Archive | On Scene With Bill Wilson


There is an old saying, “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” So consider this the Supreme Court scorecard of players that will appear before the Supreme Court next Tuesday, March 26 to argue Hollingsworth v Perry.

In order to have a legal case you need plaintiffs that would be the Perry in the title. Kris Perry is actually one of four plaintiffs in this case.



Jeff Zarillo speaking and (l to r) Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Chad Griffin, AFER Director, and Paul Katami

In this case the defendant is Dennis Hollingsworth who is involved because of his part in the proponents of Proposition 8 which bans marriage for same sex couples. I can only say that if Dennis Hollingsworth was present at any of the legal proceedings I didn’t get a picture of him. However the lawyers arguing on his behalf did appear. The lead attorney for the defendants is Charles J. Cooper who has argued several cases before the Supreme Court

Charles J. Cooper will make the arguments on behalf of the Prop 8 backers

Arguing the case on the other side are lead attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies. They both have experience at the Supreme Court perhaps most notably when they were opposing attorneys in Bush V Gore.


Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart, City Atty Dennis Herrera, David Boies,Ted Olson

The general counsel for Prop 8 Andrew Pugno made more appearances in the media center during the trial than Mr. Cooper did.

Andrew Pugno Prop 8 general counsel.


The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) is the organization behind the legal case or as their website says, “the sole sponsor” of the legal challenge to Prop 8. On the first day of the trial in this case I was able to get a good picture of the AFER staff and supporting lawyers entering the courthouse. At the time of the original trial Chad Griffin was Executive Director of AFER. When he became head of the Human Rights Campaign Adam Umhoefer replaced him as Executive Director.



A. Umhoefer/AFER, C. Dusseault and E. Monagas, lawyers, C. Griffin/AFER E.D.


The conventional wisdom is that Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the swing vote. If that is true then I am very optimistic because given his track record in previous decisions regarding gay rights –  Romer v Evans and Lawrence v Texas – he wasn’t just in the majority he wrote the majority opinions.


Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in previous gay rights cases.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson at the Supreme Court

On Tuesday, March 26, I will be at the United States Supreme Court photographing an historic moment in the history of the GLBT movement and in the history of the United States. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Perry v Brown better known as the Prop 8 case. It is one of two gay marriages cases before the Supreme Court this term. It will not be the first time that I’ve witnessed history on the Supreme Court plaza. I worked as a clerical assistant for a United States Senator from April of 1972 until September of 1979 so I was living in Washington, DC during the Watergate scandal that ultimately ended with the Supreme Court ruling that President Nixon cold not claim executive privilege and withhold the tapes of White House involvement in covering up the Watergate burglary.

Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and his Assistant Philip Lacovara on the steps of the Supreme Court July 8, 1974.

I remember that day being very fortunate in being in the right place at the right time to get photos of lawyers from both sides of the issue. Nixon’s team was headed by James St. Clair.

James St. Clair represented Nixon as he sought to claim executive privilege prevented him from releasing tapes.

The day that the decision was announced in the Nixon tape case the Court was packed with interested spectators. People understood that the Supreme Court was going to decide whether the President of the Untied States was above the law. Fortunately for our democracy they decided he wasn’t and ordered him to release the tapes.

The Supreme Court Plaza on July 24, 1974 as people leave the Court after Nixon tapes decision was announced.

I was still living in Washington, DC in 1986 when the Hardwick case was argued before the Supreme Court. The decision in that case is what gives me pause when thinking of the outcomes of the Prop 8 case.

Laurence Tribe, who argued the Hardwick case, answers press questions after the oral arguments. March 31, 1986

However much has changed in the last twenty seven years, most notably the Hardwick decision was overturned by the Lawrence decision in 2004. While I feel that Scalia, Thomas and Alito will never vote to extend rights to GLBT people, I don’t see any other Justices wanting to follow their lead. No longer can any Justice say that they don’t know any gay people or that they didn’t think it was important.

Anti-Gay Protestor surveys the marriage equality supporters after the Ninth District Court of Appeals heard arguments.

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ON SCENE WITH BILL WILSON: Not so straight from my archives — C

Okay, I’ve had a difficult time trying to chose who would be my next subjects for this series. There are so many people whose last names start with C that I couldn’t make up my mind. Cesar Chavez, Aaron Copland, Ben Cohen, Wilson Cruz were all possibilities, however the decision was made easier when I realized that I’m writing this on President’s Day. It is only fitting that President Carter and President Clinton be the subjects for this journey to the archives.


President Carter answers question at a Town Hall Meeting on May 8, 1980 in Philadelphia.

I wasn’t actually media at this event. I was lucky enough to have my name drawn for one of the 1,500 tickets that were available to the public. Originally the event was supposed to take place in November and was cancelled due to the Iranian hostage crisis. However it was rescheduled in May. The President answered questions from the audience for about an hour and a half.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, President Jimmy Carter, Mrs. Trudeau and Mrs. Carter wave from the balcony of the White House on February 21, 1977.

One of the first heads of state that President Carter welcomed to the White House was Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The media stand position was changed from what it had been during previous welcoming ceremonies I had attended. So what I had thought would be a good position turned out not to be although it did allow me to get a good shot of the President, Prime Minister and their wives on the balcony of the White House.

President Clinton and Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos review the troops as part of the Welcoming Ceremony May 9, 1996.

The only invitation I got to attend a White House welcoming ceremony during the Clinton administration was for the President of the Helenic Republic, Constantinos Stephanopoulos. This time I was aware of were the President was going to walk when he and his guest reviewed the troops. I was able to position myself at spot where they came closest to the crowd. It was clearly difficult for the President not to acknowledge the cheers of the crowds, hence the smile on his face.

President Clinton acknowledged the crowd’s ovation at a fundraiser for Senator Chuck Robb of Virginia on October 3, 1994. Lynda Johnson Robb is on left next to Senator Robb.

This is another time when I was not media, but managed to get a front row view. I had worked on Senator Robb’s campaign. This is the year that his opponent was Oliver North. It is widely accepted that if the Republican party of Virginia had nominated anyone else but North, Virginia would have been part of the Republican gains of 1994.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Valentine’s Day

This week contains two anniversaries for Fernando and me. On February 14, 1991 we were among the first people to become Domestic Partners. We expected long lines but when we arrived at City Hall at 8:40 we found no lines. We were the tenth couple to register as Domestic Partners. The excitement happened later that afternoon when all the couples came back to City Hall and had their turn down the central staircase in City Hall. My dominate memory of that occasion was the incredible cheers of the crowd as each couple was announced before they ascended the stairs and the inordinate fear that I would be the first to miss a step and fall down the steps.

