Back to October 2012 Show


"Songs About Anita Bryant"

October 2012 Script

Anita Bryant Intro

Of course Anita Bryant's diatribe against homosexuals was not part of her original orange juice commercial. This is JD Doyle and this will be a very different edition of Queer Music Heritage. I'm calling it "Songs About Anita Bryant." No, not songs by, but songs about her, as her actions in the late 1970's prompted an amazing amount of musical commentary, so much that this is a two hour presentation.

I'll give you a compact version of her history in a moment, but first want to give you two examples of songs she inspired, and they both happen to be by straight artists, as it wasn't only gay people who felt they just had to speak out about her in song. First is folksinger Tom Paxton and "Anita O.J." from 1977, and then you'll hear the Four Swallows, singing "(Lord Knows) I Don't Need Anita."

Tom Paxton - Anita O.J. (1978)
Four Swallows - (Lord Knows) I Don't Need Anita (1977)

The Four Swallows 45 was from 1977, the year our story begins. In January of 1977 Dade County Florida...that's the county that includes Miami...passed an ordinance that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That set off a firestorm and led to the founding of the organization Save Our Children, with Anita Bryant as leader. They very quickly got enough signatures to call for a referendum to overturn the ordinance, with the vote scheduled for June 7th. By the time the election was set it only left about two months for the gay community to mount its own campaign. The short time period was just one of the huge obstacles, as they were no match for the highly motivated Christian fundamentalists, who trotted out all the now very tired tirades that homosexuality is immoral and homosexuals want to recruit children. The ordinance was overturned by a two to one margin.

In Miami at the center of the gay efforts was activist Bob Kunst. He founded the Miami Victory Campaign and their efforts continued way past the election, as Anita and her Bible bigots were active in other cities. I asked Bob to sum up the impact of Anita Bryant and her Save Our Children Campaign.

Bob Kunst Comments (2012)

Well, it wasn't just Anita Bryant. There was Dr. Alan Rockway and myself who started it all. Alan was co-author with myself of the world famous human rights ordinance, and used her to open this door and take a local issue and turn it into a world-wide event. We had a great revolution here and we talked openly about human sexuality and supporting everybody's consenting adult amendment rights and the result of our campaign was millions of people coming out of the closet, taking on everybody from Jimmy Carter, who supported Anita Bryant, to State legislatures...we just has a whole international scene that emerged out of here, took on everybody. And the victory was just the fact that we were fighting back, we weren't going to be misrepresented, and we told the world this is who we are, get over it. In each case we had to deal with all the craziness from the right-wing fanatics, you know, that were all screaming save our children. And we kept on answering, we are your children, what is your problem? And Anita Bryant is not here, we threw her behind out, and we had the number one boycott in the world, which was orange juice. And we went after every one of her products, everything she was endorsing. You want to play this dirty little game. You want to talk about equating our love-making with animals and dead people and all this other stuff that was her God-swful stuff. And we picked up on it, and used it and threw it right back in her face. It was little old Miami-Dade County in the deep south that took on and made this gay issue a household word, and everybody had to deal with it as the results of our efforts. I think we've done probably about 38,000 news interviews since, so in 35 years we've had a pretty good track record.

JD: I want to ask, would you please tell me about the 45 released by the Miami Victory Campaign.

Bob Kunst: Yes, well, Lynn Frizzel wrote the song, gave it to us. We played it on the air here. It was terrific. I think Lynn has passed away from AIDS also. He was a brilliant guy and just a wonderful person. He was one of the many forces out there that touched base with exactly what we were up to, and fell in love with our campaign, wrote a great song, and we put it out to as many people as possible. And the public was very generous, they were very supportive, because it was a good statement. It was an important statement.

Again, the song was by Lynn Frizzel and was called "Hurricane Anita." Now, there really was a Hurricane Anita, in late August of that year, and Frizzel was quoted as saying he wrote the song in honor of that year's biggest bag of hot air.

Lynn Frizzel - Hurricane Anita (1977)

Of course there were women also singing about Anita, and her campaign definitely caught the attention of the women at Olivia Records. In 1977 they released their 7th album, called "Lesbian Concentrate." On the cover was a graphic of that title on a frozen orange juice can, a direct nod toward Anita. The song speaking loudest to her was written by Mary Watkins and sung by Linda Tillery. It was called "Don't Pray for Me."

Linda Tillery - Don't Pray for Me (1977)


And here's another song by a women's music pioneer, Casse Culver. Her song was very lyrically to the point, and was called "What Are We Going to Do About Anita?"

