Sunday, August 29, 2010

Anita Bryant: Evil Step-Mother of the Tea Party

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I had the television on for background noise as I was unpacking today, listening to Sean Penn's Academy Award-winning performance as Harvey Milk, in a movie that was peppered with snippets of Anita Bryant speeches from the 1970's.  Ms. Bryant, for those not in my age range, was a former beauty queen and recording artist who became infamous as a high priestess of hate and homophobia just as America was beginning to address the issue of gay rights.

The Oklahoma born singer was living in Florida and making a living as a huckster for the state's orange juice industry when the Dade County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation.    Even though the measure had been sponsored and introduced by a friend of hers, the singer was having none of it.  Ms. Bryant, a member of some branch of the Southern Baptist Convention, declared a holy war on homosexuality, and started a protest that eventually got the Florida law repealed and encouraged the passage of some hate legislation in other states.

After listening to Bryant spew her hate in the film today, I got on the Internet to learn what had become of her.  The last I had known about this hate-filled precursor of Jan Brewer, she had a small music show going in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  According to what I found in the public domain, she has also had music shows in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri - all failures - and she owes massive amounts of back taxes in all three locations.  (And if you can't make it in Pigeon Forge, Eureka Springs, or Branson - where the hell can you make it?)

It all turned sour for Ms. Bryant when she got politically active in Florida.  The goobers down there liked her enough to vote out the anti-discrimination law, but elsewhere she became a pariah.  The gay community led a national boycott of her employer - the orange juice industry of Florida - and gay bars removed ""screwdrivers" from their drinks menu and replaced them with "Anita Bryants," drinks made with apple juice and vodka.   Within a year the Florida orange growers let her go.  Not long after that she was hit in the face with a cream pie thrown by a gay rights activist - on television.  Wiping the mess from her face, she quipped, "Well  at least it wasn't a fruit pie!"

That little gal from Oklahoma sure did have a sense of humor!

America's cheerleader for hate divorced her first husband, the father of her four children, shortly after she became infamous.  She apparently alleged some type of mental cruelty, which is rich considering what she had just put the nation through.    He was more of a fundamentalist than her, because he still believes they are married in the eyes of God.  That divorce cost her some support with the loony fringe.

Ms. Bryant and her second husband now live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they fend off creditors while she "runs" some type of international ministry.   I spent an afternoon in Edmond a couple of months ago at Pep Boys getting  some tires put on my Dad's truck after a blow-out on the interstate.   It's a decent little berg, but she can have it - and Edmond can have her, because the age of Anita Bryant has mercifully passed.

Anita Bryant single-handedly rallied the gay community and gave it the impetus to move forward into the era of today when states are not only passing anti-discrimination legislation, some are also even passing laws to allow gay marriage.  She was instrumental in giving the movement its motivation and energy, although she would be loath to admit it.

Anita Bryant showed America how ugly it could be, and America was repulsed.  Today her evil spawn - Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Laura Schlessinger, and others of that ilk - are again encouraging Americans to hate, and like Bryant, they will eventually overstep the bounds of decency and offend the good people of this country.   Progress is slow, but America always moves forward - eventually.

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