William F. Wilson and Fernando P. Orlandi wait  for ceremony honoring Domestic Partners on February 14, 1991

It doesn’t seem possible that nine years have passed since Fernando and I became “Spouses for Life” on February 12, 2004. We were among the first to take advantage of Mayor Newsom’s decision to extend to same sex couples the right to marry. I can say that moment changed my life profoundly, but probably not in the way one might think. It didn’t change my love or my living arrangements. We had mingled our finances many years before so the commitment we made that day wasn’t new to us. What was new to us was the feeling that we were not second class any more.
When we walked out onto the steps of City Hall we weren’t Domestic Partners or bonded in Civil Union, we were married just like thousands who went before us and thousands who would follow us.


Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio leave San Francisco City Hall after their City Hall marriage in 1954.

As we walked down the steps of City Hall I turned to my husband and said that I should call my Mother and let her know. So I dialed her number and when she answered I told her we were married. I can still hear her next word. It was simply, “Congratulations!”


Minna Tao, Deputy Assessor/Recorder Wilson and Orlandi Spouses for Life February 12, 2004

Over the next few days it really hit me that I had never thought about getting married because I believed that wasn’t an option for me. I was willing to fight for Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions because I really felt that they were good enough. I never viewed them as the stepping stones to marriage equality. The profound change came as I examined my life with the new awareness- What else had I accepted that I could never do because I thought I wasn’t good enough?
To my fellow “null and void” marriage celebrants from 2004, Happy Nine Anniversary! To my fellow Domestic Partners in 1991, Happy 22nd Anniversary!

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Sotomayor in SF

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book tour brought her to the bay area with appearances before the Commonwealth Club on Monday and the Watermark Institute on Tuesday. Justice Sotomayor explained that one of the reasons she wrote her book, My Beloved Country, was so that the reader could feel a connection with her story in some way and be inspired to think if she can make it so can I. She succeeded in a way she probably hadn’t considered because as I sat in the audience of the Herbst Theatre during her Commonwealth Club appearance I thought, “Did I just hear my own coming out story?”


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

She talked about finding the one person in your life who will love you unconditionally and make you feel secure. In her case it was her grandmother. I know that I lucked out on that score because it was my parents who instilled in me the same feeling that Justice Sotomayor expresses when writing, “Whatever their limitations and frailties, those that raised me loved me and did the best they knew how. Of that I am sure.”

Justice Sotomayor’s Commonwealth Club appearance on March 28

I also related to her saying that you should find a mentor. I’ve always been aware that there were certain people in my life who mentored me and they seemed to come into my life when I needed them. While I never had the gumption to say to them as she advised, “I need to learn what makes you succeed.” I did learn, perhaps more by example than words.

Justice Sotomayor at Watermark Institute evnt on Tuesday, March 29.

In the context of the Justice’s diabetics, learning to love herself enough to take care of herself took on a physical dimension. Controlling the disease through medication and a careful monitoring of blood sugar makes a full and long life possible. I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t learned to love myself enough to know that living in a closet was not good for my mental health. I think issues of self-worth are something everyone has to deal with. Whatever makes you different, you have to overcome the feeling of not fitting in.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Herbst Theatre

She also said that one of the benefits of writing the book was that she found out family stories that she hadn’t known. She urged anyone with aging family members to sit down and talk with them about family history. One of the people she talked with about her history was her uncle who died three months after she had completed her interview with him. I find myself in total agreement as I try to deal with boxes of family history. If only I could ask my uncle about this picture.

Posing with her new book before sitting down to sign hundreds of copies.

She said in both appearances that she decided she had to write an honest memoir because in reading other memoirs she was some times left with the question, “Did I learn anything I didn’t already know? Was I inspired?” I can definitely answer yes to both questions when it comes to Justice Sotomayor’s book, “My Beloved Country.

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Bill Wilson: Not so Straight from my Archives — Tammy Baldwin and Joe Biden

This trip to my archives was inspired by Tammy Baldwin being elected to the United States Senate. Among the people who were elected to the seat she now occupies was Senator Gaylord Nelson, who served in the Senate from 1962 until 1980. My first paying job was working for Senator Nelson as a clerical assistant from April of 1972 until September of 1979. One of the people who worked in our office was hired by Senator Biden so I became good friends with several people on his staff.

Senator Biden at a Senate hearing in 1977.


To say that I was in the closet at this time would be a very vast understatement. I believed that I was the only person in the world attracted to people of the same sex. I also believed that if I were to look someone in the eye they would be able to tell and that wouldn’t be a good thing. I can now look back and realize how incredibly naïve I was, but at the time it was very painful trying to find a way to fit in.


Senator Biden campaigning for the Presidency in 2008

If we were walking in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building I could show you the exact spot were I was when I realized that I could look people in the eye and still keep my secret. While the phrase, “I never thought I would live to see…” is overused, it fits in this case because the memories are so recent and so real.

Tammy Baldwin and Zoe Dunning pose during a reception in San Francisco.

There is always a special burden placed on anyone who is the first of any category to assume an office.  Senator Baldwin has prepared herself well serving in Congress as a Representative from Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district. I hope that she will enjoy a long tenure in the Senate like Senator Biden who spent more than thirty years in the Senate before being elected Vice President.

The Vice –President of the United States swears in Tammy Baldwin as a United States Senator.

Before January 21 this is where my article would have ended. However as a gay man listening to President Obama use his second inaugural speech to connect Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall was a very powerful affirmation. That very frightened young man who spent seven years walking the halls of the Senate in fear now knows he isn’t alone. Future generations of similar young people will never have to doubt their worth and someday will live with equal treatment.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Inaugurations

I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this article how my inaugural memories are in perfect alignment this year. It is 100th anniversary of the inaugural of the President with the same last name, the 40th anniversary of my first attendance at a Presidential Inaugural and the 20th anniversary of my participation in an Inaugural parade.  

Woodrow Wilson becomes President on March 4, 1913
Copyright Underwood & Underwood, NY

The only reason I purchased this photo is that President Woodrow Wilson and I share the same last name, but as far as I know there is no blood relation. What I find most interesting about this photo is the lack of visible women. This was the last inaugural before women got the right to vote in 1917.

President Nixon takes the oath for a second time with his family in attendance.
Copyright Bill Wilson

In April of 1972 I started a job on Capitol Hill working as a clerical assistant for a Democratic Senator. There wasn’t much demand for tickets to see the inaugural in person, but for me it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.  This inaugural was held on the east side of the Capitol, where traditionally it had been held until Ronald Reagan decided it should be held on the west side of the Capitol with its view of the National Mall.  

