Thanks to Hank by Bob Ostertag


Thanks to Hank is the story of a gay saint, a liberation movement, a plague, and an approach to gay activism that puts poor people first.

Meet Hank Wilson, the fiercest gay activist you never heard of. In San Francisco during the 1970s and 80s, Hank was the Johnny Appleseed of gay liberation. Everywhere he went new organizations sprang up. Many are still with us. The AIDS Candlelight vigil he put together, five years before the formation of ACTUP, is now the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, organized by 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries. A kindergarten teacher, Hank took the lead in providing for the many young queers fleeing to San Francisco after being kicked out of their homes, He quit teaching to manage the Ambassador Hotel, a derelict 150-room residency hotel in the toughest part of town as a refuge for street kids and anyone else with nowhere to go. AIDS arrived, and Hank spent the next 20 years running the hotel as an unfunded hospice for the homeless and drug-addicted who were dying of AIDS. Many hundreds of poor people died in the Ambassador.

To survive a plague you need to laugh, so somewhere Hank found the time to start the first queer comedy club in San Francisco, where Whoopi Goldberg and Lea Delaria got their start.

Through it all he maintained a modesty so extreme even his closest friends found it odd. He slept on the floor of a one room roach-infested apartment, and invited homeless people to sleep in his car.

Like the residents of his hotel, Hank contracted AIDS and died way too soon.

We talk so much about community these days, but what do we actually mean? Hank Wilson had a definition even his kindergarten students could understand: a community is something that takes care of its least privileged members. If this simple thing cannot be done, then you don’t have much in the way of community. This was Hank’s life project, his singular, profound gift to the queer community, and to the city of Saint Francis.

Please join star of Orange is the New Black Lea DeLaria, former California State Assembyperson Tom Ammiano, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the Kronos Quartet, and Bob Ostertag to help pass this gift on to future generations.

Why $15,000?

We are making this movie Hank Wilson-style, on a shoe string, using community resources wherever possible. Much of the work is being donated. The Kronos Quartet, Carla Kihlstedt, and Mark Orton are all donating their music. Some videopgraphers have donated their skills.

Hank was an extremely modest person who avoided the camera, and we will use animation in place of all the missing pictures and footage. We are very excited to have Jeremy Rourke as our animator. Jeremy works his magic with paper and scissors instead of digital processing, and his artistic sensibility fits perfectly with Hank’s modesty. Jeremy will be working for far below commercial rates, but making animation for a feature-length film is a huge job, and he has to eat and pay the rent while doing it.

Any funds raised through Kickstarter beyond what it costs to make the film will be donated to the organizations Hank started.


backed, i hope it gets funded! we’re getting better at recognizing and restoring LGBTQ+ history but so much of it is still so recent, and only captured in stories we tell each other. we really need to document and record it more. thank you for doing this.


Thank you for backing this! Bob Ostertag is closer to his goal now.