Casse Culver - What Are We Going To Do About Anita?" (1977)
Ginni Clemmens - Love Somebody (1980)



And that was a live recording of "Love Somebody," written in 1977 by Malvina Reynolds, and sung by Ginni Clemmens. It's from the 1980 compilation album "Gay & Straight Together"

You've heard a lot of mention of orange juice in these songs. Anita Bryant was spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission and her TV commercials for them were everywhere. So it was natural for the gay community to call for a boycott of Florida oranges. It was ultimately successful as her contract with them was dropped in 1979, due to the controversy and negative publicity. One song directly rallied for the boycott, and it was by poet and singer Rod McKuen. And he did more than just sing about it. He took time out from his career to actively campaign in Florida and he took out full-page ads in the entertainment publication "Variety." The song he recorded was appropriately called "Don't Drink the Orange Juice."

Rod McKuen - Don't Drink the Orange Juice (1977)

This song also appears on the risque LP "Slide...Easy In." Click to see it.

Within the next year after the Dade County decision the same tactics were used to defeat or overturn gay rights laws in a number of cities, like St. Paul, Wichita and Eugene. And gay folks found themselves rising to the occasion in the form of protests. These protests also followed Anita Bryant as she toured the country doing her own performances.

Now, this is a gay & lesbian music history show, but I want to work in some voices who knew this part of our history first hand. The election was on June 7th and the very next night Bryant was set to perform at Scope Auditorium in Norfolk, Virginia. They were ready for her. On the morning of her visit the Norfolk Coalition for Human Rights, formed just ten days before, held a prayer breakfast for 75 people with the theme "Save Our Country from Anita." They organized a protest rally, and even had people inside the auditorium, who had walked in along with the crowd, not being noticed. About 40 minutes into her performance, as soon as she started railing against homosexuality, our inside agitators stood up and started yelling. Bryant broke into tears.

Above, Steve Stone (on left) with his partner, Pete

It happens that I lived in Norfolk, from 1978 until 1981, and though I missed all the Anita excitement, I was active in gay organizations there, so I still know some of the folks who were involved. I was able to interview one of the main organizers of the Norfolk protest, Steve Stone, and I started by asking him how the Norfolk gay community got organized for Anita Bryant's visit.

Steve Stone Comments (2012)

Steve: It was difficult, actually, because it was something new to all of us, none of us had done anything like this before. And so we went out to the community, out to the bars, that sort of thing, trying to encourage people to get involved because we knew Anita was going to be coming to Norfolk for a concert, and it was going to be the day after Dade County vote. So we wanted to have a presence out there for that, not knowing how the vote was going to go. And we appealed to some of the national organizations for help, and they were more focused on other things with Anita, and national things. They were supportive, but they weren't being too helpful. We had hoped somebody would come down and help us organize, that sort of thing, and we didn't get it. And the funny thing was, the vote came, and we lost, and all of the sudden the phones in our office started ringing with all the national groups calling up, saying "are you ready for tomorrow? You need to have a presence out there. You've got to do something, that's her first appearance!" So, we were a little bit frustrated that all of the sudden they wanted us to do stuff, but hadn't been able to help us out too much beforehand.

And we really didn't know how things were going to go the next day. We had gotten permits from the police, and made all the arrangements for our protests, made sure everything was on the up and up, and contacted all the media and everything. And then that afternoon of the protest I got a phone call from somebody at the airport, Norfolk International Airport, and it was the private terminal there. And they were asking me how many more aircraft to expect for our event. And I was totally befuddled, I was going, "what do you mean, aircraft?" "Oh, well we've got news planes coming in and things like that," and all of the sudden we realized, we really are in the eye of the storm now, because national media had started showing up to cover what was going on.

And we didn't know what was going to go on. And so finally the time for the protest to organize came, and I had already sent some of our folks out onto the streets to meet people at a couple of organizing locations. And the last of us left the office to go out and meet them with no idea at this point how many people were there. Because of course this is before cell phones and everything.

JD: Let's back up a second, Steve, and talk about the organization that was formed in anticipation.

