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Monday, June 30, 2014

Frank Robinson, Harvey Milk Speechwriter and SciFi Author, Dies

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 2:25 PM

San Francisco in the 1970s, in retrospect, seems like a literary creation, too strange to be real. But, lo, it was.

And yet, the man who crafted the speeches for one of the city's most literary denizens of the time, Harvey Milk, was indeed a writer who delved in fantasy transcending even the city's wildest. 

Science fiction author Frank M. Robinson penned more than a dozen books, including a study of the pulp magazines of the sort frequently seized from surreptitious readers in the back of 1950s-era schoolrooms -- who would, of course, go on to move to San Francisco in the 1970s and make the place what it was.

Robinson, a gay man who was Milk's friend in addition to his speechwriter, died today aged 86.   

A speechwriter is often relegated to the background, and, in Robinson's case, that was true in both reality and fantasy. But that was alright by him. While appearing in a series of crowd scenes in the movie Milk, he found himself watching Sean Penn portray his deceased pal Milk.

"They shoot Sean giving a speech before a crowd of gays in front of City Hall and I recognize it as one I wrote," he recalled. "Very proud. ... God, it's hard to believe. It all happened 30 years ago and to most people it is ancient history. 

"For me, I will never forget it and will always be proud of the small part I played. " 

If there is an upside to being a writer, it's immortality of sorts. And so, while Robinson is gone, his words remain. You can find many of his books at the local library (including the novel that was remade as the uber-1970s disaster flick The Towering Inferno). 

Robinson hasn't quite left San Francisco yet. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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