Late 20th-century San Francisco history is usually represented in popular culture by such media-friendly events as the hippie movement in the 1960s and gay liberation in the 1970s. While those are certainly important, they don’t tell the whole story, and the period has an underlying darkness that can’t be denied. Hard drugs derailed the hippie dream, and openly gay Supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated in 1978. A week and a half before Dan White killed Milk and Mayor George Moscone, over 900 members of the San Francisco-based Peoples Temple committed suicide in Guyana. Throw in other contemporaneous nightmares such as the Zebra and Zodiac murders, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and (perhaps most terrifying of all) the ascent of Willie Brown, and you have a story of a city going through a spectacularly rough couple of decades. It’s a tale told masterfully in Season of the Witch by David Talbot, who reads from it tonight. The book isn’t all doom and gloom -- it can’t be when both the Cockettes and the dearly missed Herb Caen are involved -- but it’s a fascinating, often harrowing look at the darker moments of our city’s past.
Wed., Nov. 28, 6:30 p.m., 2012