Steve: It was a coalition of groups in the area, the ACLU, various gay groups that existed, the student groups, that sort of thing. [and it was called..] Norfolk Coalition for Human Rights. It was very small initially. It was probably 15 people, at most. Again as I said, we didn't know, those that left the office last, had no idea if anybody was going to come out, if they were going to be feeling defeated because of what had happened in Dade County. And we came around the corner, and I was shocked. There were 600 people, organized, ready to march. It was just an amazing turn-out. And the police to their credit were fantastic. An officer came up to me that was in charge and said, "you know, you've got a lot more people here than we planned on, but we're going to make sure this works, we're going to clear streets for you. Just so you know, there's a counter-demonstration that's already out there that has not gotten a permit or anything, we'll make sure that everybody stays separated. And we'd like to break you into two groups, cause there's so many of you," which is not something we had ever anticipated. And we marched down Granby Street and got to Scope, and everybody went to their protest areas, and demonstrated for a long time. And we also had made arrangements for a handful of our folks to get into the hall, probably like 20 or 30, and at one point during Anita's presentation they stood up and they gave a verbal protest. Of course they were escorted out. But we made sure our message was inside the hall as well as outside.

JD: So did they chant, or what...

Steve: It was basically holding up some signs that had been hidden, and "equal rights" and "down with Anita," that sort of thing.

JD: So they marched out of the hall. Was there a rally or something afterwards?

Steve: No, we just had the protest on the street, and then everybody marched back to the assembly point and we broke up from there.

JD: How did the Norfolk community use this protest to build on an organization?

Steve: I think it strengthened everything, in sort of an indirect way, because it was the first time there'd ever been anything like this. We had never had a gay pride parade, or anything like that in Hampton Roads. So I think the energy from that strengthened a lot of organizations, cause people decided, "hey, I need to get involved in the community." I still remember the thrill of coming around that corner, halfway expecting to see some police cars and maybe a half dozen people, and seeing that crowd of people down there, and just being so incredibly proud.

The first of many demonstrations had happened. A week later she was performing in Houston and one of the organizers was Ray Hill, and hardly anything involving gay rights in Houston has happened in over 40 years without Ray being involved in some way. I was curious about what it was like and how it all got organized so quickly and got this short interview.

Below, Houston protest against Anita, with Troy Perry second from right

Ray Hill Comments (2012)

JD: The Dade County ordinance was defeated on June 7th, and Anita Bryant was already scheduled to perform in Houston on June 16th. About how long before that election did the Houston folks start organizing the protest?

Ray: We had almost a month. A columnist with the Houston Post, Jane Ely, in her column wrote "Guess who's coming to dinner," and she made that simultaneous with the booking of Anita announcement with the Texas Bar Association.

JD: So, what was the organizing like, what was planned?"

Ray: Well, as soon as Jane Ely's column came out I called her, cause I know most journalists well. And I said, "is this real?" and she said, "it's a done deal." And so then I notified the then president of Houston Gay Political Caucus, which is now Houston Gay, Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus, Gary Van Ooteghem, and said, "Gary, we need to organize around this." And he said "oh, it's hopeless." And I said "it's not hopeless. We have plenty of time, we have more than three weeks here." And so we had a meeting in his living room and everybody showed up, which was my first hint that there was enough anger for us to come up with enough energy to make this happen.

JD: And you brought in some folks from out of town, too.

Ray: We immediately set up a board, and that board decided that what they wanted to do was bring some people in town. And I don't think we paid for anybody to come in town. We got Liz (Torres) from the "All in the Family" show. We got David Goodstein (publisher of The Advocate), both of them paid their own ticket. We got Ginny Apuzzo (Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force).

JD: And Troy Perry.

Ray Hill: Troy Perry was glad to come. Troy and I have known each other since '68. We have this deal, if I run up a flag, he rallies at the base of it, if he runs up a flag I rally at the base of his.

JD: Can you tell me what it was like at the Houston protests?

Ray: (laughs) How many definitions can we come up with, with the two words "life changing"? In the first place, we really were accurate and told the police chief we were expecting about 500 people, which he thought was more than we could produce. And then people came, and then they came, and then they came. I walked to the scene an hour early and there were already two hundred people in the parking lot of the Depository II, where we were coordinated. And that crowd quickly became too large for that parking lot.

JD: And was it a rally, a march, what was it?

Ray: Well, we had speeches up front, and then we had speeches at the other end. The enthusiasm did not need to be generated, people has made a commitment. Of course I expect what caused the crowd to grow so large is people driving by to see if anybody showed up to do it, and whenever they saw the crowd was large enough the realized safety in numbers. You're talking about a very closeted era. And the only thing that made people feel safe enough to join us was the sheer size of the demonstration and that's what caused it to grow rapidly and exponentially.

JD: How long was the march, and I understand you didn't take the streets, you were given the streets.

