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On film and in exhibits, a full picture of Milk

Items from the slain supervisor and gay rights pioneer are being shown in conjunction with a new biopic.

November 30, 2008|Larry Gordon | Gordon is a Times staff writer.

At the society's headquarters on Mission Street, a barber-like chair from Milk's onetime camera shop in the Castro district is kept in storage, as are many smaller Milk items. Archivist Rebekah Kim donned gloves to unwrap some that will not be publicly displayed: an Ernie doll from "Sesame Street," a figurine of Popeye's rival Bluto, rolling papers for marijuana cigarettes, belt buckles with campaign slogans, and Zippo lighters. "It does speak to Harvey's personality, some of the quirkiness to him," she said

Rather than constructing a set, the filmmakers took the unusual step of re-creating Milk's political headquarters at its actual location, even though it has been a gift shop for years. Archival photos were crucial in that effort, Groom said. "It's funny how things work back and forth. Life imitates art and art imitates life and back and forth," he said.

Sometimes, such faithfulness can be complicated. Before it was donated to the GLBT archive, Milk's dining room table had suffered many scrapes. So for the scenes in which Penn sits at the table and tape-records Milk's instructions in case of his death, set decorators made a table that included similar scars.

Groom then had the replica repainted for a newer look, closer to how it probably appeared in 1978 "when Harvey used it," the designer said.

(For more information about the exhibits, visit and


For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, December 03, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 109 words Type of Material: Correction
Harvey Milk: Recent articles in the Calendar and California sections based on the release of the movie "Milk" have referred to San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk as being the first openly gay man elected to major public office in this country. While he was among the first openly gay politicians to hold office in the United States -- Milk was elected city supervisor in 1977 -- at least one other official preceded Milk as an openly gay candidate to be elected. Allan Spear, who served in the Minnesota Senate from 1972 to 2000, announced that he was gay in 1974. Two articles earlier this year also included the error.

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