A Tough Post-Mortem Remembrance for ex-"Mr. Anita Bryant"

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    Feb 26, 2012 7:36 PM GMT
    Pour a little orange juice on the grave for...


    Miami HeraldBob Green, a one-time radio DJ who married pop singer and Miss Oklahoma Anita Bryant, was found dead Jan. 26 in his Miami Beach home. He was 80.

    Green managed his wife’s rise to stardom as an entertainer and Florida citrus spokeswoman, then followed her into anti-gay activism, which ultimately destroyed their careers — and marriage in 1980.

    For more than 30 years, Green lived quietly, alone and resentful...

    “Bob internalized a lot of his own anger and frustration and disappointments,’’ Bryant, 71, said Wednesday from her Oklahoma City home. That’s what happens “if you don’t let your faith rise up and you give in to all those anxieties."

    In 1977, Green and Bryant led a successful effort to repeal Miami-Dade County’s newly passed gay rights ordinance, Bryant out front and the tall, handsome Green behind the scenes, as he had been when he managed her singing career.

    “He would maintain publicly that he was perfectly happy being Mr. Anita Bryant and making arrangements backstage instead of being the one in the limelight,’’ said Robert Jr. “She was the one who was visible. And getting all the credit for something they really created as a team. Maybe there was some kind of subconscious resentment.”

    Robert Jr. a Chicago-area editor, said that his father “grew up a nominal Lutheran,’’ and became a devout Christian after his marriage.

    The family’s pastor persuaded Bryant to launch the successful anti-gay-rights campaign, Green told the Miami Herald in 2007.

    Green “kind of followed her lead, which he did when it came to religion or morals or that kind of thing,’’ Robert Jr. said. “She just had stronger convictions, I guess.”

    Flush with victory in Miami-Dade, the couple founded Anita Bryant Ministries, which offered “deprogramming’’ and halfway houses for gays, and a lecture series called “Design for Successful Living,” aimed at battling divorce.

    But Bryant’s campaign against the ordinance tanked her image. She lost her orange-juice gig, convention bookings, and her big-ticket income.

    In June 1980, she filed for divorce, a scandal in the very Christian circles where she’d been revered.

    Green begged her to reconcile in an open letter: “Let us both put aside all other earthly considerations and reunite in Christian love.”

    Bryant wasn’t interested. She told People magazine: “Divorce is against everything I believe in. I wanted to save my marriage, but I decided that was not the route to go.”

    The following year, she told a woman’s magazine that the marriage “was never much good to begin with,’’ and hinted that both had been unfaithful.

    In 2007, Green told The Miami Herald that he blamed gay people for the turmoil in his life because “their stated goal was to put [Bryant] out of business and destroy her career. And that’s what they did. It’s unfair.”

    They adopted Robert Jr., then had three more children, whom they raised in a six-bedroom mansion called Villa Verde on Miami Beach’s tony North Bay Road.

    After the divorce, they sold the place for $790,000, and split the proceeds in 1982. Once millionaires, they’d lost most of their fortune.

    “I jog past the house and I say I wish I was back there in the good old days,’’ Green said in the 2007 interview. “I used to jog on North Bay Road and cry all the way. I don’t have any friends. I have my family and people in the neighborhood. I’m kind of like a hermit. I’m not antisocial. It’s just the way I’ve become.’’

    Two years later, Green wrote a letter to the Herald lamenting his family’s fate.

    “As the ex-husband of Anita, I can say that our family endured years of bomb threats, boycotts, and violent protests at our bookings,’’ he wrote. “A typical one was in Chicago where we started with the usual bomb threat on the airplane, three SWAT teams as escort, registering at a "dummy" hotel while staying in secret, under guard, at another location, being driven to the performance on the floor of an unmarked police car. The audience was barraged by human waste, verbal abuse, and disruptions at the non-issue-oriented concert.

    “This happened not only at our show-biz concerts, but during conventions and religious appearances as well...I have hard evidence that there were threats to sabotage Florida citrus products in stores if Anita were allowed to continue representing the industry.’’

    He blamed the newspaper for failing to support Bryant, “a hometown lady who for so many years represented this community and state so well. Had that been done, perhaps Anita and Bob Green and family would still be proud members of this wonderful area.’’