Ray: Well, we were told there were no parade permits for Downtown Houston at all, except for the Rodeo Parade, and certainly none for night. There was an absolute ban on nighttime interrupting of traffic in Houston. So we were told by the police, and we agreed to follow their dictate that we would use the sidewalks on either side of the street, which gave rise to me saying, well, if we actually get 500 people, it would be easier and more efficient if we had sidewalks on two streets. So originally we had the sidewalks on either side of Smith Street, and I asked for the sidewalks on either side of Louisiana. It became obvious from the crowd gathering ahead of the march that we needed it. So everybody started off on four sidewalks, headed from McGowen Street to the Downtown area (about 15 blocks). And that was moving at snail's pace...I mean, how many people can you put abreast on sidewalks?

And so Pappy Bond, who was the Captain of Special Ops, called the officer standing next to me, cause I was in charge of security, and coordinating with the police. And the officer gave me his walkie-talkie and I talked to Captain Bond and he said, "take the God-dammed streets!" And I said, well, which one? "Both of them!" Because he was getting kind of emotional, nobody had ever seen that size of a demonstration before in Houston. And so the officer said, "well, I'll radio the other officers and tell them to take the streets." And I said, "they're not going to listen to your officers, they're going to listen to my marshals." So I sent my marshals scampering up there, and...they hadn't gone but about three blocks north of McGowen when the runners came up and said, "we have the streets, move into it." That created a cheer that kind of waved back to where we were. And according to Gary Van Ooteghem's count, twelve thousand showed up. And it didn't make any difference how many it was, it was significantly more people than had ever shown up for a Houston demonstration of any kind, ever. And, yeah, it was a very dramatic evening.

JD: This may seem like too perfect hindsight, but do you think the gay leaders in different cities already realized the impact the protests would have on the gay movement and kind of welcomed it, and hoped Anita would come to their cities?

Ray: Oh, I called everybody. I mean, the next morning. One of the things in Houston we had a gay bash victim that was in the hospital hanging on by a thread at the time, and so I carried Ginny Apuzzo with me to the Ben Taub Hospital to visit him. And she and I both carried signs with his name on it, cause he would have wanted to be there. And so the next morning I had to go to the hospital and check on him, but as soon as I got back from the hospital I started calling. The first person I called was Harvey Milk. When you saw "Milk," the movie, right?

JD: Yeah, there was that line about Wichita...

Ray: We've got to get Anita to come here. Well, that line was actually a product of the conversations that I was having with Harvey Milk, saying "you can't believe what happened in Houston when Anita came."

JD: What is your kind of summation of the impact of Anita Bryant and her movement?

Ray: I don't think Annise Parker would be mayor of Houston now, if Anita Bryant had not visited this city in '77. I know that's an enormous leap, but I think that with Anita coming to town and giving us a clear target to organize an opposition to had an enormous effect on our ability to put together a robust movement that accomplished its goals.

JD: I know you're working on a play called "Whatever Happened to Anita Bryant?" Kind of very quickly, what is the play about and why are you writing it?

Ray: Well, I started out trying to find out what was magic about Anita, because she definitely had some magic on the GLBT movement. I knew it and I became a real evangelist about getting Anita Bryant to come to your city and duplicating the Houston experience from her visit. And I thought that would work anywhere. I've read a bunch of stuff about Anita Bryant, and she's become kind of the whipping boy, and I for one know how valuable her opposition was to our progress. And so I thought that I would shed a light on that. But as I have researched Anita, I have discovered a pretty sympathetic character. Anita was pretty but not very bright. She was easily manipulated and extremely religious. And she believe that her birth was a miracle and that made her subject to a bunch of mythology that the rest of us just don't have to deal with. So my play is relatively sympathetic to Anita. She's now an old woman (age 72) and she lives in Oklahoma.

JD: And the play starts out fact, and then leaps into fiction.

Ray: Well, I mean, I'm going to kill both she and I off in the play, so I needed to get to some fiction, and I think I found a colorful angle. (laughs) Gus Van Sant, if you're listening, give me a call, let's talk about it.

I guess I didn't find it surprising when I was researching this show that there have been several plays about Anita. In 1977 Doric Wilson, in his play "West Street Gang" had a character named Bnita Aryant. In 2008 Elizabeth Whitney channeled Bryant in a one-woman show called "A Day Without Sunshine." In 2009 there were two plays and a musical: "Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins," one called "1000 Homosexuals," and the musical, "Pie Face, the Adventures of Anita Bryant." That title refers to the incident in 1977 in Des Moines, Iowa, where at a press conference gay rights activist Thom Higgins threw a pie in her face. The film and photos, as they would say now, went viral, and you cannot google Anita without seeing them.

