Mike Weiss (mikeweiss) Tue 22 Mar 11 08:52
Glad to, Laura. When Dan White informed Mayor George Moscone that he was resigning from the Board of Supervisors, Moscone, a sentimentalist, told him he admired him for putting his family first. He felt sorry for the young man, so clearly in above his head. Harvey Milk, on the other hand, reacted gleefully to the news. "That's terrific," he said. "Now I've got a sixth vote." On Monday, November 13th, the Board clerk accepted Dan's resignation. Dan's supporters - the people who had contributed to his campaign and worked closely with him in City Hall - were apoplectic. Paul Chignell, for one, the head of the Police Officers Association, who frequently hung out in Dan's office. If Moscone appointed a liberal - and of course he would - then there were enough votes to adopt a settlement of a long-standing bias suit against the Police Department vehemently opposed by the POA. The Chamber of Commerce urged Dan to reconsider and so did the realtors and one of the city's most powerful Democratic fixers, Mo Bernstein. Dianne Feinstein, Dan's mentor on the Board, and perhaps the one person who could talk sense to him was out of town. But even Dan's mother joined the chorus: the family offered interest-free loans to help with his finances, and some of his younger siblings volunteered to work at the Hot Potato on Pier 39. Everybody was suggesting he was a quitter, and Dan bridled at that. The greatest goad to his changing his mind might well have been the shame he felt at letting down so many people. On whom did he blame his sense of shame? Himself, for having quit and run when the going got tough? For whining ceaselessly that the rest of the Supervisors and their ilk were sneaks and snakes? Not a chance. Instead he blamed George and Harvey, those opponents of his who would be dishing out the humiliation he brought on himself. But nobody had more influence in changing Dan's mind than Ray Sloan, Dan's campaign manager and chief aide at City Hall. On the night of November 14th, Ray and Dan's other aide, Denise Apcar, met with Dan at the Irish Embassy, a bar near City Hall, and Ray issued a calculated challenge. "Afraid George won't give you your seat back if you ask for it?" Ray asked. It was a question calculated to stir up Dan's competitive nature. So Dan changed his mind yet again. His moods were swinging between despair and elation. When his wife, Mary Ann, heard the news from Dan she looked frightened and torn up. Something was dreadfully wrong with her husband and she felt powerless to fix it. Dan met with George and asked to be reseated. George, feeling bad for Dan and wanting to give him a second chance, said he'd give him his job back if there were no legal impediments. The mayor then asked the City Attorney to research this unprecedented situation, in which a Supervisor quits and then changes his mind. And that enraged Harvey, who stormed into George's office and told him the gay community would not look kindly on the mayor's re-election campaign if the leading opponent of Harvey's agenda on the Board was given a second chance. Many other liberal supporters of the mayor were also angry at George's willingness to reseat Dan. On November 18th, George explained to Dan that there was a lot of opposition, even from Dan's own district. Dan's votes in opposition to his programs, Goerge explained, weren't making his job any easier. For instance, there was the bias suit settlment. Just to pull an example out of the air. It was a political message, and not an especially subtle one. But Dan understood the situation to be personal not political. He either didn't understand or didn't want to understand. The next day, Congressman George Ryan, on a fact finding mission to the People's Temple compound in Guyana was shot and killed, and the Rev. Jim Jones' followers, most all of them from the Bay area, began to commit mass suicide. A sense of tragedy and gloom settled over the city, and in particular at City Hall where Jones had been an important ally of Moscone and Willie Brown. Dan's situation was on the back burner, and while it was he lost heart again. The City Attorney told George he was under no legal obligation to reappoint Dan. Nor had Dan signalled George that he was ready to make a political deal to get his seat back. And there was precious little support in Dan's district. George decided that there was no compelling political reason to reappoint Dan, and began to canvas for someone to replace him. But what he did not do was call Dan and tell him, as he had assured Dan he would once his mind was made up. On the night of November 26th, an already anxious and agitated Dan White who had been moping around his house, not shaving or going out, recived a phone call from a reporter who told him that the mayor's office was appointing somebody else to his seat in the morning, and did he have a comment? He was about to spend the worst night of his life.
(fom) Tue 22 Mar 11 14:12
You mean Leo Ryan.
Travis Bickle has left the building. (divinea) Tue 22 Mar 11 14:47
I find myself wondering if the outcome would have been different if he had simply been told that he was finished, up front and immediately, and not had the seat sort of dangled in front of him by Moscone. What do you think about that, Mike?
Mike Weiss (mikeweiss) Tue 22 Mar 11 17:25
Leo Ryan indeed, thanks fom I have often wondered the same thing, divinea. I'm inclined to believe it would have been different. When you listen to Dan White's confession what seems to be tearing him apart is all the dishonesty among the politicians. On the other hand, I think George reacted first with his heart and later with his head, not a bad sequence for a politician. And certainly nothing that should get him killed. In a sense, he was respecting Dan by assuming he could take a swift kick in his political rear end and rebound from that. And isn't this just the problem with the Tea Party? It's one thing to sweep the scoundrals out of office but if you replace them with idealists and naifs, well, the consequences of that are likely to be volatile.
(fom) Tue 22 Mar 11 18:54
I think White must have been very unbalanced to kill two people in cold blood, in a premeditated manner, so I think that even if Moscone had been clearer, White still would have done something weird. I mean I don't think that Moscone caused the murders by seeming to waffle. (I know you're not saying that.) I attended a Native American event a few months before and I was talking with some tribal elders, medicine people, etc, and at one point they mentioned in a very matter-of-fact way that San Francisco was expected to have a big earthquake or similarly major event around October or November. (It took me while to recall that and ponder whether there was a connection.)