President and Mrs. Carter become the first and only couple to walk the entire route of the Inaugural parade in 1977.
Copyright Bill Wilson

When I saw the inaugural parade of Richard Nixon in 1973 I never guessed that one day I would be a participant in one. In 1977 I couldn’t get tickets to the swearing-in so I found a vantage point in front of the Department of Labor Building were I witnessed Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter walking down Constitution Avenue (in the blocks before it joins Pennsylvania Avenue)  and felt the electricity of the crowd as people realized they were walking.


The NAMES Project contingent lining up for the Inaugural parade of William Jefferson Clinton January 20, 1993. Bill Wilson (left) Elizabeth Glazer (right).  Photo from the collection of Bill Wilson

The NAMES Project contingent was one of the last contingents to march in the 1993 Inaugural parade. It made for a very long day. Among the marchers with our contingent were Elizabeth Glazer and Bob Hattoy, the two HIV positive individuals who addressed the 1993 Democratic National Convention and Mary Fisher, the HIV positive individual who had addressed the 1993 Republican National Convention. Some of us carried panels with the names of people who had died of AIDS and some people carried banners with quotes from Bill Clinton’s campaign speeches.

The President and Mrs. Clinton, The Vice President and Mrs. Gore and their friends in the Presidential reviewing stand as The NAMES Project contingent passes. Photo from the collection of Bill Wilson

The parade went off with military precision and pace. The sun was setting as we stepped off and people were leaving to get warm and ready for the night’s festivities. You could see people in the buildings as you passed and hear people as the clapped and yelled encouragement. It wasn’t long before we made the turn from 15th Street onto Pennsylvania Avenue which was lit by television lights so it was as light as day.  We were in front of the President.  I was marching on the side closest to the Reviewing stand, carrying a panel I had made for Dan Bradley who had headed the Legal Services Corp. and worked with Mrs. Clinton. I swear that as I looked up the President pointed to me and mouthed the words, “I knew him.” I nodded and responded with a thumbs up. I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. So after we continued to 17th Street I said to the person on the other end of the banner, “Did the President just acknowledge us or was it my imagination?” She assured me he had pointed to us. I have to admit that I still was skeptical. I probably would have remained so except that in the article Taylor Branch wrote for “Life” magazine about the Inauguration was the following quote, “…a sudden hush announced the approach of the Aids Quilt. The Clintons and Gores looked somberly to the floor at first, uncertain how to fit mortal desperation into the festivity. But as the Aids marchers waved buoyantly, they responded with smiles and raised thumbs. Paired marchers carried banners honoring selected AIDS victims: Max Robinson, Brad Davis, Congressman Stewart McKinney, Ryan White. ‘He was head of the Legal Services Corporation’ said the President, pointing to a banner for Dan Bradley.”

President Clinton looking at NAMES Project panels on World Aids Day December 1, 1993 before a speech at Georgetown University  Copyright White House Photo

The panel I made for Dan Bradley was sewn together with other panels that were carried in the Inaugural Parade and made into several 12 x12 sections. One of those sections was displayed as President Clinton spoke at Georgetown University on World AIDS Day December 1, 1993

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Bill Wilson — Not-So-Straight From the Archives

This series is based on photos from my archives of famous and not so well known people that I have taken photos of over the years. Since I had originally thought I might call this the ABC’s of Gay History the subjects will be in alphabetical order.

Muhammad Ali at a reception in the US Senate Caucus Room. 1970’s

I don’t know why I am so eager to retell the story behind this photo because it is one of the more embarrassing moments in my life, but I always end up with a smile so I tell it. Muhammad  Ali was the guest of honor at reception sponsored by Senator Huddleston (D-Ky.) held in the US Senate Caucus Room. The room was very crowded as he made his way around the room. Trying to stay close enough to get some good photos I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Ethel Kennedy who asked me if I would mind taking a photo of her with Ali. Of course I said, “Yes!” When Ali noticed her she asked if she could get a photo. He agreed and they turned to me. You have to understand that Ethel Kennedy is about five feet and Ali is over six feet so to get them in the same photo I had to back up. As I’m trying to back up I realize that there are hundreds of people watching me so I got really nervous. When I get nervous my hands start to shake. Noticing this Ali says, “Don’t worry you have no reason to be nervous.”  That of course only made me more nervous. So Ali comes toward me and takes my hand in his and says, “It’s okay.” By this time everyone is laughing and I’m turning what must have been the deepest red on record.


Former NBA, John Amaechi and Ambassador James Hormel at AmFAR’s Fall  Gala on November 1, 2007. 

This picture also posed the same problem of differences in heights except that without hundreds of people crowding around the solution was much easier. John Amaechi is a former NBA player who came out in 2007. He joins a rather limited list of retired athletes who came out. Among them are former NFL players Esera Tuaolo , Roy Simmons , and Dave Kopay , and former Major League Baseball players Glenn Burke and Billy Bean. The photo was taken of John Amaechi and Ambassador James Hormel at the AmFAR (American Foundation for Aids Research) Fall Gala in 2007.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson

 With the fiscal cliff averted and his second inauguration coming up President Obama now faces the question of what his Cabinet will look like during his second term. We already know his choice for replacement of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is Senator John Kerry.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Commonwealth Club appearance in San Francisco.

With little or no opposition Senator Kerry is expected to sail through Senate confirmation. I think that we can be confident that the strides GLBT people have made in the State Department will remain intact under Senator Kerry’s leadership.

Senator John Kerry at a campaign stop in 2004.

I know that some people might think my example of the US Embassy in Rome having a part in getting Lady Gaga to appear at EURO Pride in Rome in 2011 might seem trivial, but I think it symbolizes the fact that GLBT people now see the American Embassy as a resource for change. There are many countries the world over where it is still illegal to be gay and knowing that the American Embassy understands their plight provides hope.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was CIA Director when he spoke at the Commonwealth Club.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has overseen the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that had prevented openly gay or lesbian people from serving in the military. President Obama choice for his replacement is Senator Chuck Hagel. Even though Senator Hagel has apologized for his “insensitive” remarks regarding James Hormel serving as ambassador, his record raises concerns about further implementation of the repeal under his tenure. This will be an issue if the Supreme Court were to rule the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA) was unconstitutional. DOMA is federal law that prevents gay and lesbian couples married in states were it is legal from getting the same federal benefits as a married heterosexual couple get.
Another cabinet level officer who has announced she is leaving is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson. One of the legacies of her tenure at EPA is the increased fuel efficiency standards – pushing the industry to do what is right for the environment. One of her stops on a tour of the Bay Area in February of 2012 was a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco. The original goal of Mission Motors was to build an electric motorcycle that would break the world’s land speed record. Unfortunately the economic downturn took the bottom out of the luxury motorcycle market. No one was interested in their finished product, but they were coming to them with requests for more efficient lightweight electric motors and other technology. They realized that they didn’t have to produce a final product, but rather their motors could be used in making more fuel efficient vehicles of any kind. After Jackson’s visit to Mission Motors one of the company officers turned to me and said, “The untold story of the mandates is that without them we wouldn’t be in business.”

