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Post-Pride Sadness: Harvey Milk's Speechwriter Died Today

If Frank M. Robinson had not lived, San Francisco would have had to invent him. 

Frank M. Robinson speaking in 2012.  

 

There may be San Franciscans more well known, but none more of their city than Frank M. Robinson, who—as the SF Weekly reports—died today, June 30, at 86. Robinson worked as a speechwriter for Castro supervisor Harvey Milk, but his main gig as a writer was penning science fiction and thrillers. As the Weekly puts it, "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." That's just the beginning of Robinson's saga as the San Francisco version of Kilgore Trout. Here's a primer on his life (much of which are drawn from his online autobiography):

1. When he was three, Robinson's father was deporting to Canada for check fraud.

2. One of Robinson's favorite pieces of writing advice: "When the action slows, throw another body through the skylight."

3. He ended up an editor for a short-lived competitor to Playboy, before getting hired to write the Playboy Advisor column for the magazine, which he did for three years.

4. After moving to San Francisco in the 70s, he wrote the novel that would become the movie The Towering Inferno.

5. Another one of his scripts turned into the film The Power. He wasn't so enthusiastic about that one, telling Locus magazine, "By the time [it] was made into a movie in 1967, I was living on poverty row in Los Angeles. I went to see the movie at the bottom of a double feature, and I walked out in the middle of it." In the same interview he also said that, "so much of [science fiction] is crap."

6. His collection of over 10,000 pieces of science fiction magazines and other works was auctioned off in 2012.

7. When not writing science fiction, thriller, and mystery novels with titles The Prometheus Crisis, The Nightmare Factor, The Dark Beyond the Stars, and Death of a Marionette, he wrote speeches for Castro Supervisor Harvey Milk.

8. Robinson was an extra in the film Milk. In real life, he wrote one of the speeches that Sean Penn delivers in the movie. 

9. Though he was due to receive a special award from the Nebula science fiction convention in May, he was too sick to attend.

10. He finished writing the manuscript of his autobiography in August 2013. The working title was Not So Good a Gay Man. Before his death he was unsure if it would ever be released. 

11. Though he was known as gay in San Francisco, he never came out to his family.

12. Of his time working with Harvey Milk, he wrote, "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."

 

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