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Yet another Harvey Milk post

Update on what happened to two of Harvey's boyfriends and the strange saga of Gerard Dols, an "ex-gay" Christian chaplin who claims to be the boy from Minnesota who Harvey helped escape to California. Real thing or big hoax?

Fates of the Milk Men: Update

Doug Franks, the boyfriend who Harvey had breakfast with the morning of the day he was assassinated, died from AIDS in the 80s, according to Anne Kronenberg in an article I found.

Billy Wiegardt, the "roommate-with-benefits", may very well be dead; I found a death record for a William Wiegardt who was the right age and died in 1988. Also dead among Harvey's friends are Dick Pabich (AIDS, 2000) and Jim Rivaldo (liver cancer, 2007).

Despite a lot of searching, I can't figure out what happened to Bob Tuttle, the boyfriend from L.A. If he's still alive, he's the only one left of Harvey's "major" boyfriends.

Gerard Dols: If You're For Real, Harvey Would Be So Sad

Gerard Dols is a Christian chaplain who has recently come forward to claim that he's the real "boy from Minnesota", who went unnamed in The Mayor of Castro Street and was called Paul in Milk. This is the kid who couldn't leave his homophobic parents because he was in a wheelchair, but finally managed to get on a bus and called Harvey again when he was in California to thank him. Now, Gerard Dols says, he's a "former homosexual".

Reasons why he may be a total fake:

1. He claims that Harvey wanted him to move in with him and his partner. Seeing as the partner at the time would have been Jack Lira, I'm not buying this one. Yeah, Harvey had a weak spot for cute young gay men in trouble, but how breath-takingly dumb would it be to move a cute young guy into the horrendously unstable Milk-Lira household? I'd be a lot more inclined to believe this if Gerard Dols had said that Harvey offered to help him find a place if he made it to the Castro, or if Harvey had found someone Dols could move in with.

2. He also claims that he may have been partially responsible for Jack Lira's suicide because he called Jack an hour before Jack killed himself and Jack thought he was trying to take Harvey away from him. It's possible. But it also sounds self-aggrandizing - I didn't just know Harvey Milk, I am in fact directly connected to his boyfriend's suicide! And everyone who would know if I was lying or not is dead!

3. Though the source is unnamed, a blogger is claiming that someone involved in the making of Milk told him not to concern himself too much with Dols.

4. Dols says all his gay friends abandoned him after Harvey died. Why? People don't just decide, "Hey, you know our friend Gerard, who knew that guy Harvey Milk, who just died? Let's abandon him!"

5. He says that anyone who doesn't believe him can ask Anne Kronenberg, but he spelled her name wrong.

6. All the things he says are things that either anybody could know, or the only people who could deny or confirm them are dead.

Why it's all a bit confusing:

1. Another site claims that "someone who knows more about the movie than just about anyone" (if they're telling the truth, my money's on Cleve) told them that Paul in the movie was a composite of lots of different teenagers who called Harvey. But, unless Randy Shilts got it wrong or made it up in The Mayor of Castro Street, there really was a kid in a wheelchair from Richmond, Minnesota. Where's Don Amador? Is he still alive? He's the one who temporarily housed the kid from Richmond. I found somebody named Don Amador who lives in California, but I have no idea if that's the guy. (Check the comments section on that link: someone who claims to be Gerard Dols commented a few times, and he writes like a fifth-grader.)

2. On this podcast with Concerned Women For America, he sounds as nice about Harvey as an "ex-gay" can sound, pointing out that Harvey was kind and compassionate towards him. (He also says that he's sad Harvey never had the chance to know Jesus; dude, gay thing aside, it's called "being a Jew.") There are a few points where the people interviewing him are trying to get him to be more condemning, but he's not.

