Archive | On Scene With Bill Wilson

On Scene with Bill Wilson

Whenever Fernando and I travel to Rome we try to include a visit to his hometown of Subiaco where he still has family and friends. Subiaco has ancient roots – it was the location of a favorite villa of Nero as well as the Fortress of Subiaco the possible birthplace of Lucrezia Borgia.

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Subiaco rises up from the Aniene River protected and dominated by the Fortress of Subiaco

The most ancient part of the city is down near the Aniene River. It is thought that the first inhabitants of the area were slaves brought to work on Nero’s nearby villa, the ruins of which can be viewed on the road to the monasteries that are east of town. The river provided power that made it possible for early industry to flourish there.


A replica of the first printing press in Italy on display in Rome’s Palazzo Ferrajoli  to mark the 550th anniversary of the first Italian printing.

One of the important industries was a paper mill that produced the only white paper in what was then the pontifical state.  2015 is actually the 550th anniversary of the first printing works in Italy. They were set up in 1465 at the Monastery of Saint Scholastica by the German printers, A Pannartz and C. Sweynheym.

The city has recently spent money to improve access from the river to the main street, but if you know the right path you can find yourself walking among alleyways and houses that have existed for centuries. It is not hard to imagine what it would have been like to live in those times.  There are little shops and artisans at work that the city is promoting to attract visitors. On the Saturday we visited we were to early for most of the shops to be open, but as we turned a corner before us was a large fresco of Mary, the baby Jesus and a monk.

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 “Madonna of the Ferrari” attributed to Manenti who painted in the 17th century.

When I first saw it I just stood in awe of it because it looked as if it had been there for so long.  I wondered how many people had passed by it during their daily routine. Then I realized there was a “For Sale” sign on the building just across from the fresco. I didn’t have the nerve to dial the number and ask the price., but I think it would be wonderful to wake up every morning and see this Madonna. 

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A view from north of the Fortress of Subiaco.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: A Pause for Reflection

 Martin Luther King. Jr.’s birthday holiday is past us. Black History month is approaching, perhaps it is time for a bit of reflection.

Black Lives Matter but what can I, one person, do to make that known?

What did I do today that made one person feel better about themselves?

Did I acknowledge with a smile or a word of greeting, the people who passed by me?


Jesse Jackson

Reverend Jesse Jackson pauses before the MLK Memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Tom Ammiano’s wedding

I should have suspected something when I received an invitation to a reception at the Delancey Street Foundation on the Embarcadero honoring Tom Ammiano that didn’t ask for money or have a beneficiary. While I enjoy a good mystery, I’ll never be a Sherlock Holmes I don’t pick up on the subtle cues.


Carolis Deal and Tom Ammiano with Tom’s sisters, Mary and Joanne 

 I should have known when his family – biological, found, political – all showed up that it was more than a tribute to his record of “passion, courage and integrity in the California State Assembly.”


Fellow state legislators join with Tom (in purple) and Carolis (in white suit jacket) after their marriage.

I even mentioned to a friend during the reception that I had heard at the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club dinner that Tom was going to get married in September, but that I hadn’t heard whether he had or not.


Harry Britt presides over the marriage of Tom Ammiano and Carolis Deal

So after several songs from jazz singer Paula West starting out with “Thanks for the Memories” and including “Anything Goes” and “Night and Day” both by Cole Porter, there was a video of Tom accomplishments as a political leader at the Board of Supervisors and at the State legislature. After his response to the video Tom introduced Harry Britt and announced that Harry would preside over his wedding to Carolis Deal


 The exchange of rings

After exchanging both vows and rings Tom and Carolis were pronounced “spouses for live.”


 I wasn’t the only one taking pictures at Tom’s wedding.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Joan Rivers

ImgA0279ares Joan Rivers September 9, 2006

I guess you either loved Joan Rivers or not. She was in public a fighter – no topic untouchable. She was never hired for her calm demeanor or gentle fun. She was cutting edge and never lost her grip on the outrageous. For a not so young, very closeted gay man she provided a way around the anguish of finding a place to fit in.

Bpic004430resJoan Rivers September 20, 2008

When her husband ended his life just a few years after my brother ended his, there was a bond of a shared experience. Still Talking seemed more like a declaration of independence than just a title of her memoir. It was good advice.

ImgC0347resJoan Rivers at the 15th anniversary of the Aids Grove

I don’t think there was ever an Aids related fundraiser that Joan Rivers turned down, long before it was a fashionable or pc thing to do. One of the events she attended here in San Francisco was “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” on September 9, 2006 to mark the 15th anniversary of the National Aids Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. Even though her plane was two hours late and she had a show that night, she came to the Grove and was shown around by Tom Jensen a member of the Board of Directors. She would have been justified in saying, “Sorry I can’t make it.” But she didn’t because she cared.

ImgD0275resAlice, Joan and the Caterpillar enjoy the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

The Folsom Street Fair has always been cutting edge. So when they wanted to have a formal banquet they dubbed “Leather and Feathers” who else to have as featured entertainment than Joan Rivers. She didn’t disappoint. The evening was great fun.

Epic004442resJoan provided the feathers for the “Leather and Feathers Gala September 20, 2008

I think Joan herself would have appreciated the irony of her death being caused by a procedure that was suppose to improve her vocal cords. She died on her terms – with her wit and wits intact. I’m sure that she and Robin Williams are having an improv duel in heaven that has even God laughing.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Reflections of Dore Alley

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The location- Folsom and Dore Alley.

This past Sunday was the Up Your Alley Street Fair, a.k.a. Dore Alley and fondly called Folsom’s dirty little brother, because it is a much smaller version of the Folsom Street Fair in September. Each year as I strive to justify my gawking I find that I come up with a theme that seems to run through my photos. One year it was taking photos that included the business signs that line the otherwise industrial street. Auto Service Center takes on a little different meaning when you crop out the Auto so that it reads Service Center and is framed by the St. Andrew Cross used by the floggers.

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Reflections of Dore Alley Street Fair

This year because it was an absolutely beautifully sunny day I found myself taking photos of people and the reflections in their sunglasses. It made for an interesting viewpoint. Since a photo is worth a thousand words I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


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People passing a vendor’s booth.

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Steamworks featured a twisted version of “Twister”


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The beer booth was a popular spot.

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Sister Dana Van Iquity’s  stylish specs reflect the volunteer area.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Policing the Castro


Police officer issuing a citation. Note the position of the police car.

There are times when I feel ashamed to be a human, times when all rational response seems pointless, but I still want to scream, “No, not in my name!”   A friend and I were standing on the southwest corner of 18th and Castro, on the Castro Street side of Harvey’s. We were both killing time because my friend had about an hour before he had to be at a 7 pm meeting. At the 18th side of Harvey’s there was a person standing with a cardboard sign that asked for money. When I had walked by him earlier he didn’t ask me for money. He was not in any way impeding traffic. He was standing at the edge of the sidewalk so no one had to go around him. My friend and I were making more noise than he was. So I was very surprised when I looked around and saw that a police officer was giving him a ticket. I didn’t want to make it worse for the guy getting the ticket so I stayed where I was and just kept taking pictures. It was also one of the few times I didn’t have my police issued Press Pass around my neck.


