HATE IS A DEADLY EMOTION THAT CAN SO- EASILY-DESTROY ITS TARGET.
In this photo of the ten finalists in the 1958 Miss America Pageant, Anita Bryant is the second one from the left and I'm the second one from the right. Anita and I competed against each other for the title of Miss America but, it was a friendly competition. The next year (1959) when the two of us returned to the Pageant as featured entertainers, we were roommates.
I never questioned why we seemed to “fit” as friends….there was just something about us that “clicked”. When the Pageant ended, we hugged and promised to keep-in-touch. By this time, Anita was on the fast-track to stardom. She had won the Arthur Godfrey talent show, signed a recording contract, and was enjoying a hit record…”Paper Roses”.
I, on the other hand, went back to Pine Bluff, AR, married, and became a voice teacher. I couldn’t help but think Anita was headed in the direction I’d always wanted to go. But, I was happy for her and wished her well.
She sent me short notes as she traveled the country and…I found time to keep her current on my less-than-exciting life. She stayed in-touch during my first pregnancy and promised to visit when the baby arrived and…she did. In fact, while she was at my house, she learned the baby she and her husband, Bob Green, hoped to adopt, was now theirs. Even more exciting, two months later, she learned she’d become pregnant in Arkansas and in seven months, would have a child of her own.
On several occasions, I attended Anita’s performances. She was a natural on the stage….regardless of what she sang. My only concern was how her husband managed her---controlled her---and dominated her every moment. I sensed Anita was afraid of him but he was her manager so-- she had to trust him. I always hoped he had her best interest at heart.
Looking back at the multiple times we were together, I realized her husband and I almost-never talked; we just-weren't close. Frankly, I don’t believe Bob was close to anyone, even Anita.
Anita was making great money. She had lucrative contracts with Coca Cola and with the Florida Orange Juice Growers. She was making hit recordings, award-winning commercials, and appearing as a guest on major TV Shows, regularly. Most impressive were Anita's yearly trip with Bob Hope--- entertaining the troops. She was very busy BUT---Anita always found time to sing at Baptist Conventions-- and to speak and sing at churches and other religious gatherings. Best of all, Anita always found time to share her love for God.
Then, without warning, Anita began speaking out about gays. At first....she voiced her dissatisfaction with the gay teachers teaching children-- like hers. She continued to speak- publically against gay teachers and very-soon became viewed as an Activist. In a matter of months, Anita lost her contracts with Coca Cola and Florida Orange Growers. Her records stopped selling, and all-too-quickly-----Anita was denounced and boycotted by gays and lesbians--- worldwide.
I’ll always believe Anita’s husband, Bob, encouraged her venture into activism. As a former DJ, perhaps Bob thought Anita's involvement with controversy could lead her into politics or catapult her into a more-serious platform on the world stage. I'm sure Bob was thinking about " the money".
I’ll always believe Bob arranged the pie-in-the-face---shockingly-delivered to Anita when she was speaking before a large audience on live TV. Rather than making Anita look like the victim of a mob mentality-- a fragile figure that needed sympathy-- Anita’s crusade against gays actually made her look foolish and more like a Bully.
Anita's career never recovered. After losing most of her money, she divorced Bob, moved to Selma, Alabama, and opened a dress shop. Too soon-- she lost what she believed was a promising romance with a wealthy Southern Bachelor...then, was forced to close her struggling dress shop. Like so many single women with children, Anita needed a steady income and-- a job.
I was living in Atlanta when Anita called to say she'd found a job. She had signed a contract with WSB---Atlanta’s ABC Affiliate--as a talk-show host. She was excited. The morning she was to begin her new job…she couldn't get within three blocks of the TV station. She couldn’t physically-break the human chain of gays and lesbians who’d locked arms together and now stood shoulder to shoulder to form a solid wall of strong bodies. Her job was canceled and--once-again--Anita was desperate for money.
From that day until today, the homosexual community continues its lifelong mission to STOP ANITA. Wherever she lives-- tried to work--attempts to perform---gays are there--- to STOP her.
Homosexuals...worldwide....stay united to stop Anita at every turn. GAYS REMAIN RELENTLESS IN THEIR GOAL TO "STOP ANITA". The crusade against Anita is relentless and continues--- today.
The last time we spoke was 2001, after I returned from China. She spoke of performing in Tennessee and promised to send me a timetable of her schedule so we can meet. That was the last time we talked. When I checked with a very-knowing friend about Anita’s performances in Tennessee, I learned Anita’s small audiences had dwindled to nothing so Anita had been forced to close her performance theatre in Tennessee. Finally, Anita accepted defeat and returned home… back to Oklahoma.
Not long ago, Bob Green, Anita’s ex-husband, died. He died in Florida, completely alone and--on the very sidewalk-- in front of the very house--he had once lived-in with Anita and his children. Bob died homeless, broke, and without friends. I'm not sure if Bob had a relationship with his four children but, I do know... once the marriage ended...Anita had nothing-left to say.
I have no sympathy for the Gay Community. They carried their “vendetta” against Anita too-far and for too-long. Regardless of whether Anita was right or wrong to speak-out against homosexuality…she had the right to do so.
Did she carry her opinion too far? Probably. Did Anita under-estimate the power of her enemy? Absolutely. Should Anita have spoken less and sung more? Possibly.
Too often, life is a waste of time, talent, and love.