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, during a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco on February 2, 2012.

That statement was reinforced a week later at a press conference announcing that the San Francisco taxi fleet was the greenest in the country. When regulations were enacted in 2008 that sought to reduce carbon emissions there was no industry leader in favor of them. No one saw the benefits of using alternative fuel vehicles and they wouldn’t be using them without the Board of Supervisors mandating the goal of reducing emissions by 20% of 1990 levels. They acknowledged how wrong they had been at a February 8, 2012 press conference where it was announced they had actually reduced the emissions by 49%. In 1990, the average San Francisco taxi emitted 59 tons of GHG emissions per year, and today the average taxi in the City emits 30 tons, a 49 percent reduction. That reduction was achieved because 92% of the taxi fleet is hybrid or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vehicles. It would be 100% but there is not a good alternative fuel wheelchair accessible van on the market. The reason the alternative fuel taxis are so popular is the economic benefit to the drivers, who fill them up at half the cost and the owners who spend less time and money on brake repairs.

 Board of Supervisor President David Chiu is reflected in the window of a cab as he affixes a “Clean Air Vehicle” sticker.

“When I announced this goal, many people didn’t think it could be done,” said Lieutenant Governor Newsom. “The clean taxi program has shown that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate a new green economy”
In the next four years the EPA administrator, whoever it is, will be subjected to a lot of rhetoric regarding the economic impact of environmental policies. I hope they will have the courage to continue to tell the entire story as Lisa Jackson did on her stop at Mission Motors.

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Bill Wilson’s Year in Review

Any list of highlights for the year 2012 would have to include the re-election of President Obama. The thought of any Republican taking office induced in me a gut reaction that I’ve not experienced since Oliver North ran against U S Senator Charles Robb in Virginia in 1994.

The fact that the election provided a turning point for many GLBT issues was just the icing on the cake. As a results of the election we now have an openly lesbian United States Senator, marriage equality in the states of Washington, Maryland and Maine and no constitutional ban on marriage equality in Minnesota.

Then Congresswoman now United States Senator from Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin during a San Francisco fundraiser in Diamond Heights.

 So while I had several weeks of wonderful relief after the election, that knot in the gut has returned since the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Prop 8 and Defense of Marriages cases. While I have little doubt that the Court will rule Prop 8 and DOMA unconstitutional, you just can’t be sure until it is in writing.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored the majority opinions in the Romer and Lawrence cases, will have the opportunity to forge another majority in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases.

Another highlight of 2012 for me was the America’s Cup World Series in August and October. Having the opportunity to spend a couple of hours a day during the races on the bay in one of the mark boats was an experience that was enjoyable and unforgettable. 

The boats currently in use for the America’s Cup are catamarans with two hulls. The boats go faster with only one hull in the water. The first day I was out on one of the mark boats, it was a practice day. At one point, the Luna Rossa Swordfish boat was headed in our direction with one hull completely out of the water; I realized, as it got closer, that it wasn’t going to go by us as much as over us, and if it lost momentum the hull would come down on top of us. My initial reaction was to jump out of the way but luckily I remembered that wasn’t possible because I was in a boat; so I just kept taking pictures and thought if it does hit us I will have some great exclusive photos.

The boats that will be used in the actual America’s Cup trial and defenders races next year will be almost twice as big as the ones that raced this year. I can’t imagine how awesome that will be. Because the boats are bigger the course will be enlarged to include more of the bay than was used this year. I prided myself on the fact that I didn’t have a problem adjusting to the motion while out on the bay and going ashore I had no trouble walking on land. It wasn’t until I was going through hundreds of pictures I had taken while deciding which to use on my website that I found myself getting a little queasy.

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On Scene With Bill Wilson and President Obama

President Obama acknowledges the cheering crowd of supporters as he descends the stairs from Air Force One after it landed at SFO on Monday, October 8.


It was billed as the last campaign trip to California.  It remains to be seen whether it will be the last trip to California as President or just the last trip to California during his first term. It began Monday afternoon shortly before 2 pm and ended Tuesday morning at approximately 9:20 am.

President Obama spent a few minutes working the fence line at SFO greeting supporters. 

There were actually two parking shuttles full of well wishers on hand to greet him. The departure was closed to the public. The President left SFO on his way to campaign in Ohio. There are no greener pastures than California, but Ohio is considered a swing state still in play.

President Obama turns to wave to the media as he boards Air Force One on October 9,    

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On Scene With Bill Wilson


Mayor Lee cuts the ribbon at the Bridge HIV opening.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee officially cut the ribbon on September 28, 2012 to open the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH)’s new Bridge HIV research facility as part of the City’s new $9.5 million HIV/AIDS Research Center, located at 25 Van Ness Avenue.

“The research that has come out of the San Francisco AIDS Office has changed the way we look at, treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS all over the world,” said Mayor Lee. “The new state-of-the-art Bridge HIV facility reflects the commitment and integrity of the work that goes on here, and we have produced a new innovative world class center for world class researchers.”

Herb Schultz, Region 9 Director of US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Dr Grant Colfax, National Aids Policy Director, and Mayor Lee

“As one of the earliest and hardest hit cities, San Francisco has always been at the forefront of responding to the crisis of HIV/AIDS – from our community-based model of care to the cutting edge research at UCSF,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. “With the addition of the federally-supported Bridge HIV Research Facility, our city will continue to lead the way as we strive for better treatments, a vaccine and finally a cure to the scourge of HIV/AIDS.”

“As Health Director, one of my primary concerns is bridging the gap in health disparities,” said DPH Director of Health Barbara Garcia. “This new facility will allow us to increase our recruitment, enrollment and retention of large and diverse populations of study participants. Also, we will increase our capacity to train students and other researchers and expand our ability to collaborate with other groups and seek input from members of the community.”

Kimberly Marsh, Lab Coordinator and Mayor Lee during tour of the new facility.

The Bridge HIV completion marks the end of phase one of the SOAR project (San Francisco Office of AIDS Renovation). The DPH project is funded by a grant through the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health and is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The new 17,000 square feet HIV/AIDS research center will expand and improve the existing research activities and accommodate future scientific needs.

San Francisco’s early HIV/AIDS epidemiology and research played a major role in the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS. The AIDS Office was created in 1982 as the City began responding to the newly-evolving AIDS epidemic, concentrated, at that time, in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Along with tracking new AIDS cases

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On Scene with Bill Wilson

Zach Walls

When Zach Wahls asked for a drink at a fundraiser Friday night at Donna Sachet’s Imperial Palace someone asked if he was legal. He said that his 21st birthday had been two months ago. Later in the evening during the speeches part of the event, that little piece of information lead Donna to declare, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could raise $21,000 tonight in honor of Zach’s recent birthday?” Evidently enough people agreed since the goal was met and surpassed.