The cited person signs the citation for the officer. Note that there is now a bus in the bus stop across the street so that the police car is blocking traffic.

  I would submit that the only danger to the public was not the homeless guy silently soliciting funds, but rather from the police officer who during rush hour had pulled his car across the street so that he was facing west in the eastbound lane of 18th just before the intersection of Castro. I took more photos as he left and nearly collided with the person who was making a right turn from Castro to 18th.

I don’t usually give to homeless people on the street, but I was so angry at what I had witnessed I went over and asked the guy why he had been cited. He said that the police had given him a $76.00 ticket.  I was so mad that if I had had $76.00 in cash I would have given it to him, but I only had $40.


Police officer in his car ready to leave – note that the car on right has green light for right turn onto 18th.

 He showed me the citation put didn’t want me to photograph it. The only word I could make out under reason for citation was sidewalk. The officer might as well been a doctor his signature was so unreadable.

On my way back to my car there was a person sitting in the bus shelter at the stop at 18th and Diamond. He was having a very loud conversation with someone- even though there was no one visible and he wasn’t on a cell phone. The officer had to have passed him, but that citation probably would have taken more time and training to handle.


Fortunately the person in the car on the right was paying attention even if the police officer wasn’t.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Reflections on Pride


Self – Portrait in Reflection

GLBT Pride weekend was one I will never forget. There was so much history on view. I had the opportunity to acknowledge and thank some the people who blazed the path for me to follow. Perhaps it was a combination of getting older and the advances that the GLBT community has achieved in the past several years, but I feel like I’ve been witness to a completion of a cycle. One that I never thought I would live to see.


 Lea DeLaria and Tom Ammiano on Twin Peaks.

The fun started Saturday morning at the Pink Triangle ceremony on Twin Peaks. Lea DeLaria had been asked to read the history of the Pink Triangle. She did that with solemnity that befitted the occasion and reminded us that the pink triangle was not just an icon from the past, but a reminder of where hatred and bigotry can lead. It was a very poignant moment. When Lea found out before the ceremony began that Tom Ammiano was one of the speakers she asked if she could do his introduction. I can’t begin to do justice to the ensuing tribute to Tom. Suffice to say that Lea was Lea at her best and Tom was Tom at his best and everyone had a good laugh and more.


 Felicia Elizondo (Compton Cafeteria survivor) and Miss Major Griffin-Gracey (Stonewall survivor).

Donna Sachet and Gary Virginia’s Pride Brunch to benefit the Positive Resource Center on Saturday always includes the opportunity to hear from the Community Grand Marshals and the celebrities being honored that year. This year there were two honorees that stuck out in my mind. Felica Elizonda was a participant in the Compton Cafeteria riots that preceded Stonewall by three years.  Also honored was Miss Major Griffin-Gracey. She participated in the Stonewall riots. Afterwards as I was leaving they were sitting together. I asked if I could take their picture. I told them that I was thrilled to have the opportunity to photograph them because I admired their courage in standing up and not taking it. Miss Major said something about me being younger. I interrupted and said, “I was born in 1950. I would have been 19 at Stonewall, but I was so deeply in denial that I really believed I wasn’t good enough. I accepted second class. It wasn’t until they stood their ground and said, “No we don’t have to take this.”  that I realized I was good enough.  I didn’t just have to accept second class.


Congresswoman Pelosi, James Hormel ride in the parade on Sunday as Christine Pelosi and Stuart Milk walk along with her.

For the second year in a row Leader Nancy Pelsoi rode with James Hormel in the parade Sunday morning. To me there is no better symbol of political acceptance of the GLBT community than her participation in the parade. As there was a temporary pause n the parade I said to both Stuart and Christine, “We no longer have to explain why the GLBT community deserves their rights. A majority of people are on our side, it is the other side that now has to explain why we shouldn’t have equal rights and I attribute that change to politicians like her (Nancy Pelosi).” To be clear – I do not feel the struggle for equality is over. It isn’t. Justice can’t be just us. There are so many edges we still have to push to ensure that everyone is a part of our gains. I do however think that the impact of having a President and Vice-President on our side should not be minimized.


We no longer need to mask our true selves.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Stewart Appointed Justice of 1st District Court of Appeals.

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the appointment of Associate Justice James M. Humes as presiding justice, Division One and Therese M. Stewart to Division Two of the First District Court of Appeal.


Deputy City Attorney Theresa M.Stewart and City Attorney listen to press conference at Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 Stewart, 57, of San Francisco, has served as chief deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office since 2002. She was a director at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk and Rabkin PC from 1988 to 2002, where she was an associate from 1982 to 1988. She served as a law clerk for the Honorable Phyllis A. Kravitch at the U.S. Court of Appeal, Eleventh Circuit from 1981 to 1982.


 Theresa M. Stewart (right) and her spouse, Carole Scagnetti waiting at the Supreme Court on a cool spring morning March 26, 2013

 Stewart argued on behalf of the City and County of San Francisco in the trilogy of cases advocating for marriage equality for LGBT Californians in the California Supreme Court. She also led the team of San Francisco deputy city attorneys intervening as plaintiffs in the federal case challenging Proposition 8. Stewart earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.


Theresa Stewart  addresses her colleagues in the office of City Attorney on June 26, 2013 the day of the decision of the SCOTUS.

Stewart fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James R. Lambden. This position requires confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Senior Presiding Justice J. Anthony Kline. Stewart will be the first openly lesbian justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal, if confirmed. Stewart is a Democrat.



Jeff and David Janis-Kitzmiller, Judge Walker and Therese M. Stewart and Carole Scagnetti

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On Scene with Bill Wilson and Barney Frank

The fact that Barney Frank is coming to San Francisco to be part of  Frameline and Pride Celebrations provides the perfect excuse to look through my archives and find photos from the 1980’s that feature Barney Frank, the second openly gay person to serve in the US Congress.


Congressman Barney Frank speaks before a press conference in front of the Supreme Court. Urvashi Vaid and Jeff Levi of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force



Individual interviews take place after the main event. Jeff Levi (left) talks with Patsy Lynch, photographer. Barney Frank (center). The gentleman on the right is Michael Hardwick, of the Hardwick v Bowers decision of 1986 in which the Supreme Court of the United States found no right to “homosexual sodomy”. I believe these photos were taken in 1987.


Congressman Barney Frank speaks to a fundraising event at the Stewart Mott House on Capitol Hill, as Nancy Roth, Executive Director of the Gay Rights National Lobby, looks on. GRNL merged with the Human Rights Campaign Fund in 1986.