There was another musical that Anita inspired, and it was written and produced amazingly quickly. It premiered on August 8th, 1977, in L.A. and was called "Joseph McCarthy Is Alive and Living in Dade County." From it I chose the track perhaps most lyrically to the point of this show, called "The Children."

Joseph McCarthy Is Alive and Living in Dade County - The Children (1977)

I have one more short interview piece to share with you in this segment. In 2001 a wonderful book by James Sears was published, called "Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones," with the subtitle "Queering Space in the Stonewall South." Of course it thoroughly covered the impact of Anita and her campaign, and I was pleased to do a radio interview with Dr. Sears that year. Here's him commenting on Anita.

James Sears Comments (2001)

Dr Sears: Prior to Anita Bryant, all of these individuals...we're talking about several hundred people in the South by '75-'76 who were activists, that was a miniscule amount of people, compared to those people, for example, who would go party at the Old Plantation (in Houston), for example, or go discoing at the Glitter Gulch in Raleigh, or go to, be involved with one of the crewes, gay crewes in New Orleans or Mobile. Most of the, quote, queer community was outsides of any kinds of, any of this activism. And what Anita Bryant and the referendum in Dade County did, it was to present an opportunity for those activists to in fact engage a larger in organizing.

JD: It mainstreamed the community.

Dr Sears: It mainstreamed the community and also if Stonewall was the match that started the modern gay liberation movement, then in fact Anita Bryant was really the wild fire that spread across the entire country, starting from the Southeast, that engaged and enraged thousands of persons. And in fact after the defeat of the Dade County referendum, in June of 1977, Anita Bryant was already scheduled for a variety of different Christian bookings, where she would sing, and etcetera. She first went to Norfolk, and when she went to Norfolk there were hundreds of people outside of Scope Auditorium protesting. And inside there were a hundred people who were protesting. She immediately went from Norfolk to Houston, Texas, where there were hundreds and thousands of people who marched. And I talk about that march to the government offices and to protest her. And that was really the first time in all these different locations...wherever Anita Bryant met, she was met with a phalanx of different communities who were all protesting the policies that she was promulgating. As Anita Bryant and the Dade County ordinance was really at this point the singular most important organizing tool the activists had. And also was the very first time that we began to talk in this country, and particularly in the South, about homosexuality.

JD: And even after she left a city, it left a structure at least to build on for that gay community.

Dr Sears: Absolutely, and in some communities, for example, in New Orleans, there were community organizations that were developed because of that march, and then those community organizations continued. But if you can imagine in small places like Tyler, Texas, for example, or Tupelo, Mississippi, where homosexuality was never discussed. All of the sudden now you would be watching one of your three...and there were at that time generally only three TV stations...and Walter Cronkite would come on and talk about homosexuals and Anita Bryant. You would turn on, if you did have a PBS station, a MacNeil-Lehrer report, and they'll be a debate between people like Anita Bryant and Bob Kunst. You would pick up your Montgomery newspaper, and the headlines would be, something about Anita Bryant. Or they'll be letters to the editor, or they'll even be know, what do Montgomery citizens think of about homosexuals being allowed to teach, or homosexuals being fired if they were known to be gay. That was unheard of prior to that, and so Anita Bryant was really a critical moment for the community.

Click to hear the entire interview with Dr James Sears, Oct 2001, 36 minutes

This is JD Doyle bringing to a close this segment of Queer Music Heritage for October, but there's a lot more music to come in Part 2, including the reaction to Anita from artists in other countries, and some comments from several artists about their songs, and even one song that's x-rated. But for this segment I saved for last a song that certainly echoes what James Sears and Ray Hill said in their comments. From 1979 is Charlie King, and "Thank You, Anita."

Charlie King - Thank You, Anita (1979)

International Gay Society - Stand Up for Your Rights (1977)

Welcome to Part 2 of Queer Music Heritage for October. This is JD Doyle and I'm bringing you more "Songs About Anita Bryant." That rousing opening song was "Stand Up for Your Rights," by the International Gay Society. Well, that's what it says on the label. It was written and probably sung by L.A. producer Bobby Sanders, and it's hard to say now if that was a sincere song or just an effort to capitalize on the mood then. I mean, naming the act the International Gay Society kind of seems a bit calculated. As Sanders died a few years ago we'll likely never know.

Here's another song that came out quickly, this time out of Chicago, by Michelle Faithe and called "Ode to Anita."