State Senator Mark Leno, District Attorney Gascon, Donna Sachet and Zach Wahls. 

During his remarks he told the crowd that when he was asked by his “ex-girlfriend’s mother” who was the man in his parent’s relationship he replied, “When you go to a Chinese restaurant and they hand you a set of chopsticks do you ask which one is the fork? No, you just them.”

 Zach Wahls speaking to a San Francisco fundraiser

On being told he was brave and courageous, “I think the brave people where people like Harvey Milk who were out in a time when it could get you killed or electric shocked. They were the brave ones. They paved the road we are on we’re just painting the stripes.”

Kaushik Roy, Executive Director of the Shanti Project and Zach Wahls

On the demonizing of his family by  those who seek to limit who can get married, “There are those who believe gay love is different from straight love is different from interracial love, that love can somehow be broken down and rationalized and understood. Frankly I think it is the people who think love can be understood as the least capable of doing so.”

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With President Obama and the Democrats meeting in North Carolina this week I am reminded of the convention I attended in Miami Beach in July of 1972. I was a young man of 22 looking forward to voting for the first time in a Presidential election. This was also the first Presidential election after the ratification of the 26th amendment to the Constitution lowering the voting age to 18. I was excited, keyed up and convinced I could make a difference.

Allen Ginsberg (red striped shirt) sits with the California delegation at the 1972 Democratic Convention

Forty years ago I was still struggling with my sexuality and it would be another 11 years before I would gain the self – acceptance needed to come out of the closet. There were a myriad of new voices being heard at the 1972 Democratic Convention and the gay voice of Jim Foster and the lesbian voice of Madeline Davis were among them. Unfortunately I didn’t hear them because I didn’t have a ticket for the session when they hashed out the platform.

A young Jesse Jackson at the 1972 Democratic National Convention

It was exciting to be part of the political process and see in person the people that making the laws of the land. Having worked very hard for the McGovern campaign I was glad to have the opportunity to see and hear in person the convention proceedings.

Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY-19) speaks to a reporter on the floor of the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach, Florida

Forty years later I still feel the same way I did when I got to vote for the first time. I am excited about this election because I believe it will determine how we look forward to future. I am keyed up because the Republican platform stands to rollback the gains minorities, women and the LGBT community have made over the pass 40 years and we can’t allow that to happen. I am still convinced my vote can make a difference. 

Photos from the collection of Bill Wilson

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Building Fuel Efficiency

Photos by Bill Wilson
WASHINGTON, DC – The Obama Administration today (August 28) finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025. When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption. By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today. It’ll strengthen our nation’s energy security, it’s good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The historic standards issued August 28, 2012 by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) build on the success of the Administration’s standards for cars and light trucks for Model Years 2011-2016. Those standards, which raised average fuel efficiency by 2016 to the equivalent of 35.5 mpg, are already saving families money at the pump.
Achieving the new fuel efficiency standards will encourage innovation and investment in advanced technologies that increase our economic competitiveness and support high-quality domestic jobs in the auto industry. The final standards were developed by DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and EPA following extensive engagement with automakers, the United Auto Workers, consumer groups, environmental and energy experts, states, and the public. Last year, 13 major automakers, which together account for more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States, announced their support for the new standards. By aligning Federal and state requirements and providing manufacturers with long-term regulatory certainty and compliance flexibility, the standards encourage investments in clean, innovative technologies that will benefit families, promote U.S. leadership in the automotive sector, and curb pollution.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Transbay Terminal Groundbreaking

“Simply put, this groundbreaking program will result in vehicles that use less gas, travel farther, and provide more efficiency for consumers than ever before—all while protecting the air we breathe and giving automakers the regulatory certainty to build the cars of the future here in America,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Today, automakers are seeing their more fuel-efficient vehicles climb in sales, while families already saving money under the Administration’s first fuel economy efforts will save even more in the future, making this announcement a victory for everyone.”

“The fuel efficiency standards the administration finalized today are another example of how we protect the environment and strengthen the economy at the same time,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Innovation and economic growth are already reinvigorating the auto industry and the thousands of businesses that supply automakers as they create and produce the efficient vehicles of tomorrow. Clean, efficient vehicles are also cutting pollution and saving drivers money at the pump.”

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on a tour of Mission Motors in San Francisco, February 1, 2012

The Administration’s combined efforts represent the first meaningful update to fuel efficiency standards in decades. Together, they will save American families more than $1.7 trillion dollars in fuel costs, resulting in an average fuel savings of more than $8,000 by 2025 over the lifetime of the vehicle. For families purchasing a model Year 2025 vehicle, the net savings will be comparable to lowering the price of gasoline by approximately $1 per gallon. Additionally, these programs will dramatically reduce our reliance on foreign oil, saving a total of 12 billion barrels of oil and reducing oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 – as much as half of the oil we import from OPEC each day.

The standards also represent historic progress to reduce carbon pollution and address climate change. Combined, the Administration’s standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025, reducing emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program – more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010.

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Neil Armstrong’s autograph on my photo of him.  May, 1976 narrating “The Ballad of Valley Forge” a musical composition based on George Washington’s diary he kept while camped at Valley Forge.

After working as a farmer for seventeen years my father became an eight grade science teacher in 1958. Since I was born in 1950, I can remember as a nine year old lying in the field next to my maternal grandparent’s home and watching the night sky to see the passing of sputnik. My father could tell us in the general direction it would come from and you just waited until you saw a little light moving through the night sky. You really had no sense of motion except that that light seemed to be getting closer to a stationary star or planet. Once it was spotted it was only a few minutes before it disappeared.

Harvey Berkhouse, Bill Wilson and David Wilson. Photo from author’s private collection.

I can remember lying on the ground next to my grandfather and thinking that he was born before man learned to fly. When he was growing up trains and boats were the fastest way to transport people. I thought it was awesome that within his lifetime he had gone from witnessing man’s first flight to seeing a man-made object circling the globe in 90 minutes. I often wondered what the equivalent will be in my lifetime.
Ten years later we went from orbiting satellites to landing a man on the moon. Even though the 1960’s were a decade of change, Neil Armstrong’s achievement and the optimism it encapsulated, immortalized forever in the phrase, “If we can land a man on the moon, why can’t we….” will always be remembered.


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On Scene with Bill Wilson Action on the Bay

The America’s Cup World Series opened in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon with a trio of Match Racing Qualifiers. Six teams were competing for the three final spots in the Quarterfinals in the first racing of the 34th America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.

