouting 'Slow down! Slow down!' And other people, my little monitor teens that had all been dispersed, got what we were trying to do and everybody started chanting, and it became 'S-l-o-w D-o-w-n... s-l-o-w d-o-w-n..." Then 'Don't run Don't run,' and other people would pick it up and it soon there were hundreds of people saying 'Don't run.' 'Turn Around! Turn Around!' 'Fight back! Fight back!' And that crowd, which was largely panicking and running and dispersing slowed down, stopped running, turned around, and threw themselves at the cops. And by then, their own line had dispersed, and we pushed them all the way back and we burned all their police cars.

Anne Kronenberg: That part was cool (laughs).

Cleve Jones: (referring to Anne) Mother of three now... (laughs)

I had a question about how Dan White is portrayed in the film. For a lot of people who sort of know the story, he's a monster. But in the film, he's shown to be a human being who was very conflicted. I was wondering how you felt about the portrayal of Dan. You obviously knew or had interactions with him at the time...

Anne Kronenberg: Personally, I like that, because things are not black and white in real life. Dan White was a complex person. He had a lot of stuff going on. He was wound really tight. He was not easy to work with. I saw him every day at City Hall. You could tell he had a lot of stuff going on, but I think the portrayal, and this is just me, but I think in the movie, it's the right way to do it. He was not born an evil person. He grew up in an Irish, working class neighborhood. He was a firefighter. He was a cop. And the pressures of life, for whatever reason.. I thought it was a good portrayal. I like the scene in there where he's at Harvey's birthday party and, clearly, has been drinking. You see he's someone who had to have control all the time, and the only time you see him kind of losing it there, I just thought there was a lot of good touches.

Cleve Jones: I've read, over the years, probably 40 or 50 different treatments, outlines, scripts and in many of them, there were attempts to explain Dan. And it was all fictionalized, because we don't know. No one was in his head. And if there's anybody out there that might house some insight into his childhood, they're not talking. So, I think any attempt to some up with a pat explanation of how this human being, not a monster but a human being, did this is futile. I think the way it turned out was perfect. It shows you what happened. It shows you how conflicted he was. I just remember thinking how uncomfortable he was in his skin.

Anne Kronenberg: He was.

Cleve Jones: He was just weirdly uptight. So, you could speculate all sorts of things. Many of us wondered if he was a closet case. And he was sort of attractive in this weird kind-of late-50s physique magazine style... I think Harvey suspected he was a closet case.

Anne Kronenberg: He did. I lived in Glen Park at that time, and it only happened once, but one day I got on BART to go down to Civic Center, and he was on the train. So we had that 20 minute ride, and it was a very uncomfortable 20 minutes, because he was trying to chat, and trying to be pleasant, but clearly he was not comfortable in his own skin. That's a good way of putting it.

How much input did the three of you have with the film? Did you consult and then move on?

Anne Kronenberg: Cleve had the most. He was involved from the very beginning, from the inception to the end. So I think each of us is a little different. But Gus welcomed us on the set and, when we were there, was asking 'Is this the way it happened?' He really wanted to get things right. And he changed things. When you said 'women were marching behind him in the Gay Freedom Day parade, then Gus put out a call 'All of Anne's Posse, come down...' so there'd be women there. It was really amazing. I feel like I was consulted a lot.

Danny Nicoletta: The whole team was very interested in what we thought, and it was more than just the three of us that were interfacing.

Anne Kronenberg: They wanted to get it right, and I believe they did.

What do all three of you hope people will take from this film?

Anne Kronenberg: Hope.

Cleve Jones: Hope and the knowledge that ordinary people can, in fact, change the world.

Anne Kronenberg: Nicely said.