writer  •  editor  •  researcher
Jim Van Buskirk
  Photo by Kent Taylor

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Available Programs
Jim is an accomplished public speaker, author, and historian who offers unique and entertaining perspectives on California gay and lesbian history, Jewish identity, and Bay Area-related movies. He is currently available for bookings with the following four talks, as well as readings, workshops, and more. For availability, rates, and other information, please send him an email at .
Alcatraz Island

Birdman of Alcatraz

Escape from Altatraz

Starring The Rock: Alcatraz in Hollywood Movies

Shortly after Alcatraz opened as a federal prison in 1934, its career as a setting for movies began. From Alcatraz Island (1937) through Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) Hollywood depicted life on the isolated island. After the prison closed in 1963, a new era began. Point Blank (1967) was the first to film there, followed by such memorable titles as The Enforcer (1974) Escape from Alcatraz (1979), The Rock (1996) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). This evening of film clips celebrates the 80th anniversary of The Rock as a setting in movies and its 50th anniversary as an actual filming location.
The Boys in the Band
The Children's Hour

"How Has Hollywood (Mis)Represented Homosexuality?"
Using trailers from mainstream movies from the 1960s and 1970s—including Myra Breckinridge, Victim, Something For Everyone, and The Killing of Sister George—we'll investigate Hollywood's depiction of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters to stimulate a lively discussion of our own understanding of sexuality and gender issues. Jim Van Buskirk, former Program Manager of the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, is a professional group facilitator, author, and film buff.
The Christine Jorgensen Story

My Grandmother's Suitcase
Bernstein Siblings

My Grandmother's Suitcase
A talk with slides by Jim Van Buskirk

At the age of 54, Jim Van Buskirk, who had been raised "devoutly Unitarian" met with him mother after a long estrangement. Facing her own mortality, she said she had something to tell him: "You are Jewish." She went on to give him a suitcase filled with photographs, letters, and documents. Jim began to look for answers to his family's history --and his own identity -- by researching his genealogy, talking to previously unknown relatives, and examining the contents of his grandmother's suitcase. The uncovered family saga ultimately stretching over 120 years and three continents was more complicated than he'd ever imagined. This audio-visual presentation is adapted from his memoir-in-progress.

It Came From Beneath the Sea

"On Location: The Golden Gate Bridge on the Silver Screen"
A talk with film clips by Jim Van Buskirk

The Golden Gate Bridge has probably starred in more movies than any other American architectural icon. From Stranded (1935) to The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), the iconic span appears in wide range of films including Dark Passage, Superman, Star Trek, Time After Time, It Came from Beneath the Sea, Love Bug, A View to a Kill, Monsters vs. Aliens, Interview with a Vampire, and X-Men. In honor of the bridge's 75th anniversary, Jim Van Buskirk, author of Celluloid San Francisco (and former SFPL librarian), offers a clip-filled program of hilariously horrifying depictions of the Bay Area’s beloved bridge.

Flower Drum Song

Basic Instinct

The Tramp

Starring San Francisco
A talk with slides and film clips by Jim Van Buskirk

San Francisco has appeared in hundreds of movies and television series, some famous, others obscure, from Eric von Stroheim's 1924 Greed to Dirty Harry to Zodiac. Jim Van Buskirk, co-author of Celluloid San Francisco: The Film Lover's Guide to Bay Area Movie Locations (and former SFPL librarian) uses film stills and clips to demonstrate the Bay Area's rich cinematic history. Among the many familiar (or not-so-familiar scenes) are the Alta Plaza Park steps being chipped in What's Up, Doc?, the futuristic skyline in Towering Inferno and Bicentennial Man and the geographically inconsistent chase sequence in Bullitt.