Senator Alan Cranston, Congressman Henry Waxman and Barney Frank wait their turn at the microphone at the same event. I included this picture to remind us that California has always been in the forefront of the movement for full equality.

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On Scene with BIll Wilson: Happy Birthday Watergate

The Watergate burglary that happened on June 17, 1972 was the beginning of my interest in recording history that was happening around me. I had begun working in Washington, DC in April of 1972. I had a job working as clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin). Less than two months after I started working 5 men were caught inside the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office complex. The burglars and their ‘handlers’ E. Howard Hunt and G.Gordon Liddy were tried before Judge John Sirica in January of 1973.

The dogged efforts of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reporters from the Washington Post resulted in placing responsibility for covering up the ties between the burglars and the Committee to Re-Elect the President to the White House. On March 1, 1974 seven people were indicted by a federal grand jury and it was their arraignment on March 9 that was my first experience of participating in the media scrum that accompanies high profile cases.


Attorney General John Mitchell entering the US District Courthouse on March 9, 1974.

John N. Mitchell – former United States Attorney General and director of Nixon’s 1968 and 1972 election campaigns; faced a maximum of 30 years in prison and $42,000 in fines; on February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison, which was later reduced to one to four years; Mitchell actually served 19 months.

H. R. Haldeman – White House chief of staff, considered the second most powerful man in the government during Nixon’s first term; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $16,000 in fines; in 1975, he was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and received an 18-month prison sentence.

John Ehrlichman enters the District Courthouse almost unnoticed as the media followed HR Haldeman who appeared at the same time.

John Ehrlichman – former assistant to Nixon in charge of domestic affairs; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges; he served 18 months in prison.
Flanked by policeman Chuck Colson entered the Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Charles Colson – former White House counsel specializing in political affairs; pleaded nolo contendere on June 3, 1974 to one charge of obstruction of justice, having persuaded prosecution to change the charge from one of which he believed himself innocent to another of which he believed himself guilty, in order to testify freely. He was sentenced to 1 to 3 years of prison and fined $5,000; Colson served seven months.


Gordon Strachan enters the District Courthouse on March 9, 1974

Gordon C. Strachan – White House aide to Haldeman; faced a maximum of 15 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. Charges against him were dropped before trial.
Robert Mardian – aide to Mitchell and counsel to the Committee to Re-elect the President in 1972; faced 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. His conviction was overturned on appeal.


Kenneth Parkinson leaves the Courthouse after being arraigned on March 9, 1974

Kenneth Parkinson – counsel for the Committee to Re-elect the President; faced 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. He was acquitted at trial.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Rome Pride

RomePride193resizedCrowds at the 20th annual Roma Pride parade June 7, 2014

The 20th annual GLBT Pride parade took place in Rome on Saturday, June 7, 2014 with thousands of people participating in the parade as it wound its way through Rome. Starting near the Termni station in Central Rome and ending near the colosseum, this year at the front of the parade was Rome’s Mayor Ignazio Marino.

RomePride_103resizedIgnazio Marino, Mayor of Rome (in tricolor sash) and Vladimir Luxoria (with Rainbow flag in hand ) were among those holding the banner at the front of the march.

He used the occasion to announce that a registry for civil unions would soon be a reality in Rome and Rome would become the second Italy to recognize marriages from other countries. For some people it might come as a surprise that the Mayor of the city that surrounds the Vatican would come out in favor of such a notion, however it didn’t come as a surprise to me.

RomePride147resizedRome’s Mayor at the 20th annual Roma Pride.

 Before he was a politician, Dr. Marino was an organ transplant specialist. He performed the first kidney transplant on an HIV positive person in Italy. It was very controversial and the authorities prevented him from doing anymore procedures until they had time to study the problem. When I asked Dr. Marino about the first patient he told me that he was alive and doing well. With justifiable pride he said, “He came to me as a boy and now he is a young man.” When I told him that admired the courage it took to do that first transplant he said, “You have to do what is in your heart.”  So it doesn’t surprise me at all that he follows his heart in politics also.

RomePrideFPOresizedFernando Orlandi takes a selfie at Rome Pride. He is the photographer for all the photos that accompany this article.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at BBB 40th


Willie L. Brown, Dede Wilsey, King Louie, Attorney General Kmala Harris, Jo Schuman Silver, Michael Tilson-Thomas, Clive Davis, Mayor and Mrs. Ed Lee

It started with a plaintive call from Steve Silver to Charlotte Shultz, “How do I get press and people to come the two week run of my new production? “Well, we could have a party,” replied Charlotte. And forty years later they are still partying and celebrating all that makes San Francisco – well, San Francisco.  Beach Blanket Babylon took over City Hall on the fortieth anniversary of the opening night that began the longest running musical revue in history.


Michael Tilson-Thomas, Charlotte Shultz, Dede Wilsey, George Shultz, and Clive Davis on the Rotunda steps after the City Hall Salute to Beach Blanket Babylon.

Reprising cameo appearances from its forty year history, the stage was graced by San Francisco luminaries from the political and social worlds like Willie Brown, Dede Wilsey, Charlotte and George Shultz. Backed by the San Francisco Gay men’s Chorus the incomparable Beach Blanket Babylon performers took the audience on a grand tour of the highlights of 40 years that included stops in London and Las Vegas. Snow White flying around the rotunda was an unforgettable moment only superseded by the finale with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the SFGMC, performers and audience in a rousing rendition of  “San Francisco” as the San Francisco Skyline hat was updated with 40 years in flashing lights.

Photo090315resized Gina Moscone and her son, Jonathan were among the audience for the City Hall celebration of forty years of Beach Blanket Babylon


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Laboring for Change

Photo089074US Secretary of Labor Thomas E.  Perez

San Francisco is losing its middle class, – a problem not unique to the city, but one that is being experienced across the nation. The Department of Labor’s Women Bureau is sponsoring a series of regional summits that will culminate on June 23 with the White House Summit on Working Families. In remarks before the regional forum recently held in San Francisco, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez outlined the problem,

“We’re here today to tackle head-on the very issues that keep working families up at night: What if I get sick again and have to miss work… how will we pay for day care? I’d like to take that extra shift to earn more money, but who will watch the kids? What happens if mom can’t live on her own anymore and I have to take time off to look after her? And, how am I going to take time off after childbirth if I don’t get a paycheck for three months?

These families are buckling under the strain of trying to balance their commitment to their jobs and their commitments at home. They’re waking up early, finishing that last load of laundry, packing lunches, waiting at the bus stop in bad weather, trying to stay on top of everything.

They are absolutely heroic. And it’s about time we started treating them like it. We have to create a system that allows people to be a good parent and a good worker. We have to create an economy where American families can be strong.

Photo089133resizedLabor Secretary Perez addressing the Regional Forum held in San Francisco for the Working Families White House summit.