The conditions were slightly lighter than what the teams had come to expect on the Bay over the past week when five crews capsized during training sessions. In contrast, today’s West-southwesterly winds of 14-17 knots, with tricky currents to navigate, provided more of a tactical test for the teams.

A large weekday crowd lined the shoreline of the AC Village at the Marina Green to take in the action – the boats at times just yards from the coast – eager to see America’s Cup racing on the Bay for the first time.

It was a good day for Luna Rossa. Both Max Sirena’s Swordfish and Chris Draper’s Piranha crews won their matches 2-0 over China Team and Artemis Racing Red, respectively.

“We had a tricky one against Santiago Lange and the Artemis team,” said Piranha skipper Chris Draper. “We knew they’d be pretty strong. But the guys made some good reads on the wind shifts to get us in front.”

Ben Ainslie’s J.P. Morgan team also made a successful debut on the circuit, sweeping past Team Korea.

“We certainly have a lot to learn,” Ainslie said. “We had a few issues, but the guys did some amazing work to get us around the course. We had to overtake (in both races) and I think we had a penalty call go against them that helped us in the second race, but the guys did a fantastic job.”

Team Korea’s gold medal winning skipper, Nathan Outteridge, felt particularly frustrated in his match against J.P. Morgan BAR, after seeing early leads in both races overturned.

“We started well in the first one and then just made one error which gave them the chance they needed,” Outteridge said. “Then in the second race, we seemed to be getting penalties for no apparent reason… (and) we basically had to let him go past… We’re a bit confused about what happened to be honest.”

Due to the penalty situation, the team asked Regatta Director Iain Murray to consider overturning the result and having the race re-sailed. But after consulting the Jury, Murray said the results on the water will stand, as the Rules do not allow for redress.

Racing will continue from 2 -4 daily Thursday through Saturday with the final races on Sunday at 11.


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On Scene With Bill Wilson

As I turned the corner toward City Hall on Thursday I noticed that the bright red Lotus flower that would have been swaying in the wind was deflated. My heart felt the same way. Had vandals succeeded in destroying the bright spot that had bloomed over the Civic Center as part of the Asian Art Museum’s Phantoms of Asia exhibit?

I had heard that it was going to be taken on September 2 so I thought perhaps someone had decided to take it down earlier ( as Rec and Park had done with  the Burning Man Temple in Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley.)

It turns out that the “vandal” was just normal wear and tear, emphasis on tear, caused by environmental factors such as the wind.  Employees from the Asian Art Museum were repairing it. Who knew dental floss could be used to sew up holes in a vinyl lotus flower?


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On Scene with Bill Wilson: SFO Control Tower Groundbreaking

Mayor Edwin M. Lee joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael P. Huerta, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Director John L. Martin to officially break ground on SFO’s new air traffic control tower between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, east of the existing tower.

Transportation Secretary LaHood, SF Mayor Lee, Airport Director John Martin and William Withycombe FAA Western-Pacific region Administrator wield the shovels in a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony.

“The construction of SFO’s new air traffic control tower will provide the Airport with the most technologically advanced facility in the nation,” said Mayor Lee. “We are investing in our City’s critical infrastructure, providing a world-class International Airport and putting our residents back to work.”

“We’re building a world class tower for a world class airport,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “Hundreds of Bay Area construction workers will be employed in well-paying jobs while building this project to the strictest seismic standards.”

“The new tower will serve this growing airport for decades to come,” said Acting FAA Administrator Huerta. “Air traffic controllers will have a thoroughly modernized facility with better airfield views and the most up to date equipment.”

“San Francisco International Airport is extremely pleased to be partnering with the FAA on the construction of this landmark facility,” said Airport Director Martin. “The new air traffic control tower will not only meet or exceed the strictest seismic standards and contain the latest technology, but it will also be an iconic symbol of the Airport for generations to come.”

The new control tower will be 221 feet tall and will feature a 650 square-foot controller work area. The tower will sit atop a three-story, 44,000 square-foot base building, which will house administrative offices, computer equipment, a backup generator and secure corridors through which passengers can transit between terminals. The current tower, which the FAA commissioned in 1984, is about 180 feet tall and has a 520 square-foot controller work area.

The current air traffic control tower no longer meets current seismic standards and it is not cost effective to retrofit the facility. The seismic design for the new tower allows for the structure to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake. The top of the tower has also been designed to not sway with wind loads to ensure better comfort for the controllers. It is estimated that more than 400 construction jobs and more than 200 support positions will be created during the construction of the tower and associated facilities.

Although the tower design is visually appealing and unique, it was actually designed based on strictly prescribed FAA functional requirements. The flared shape at the top of the tower shaft and below the cab provides room for state of the art FAA electronics and personnel necessary to operate. The cab offset on the tower was required for critical sight lines to the airfield directly below.


Model of the new Control Tower

The project goal is to achieve LEED Gold. Part of that initiative will be to provide solar panels, integrate eco-friendly mechanical and technical systems wherever practical, use sustainable building materials and construct the facility in the most environmentally responsible manner. The construction of the new tower is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2014 and fully operational by the FAA in the fall of 2015.

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In the days before the internet you had to depend on things like the AP wire service for stories to go universal, but I have knowledge of one such story that is particularly relevant during this July 4 holiday because it happened on July 4, 1969 in a Wyoming town called Jackson that sits right outside the Grand Teton National Park.

Clover the Killer is asked his last words before being hung on the Elk antler archway on the Jackson Town Square

When I first visited Jackson ( that’s the town’s name. Jackson Hole technically refers to the valley) in 1962 my great uncle took us to see “The Hanging of Clover the Killer” a reenactment of a stage coach robbery that ends with the hanging of Clover, a shoot out as his gang tried to rescue him and the triumph of good as the dead body of Clover was put on the back of a horse and paraded through town with the announcer saying, “Clover is dead but don’t worry he’ll be back tomorrow at 7pm for another show.”

It’s only fake blood at the “Hanging of Clover the Killer”

These nightly reenactments were staged by a local theatre called the Pink Garter. In 1969 the owner of the theatre building contracted with a new group to do the summer shows. The theater was renamed the “Diamond Lil.” The old producer was not pleased. She returned to Jackson. She raised money and a tent in a parking lot and was back in business and still did the nightly shoot out as a way to attract people to her show. So during the summer of 1969 the competition between theaters became rather cutthroat. When you have the chief of police as your best drinking buddy you can get what you want or at least think you are entitled to and the Pink Garter certainly thought they were entitled.

Diamond Lil Theatre formerly the Pink Garter in the summer of 1969.