Michelle Faithe - Ode to Anita (1977)

Remember in Part 1 where I played "Hurricane Anita," by Lynn Frizzel? Well that was on a 45 produced by the Miami Victory Campaign, and on the flip side was a song called "Anita's Crusaders," by Ron Kauffman. I'm pleased that I was able to track him down and ask about that song.

Ron Kauffman Comments (2012)

Ron: I was performing in a club called Fat Cat Lounge, in Hollywood, Florida, with a band called Joe Rush, and they came to me and, somehow they got involved with it and asked me if I would write a song for that and gave me the particulars about it, and I wrote a song.

JD: Oh, so you wrote it for the project.

Ron: Yup, there was a lot of things going on back then that I didn't believe in...I'm pretty verbal about what I didn't believe in.

JD: Well, a lot of people, gay and straight, wrote songs about her, so she inspired a lot.

Ron: Oh, yeah, and it wasn't all good (laughs). She was a pretty fanatical woman, I mean, that's about the only word for it.

JD: Did you ever hear how many copies of the 45 were pressed, or sold?

Ron: Ah, to be honest with you, man, it's been so long that I can't recall how many were pressed. I know that there were probably, I don't know, a couple thousand, anyway, maybe up to five thousand. And how many were sold, I have no idea. I didn't take any royalties off of it...

JD: Well, I don't think royalties were the point. It was to raise money for the project...

Ron: No, it was...right, exactly. So, I wasn't involved in anything other than recording the song, and I did record it. I think Joe Rush did the back up on it. I just turned it over to everybody and let them have at it.

JD: Did you perform the song at that time?

Ron: I think I performed it at a couple venues, yeah.

JD: Did you meet the guy who did the other side of the record, Lynn Frizzel?

Ron: Yeah, he was in the studio with us.

JD: Oh, okay, so it was recorded at the same time.

Ron: Yeah, this was all done at Criteria Recording Studios.

JD: And do you have any thoughts on all this, now that it's 35 years later?

Ron: I don't know what it would be other than I hope it helped, and I said my peace and I don't believe in certain things and hurting people is one of them. And there was a lot of hurting going on back then. I mean, to me life is to each his own, it's too short to be worrying about what everybody else is doing.

JD: Well, I was almost amazed that I even found you.

Ron: Me,, too. I mean, it's not a song that I really put out there much in the last 25 or 30 years.

JD: Well, no, it's pretty dated, it got dated pretty quickly.

Ron: But I hope it helped. I mean, I believe everybody has the right to be what they are.

And here's Ron Kauffman and "Anita's Crusaders."

Ron Kauffman - Anita's Crusaders (1977)

Recent pic of Ron shown below, from his YouTube page

Here are two more Anita-inspired songs. I'm pleased that Philadelphia artist Hank Baron sent me a very nice unreleased demo by him, called "Standing Before the Judge."

Click for More on Conan

Hank Baron - Standing Before the Judge (1982)
Conan - Tell Ol' Anita (1979)

That was Conan Dunham, though he generally just went by Conan. He made the song "Tell Ol' Anita" the title track from his 1978 album.

Here's something a bit different, comedy, and it's by Robin Tyler from her 1977 album on Olivia Records called "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom." The track is called "Dear Ms. Bryant."

Robin Tyler - Dear Ms Bryant (1977)

A few years ago I interviewed Robin Tyler and asked her about her career, and she had an additional reason for being grateful for the unintentional gift from Anita.

Robin Tyler Comments (2009)

And so what happened in the 70s I was beginning to formulate material, and then Anita Bryant came along, and I'm so grateful for Anita Bryant, I am. I tell you something, Anita Bryant and Laura Schlessinger have done more for comedy than, you know, no, really, these are great women. I know a lot of people look at them and say oh well they're not, these are very important women because all of this was like a wealth of material, you know, so I came out against Anita Bryant, I was doing jokes on her, and ah…when I started coming out and doing humor that was pro gay and lesbian, people said to me, gays & lesbians, "You're gonna kill your career" even though they were laughing "you're gonna kill your career, you're gonna kill yourself on television. You won't be a star." And you know I said, I may never be a star but unless you can tell the truth as a comic you can never really be funny. And so I didn't care. I just came out. And the day I was on the Kroft Comedy Hour, Patty & I were starring, ABC television, Ellen Degeneres' network, we were the stars, and the national news carried us and said "avowed lesbian" Robin Tyler does Anita Bryant jokes" and this was on the national news, right after the national broadcast. I'm so glad I came out, because when I came out I got happy and free and funny. I just knew that I couldn't lie anymore. You know, when people say don't ask, don't tell, what they're really saying is be a liar, and how can you be an artist and be a liar? I mean, how can you when the basis of art is supposed to be your truth. How can you be a liar?