Mike Weiss (mikeweiss) Wed 23 Mar 11 07:58
The 1989 Loma Prieta quake was on October 17.
(fom) Thu 24 Mar 11 00:58
Not sure how that's related to what I posted; I was talking about 1978.
Mike Weiss (mikeweiss) Thu 24 Mar 11 09:03
I guess I was suggesting that they were right but eleven years early
Laura Hogan (proctor) Thu 24 Mar 11 09:47
Sounds good to me! Anyway, let's take up the cliffhanger in your last post. I don't think we need to go into too much gory detail about the assasination itself, but before you start talking about the trial, why don't we rather briefly go over what happened on November 27, 1978. I'd also like to talk about those events with specific reference to the suggestion made by <oz> early in the conversation that Milk was merely an afterthought.
Mike Weiss (mikeweiss) Fri 25 Mar 11 09:03
Dan White didn't sleep on the night of November 26th. He brooded all night long. On a table in his study, he spread old old newspaper clippings. Many of them were about his father's great act of heroism, saving a young man about to jump to his death and receiving a medal for bravery from former Mayor Christopher. There were also clippings about Dan but none about his own triumphs, or his act of bravery as a fireman. Instead they were a record of his defeats at City Hall. In the closet on a top shelf he kept his old service revolver and a new box of bullets, snug in their styrofoam. He oiled the revolver and slotted shells into its five chambers. Then he removed ten extra bullets one at a time, wrapped them in a handkerchief, put on a good suit and tie, shaved and waited for his aide Denise Apcar to arrive and drive him to City Hall. He intended to make George tell him man to man, face to face that he would not be reappointed. And he told Denise he also wanted to give Harvey a piece of his mind. He asked Denise for her keys to the supervisors' offices (his own were turned in when his resignation was accepted). So it was always clear that he intended to see both George and Harvey. He had enough bullets for both. When he climbed the steps to City Hall - Denise went to park the car - he saw that the cop working the metal detector was somebody he didn't know although he knew a lot of cops. So he reversed course, went around the corner, and climbed through an unlocked basement window. He hesitated again in front of the grand doors to the mayor's suite, knowing full well that George's security detail sat inside. When a clerk used her keys to open a private side door, he went through after her. When he was finally admitted to George's light-filled office, with its soaring ceiling and view across the Civic Center, he immediately asked if he was going to be reappointed. George, who disliked delivering bad news, told him he was not. That it was a political decision and that's all there was to it. But he felt bad for the young man. He put his arm around Dan's shoulders consolingly, and guided him into a smaller, darker, more intimate sitting room beside the ceremonial office. I've always thought that when George touched Dan - the man who could not bear even to touch his wife in the depth of his self-pity - he sealed his fate. George offered him a drink. It wasn't yet noon, and Dan hardly drank. George lit a cigarette. Dan took out his revolver. George began to rise and Dan shot him three times, then twice more in his brain as the mayor lay on the floor bleeding, his cigarette burning a hole in the thick carpet. Dan reholstered his gun and went rapidly across City Hall to the supervisors side, the west side. Later, at his trial, he would claim that he thought to see Harvey only after he saw one of his aides. But all the evidence - his stated intention, the extra bullets, his avoiding the metal detector and the security officers - indicated that he was carrying out a plan. First he ducked into his old office, which had been stripped of everything personal except some bucolic wallpaper Mary Ann had chosen for him. He reloaded. Where he reloaded would become a crucial issue at his trial and his lawyers would claim he reloaded automatically over George's body because of his police and military training. But there is a great deal of evidence showing that in fact he reloaded just before he crossed a narrow corridor, ducked his head into Harvey's office, and said, "Harv, can I see you for a minute." Dan's presence undoubtedly made Harvey nervous - he knew that George would be appointing Dan's replacement within the hour, and that he had played an important role in insuring Dan was not reappointed - but he joined him nonetheless. In the confines of the tiny office, Dan assassinated Harvey as he had assassinated George, felling him with body shots and finishing him off with two shots to the back of his head as he stood above his crumpled body. He fled City Hall, called Mary Ann and asked her to meet him at a nearby Cathedral, and told her what he had done. As they walked the several blocks to Northern police station - they were not spotted although a massive manhunt was underway - Mary Ann kept one hand on her husband's revolver, which had destroyed her life and her family as surely as it had destroyed his other victims. At Northern station he turned himself in to Lt.Paul Chignell, the head of the police officers association, and one of the people who relied on Dan's vote, and pressured him to ask for his job back. (Brief and non-gory, Laura.)
Laura Hogan (proctor) Mon 28 Mar 11 17:10
Non-gory is a good thing these days. Mike, you start Book Two of Double Play (entitled The Trial) which a quotation from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, which I'll quote in its entirety here, "--and if you're not good directly," she added, "I'll put you through into Looking-glass House. How would you like that?" "Now, if you'll only attend, Kitty, and not talk so much, I'll tell you all my ideas about Looking-glass House. First, there's the room you can see through the glass -- that's just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way." That passage gives us as good an idea as any about how the Dan White trial went. Why don't you set up a discussion about the trial by briefly going through the players in the trial on both sides, the State and the defense, and also talk a little about the defense strategy at the trial.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 30 Mar 11 18:27
Thank you Michael and Laura for guiding our discussion over the last several weeks. Inkwell now turns its attention to a new subject, but this topic will remain open indefinitely to continue the conversation. Again,thanks to all who contributed to the discussion.
Members: Enter the conference to participate
Non-members: How to participate