Friday, March 25, 2011

What would Anita do?

As we s*l*o*w*l*y come up on the end of Florida's gay adoption ban (& yes, I do consider this one of the silver linings of our tanked economy; it is hard to justify spending $100,000s defending a policy that is just not going to to stand up at the next judicial tier no matter how moral you might think it is), I thought it would be a good time to take a little look at today's birthday girl:  Anita Bryant.

Anita's parents divorced when she was quite small, & Anita was sent to live with her maternal grandparents.  I don't know if it was a happy childhood, but it looks like a successful one:  she began her musical career with their encouragement, she graduated high school, was crowned Miss Oklahoma 1958 & made it to the final four in the Miss America Pageant.   Shortly after this she made the Billboard charts with one of my favorite songs (although I do prefer the Beatles version & even better Miss Peggy Lee; what can I say, I just love The Music Man).  She also got a college scholarship but I cannot see that she attended or graduated (it can be hard to find this information about those pre-Google days in the time I am prepared to look for it, which is almost none).  In 1960 she married a Miami disc jockey & they had four children...& twenty years together.

All that time Anita was singing, wedding, birthing, she was also preaching, kinda.  I confess "preacher" is a lot like "imam" to me.  Anyone with the inclination seems able to break into the biz; I am very unclear as to the qualifications (although I am fairly certain the position does NOT come with health insurance).  Anyway, Ms. Bryant declared a fatwa on anything she saw as a threat to her vision of family.

One of her early targets was......divorce.  & then she got one.  Let me go on record as saying I am a HUGE fan of divorce.  As A says, divorce means all those people who cannot stand the sight of each other can get away without killing each other.  Neither of us has ever been far (I also say the same thing about rape; I haven't far). 

Which means I really am happy for Anita's divorce.  If she would go through with it despite the disapproval of some of her followers, she must have really needed it.  What is damn shame is she never stopped to think if she was wrong about this, what else might she have been wrong about?  Because it was her group that reversed local laws protecting homosexuals in Miami & went on to inspire (& bankroll) similar movements across the country.  & while her movement had a far reaching impact, it also reached around & impacted her.  The divorce, yes, but her wholesome spokesperson career was over.  It turns out homosexuals drink as much orange juice as anyone & homo-phobes won't buy orange juice just because Anita Bryant is on the poster, especially a divorced Anita Bryant.  & a handful (her description) of protesters getting coverage outside of her other venues helped the invitations to those venues dry up. 

So she picked herself up, dusted herself off (after a flirtation with prescription drug abuse) & looked for a niche within her niche (divorced, jonesing homo-phobes!) & opened a theater where those who wanted to could hear her sing & minister.  Alas, her flock was only getting smaller, as evidenced by the extremely low attendance at her performances, until finally even the most devoted were completely cashed out & broke & then Anita left rise again-again.

More recently Anita Bryant was singing the national anthem at the 2011 Oklahoma Gubernatorial Inaugural Ball.  Which brings us to what would Anita do?  From here, it looks like she would count on almost everything old being new again & what isn't old/new being overlooked.  What it seems she won't be doing is considering there might be more to the human condition than forgiveness for only the transgression she has made.  Happy Birthday Anita.  You remain for me a shining example of how a bright & pretty cover can disguise a shallow, spiteful story....but only for so long.

Credit: Free images from

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