I'm calling this next section of the show the international segment, and I was kind of amazed at how many artists from other countries sang about Anita. I have two releases from Canada, two from Australia and kind of an incredible recording from the Netherlands. I'll start with Canada, and an artist named Paul Vincent. He was also a DJ and released a number of records, many sung in French. On the cover of his 1977 LP, just called "Paul Vincent," he's dressed rather fey, and that LP contains a track that he also released in a longer version as a 12" single. I'm not really sure where he was going with this song, but it seems mostly tongue in cheek. He called it "Gay Rock for Anita."

Paul Vincent - Gay Rock for Anita (1977)
Basement Faith - Anita Chiquita (~1977-78)

After Paul Vincent was another Canadian release, from British Columbia, called "Anita Chiquita" and it likely was their only release. It was by Carl Sandborn and his band Basement Faith.

Next, from Australia I have two acts doing the same song, and the song was written by one of their pioneering lesbian artists, Judy Small. It's called "Festival of Light," and Judy included it on her first LP, "Natural Selection." It became a popular song and a few years later a choral group named the Gay Liberation Qwire did their own version. That was on their 1983 EP, "Hormones or Jeans, The Gay Liberation Qwire Goes Down on Vinyl." I like them both so will give you part of each one. Now, the lyrics mention some names you may not know so I've got some comments from Judy to introduce it.

Judy Small Comments (2002)

Well, "Festival of Light" originated in England, and of course it's a right-wing Christian morality group, much like the Moral Majority. And like the Moral Majority the Festival of Light is neither festive or enlightened, in my opinion. It was started by an English woman called Mary Whitehouse, who I guess was the Anita Bryant of her day in England. She only died last year, she was a fairly elderly sort of woman even then. And it came to Australia, that movement, and I guess the English version came before the American version did, and so our right-wing Christians formed themselves into the Festival of Light, rather than the Moral Majority. And it was about the time that I wrote that was about the time of the scandal of Florida orange juice and Anita Bryant, so she made it in there as well.

Judy Small - Festival of Light (1982, part)
Gay Liberation Qwire - Festival of Light (1983, part)

Above, Click to see large scans and to hear the entire LP

Now, to that amazing Dutch recording I mentioned. The Netherlands of course has been a very progressive country for a long time, and in 1977 one of their organizations, The Netherlands Committee for Human Rights, took a stand about what Anita Bryant and her ilk were doing, in a big way. For one they took out a full-page ad in The Miami Herald to run the Saturday before the election, and had plans to run another full-page ad in Time Magazine the next January. That ad would be costly, and to help raise funds a benefit concert was held on October 8th, 1977, with many speakers and popular artists performing. That concert was ultimately, in 1980, released on an hour-long LP, called "Miami Nightmare." If my google translator is correct the LP cover described it as a "benefit night concert to fight the witch hunt against gays in America." Now, most of the performances were in the Dutch language, but there were some exceptions, like Manfred Langer and his track "A Message From Holland."

and, so you can read the third part,

Anita Bryant -
Be sure the world
Is watching you,
So back to your feet again
Anita Bryant -
Why don't you try
With all your heart
To love your fellow man?
The Lord will say what's wrong
So leave the gay alone
You can sing your frozen song
But let me sing my own

Anita Bryant -
I heard your voice
I read your words
And now I'm cold inside
Anita Bryant -
Listen to my voice
And read my words,
It's a message from Holland,
It's a message from Holland,
It's a message from Holland

Manfred Langer - A Message From Holland (1977)

I need to share one other song from the album, even though it's sung in Dutch, because it played such a large role in the concert. This artist always went by her stage name, Zangeres Zanger Naam, or Singer With No Name, and she was successful since the 1960's, with a style you might call sentimental pop. While she was already popular with gay people in Holland, a song she wrote and sang in 1977 made her, according to one reference I found, Queen of the Gays. The song was called "Luister, Anita," or "Listen, Anita." I found a translation and want to read to you the first verse and part of the chorus. Try to imagine it to a waltz beat.

Her name is Anita
They call her a 'diva'
She's famous for her beauty and songs
In her belief and character
She's way behind (=old-fashioned)
She's working out this devilish plan
She wants to destroy the life
Once given to us by God
She quotes the bible
I just can't understand
She wants gay people to disappear
And the women back as slaves to their men
But dear guy, just keep lovin' your friend
And keep on fighting for your rights
If necessary even really fight for them
What she is accusing you of is something that you don't deserve

And another verse compares Anita to Hitler. Okay, here's the actual song. In the concert it got such an ovation that she had to sing it twice, and I'm bringing you the encore.