In order to compete with the nightly shoot out and the crowds it attracted, the Diamond Lil contracted with the owner of a steam calliope to have it towed to a parking lot near the Diamond Lil It was played by the Diamond Lil’s music director, Jo Lane Laycock, after the nightly shoot out was over. The concert lasted only for about ten minutes, but it infuriated the Pink Garter people and eventually was banned from the town as too noisy.
It was decided by the people at the Diamond Lil that on July 4 the calliope would return to town and JoLane would play a concert. No one knew if she would be arrested on the spot, later or whether the ban would not be enforced. There was a little anticipation in the air as the calliope gained steam and Jo Lane sat down at the keyboard. Since it was the 4th of July she played several patriotic songs, among them was “God Bless America”.
Nothing happened then or later that night at the theater where the troupe was performing a musical called “Petticoats and Pettifoggers” about Esther Morris and how women won the vote in Wyoming. The next day the troupe was taken to South Pass City which is where Esther Morris had lived and performed before a crowd that included the Governor of the state of Wyoming. When we got back to Jackson it was discovered that someone had cut all the wires on the calliope making it inoperable and with over a hundred wires not easily repaired. To add insult to injury as Jo Lane was preparing to play that night two police officers served her with a warrant to appear in court to answer charges of disturbing the peace.

Jo Lane Laycock 1969. The back of this photo is signed by Jo Lane with the nscription “To my co-partner in crime”

The headline on the AP wire story that went worldwide was “Woman arrested for playing God Bless America on the fourth of July.” Jo Lane had done a USO tour of Southeast Asia so she was getting calls from Japan and Korea saying that they had read about her arrest.

Jo Lane and her supporters showed up for the first court date but it was discovered she had been given the wrong time. Since she had intended to plead not guilty they continued the case. Meanwhile it became apparent that the whole thing had backfired for the town of Jackson. Four of the five people who signed the complaints were investors or spouses of investors in the Pink Garter Theatre. The police had actually gone from business to business soliciting people to sign the complaints. The calliope concert required no street closures unlike the Pink Garter’s shoot-out in the town’s main square. Even though the case was eventually dropped, Jo Lane Laycock will always be known as the “Woman who was arrested for playing ‘God Bless America’ on the Fourth of July”.

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On the Scene with Bill Wilson

Text and photos by Bill Wilson

Barbara Gravelli photographer and banner creator (right) with model Annalisa Scamera.

Barbara Gravelli photographer and banner creator (right) with model Annalisa Scamera.

The Italian reads, “What if she was your best friend?” 
 Rome’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia took on both practical as well as international overtones this year. A day long conference on GLBT diversity in the workplace took place. In the evening Rome’s Gay Street near the Coliseum was the venue for the Thoughts and Music Against Homophobia. The passing of Donna Summers was noted during a performance by Miss Tia Architto, a South African born singer now based in Rome.

it2012__02514copyres3Emcee Antonella Elia  listens as Miss Tia Architto speaks about her native South Africa.

Thoughts were provided by an impressive array of speakers that included government representatives and others who are doing important work in advancing LGBT rights in Italian life.


Paolo Patane, National President of Arcigay, the Italian LGBT group, presents Massimiliano Monnanni, General Director of the National Office Against Racial Discrimination, with a plaque during ceremonies marking the International Day Against Homophobia in Rome, Italy. 
 In Italy there are two national offices that deal with discrimination, one, under the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, is the National Office Against Racial Discrimination. The second is L’Osservatorio per la sicurezza contro gli atti discriminatori ( Observatory for the protection against discriminatory acts) OSCAD, which is under the Department of Safety. This group is specifically tasked wih taking reports on discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as those based on ethnic or racial origin, religious belief, or handicap. Representatives from both these groups spoke to the assembled crowd.


“Gay Street Roma” during the Internantional Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The Via Di S.Giovanni in Laterano is becoming the Castro Street of Rome with a gay restaurant and a gay souvenir shop opening there.

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On Scene with Bill Wilson: Mysteries Solved

The Prince

The Prince

In Room VII of the Museo Nazionale Romano/Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme there are two bronze statues, The Prince and The Boxer. I confess that I am not expert enough to know that the small head of The Prince, in proportion to the rest of the body means that it comes from the Pergamene tradition and that it shows Lysippus’ influence. I am amazed that there are experts that can tell the meaning of every detail. They have spent lifetimes studying written records, comparing known sculptures with pieces of recovered sculptures and proposing answers to the questions of who did it and when?

The Boxer

The Boxer

The gloves The Boxer wears help date it because they are of a type worn during the Imperial era. According to the guidebook, “The figure is based on the contrast between the relaxation expressed by the folded arms, the slight spreading of the legs and the hunching of the back and the sudden turn of the head to the right to look at something that eludes us.” Fortunately I was there at the right moment so that what he was looking at did not elude me.

The Boxer posing for another photograph.

The Boxer posing for another photograph.

Clearly The Boxer is annoyed by constantly being photographed by the paparazzi! Do you have any idea how bothersome it can be having to sit still for thousands of years?

Flags of the European Union and Italy fly from Bologna’s City Hall.

Flags of the European Union and Italy fly from Bologna’s City Hall.

Pigeon toed is a medical term that is defined as a condition which causes the toes to point inward when walking. When visiting Bologna, Italy and the statue of Neptune in their town square I noticed that Neptune had what I would call a pigeon finger. If you look closely at the picture you will notice a bump on his hand left hand that looks like it might be the stub of an amputated fifth finger.

Neptune tops a fountain in Bologna.

Neptune tops a fountain in Bologna.

However from a slightly different angle and a closer look you can see that it is in fact a pigeon who has found a lofty perch.

  Ready for its close up.

Ready for its close up.

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On the Scene with Bill Wilson: May Day in Italy

Text and photos by Bill Wilson

Text and photos by Bill Wilson     Image 1867- San Giuseppe Artigiano, Rome, Italy               May Day is a federal holiday in Italy. There are official events involving the President of Italy and politicians from various parties making the most of it. Over 500,000 people listened to a concert in the Plaza of St. John in Lateran.  In the working class neighborhood in the eastern part of Rome near the Tiburtina station where my husband’s family lives it is the local church, San Giuseppe Artigiano, that takes full advantage of the festival day of the saint the church was named for, Saint Joseph the Carpenter (or artisan).    Image 1705 – An indication of the density of the neighborhood can be seen in this photo of the band playing as people look from the surrounding buildings.               They start the night before with a procession of the icon of St. Joseph through the neighborhood. Eight men balance the icon on their shoulders. They stop at various prearranged locations for a brief reading before marching to the next location. The route is a little shorter than the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.    Image 1575 – The leader of the Brass band performing during the march through the neighborhood.                Activities on May 1 include a race around the neighborhood, a puppet show for children, a performance of African dance, a mass led by Bishop Monsignor Giuseppe Marciante, a brass band concert, a concert by “I Fratelli Della Costa” and the rather busy day is capped by a fireworks display.    Image 1631 – Children dancing through the band.                The program of events lists the arrival of the band. Where does the band arrive from? Their march through the neighborhood, of course.    Image 1856 – The band playing in the courtyard of the church.

