Saturday, November 26, 2011

media training

Before they went on tour in Spring of 1988 they were given a brief media training session to see how each looked if interviewed by TV news.  In turn each sat before a camera under the glare of the key light and responded to hypothetical questions about their purpose.  Scott and Joey came across fine, casual and natural, Gert was told to defer to one of the others because if she didn't like the question or the person questioning her condescension came across like a hatchet; she wasn't going to play puppydog for the camera.  Jack became flustered and then flamboyant in explanation, his arms waving around as if capturing imaginary moths.  He was told to sit on his hands if interviewed: Jack, just sit on those hands.
In the San Francisco they would be leaving for the four month tour AIDS was a constant, a daily given that affected their every action but the rest of America was a huge unknown.  They had no idea how they would be met as they went from city to city taking a message about a communicable incurable disease.  Thus there was no identification on the box sides of Stella, the truck that carried the Quilt, no large graphic announcement, only a little brass plaque on the front: ``Friends of Dorothy.''  They remembered the country as it was in the 1960s, the thought that they might be singled out to speak on a newscast seemed totally foreign.  It was their action, the tour and what they displaying out in the open in front of the whole world, that would do their talking.

he September 2004 issue of the women's fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar  ran a story on the mayor of San Francisco with photo of him and his wife in elegant recline across an oriental rug in a Beacon Hill-style mansion.  In the background an enormous open window framed a marble balustrade and blue water bay outside as they were dubbed "The New Kennedys," implying the Camelot of the 1960s was in their future.  The story included the price of the clothes they were wearing and a quote from his hairdresser.
The young mayor seemed to have taken the article as prophetic (women's fashion magazines usually are) and began preparing himself for the larger political arena.  The power of television had been well known since the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon debates and Newsom embarked on a training regime that included in his own YouTube channel.  What were once photo-ops became city-funded practice sessions, not just the press conferences and State of the City reports but almost any little ribbon cut would find him facing a camera with a team of handlers and no need of a live audience.
The YouTube video touting the wonders of his Pavement To Parks program and Guerrero Park doesn't mention that the program was abandoned almost immediately afterwards, leaving the space he stood in during that filming an unused eyesore benefiting no one.  A few blocks north and a few blocks east were two legacy city parks falling apart for lack of maintenance but you don't get YouTube videos for maintenance.  San Francisco in the 21st Century: Rise of the Creepy Class—a different kind of people, these kind would never have made the Quilt.

he twenty-city tour they embarked on in 1988 took them south from San Francisco for displays in LA and San Diego then through the southwest to Atlanta and up to Boston where they turned back west.  In every city gay groups welcomed them like royalty, held dinners for them, showed them the best of their city.  In someplace like Detroit the group had been dined and entertained in yet another fabulously decorated home and they now sat on the sofa in the living room and heard yet again about how wonderful it must be to live in San Francisco, how their hosts visited there and loved it, how there was just no other place in the world like San Francisco.  The same things they always heard.  Jack was on drink three by now and unusually quiet, he should have been animated and loud with those hands of his flutterng toward the chandelier.  Gert leaned over and asked if anything was wrong, this was not like him.
Jack was from the midwest, Indiana, his mother still lived there and they were close.  ``These guys,'' he said quietly, nodding towards the room. ``They're obviously gay, they're not hiding anything, yet they're living here, near their families, near where they grew up.  It was easy to be gay in San Francisco, it didn't take any courage at all.''  He looked around at their hosts, seated or up quickly, let-me-get-that-for-you, ''These guys,'' he said, ''they're the one's with guts.''