Re-Deconstructing Tragedy

Assassinations are complex events that we long to make simple. Take Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. We might like to believe that their assassin, Dan White, was a raging homophobe who got a light sentence on a ridiculous defense -- claiming that he'd loaded up on junk food before the 1978 killing and just, well, you know, lost it. While there's no argument that White was a cold-blooded killer who got off easy, or that he was a troubled individual – he took his own life in 1985 – evidence suggests his motivation was more about feeling betrayed by S.F. politicos than it was about Milk being gay. And Twinkies were only part of his broader legal defense. In 1984 director Rob Epstein detailed some of this in the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, an astonishingly inclusive look at what was then still a recent tragedy. In Double Play: The Hidden Passions Behind the Double Assassination of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, author Michael Weiss takes on some remaining mysteries. Among them: White telling a former S.F.P.D. colleague after his release from prison that the killing was in fact premeditated, and that he'd intended to kill two more supervisors (one of them Willie Brown). Weiss was also the reporter who fielded the call from this detective 13 years after the fact, so he's been pretty close to the story for a while. Weiss also further examines the legal strategy that resulted in a conviction of manslaughter rather than murder. A DVD included with Double Play contains unseen TV interviews as well as the complete recording of the assassin's tearful, broken confession – all part of Weiss looking deeper into the horror.
Thu., Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m., 2010

 
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