Zangeres Zanger Naam - Luister, Anita (1977)

Yup, that was the International section of the show, and I mentioned in Part 1 that I had an x-rated song for you, so I might as well get that over with. It's actually one of the most well-known songs about Anita Bryant, likely because it is x-rated. It's by country singer David Allan Coe, who had some minor success mostly in the 70's and 80's. He released an underground album called "Nothing Sacred," which was good place for this song, a song that has something to offend almost everyone.

David Allan Coe - Fuck Anita Bryant (1978)
New Folk Revival - Song for Anita Bryant (~1978)

If that song sounded familiar, well, you heard it on Part 1, sung by its writer, Tom Paxton, and he called it "Anita O.J." The New Folk Revival included it on their LP "Out to Lunch," only they called it "Song for Anita Bryant." Not sure why the changed the title, but they did give Paxton writing credits on the LP.

And here's a song that I think kind of walks the fence a little. It's by the well-known musician and songwriter Leon Russell. He's been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his latest album was done with Elton John. But back in the late 50's he went to the same high school in Tulsa as Anita Bryant; he graduated in 1959 and she a year earlier. When her controversy hit he wrote a song about her. It's called "Anita Bryant," and on the 45 it says "not available on any album," which is probably just as well. You may have your own impression of where he was going with it, but I kind of think he really looked up to her, but then found himself disagreeing with what she was doing, but he was restraining himself in what he said. See what you think.

Leon Russell - Anita Bryant (1978)

I have a side comment in that for this show, for balance, I also researched extensively, looking for any pro-Anita Bryant songs, but I just didn't find any.

And I found Anita in one more musical. Here's a track, or rather, just a part of a track, as within the show it's quite long. It's from "The Harvey Milk Show," from 1996, written by Dan Pruitt and Patrick Hutchison. It's called "Anita."

The Harvey Milk Show - Anita (1996)

Up next is one of the most fun songs of the entire show, and it comes from the first gay LP I ever heard, and I got to meet the singer in 1979, not long after I came out. He's Tom Wilson Weinberg and we've kept in contact, and I've interviewed him more than once for my show over the years. He's the creator of the musicals "Ten Percent Revue," and "Get Used To It" and a number of others. On his first album, from 1979, called "Gay Name Game," there was a song called "Second Runner-Up," and I'll let him talk about it.

Tom Wilson Weinberg Comments (2012)

"Second Runner-Up" was my take on Anita Bryant. She had a pretty interesting reputation as a pop singer, but really, a minor star. She had been a Miss America contestant (1958). She came in third, which is to say she was the second runner-up. She really was the first celebrity, or minor celebrity, to go on the band wagon against gay rights. And in a certain way I felt that that coalesced a lot of energy, and she made a contribution, you might say, to the organizing of the movement, because she outraged people all over the country. I also thought that there was a lot of opportunity for a comedy in a song about her. I've always found writing comic songs harder than writing serious songs. But I think this one was pretty successful. It's got some good jokes. I sort of structured it as a mini-biography of her, starting with her birth in Oklahoma and moving through her career and the Miss America pageant and her anti-gay activities later.

JD: What was the reaction to the song?

Tom: Well, the song I would say was well-received in performance. I think I wrote it in 1978, started singing it right away. And then it was on my first LP in '79, "Gay Name Game." And I continue to pull it out of the trunk every once in a while. I try not to do that with too many things, but I always have fun with this song, and of course a lot of young people don't know who she was, but this teaches them who she was.

Tom Wilson Weinberg - Second Runner-Up (1979)

This is JD Doyle and thank you for joining me in my look at Songs About Anita Bryant. For my closing song I have a very nice track by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. It's from the CD "Closer Than Ever, the 25th Anniversary Concert," which was done in 2003. They included an arrangement of "Michael's Letter to Mama." Now, from the beginning I've been a big fan of the Armistead Maupin book series "Tales of the City," and one of the iconic scenes was in the second book. That was where the character Michael gets a letter from his mother mentioning that she's working on Anita Bryant's Save the Children campaign. His parents do not know he is gay and that drives him to write them back. The Chorus was blessed to get Armistead Maupin himself to do some narration during the song. It's a long piece but I just couldn't bear to cut any of it. Here's the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and "Michael's Letter to Mama."

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, with Armistead Maupin - Michael's Letter to Mama (2003)