The Life and Times of T.J. Anthony

Combative pol fights his last battle

Anthony founded the group Men Who Care About Women's Lives and organized protests against then-Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and in favor of abortion rights. "You know Bork mentions me and my group in his book as an example of the outrageous opposition he faced," Anthony says with pride.

Anthony easily plugged into the political circuit, his eyes fixed on City Hall. Rising from democratic club intriguer and campaign volunteer, he eventually became a top aide to Supervisor Dick Hongisto. By 1990, he was staring down high-priced lobbyists for the Mission Bay development, telling them in no uncertain terms that creation of affordable housing would be the price of any commercial projects.

Allying himself with opponents of then-Mayor Art Agnos -- Harry Britt, Migden, and Hongisto -- Anthony was forced to play defense for the four years of Agnos' term. But by 1992, with both Agnos, his enemy, and Hongisto, his patron, destroyed by their own excesses, Anthony was poised for another personal reinvention.

Working with consultant John Whitehurst, Anthony discovered Barbara Kaufman, a radio consumer advocate, and launched her campaign for supervisor. The two men packaged her brilliantly, playing to a public weary of vacuous symbol-pushers. But Anthony simultaneously clung to his roots. Working on the corporate-backed campaign of Kaufman out of Whitehurst's office during the day, he would sneak back in at night. There, in the wee hours, he ran the school board campaign of Angie Fa, a totally unknown, unpolished, and unmarketable leftist lesbian activist.

Board member Fa is now a frequent visitor at Anthony's bedside. The other day, she and several other grass-roots activists dropped by with quiche, cherries, and challah and the latest issue of the Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper.

Filling a pipe bowl with marijuana to stimulate the patient's appetite, Peter Altman, a gay activist, handed Anthony a Hebrew amulet. "Oh good," said Anthony, "this will go with my others." Lifting his shirt, he revealed scores of talismans, pouches of herbs, and other mementos given by well wishers.

They are merely the outward tokens of T.J. Anthony's remarkable legacy.

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