This parody of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling history books (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, etc.) is “by Bill O’Reilly” via Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman, from their new book Killing O’Reilly.
WARNING: In order to keep readers turning pages, I have written this chapter as a noir. But don’t let the style fool you. What you are about to read is unsanitized and uncompromising. The murder of Harvey Milk, America’s first gay[i] politician, was brutal, but the full story hasn’t been told. Until now.
It had all started at a club on Castro two years earlier.
Harvey Milk is leaning on the bar, nursing the butt of a Camel. His jaw juts out of his face like a cliffside, his chin looks like his face is making a fist, and his dimples are deadly sharp.
It’s the summer of 1976, the gayest year in San Francisco history, but Milk thinks it could be gayer. Milk used to be on the Board of Permit Appeals. Appealing straight permits and letting gay permits fly, Milk was the most powerful gay man in the world. But he wanted more. That’s why he quit and ran for office. A race he just lost. He drops the Joe in a dirty glass. Milk makes to pay his tab when a man walks up.
The man has skin as pink as a termination letter, hair as white as a marshmallow ghost, and the type of wide-framed glasses that make other men wish they had eye problems. He flashes a smile at Milk with teeth as sharp as the corner of a cupboard door you forgot was open. The man says his name is Mayor Moscone. Milk asks what was his drink’s name. Moscone says vodka rocks. Milk gets two. Four later, the mayor breaks the ice.
“You’re really looked up to in these parts kiddo,” Moscone says with an indoor voice.
“That’s funny, because I just lost the election,” Milk shoots right back, with an outdoor voice. But the mayor doesn’t flinch. This is one tough nut, Milk thinks. He lights another cig and takes a drag.
“There’s other ways of getting into office than election.”
“What are you attempting to imply?”
“You scratch my back, I scratch yours.”
“Watch it barista, that’s a bold cup.”
“Maybe you’re right, it could use some milk.”
“Maybe the milk’s too old.”
“Maybe I like my coffee sour.”
“Maybe I’ll take a sip.”
“Maybe you should watch your lips, it’s hot.”
“Maybe I can take the heat.”
“Maybe you spill some on your shirt.”
“Maybe I like the color brown.”
“Maybe it seeps into your undershirt.”
“Maybe I love the color brown.”
Moscone takes Milk’s cig and helps himself to it.
“I like the cut of your jib Milk,” he says. “Consider yourself my new City Supervisor.”
Milk is confused. On the one hand, he is thrilled the mayor just made him City Supervisor. On the other hand, he is annoyed the mayor dropped the milk and coffee metaphor. It was a really good riff, and Milk had a lifetime of milk material to keep it going. But before Milk can ask to skim the contract, Moscone is pointing to the dotted line. After Milk signs, the mayor spins him around to face a man who’s been standing behind them the entire time.
He has eyes as empty as the chamber of an empty revolver, sideburns as thick as a thick sandwich you know won’t fit in your mouth but you try to and you hurt yourself, and his chin has a butt that would put a clenching Hulk Hogan to shame.
“Milk, this is Dan White, another of my supervisors,” Moscone says.
Milk forces a smile.
If Milk had known he was facing the man who’d plug him two years later, maybe he wouldn’t have been smiling. Maybe he’d be frowning, or indicating a more complex emotion with his face. Who’s to say?
“Pleasure to meet you Mr. White,” Milk says to his future-killer.
“Pleasure is all mine Mr. Milk. I heard you two were talking about coffee,” White replies, trying to get in on the great riffing Milk and Moscone had shared.
“Well, we were just using coffee as an analogy for politics.”
“Well, I like my coffee black and from a French-press.”
“Suppose it’s not okay.”
“. . . ”
“Suppose I like my coffee first thing in the morning before I use the little boy’s room.”
“. . . Mr. White this is not how clever noir dialogue works.”
“Well, maybe you’re not how clever noir dialogue works.”
“Nice seeing you, gentlemen,” Milk says, putting on his trenchcoat to escape the awkward exchange.
“Peace bro,” Mayor Moscone tells Milk. “You’re my favorite supervisor to riff with.”
And with that, Milk is out the door. He probably won’t remember his conversation with White the next morning, but White would think about that moment for the rest of his life: the moment Milk snubbed his noir riff skills.
“I’ll show him,” White hisses under his breath, “I have puns. I have double entendres. I can speak at a rate of six words per second and my trousers end at my nipples. I’m the hippest cat on the whole supervising board.”
For the next two years, White will oppose every policy Milk tries to get through. Milk tries to confront him several times, but each effort is more futile than the last.
The last straw is when White opposes Milk’s latest bill to make a Spring Olympics, an Olympics just as gay as the Winter Olympics but with less clothing.
The two started arguing in White’s office.
“White, this rivalry has to stop. What do you have to gain by opposing me?”
“What’s wrong, Milk? Haven’t you jumped over curdles before?”
“That is a terrible pun.”
“Watch it barista.”
“Are you just copying my lines now?”
“Maybe you should copy this.”
That’s when Milk noticed the gun in White’s hand, the barrel of it staring right at his mug.
“Now we’re going to have zippy noir dialogue Milk, whether you like it or not!”
“Easy there White, I didn’t realize you were packing heat.”
“Maybe you should have read my warning label.”
“If I knew one of the side-effects was gunshots I don’t think I’d have made the purchase.”
“Maybe I’m not for sale.”
“I’m sorry I can’t. You keep changing metaphors.”
“Maybe I’m not changing metaphors.”
“That’s not riffing. That’s just negating what I said!”
“You know what Milk, you’re dead right.”
“Now that was pretty goo—”
But it’s too late. Bang bang. White shoots Milk dead.
White would later be convicted of manslaughter and spend the rest of his life going from county jail to county jail, never to zing again. As for Milk’s legacy, the gays in my gym grow stronger every day, and it is only time before another gay Spartacus arises.
[i] Like, gay gay.
– Courtney Bowman is a writer in New York. She was president of the Harvard Lampoon in 2010. Nick Bowman is a writer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a student at Emory University and is currently an editor at the Emory Spoke.
Excerpted from Killing O’Reilly by Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman Copyright © 2015 by Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.