The world has fundamentally changed. The economy has changed. The workforce has changed. Families have changedThe culture has changed. Now we need public policy to change too. I mean, Modern Family is on our televisions, but Leave it to Beaver still informs our laws.

What’s at stake here is really our commitment to the basic bargain of America — if you work hard and take responsibility for yourself and your family, then you can succeed. You can punch your ticket to the middle class. You can have a roof over your head and a nest egg for retirement. You can send your kids to college and do a little better than your parents did.

But that bargain’s under siege. Too many people are finding their highest and best dreams beyond their grasp. Too many are finding the rungs on the ladder of opportunity further apart, and not as sturdy as they had been promised.

So today, let’s commit ourselves to restoring that basic bargain. Let’s commit ourselves to an economy that truly rewards hard work and responsibility.

It might not happen quickly. And it definitely won’t happen without some tenacity on our part. But I am unrelentingly optimistic.”

Photo089132resizedLabor Secretary Perez in San Francisco.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at the Zoo


 Tenzing is name from new Red Panda at SFZoo

San Francisco Zoo is thrilled to announce the name of its newest, and perhaps cutest, resident: Tenzing, after the famed Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, who scaled Mount Everest in 1953 with Sir Edmund Hillary. On May 7, at a special ceremony for Guardian-level families, the panda’s name was announced by Zoo Emeritus Board member and Bay Area philanthropist Barry Lipman and his wife Marie. Lipman won the naming rights with a $31,000 bid at the Zoo’s annual fundraising gala, ZooFest, on April 25. “I wanted to help the Zoo in carrying out its goals of conservation and education,” said Lipman. “By choosing Tenzing, I hope to bring about inquiry and interest in the Himalayas, its animals, its people, and the conquest of Mt. Everest.”


Tenzing took one look at the assembled crowd waiting his entrance and decided he wasn’t going out.  After gentle persuasion by his handlers he decided to explore his new surroundings.

Also on hand for the naming and big reveal was Pete Nelson, the star of the Animal Planet show Treehouse Masters. After watching the show in early spring, Fisher Family Children’s Zoo Assistant Curator Eric Krussman invited Nelson and his crew to design and build an exhibit called the Red Panda Treehouse, which they completed and filmed at the Zoo during two days in March. ”I couldn’t believe when I got the call from the San Francisco Zoo,” said Nelson. “It’s not every day I get to build a treehouse for a panda, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for my first four-legged client.”



Tenzing posing for the cameras while climbing to his perch.

The Red Panda Treehouse features special enhancements—like natural wood climbing ladders, a shaded treehouse perch, and plenty of bamboo on which to graze throughout the day—designed to ensure the health and comfort for this species, which is native to the eastern Himalayas and western China. “I’m so happy with the way it turned out,” said Nelson. “I hope he likes it!” The Treehouse Masters show featuring the Zoo is scheduled to air on June 6 for the show’s 1.3 million viewers.


Bamboo the preferred panda snack

Born at the Sacramento Zoo, this 10-month-old male red panda is approximately the size of a raccoon. Visitors are sure to be struck by Tenzing’s extreme cuteness, which is emphasized even more by his outgoing personality, which is unusual for this normally solitary and shy species. “We are thrilled to welcome this charming animal to our Zoo family,” said Tanya Peterson, President and Executive Director of the San Francisco Zoological Society. “We hope that its presence here raises awareness about its vulnerable status as a species and helps our visitors connect with nature.”


Pete Nelson watches Tenzing go from the perch to the treehouse. The verdict? Tenzing approves of his new surroundings.

Zoo Member preview: May 10 from 9:00 – 10:00 am.

Public viewing begins: May 10 at 10:00 am.


Text- by Press Release from SF Zoo, Photos and Captions by Bill Wilson


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: On the Biden Trail

Photo ACommonwealthClub2007res600Then Senator Biden at Commonwealth Club in 2007

This column is a combination of words – spoken by the Vice President at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Los Angeles and written by me in response. Vice President Biden’s words are in italics and are taken from the White House website.

I was raised by a truly gracious and decent man.  He taught me and my sister and my two brothers that — a simple truth, that every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.  And he taught us by his example, not by his lectures.

I can remember I was a junior in high school, and he was driving me into Wilmington to apply for a job as a lifeguard in the city swimming pools.  …

 I’ll never forget it, he pulled up in front of the city courthouse where we went and made the application.  And he didn’t want to park, he was dropping me off.  And we stopped at a red light.  When I looked over to my left, and there were two men kissing good-bye, and I looked, and it was the first time I’d seen that.  And my father looked at me and said, they love each other.  …

It was April of 2012.  I was campaigning for Democratic candidates around the country, and I was here in Los Angeles with leaders of the LGBT community of Southern California at the home of Michael Lombardo and Sonny Ward, and a young man, who was standing against the wall in the living room as I was answering questions, that young man was Chad (Grifffin President of Human Rights Campaign)  And Chad asked me one of the most sincere and plaintive questions I’ve ever been asked in my political career, particularly on this issue.  He looked at me and just asked a simple question.  He said, Mr. Vice President, what do you think of me?  A simple, straightforward question:  What do you think — I’d never meet him before.  What he was saying was, what do you think of me, I am a homosexual.  What do you think of me?

PhotoB040400res600 Chad Griffin addresses the 2012 HRC dinner in San Francisco

No one ever asked me that question before, and it made me sad to think that anyone — any of you in this audience, any of my acquaintances, my friends, my employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender have to go through any part of your life looking at people who don’t know you and wondering, what do they think of me.  What do you think of me?  What a profound question.

And all I could think of was, if all Americans understood that there are people with different sexual orientations in every walk of life, every sector of America, every nook and cranny of this country, and that you are no different.  You are us.  We are one.  And all I could think to say to Chad — it was spontaneous was — I wish every American could have been in the kitchen. 

I walked into Michael and Sonny’s home through the kitchen.  They were standing there, and their two beautiful, young children — five and seven — were standing between their parents.  And the first thing I did, the little girl put her arms out — actually the little boy did first, so I bent down, crouched and gave them a big hug.  And we talked a little bit before I even said hi to Sonny who was standing at my right.  And after a few minutes, the little girl turned to her father and said, Daddy, is it okay if the Vice President comes out in the backyard and plays with me and you speak?

Photo CSenatorBiden_Senator John Glenn listens as Senator Biden questions a witness during a Senate hearing in the 1970s.

And all I could think of was, I mean this sincerely, folks, if every American could have just been there and seen the love these kids had for their parents, just seen how normal it all was … they wouldn’t have any doubt about what the right policy is, what the right thing to do.  And it reinforced in me the certitude that the only way to prevail is to continue to step up and speak out because we are all one.  People fear that which they do not know.  And you all continue to do that. That’s why things are changing.  Not because of Barack Obama or Joe Biden, but because of you.  It’s powerful.  It’s powerful.

