Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ex-BAR Editor: Reality Check on Harvey Milk's Writings

[UPDATE: The Review has posted Lorch's letter and all correspondence from the current issue here.]

The Gay and Lesbian Review's latest hard copy edition contains a letter from the former editor of the BAR newspaper, Paul Lorch, that is not posted online. I've keyed in excerpts for this post because I think Lorch illuminates gay historical issues in need of a wide audience.

If Lorch wants to further assist academic and general gay public knowledge about Harvey and what he wrote, he would do us all a huge favor locating the documents he has in his possession at his home in Guerneville, California, and donating them to any one of the several archives that would love to add the documents to their collection.

Extracts from Lorch's letter:

In the last issue [Sept.-Oct. 2013], you ran a brief review of a newly published book from the University of California Press titled "An Archive of Hope: Harvey Milk's Speeches and Writings", pictured. Included in the the 45 pieces of Milk's output are interviews, press releases, letters, and ten reprints of columns he submitted to San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter in the 1970s.

The manuscripts of these columns are still in existence: they are stashed away somewhere in a back bedroom closet [in my home]. Needless to say, they were not consulted for verification.

Harvey Milk had a column in the Bay Area Reporter until the week of his death, and I was his editor. Harvey Milk was not a writer -  neither any essayist nor a scholarly thinker. The column was important to him because of his need for continued exposure and it's prominent position in the paper. He had little concern for the end product, save that is appeared. His copy was always rushed, sloppy, and almost embarrassingly repetitious. [...]

However, there was a more disturbing feature: what Harvey turned in was not always his own work but was instead the work of cohorts, supporters, staffers, and flaks. The pieces not written by Harvey were usually neater, of greater substance, and more presentable. The Berkeley scholars [who edited the book] have something to answer for here. They may well be promoting material as Harvey's output that was not his own.

If the University of California plans to be the repository of the Milk memorabilia, it's off to a shaky start. Harvey Milk left little in the way of a literary trail because he was not a writer, and he was no memoirist. [...]

Now that his renown is international and he's the subject of film and TV biopics along with presidents and movie stars, he has become the vehicle for any enterprising aspirant, including restless academics, in search of a personality to immortalize. [...]

It would be wonderful to hear from the editors of "An Archive of Hope", Jason Edward Black and Charles E. Morris III, responding to Lorch's claims.


Larry-bob said...

I don't think it's a secret that Harvey Milk had speechwriters, notably Frank M. Robinson.

Michael Petrelis said...

And Frank did a terrific job that he has been deservedly recognized for his contributions to our movement. Curmudgeon Lorch is playing an important role and keeping Harvey the Icon human and humble, while questioning the Cal publishers and the book's editors.