On the whole, whatever the truth of the matter is, he sounds like something of an unfortunate soul. On the podcast he talks a lot about the problems in the gay community, but he attributes them to just being gay, not to the various psychological problems gay people have from being misunderstood. I think it's possible that he's the boy from Minnesota. It's also possible he's lying. If he's lying, though, he definitely did his research.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 17th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Huh. That's all very interesting about this Dols guy.
His long comments in this article made me wonder how much of his story is supported in Shilts book. (I haven't read it yet, though I plan to pick it up the next time I'm at the library.) I got the impression that the few mentions of the kid from Minnesota in the book don't give nearly as much detail to the story. Dols says Shilts didn't talk to him, and I'm assuming the people making the movie also did not, so either the character really is a composite of hundreds of kids (quite possibly including a young Dols) or someone (Don Amador?) remembered the exact details of the story of this kid from Minnesota talking to Harvey on the phone, both in Minnesota and from Don's house, and then gave that story to the filmmakers. That, however, is discredited by Dols repeatedly pointing out that he wasn't in a wheelchair, although that is the story given in the book and movie - meaning someone who remembered a lot of details also got a pretty big one wrong.
It seems to me that Dols is inserting himself into this story in a way that is fairly implausible. I do not question that he might've been in correspondence with Harvey Milk, but I seriously doubt that his story matches up exactly to the character in the movie, or even to the book (based on my second-hand knowledge of its contents). His argument of course suffers from being poorly written and at times difficult to follow, but it seems to me that if it was completely true, there would be some sort of evidence that wasn't either unsupportable or taken directly from the film.
I don't mind the idea of Dols - he does seem like he valued Harvey, and he seems to be an unhappy guy now - but I do mind that he is making claims that seem untrue. My conclusion is that he is a boy from Minnesota - and quite possibly one that had contact with Harvey at some point - but he isn't the boy from Minnesota. I believe the sources close to the film who say that that character was a combination of many real people, and Dols supports his story with details that I thought were probably the result of creative license on the part of the film makers (calling from Don's house when the Prop. 6 results were coming in, etc.).

I'm interested to see if the G.A.Y. website's source reveals itself, as that update from "someone who knows more about the movie than just about anyone" was only added to the site yesterday.
Jan. 17th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, I just KNEW that if I didn't take that book with me this weekend I would regret it!

Okay, stuff I remember about the "boy from Minnesota" in TMOCS: he was from Richmond, he was in a wheelchair, his parents wanted to "cure" him of being gay, Harvey told him to go to L.A. or New York or at least to Minneapolis, the boy worked to the point where he could walk a little with crutches, his friend helped him get on the bus, the boy went to L.A. and met up with Don Amador somehow and called Harvey again - I think while various Prop 6 stuff was going on, but definitely not the night the results were coming in.

Don Amador, having met the kid in person, would have remembered whether he was in a wheelchair. I wonder if maybe it wasn't Don Amador who told the story to Randy Shilts but somebody else who'd heard the story from Harvey.

I could wholeheartedly go for "Paul is a composite of lots of different teenagers who called Harvey" if there wasn't already the story in TMOCS that matches up exactly with Dols's story except for that damn wheelchair. Dols says on the podcast that he was born without kneecaps and was in the hospital for most of the first fifteen years of his life, so it seems probable he may have been in a wheelchair at some point. The story in TMOCS has the kid able to walk on crutches by the time he gets on the bus. Maybe at some point he told Don Amador that he used to be in a wheelchair and the "when" of when he was in the wheelchair got mixed up someplace in the re-telling. (Of course, if Dols was never ever in a wheelchair this doesn't work...)

Ack, what a headache. No idea if Don Amador's alive or not, but hopefully at some point Anne Kronenberg will comment on this.
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Ah, cool. I hadn't been able to find out how much of the story was given in TMOCS - I didn't realize there was that much detail. I think my university library is closed this weekend, but I'll check out the book on Monday.

Ooof. It's all rather complicated, isn't it? I'd love to see Anne or someone comment on it. Someone out there has to know what the deal is.
Jan. 17th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
'Wait theres a film being made about some guy that's dead, and he has a lot of friends who are also dead therefore not able to back up anything I say..... and there's money right, AND I get to attempt to prove homosexuality is a 'phase' and not real? YEAH IT WAS ME! MONEY NOW AND I'LL GIVE YOU ALL THE BULLSH.... I MEAN TRUTH!'

Edited at 2009-01-17 09:20 pm (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 17th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
Re: dols/harvey
Hello! You wouldn't happen to want to contact those people again and ask them for permission to give their contact info to a lovely and talented law student who wants to write a book about Harvey's personal life, would you? Tell them I don't want to sensationalize, I just want to explore more of who he was.

Yep, read your blog thingy. Thanks for looking into it; I feel sorry for Dols for being so mixed-up, but, to put it mildly, I seriously do not appreciate his piggybacking on Harvey to get his views out to the public.
Feb. 9th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
Re: dols/harvey
Not quite on topic, but have you seen the Harvey Milk Story book?
Feb. 11th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: dols/harvey
Yep! Thanks. :D
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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