So I mean what I said at the front end, thank you for not only liberating people who have been persecuted and pummeled, but thank you for getting us in the way of liberating all of America.  It’s a fight we will win.  I don’t have a single, solitary doubt in my mind.  I am absolutely confident my grandchildren’s generation has already moved and will continue to move far beyond the prejudice of the past and of today.  That’s why I’m so confident that the future is only going to get better.

I heard that you gave a great speech at the HRC dinner in LA, but it wasn’t until Stuart Milk posted a link to it at the White House website that I had a chance to read it and get the full impact. It brought tears to my eyes. I worked as a clerical assistant to Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) from April 22, 1972 until September of 1979. At the time I was very deeply closeted and believed that if I looked anyone in the eye they would be able to tell I was gay. I can tell you the exact spot in the basement of the Russell Senate Office building where I was when I realized that I could walk the hallways with my head up. I know it sounds so pathetic, but back then there were no positive role models for being gay and certainly no Vice President or President was saying the encouraging words we hear from you and President Obama.

I was attending the University of Utah in Salt Lake City when Vice President Agnew came to campaign for some local Republican candidates in 1970. He spoke at an outdoor rally. I was among the group of anti-war protesters who gathered across the street that he was referring to when he said, “When I look across the beautiful Great Salt Lake the only pollution I see is the social kind.”

Photo DBiden001res Photo signed by then Senator Biden in 1977.

  My friends …worked for you when you first came to the Senate. I took photos at the reception Senator and Mrs. Hollings held in the Senate Caucus room for you and Dr. Biden. No one at that time knew I was gay because that was something I wasn’t even admitting to myself. So when you signed a photo that I took of you with the words, “You’ve been a great help to us and a fine friend.” I wondered if you knew my secret would you still have called me a friend. All these years later I learn that the answer would have been yes. I’m not sure that I can put into words what a powerful affirmation that is for me.

So part of the tears I shed while reading your speech where tears of regret that I wasted so much time and energy maintaining my closet when my fears of rejection were unfounded. There were also tears of joy for having survived long enough to see legal recognition for the love I have for my husband, Fernando. We’ve been together sine October of 1986. We were legally recognized as Domestic Partners in San Francisco since 1991 and in District of Columbia since 1992. We were married on February 12, 2004 and because the California Supreme Court declared our marriage as null and void, we were remarried on June 17, 2008.

Fernando was born and raised in Italy. He came to the United States as a graduate student in 1979 and is now a United States citizen. So I have an acute awareness of the issues that face gay communities abroad. It made me feel immense pride that the US Embassy had a contingent in the 2011 EuroPride parade held in Rome. As more countries follow the examples of Russia and Uganda and pass laws against gay people the work only becomes more necessary and urgent. It makes such a big difference that the Obama administration understands on all levels that need and urgency.

PhotoE_0012res600The US Embassy’s contingent in the EuroPride Parade in Rome, Italy 2011

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

It is about eight months before the midterm elections of 2014. The political “pundits” have already predicted the Republican takeover of the Senate. After years of relentless attacks it seems that the more motivated voters will be those who hate Obama. We’ve taken Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President to unbelievable heights. Not only can we package candidates like soap, but we can do it with “corporations are people” money and no one has to be accountable.


PhotoA082822resMoney makes the world go round.

 So what is it that makes so predictable the fact that people can be persuaded to vote against their own interests? We claim we want government to be responsive to our needs, but we reward the party that shut it down with control over the whole legislative branch.  Does it make sense to anyone that some how gridlock will be lessened by giving power to those whose biggest priority has been to make President Obama a failure?

PhotoB038551resPresident Obama on his way to the next fundraiser

 So the knot in my stomach has already begun to tighten and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. That’s the way the cliché goes, but quite frankly I’m not sure that it will be getting better within what is left of my time. (In twenty years I’ll be in my 80’s.) But there is still that part of me that wants to believe that the best will happen and Republicans will not get control of the legislative branch of the government. So I do what I can, donate what I can, and occasionally vent by writing columns.



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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Goat Edition

Buffalo jumps for joy at being on top of the hay bales.

City Grazing has got your goat. No kidding (although 28 mothers have recently given birth to 50 baby goats), the herd located at 101 Cargo Way has the solution to your backyard jungle that will become a fire hazard if left unattended – goats. You may have seen them eating poison oak near the Presidio Gates or eliminating invasive blackberry bushes in Bernal Heights. They have trimmed the weeds at the reservoir near Miraloma Park neighborhood or perhaps you have a neighbor who has used the service of hungry goats to control weeds in their yard.

Playing chicken with the real thing.

City Grazing recently held an open house at their home in the southeast sector of the city to show the newest members of their herd and raise awareness of this ecological approach to fire prevention. Whether it is a small group of 3 to 5 goats to help manage a backyard in the city or larger groups for bigger areas, City Grazing has the animals that can fulfill your needs. The recent record drought will only expand the need for their services.

Sharing with kids.

The overall impression I came away with having spent several hours at the open house was that the staff and volunteers really views these animals as almost human. They don’t treat them as goats they treat them as individuals with personality and quirks of their own. I witnessed the fact that the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t fore it to drink” does not apply to goats. Put them on a leash and they want to go any which way but forward.

It was his large ears that earned this kid the name Spock.

You can get your goat(s) at City Grazing by going to their website

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On Scene with Bill Wilson and the Popes


Pope Francis during a General Audience in St Peter’s Square April, 2013. Photo by Bill Wilson

 The first anniversary of the election of Pope Francis provides me with an excuse to use one of my photos of the pontiff taken during my stay in Rome last April. I have been amused at his unpredictability and the lengths more conservative elements of the church (ex. Cardinal Dolan) go to explain what he really meant when he said….

But I leave to more knowledgeable church scholars the debate over the implications of Pope Francis’ first year. I’m just grateful for the opportunity I had to see him up close. As I looked back over the most recent history I found a reason to go back a hundred years. I recently purchased a postcard of Pope Pius X in the Vatican Gardens. It was sent from Rome to a Mrs. C. F. Biggert of Sayner, Wisconsin on August 8, 1914.


Postmarked 3- VIII – 1914 sent by a person with the initials HC. From the Collection of Bill Wilson

 The origins of World War I had their start in the July crisis of 1914. On June 28, of that year Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo. This event caused diplomatic maneuverings which ultimately involved all the European powers and  lead to World War I. That is what the writer of this postcard refers to when making the comment, “I planned to go up to Innsbruck in Austria & come down to sail from Trieste on the Adriatic, but the Austrian war will doubtless prevent.” And then after some personal remarks the writer adds a panicked post script, “I just learn that all ships are cancelled & we can’t leave Europe.” Did H. C. make it back to America? Unanswerable.



