Ex-supervisor Dan White's former campaign manager, Ray Sloan, was the first person to take his seat at the Castro Theatre last week for a matinee showing of Milk. When the movie finally began, he watched intently as some of the most significant events from his past flickered to life on the screen. Occasionally he jabbed his elbow into the reporter sitting next to him, blurting things like, "I was there for that," and "I don't think that ever happened, and if it did, I didn't know about it."
Sloan wasn't just White's political adviser, he was also his business partner and friend. He also knew Supervisor Harvey Milk before White murdered Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
But when the filmmakers were doing research for the Milk script, they never spoke to Sloan. That may be because his existence creates a problem for the film's premise, because Sloan is gay. That's right, Dan White's top confidante is gay (see our Jan. 30, 2008 feature story, "White in Milk").
Sloan says that over the past 30 years, White has been falsely portrayed as a murderous homophobe in order to enhance Milk's legendary status as the most important gay rights leader in American history. But Sloan says White was not at all homophobic. He was just an unstable man who became homicidal when Milk and Moscone betrayed him politically.
Many historical facts about White were conveniently left out of the movie. After watching the film, you would never know that Dan White supported nearly all of Milk's gay-friendly resolutions, he willingly contributed money to fight the Briggs Initiative, and he used his influence with Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein to get Milk appointed to two important committees. At the time, Milk's legislative aide Dick Pabich told a gay newspaper that White "supported us on every position and he goes out of his way to find what gay people think about things."
"The film reflected a Dan White that I didn't know," Sloan said after the movie at Harvey's Restaurant and Bar (named after the slain supervisor). "I am most appalled at the scene where Dan was supposed to be drunk. He was a teetotaler."
But Sloan acknowledged the movie was powerful and that most of the events and characters were spot on, particularly actor Brandon Bryce's portrayal of Milk's political consultant, Jim Rivaldo, who was a close friend of Sloan's.
"I don't want to sound negative about the movie or Harvey Milk," Sloan said. "Harvey Milk was the right person to come along at the right time and start a movement that turned out to be very important."