San Giuseppe Artigiano, Rome, Italy

May Day is a federal holiday in Italy. There are official events involving the President of Italy and politicians from various parties making the most of it. Over 500,000 people listened to a concert in the Plaza of St. John in Lateran.  In the working class neighborhood in the eastern part of Rome near the Tiburtina station where my husband’s family lives it is the local church, San Giuseppe Artigiano, that takes full advantage of the festival day of the saint the church was named for, Saint Joseph the Carpenter (or artisan).

An indication of the density of the neighborhood can be seen in this photo of the band playing as people look from the surrounding buildings.

An indication of the density of the neighborhood can be seen in this photo of the band playing as people look from the surrounding buildings.

They start the night before with a procession of the icon of St. Joseph through the neighborhood. Eight men balance the icon on their shoulders. They stop at various prearranged locations for a brief reading before marching to the next location. The route is a little shorter than the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

The leader of the Brass band performing during the march through the neighborhood

The leader of the Brass band performing during the march through the neighborhood

Activities on May 1 include a race around the neighborhood, a puppet show for children, a performance of African dance, a mass led by Bishop Monsignor Giuseppe Marciante, a brass band concert, a concert by “I Fratelli Della Costa” and the rather busy day is capped by a fireworks display.

Children dancing through the band.

Children dancing through the band.

The program of events lists the arrival of the band. Where does the band arrive from? Their march through the neighborhood, of course.

 The band playing in the courtyard of the church.

The band playing in the courtyard of the church.

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On the Scene with Bill Wilson: Palazzo Altemps

Text and photos by Bill Wilson

Courtyard of the Palazzo Altemps with sculptures positioned as originally placed by Cardinal Altemps.

Courtyard of the Palazzo Altemps with sculptures positioned as originally placed by Cardinal Altemps.

It is fitting that the ancient art section of the Museo Nazionale Romano should find its home in the Palazzo Altemps, which was built by the Riario family in the late 15th century. Acquired in 1568 by Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps, whose uncle was Pope Pius IV, the building was renovated and afforded the Cardinal a setting to display his collection of sculptures, vases and manuscripts.

 A side view of the Ludovisi Ares in the Salla della Piattaia.

A side view of the Ludovisi Ares in the Salla della Piattaia.

Two of the more famous pieces in the Ludovisi collection are contained in the Sala della Piattaia (Room of the Plate Rack). The Ares can be seen with Eros playing at his feet.

A front view of the Ludovisi Ares gives a better view of Eros playing at his feet.

A front view of the Ludovisi Ares gives a better view of Eros playing at his feet.

The second famous piece on display in the same room is the group of Orestes and Electra at the grave of their father Agamemnon.

Front view of Orestes and Electra

Front view of Orestes and Electra

View from behind.

View from behind.

There are several rooms in the palace devoted to the Public and Private Cults which include items brought from Egypt to Rome in ancient times.

 Rooms of Public and Private Cults. The bust at the far end is of Pharaoh Amenemhet III

Rooms of Public and Private Cults. The bust at the far end is of Pharaoh Amenemhet III

The bust of the Pharaoh Amenemhet III is the oldest surviving example of art from the Middle Kingdom to be brought to Rome during the imperial era.

This is a statue of the bull-diety,  Apis, who was originally worshipped in Memphis, the ancient capitol of Egypt. In Roman times it was associated with the cult if Isis.

This is a statue of the bull-diety, Apis, who was originally worshipped in Memphis, the ancient capitol of Egypt. In Roman times it was associated with the cult if Isis.

It is easy to get so caught up with the magnificent pieces of sculptures and other objects that you miss some of the finer points of decoration in the rooms of the Palazzo. That is the reason I didn’t get a picture of the plate rack fresco in the Room of the Plate Rack, however I did get picture of the obelisk in the Room of the Obelisks.

he obelisks painted as part of the window frame give the room its name.

he obelisks painted as part of the window frame give the room its name.

The Room of the Painted Perspectives might have originally been a chapel based on some of the decoration, but was turned into the main hall.

 The Room of the Painted Perspectives

The Room of the Painted Perspectives

The frescoed walls provide a perfect backdrop for the sculptures that seem to come to life in another world.

 A relaxed Hercules

A relaxed Hercules

A playful Satyr

A playful Satyr

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On the Scene with Bill Wilson at the Church of Sant’Ancieto

Text and photo by Bill Wilson

Church of Sant’Ancieto is on the second level of the Palazzo Altemps

Church of Sant’Ancieto is on the second level of the Palazzo Altemps

If one has the wealth and clout to have a church, not the usual chapel, but a full church with relics of a saint and everything, installed in your own palace then I guess a chance to spin a little history doesn’t much matter.

General view of the Church of Sant’Ancieto

General view of the Church of Sant’Ancieto

The church was built by Giovanni Angelo Altemps starting in 1603 and was completed by 1618. Sant’Ancieto was one of the early popes from 154-167 AD.  And he is seen on the north wall pleading with authorities for his life. Except it is not really believed that the Pope died that way. So why would he be portrayed that way? Therein lies a tale of love, family pride, and devotion to duty.

Frescoes by Pomarancio showing Christ on the way to Calvary, the martyrdom of Sant’Ancieto and a woman gathering innocent blood that has fallen on Roman soil.

Frescoes by Pomarancio showing Christ on the way to Calvary, the martyrdom of Sant’Ancieto and a woman gathering innocent blood that has fallen on Roman soil.

Giovanni’s father was Roberto Altemps the illegitimate son of Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps. When Sixtus V became Pope in 1585 he tried to clean up the corruption and graft. He became known as the law and order Pope. Roberto was accused of adultery, a crime that in those days was a capitol offense. Ordinary the punishment would have been to require Roberto to marry the woman, but in this case that was not possible since Roberto had just been married to a member of the Orsini family. Unfortunately this was the  same Orsini family that Pope Sixtus V held responsible for the death of his nephew.

 Close up of Pope Sant’Ancieto

Close up of Pope Sant’Ancieto

Roberto Altemps was punished by beheading in 1586. Did Roberto get a fair hearing? Was he the victim of the Pope’s reluctance to show favor to any one? It depends on what history you read, but clearly the Altemps family felt him innocent and his son chose to honor Sant’Ancieto in a way that would remind people of that innocence.

View from the church window of the Painted Loggia which contains the Gallery of the Twelve Caesars.

View from the church window of the Painted Loggia which contains the Gallery of the Twelve Caesars.

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