Pope Pius X walks in the Vatican Gardens. From the collection of Bill Wilson


I made a further discovery about the historical nature of this postcard when I looked up information about Pope Pius X. According to information I found on the internet, Pope Pius X became ill on August 15 and died on August 20, 1914. So when HC starts the post card with “We had an audience with the Pope last Sunday.”  that means it might have been the last public appearance or one of the  last public appearances of Pope Pius X. Did HC stay in Rome for the coronation of the new Pope?  Another unanswered question.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Luck of the Irish


Supervisor Mark Farrell (left) watches Mayor Lee and Consul General Philip Grant raise the Irish flag at city Hall on March 7.

It is now official St. Patrick’s (Week) Day in San Francisco has now begun. On Friday March 7 the Irish flag was raised on the Mayor’s flag pole at City Hall. Assisting Mayor Lee was the Consul General of Ireland, Philip Grant, who will be participating in his first St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in San Francisco since his appointment last September.


Irish Piper’s Band provided the musical escort as the proceedings went from the Mayor’s office to the Mayor’s Balcony.

Supervisor Mark Farrell presided over the annual reception hosted by the Mayor for the Irish community which provided the opportunity to acknowledge leaders from the community and leaders from Ireland. It was an opportunity to highlight both past history and current history as Aer Lingus promoted their new non-stop service from SFO to Dublin.


(left to right) Diarmuid Philpot, President of the United Irish Societies, and Consul General of Ireland, Philip Grant receive Proclamations from Mayor Lee and Supervisor Farrell.

San Francisco’s 163rd annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Saturday March 15 starting at Second and Market at 11:30am. The theme of this year’s parade is “A Tribute to Irish Workers of America.” The grand marshals for this year’s parade are Margaret and Dan McAuliffe were also acknowledged during the festivities at City Hall that included dancers from the Murphy Irish Dancers.


The Murphy Irish Dancers provide a genuine kick-off for Irish heritage week at City Hall on March 7.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Newest Federal Judge


Newly confirmed federal judge Vince Chhabria in front of the United States Supreme Court on March 27, 2013.

From the Office of   City Attorney Dennis Herrera comes this press release: SAN FRANCISCO (March 5, 2014)— Deputy San Francisco City AttorneyVince Chhabria was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the newest federal court judge for the Northern District of California.

Chhabria, 44, spent the past nine years in City Attorney’s Office, representing the City in a wide range of litigation matters including the successful defense of the Healthy San Francisco initiative, and the fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples in California.

Chhabria was first nominated by President Obama on July 25, 2013.  He received the highest possible rating, Unanimously Well Qualified, from the American Bar

Association, and was subsequently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 14, 2013. After being confirmed today in Washington by a vote he is expected to assume his seat within a few weeks.

In response to the news from Washington, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement: “I couldn’t be prouder of Vince Chhabria, and I know he will make a phenomenal federal judge. This is great news not just for Vince and his family, and for all the proud people in our office, but for anyone who will come before him in court. He is brilliant, fair, and totally committed to getting the law right.”


Vince Chhabria (on left pointing) with Deputy City Attorney Theresa Stewart and City Attorney Dennis Herrera on their way to the California Supreme Court on March 3, 2008

 Chhabria sent the following statement by email from India, where he is currently visiting family:

I am thrilled to begin this new chapter of my career in public service, and to set up shopdown the hall from my greatest mentor, Judge Charles Breyer. But as it sinks in that I’m truly leaving the City Attorney’s Office, a wave of sadness comes over me. While I had high expectations when I started here nine years ago, I never dreamed I would be lucky enough to work on so many exciting cases, for so many dynamic clients, with so many dedicated and high-caliber public lawyers. I would like to thank President Obama and the United States Senate for entrusting me with this weighty responsibility. I’m extremely grateful to Senator Boxer for recommending me to the President, and to Senator Feinstein for her support and guidance through the confirmation process. And I especially want to thank City Attorney Dennis Herrera, a leader who captains the ship in a way that gives young lawyers the opportunity to flourish. I would never be in this position today without him.

Chhabria joined the City Attorney’s Office from the firm of Covington and Burling, and was also a law clerk for Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California, James R. Browning of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and, in 2001 and 2002, for Justice Stephen Breyer of the United States Supreme Court.

As a Deputy City Attorney, Chhabria is best known for successfully defending the Healthy San Francisco initiative, which brought quality health coverage to tens of thousands of otherwise uninsured San Franciscans. He has won judgments against businesses skirting minimum wage laws, fought for relocation assistance for tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, and was a key member of the legal team that eventually toppled California’s Proposition 8 in June of last year, making same-sex marriage legal in California.

VC5262009 Vince Chhabria listens to reaction of City Attorney Dennis Herrera  to the California Supreme Court ruling validating Prop 8 on March 26, 2009.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Old Friends


My new “old” friends.

A couple of weeks ago I found a wonderful photo album on sale at an estate sale. The first page had only a single photo labeled “First Exposition Building completed 1913. ‘Service Building”. The exposition referred to is the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and while there are two pages of photos labeled from the PPIE of 1914, I think it meant that the photos were taken during construction. But on the ensuing pages of the album I found myself being introduced to the Melovrdoff family of Petaluma and friends from all over Bay area. The album is full of photos taken in various places such as Petaluma, Russian River, Larkspur and Golden Gate Park.  There also photos of events like a Washington’s Birthday picnic at Land’s End, the Portola Parade 1913 and two different Halloween parties.



A picnic at Land’s End on George Washington’s Birthday. – he was 100 years younger then.

There was one group of photos, 41 in all, that just took my breath away – none of the photos are dated but they all are of a trip to Yosemite. I assume that they were taken about the same time as the photos in the rest of the album which are dated 1913 and 1914, which means that the trip would have taken place about a hundred years ago.


Members of the California Camera Club on a visit to Yosemite around 1913 or so.

 There are photos of familiar Yosemite sights such as Half Dome and Vernal Falls, but I was amused by noticing that the women are wearing long skirts and in one of the photos the boys are in ties.



Climbing among the rocks of Yosemite and posing for the camera.

When I said that some of the photos took my breath away I mean that literally. The photos posed while people stood on narrow paths along the sides of shear cliffs and stood on top of rocks balanced far above the valley below, make me nervous, just looking at them.



I can’t believe people standing on the top of the rock with no railing or anything to grab if you happened to slip.


Having visited Yosemite when I was twelve years old I know what it is like to lug around a camera all day.  I wonder what kind of camera would have been used in 1913. Each pose must have been carefully planned because of the distances involved. The fact that these photos even exist is tribute to people’s desire to have a record of the awesome (as in worthy of awe)  sights they were seeing.


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On Scene With Bill Wilson: Court History


The graves of  Emperor Norton (left) and the Widow Norton lie in front of each other at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Colma

The Imperial Court of San Francisco, founded by Jose Sarria in 1965, is undergoing adjustments after the death of its founder last August. Among the traditions and events under evaluation was the annual trek to Colma by the Widow Norton to pay homage to The Emperor Norton. I can report with great enthusiasm that under the leadership of Donna Sachet, Absolute Empress 30, the “Annual Pilgrimage to Colma” will continue. If the first pilgrimage without the Widow is any indication the annual visits will be the quirky, lovely, somber, funny, musical, only in San Francisco event, it has always been. This year, as in the past several years. the event was emceed by Donna Sachet and “the Other Jose” Cisneros, SF City Treasurer.



 Emperor Norton provided some of the historical context for the day.

Although Jose Sarria was not there in person Reverend Don Fox of Night Ministries did a good job of channeling the Widow and relaying her messages for us.

The Night Ministries has long been associated with the Imperial Court. They have made it their mission to support and care for the others in our society.



New Emperor J. P. Soto  receives his medallion of office from Emperor Berlin as other Emperors in attendance watch.

 When I attended my first trek to Colma in 1999, the new Emperor was T.J Istvan and the new Empress was Sheba. At the time the ceremony included the oath of office for the new monarchs who were sworn in by the Widow Norton. Over the years that part of the ceremony has been revised for various reasons many doing with the health of the founder. This year the new Emperor received his medallion of office from the former Emperors in attendance as a token of support.



Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas pays homage to the new Empress and Emperor of San Francisco, Misty Blue and J.P. Soto

 Starting a new tradition Nicole the Great, Queen Mother of the Americas paid homage to the new monarchs of San Francisco by kissing their hand. Musical interludes during the ceremony were provided by Robert Sunshine and his group that the Widow referred to as the Raindrops and the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Band, whose uniforms were provided by the results of Jose’s fundraising.



San Francisco’s new monarchs, Emperor J. P. Soto and Empress Misty Blue place the first red rose on the tombstone of Jose Sarria.

 Those of you who are already saying I don’t want to miss this event next year can  mark your calendars for the February 14 weekend. Coronation will take place Saturday, February 14, 2015 in the City Hall Rotunda and the Annual Pilgrimage to Colma will take place February 15.



Reigning Empress Misty Blue and Reigning Emperor J. P. Soto take the front seat of honor on the bus that took them from SF to Colma and back.



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On Scene With Bill Wilson Happy Anniversary Edition

Photo A
Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin cut the wedding cake at the February 22, 2004 celebration of their marriage on February 12, 2004.

With the tenth anniversary of the start of the “Winter of Love” on February 12 I wondered about what I should write – another account of the day that changed my life? Should I rehash my journal entries for that day written while the emotion was still fresh? Then last night the answer came as I watched part of the famous “Cousin Liz” episode of “All in the Family.” Fernando and I laughed and shook our heads in amazement at the way in which this episode dealt with Edith’s Cousin Liz’ special friend. It wasn’t until the woman said it was like they were married that Edith understood the extent of their relationship.

Photo B

 Deputy Recorder/Assessor Minna Tao marries Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 12, 2004

It was a reminder of how groundbreaking the show “All in the Family” was not just in terms of topics it dealt with, but also in ways that the writers understood how those issues would resonate with the public. 37 years after the episode aired Fernando and I recognized the same arguments being used against us by people like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and that Edith was standing up for compassion and pleading for kindness. This is my favorite exchange:

Archie: People like that teaching our kids, I’m sure God’s sittin’ up there in judgment!
Edith: Well, sure he is, but he’s God; you ain’t!

The show made we realize that I should write about the context of what got us to that magic moment when we first said “I do.” The journey from Domestic Partnership to legal marriage has been very personal, but it was also a legal battle to get our relationship recognized. San Francisco was in the forefront of those battles. Before the city issued marriage licenses there was Domestic Partnerships. My husband had been transferred from his job in Washington, DC to a job in Palo Alto for a year so we lived in San Francisco. It was during that year that Domestic Partnerships were first offered by San Francisco. We were among the first to register on February 14, 1991.

Photo C

Bill Wilson and Fernando Orlandi on February 14, 1991

I remember how far we have come when I look back at the scrapbook I kept from that day. The instructions on what Domestic Partnership meant read,

“THIS MAY NOT DO ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT… A domestic partnership isn’t the same as marriage. For instance, unless you have a will, your partner won’t get your property if you die…

THIS MAY DO THINGS YOU HADN’T COUNTED ON…A domestic partnership creates legal rights and duties. For example you have to make sure that your partner has food and a place to live if she or he can’t get these things…

Photo D

Governor Gray Davis signs the expanded Domestic Partnership Bill on September 19, 2003 at the SF LGBT Center.

In 2003 Governor Gray Davis came to San Francisco to sign the expanded Domestic Partnership bill giving all the rights of marriage to those registered as Domestic partners that the state of California could grant. We got to fill out a federal income tax forms as married so we could file state income as married, but we couldn’t file the federal tax forms as married so we had to fill out our federal income tax returns and file those separately. We knew exactly how much DOMA was costing us.

Photo E

Bill Wilson (left) and Fernando Orlandi (right) were married by Minna Tao ( second from right) on February 12, 2004 and by Mayor Newsom ( second from left) on June 17, 2008.

Since we had no plans to get married on February 12, 2004, because we didn’t know it was going to happen until we got to City Hall it wasn’t until we walked out of City Hall that I said to my husband, “Do you think I should call my Mother and let her know?”

When she answered the phone I said, “Fernando and I were married this morning.” With no pause she simply said, “Congratulations!”

Some day everyone will be allowed to have that experience no matter what state or country they live in.

Photo F

Family values.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Photos of the Year

Pope Francis during a General Audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 17, 2013

 In terms of photographing people of prominence 2013 might take the cake for being the year I achieved the peak.  Being able to get photos of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in the same year he graced the year-end cover is something that will remain a highlight for years to come. I refer, of course, to Pope Francis. When elected in March of 2013 I think the Cardinal electors knew they were getting a man who would bring needed change, but I’m not convinced they knew just how much a change he would bring. From the moment he stepped out on the loggia of St. Peter’s and asked for the people’s blessing before blessing them to his words – “Who am I to judge?” and his actions, – kissing the feet of 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center in Rome during Holy Thursday services, among them two women and two Muslims – the Pope continues to provide us with answers to the question, “What would Jesus do?”


Pope Francis kissing eight month old Mattais.

 Being able to photograph some of the Pope’s public events during his first month in office provided me with a great many memories that will remain with me. The foremost one will be the fact that during the General Audience of April 17 as he circled St. Peter’s Square, he stopped in front of me to kiss the baby of the couple next to me. The husband was a member of the Swiss Guard and was returning to Switzerland. He and his wife brought their 8 month old son to be kissed by the Pope. He did right in front of my camera. With about 70-80,000 people in the Square the chances of that happening are rather astronomical.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor  with Bill Wilson

Just being in the right place at the right time seemed to be a theme this year as I found myself dealing with two Supreme Court Justices and a former President of the United States, but not all at the same time! When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in San Francisco to promote her autobiography she did two days of appearances. At the second event I attended one of the organizers told me that the photographer they had hired to take photos was unable to be there so she asked if I would be able to take pictures for them. I agreed. Briefly before her speech the Justice posed with various event organizers. After everyone had posed with her she said, “We’re not finished yet.” She turned to me and explained, “You are going to hand your camera to someone and they are going to take your picture with me.” Of course I did.


 Edie Windsor greets the throngs of supporter after oral arguments in her case before the Supreme Court

 Just being in Washington, DC during the oral arguments in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases was being in the right place, but again there were many moments that I will cherish. One of them was walking down the streets I walked as a very closeted gay man working for a United States Senator some forty years ago. That same Senate seat is now occupied by Senator Tammy Baldwin the first openly LGBT member of the Senate. Something that I could not have even contemplated would happen in my lifetime, but then I never thought it would be possible to elect a black man President in my lifetime either – why do I suddenly feel like an old man? I remember when there were no gays in Congress and when you wrote to someone you used a pen, not a computer.



Senator Tammy Baldwin leaving the Supreme Court after arguments in the Windsor case that overturned DOMA.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is the author of the majority opinions in such landmark cases concerning gay rights cases as Romer v Evans, which struck down Colorado’s Amendment Two, Lawrence v Texas, which struck down sodomy laws, and Windsor v State of New York, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. He was invited to San Francisco to give the keynote address at the opening session of the American Bar Association’s annual convention. It seemed very fitting that as he spoke seated behind him was the San Francisco’s Gay Men’s Chorus, which performed during the opening session. I had the opportunity to take photos backstage before the session. When I said that I had taken photos during their previous visit to ABA convention in San Francisco it was Mrs. Kennedy who replied, “Yes, I remember because many people say that they will send us copies of photos, but you are one of the few who actually did.”


Justice Anthony Kennedy and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

 When it was announced that President and Mrs. Carter were going to be working on a house in Oakland as part of the 30th anniversary of their annual Habitat for Humanity Bldg. project I welcomed the chance to get some photos of the former President and Mrs. Carter doing the humanitarian work that they are noted for doing. I didn’t realize at the time that I would get a chance to participate.


The future owners of the home under construction stop for an interview as President and Mrs. Carter in the background continue working.

When I arrived at the sign –in area around 8:30 I was told the Carters were already at work on site, which was several blocks away. Because it was a construction site they had places were the media could observe and photograph from without being in the way. Every once in a while the President and Mrs. Carter would come out and use the table saw with Mrs. Carter holding the piece of wood. After I had been there several hours and gotten some great photos of them working, the President and Mrs. Carter came out and started talking with Mrs. Carter’s nephew and his family, who were also volunteering on the project. After a few minutes President Carter became a little restless and went back to work. He finished whatever he had been doing and came out of the house with another piece of wood to be cut. The place were they allowed the media was close to the table saw and when he realized that Mrs. Carter was still talking to her nephew he turned to the media and said, “Can I get some help?” Trying to remain cool I counted to two before I jumped at the chance to volunteer.

President Carter cutting lumber for a window frame with an assist from Bill Wilson (Photo:  David Kligman)

No year – end review would be complete without noting those to whom we said a final good-bye. This year the Imperial Court lost it founder, Jose Sarria whose funeral held at Grace Cathedral was befitting the royalty he was. It wasn’t too long after that that the Court paid final honors to Steve Rascher, the 16th Emperor after Norton..


 The Widow Norton at her tombstone and Emperor Steve Rascher (right).

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Living Innovation Zone

Supervisor Jane Kim joins Mayor Lee and Exploration Director Dennis Bartels and others at the Ribbon cutting for the first Living Innovation Zone.

. Mayor Edwin M. Lee today, as part of Innovation Month, officially opened the nation’s first Living Innovation Zone (LIZ) – an enterprise that links partners with the City to sponsor the installation of innovative exhibit spaces that make science and technology more accessible in public for the public. The first Zone, a partnership with the Exploratorium and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District (YBCBD), is being launched on Market Street and Yerba Buena Lane


 Invitation at 4th and Market


“This unique initiative brings innovation that is sometimes behind closed doors and brings it out into the light of day where we can all learn and be inspired by it,” said Mayor Lee. “I’m excited to see our sidewalks come alive with new ideas, and I believe it is initiatives like these that underscore our commitment to innovation and helps secure our reputation as the Innovation Capital of the World.”

Living Innovation Zones (LIZ) will enhance the public realm by supporting innovators with real-world demonstration opportunities in specially designated public spaces in the City.




“The Exploratorium is thrilled to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation to create the city’s first Living Innovation Zone,” said Exploratorium Executive Director Dr. Dennis Bartels. “The whole idea of the Exploratorium is to inspire curiosity and to facilitate informal learning, and we are able to bring that same sense of excitement to Market Street. It’s to the credit of the City and Mayor Lee that an ambitious project like this, which truly reflects the intellectual and creative capital of the city, can happen in San Francisco.”


 Mayor Lee tries out one of the Singing Benches


The LIZ is part of the broader efforts to activate, revitalize and reconstruct Market Street from Octavia to the Embarcadero. The LIZ allows the City to incrementally make Market Street more inviting, more inclusive and more livable as longer-term projects are being developed. The City is making an effort to simplify the permitting process to give creative people and entrepreneurs a venue to test new ideas and at the same time bring fun and activity to the sidewalks. The LIZ is one of the many types of activities planned along Market Street. As an early prototype of the LIZ program, the lessons-learned will inform a policy to open proposals for other organizations to partner on future LIZ sites that will expand down Market Street to Octavia Blvd.




Funded in part by contributions from individuals through an Indiegogo campaign (, which ends November 13th, the LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, and will be adapted to public input. For more information about the Exploratorium’s approach, go to:


The first LIZ features an exhibit called “Whispering Dishes,” which consists of two 8-foot tall parabolic dishes facing each other across a 50-foot part of the sidewalk. The dishes focus sound so that people can easily hear each other whispering, even while surrounded by street noise. For the day of the kick-off, the Exploratorium also showcased their “Singing Bench,” “Rickshaw Obscura,” and a solar-powered charging station for electric bicycles and mobile electronics. The LIZ will be continuously prototyped with new ideas, adapting to input.


Mohammed Nuru, Executive Director Department of Public Works tries out the “Whispering Dishes” on Market Street.


With the City’s continued effort to be more open and responsive, the LIZ program is built on the success of Open Data and Parklets, extending the scope to enhance the public realm through partnerships. In doing so, LIZ aims to drive a better quality of life for all San Franciscans through innovation. For more information about the Living Innovation Zones, go to:


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