    Robert Jr. said that “for many, many years [his father] was a bitter guy, and it was really hard to see his own responsibility for what happened to him...He turned his back on the outside world. He had this refuge. He could grow his orchids. He had this waterfall. That suggests to me that he could not let go of the past, the life we had as a family was everything to him.’’

    Son William Green, of North Bay Village, said that "both of my parents were wonderful parents. I would have gladly traded all the publicity and stardom for a normal mom and dad. In retrospect, they would have, too."

    The gay rights battle "definitely wore him down," son William said.

    "A lot of his pain and suffering was that he lost his family. If the political fallout wasn’t that bad and he didn’t lose his family, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But it was a double whammy."

    Said Bryant, who remarried 21 years ago: “I tried to be his friend but you can only go so far.’’

    Rumor was he was Marcus Bachmann before Marcus Bachmann.
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    Mar 13, 2012 10:03 PM GMT
    One of Anita and Bob's kids speaks out:


    Windy City TimesIn late January, Robert Green Jr. found himself back where he started more than 30 years ago—trying to reconcile the parents he knew with the public image they created, an image he fled and largely avoided for decades.

    Green Jr. is the oldest son of famous anti-gay crusaders Anita Bryant and Bob Green, who battled the Dade County, Fla., ordinance banning discrimination against gay people and won in 1977.

    On Jan. 26, Green Sr. died at the age of 80, after suffering kidney failure.

    The news of his passing spread slowly, mostly because Green Jr. spent weeks agonizing over his father's obituary before he widely announced the death. He has complicated feelings about his father, a man he said was devoted and kind to his children. He wants his father to be remembered for more than the fiercely anti-gay stance that came to define his family, but Green Jr. concedes disappointment in some of his father's views.

    Green Sr. married Anita Bryant in 1960, abandoning his deejay career to manage the fledgling singer. The couple raised four children together before Bryant called it quits in 1980 and left Green. Three of the four kids left with Bryant, but Green Jr. moved with his father just three blocks from their old home. Green Sr. spent the next three decades fixated on the past. Green Jr. fled to Wheaton College in Illinois, far away from the controversy and pain of his parent's divorce. For years, he avoided looking back.

    Green Jr., a senior copywriter, lives in Chicago now and has a family of his own. He also has a number of gay friends, a fact he discusses unremarkably. He does not share his parents' views on LGBT issues.

    Windy City Times caught up with Green Jr. and asked him to share his memories of growing up and explain why he spent his life trying to escape that past, only to come back around.

    The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

    Windy City Times: You were disheartened by your father's outlook on life before he died. Why?

    Robert Green Jr.: He blamed gay and lesbian people for the disappointments that followed the aftermath of that for wrecking my mom's career, which of course my dad at the time had been very much a part of as her manager as well as her husband. I think he blamed gay and lesbian people in some parts for my parent's divorce and the difficulty that my dad had in finding other work.

    Nowhere have I seen … any expression on his part of responsibility for the life he ended up leading. To be honest, I didn't really broach the subject with him. In the limited amount of time that I had with him, living up here in Chicago. ... I preferred I guess to keep things positive and not go into that territory.

    I have to some extent gone into that territory with my mom, however. We've definite have some back and forth about what her views were back then, what they are now and if those views have changed in any way and from my point of view, if not, then why not?

    WCT: So, you don't share your parents views on gay rights?

    Robert Green Jr.: I think of the four of us kids of Bob Green and Anita Bryant, I am probably the most sympathetic towards gay and lesbian rights and probably in a lot of ways more socially, politically, religiously left of certainly where my parents were at that time. All of us are more moderate than our parents.

    WCT: Your dad converted to Christianity around the time he married your mom. Was your sense that he following your mom's lead on gay issues?

    Robert Green Jr.: I think, at first, he was trying to dissuade her from taking any public position. He was clear-sighted about what the consequences for their careers would be. I do think that my mom always had much stronger religious and moral convictions than my dad. He did very much follow her lead in those areas of her life. I think he followed her lead in the decision to fight gay rights.

    WCT: Do you think their battle against gay rights, as some have suggested, caused the end of their marriage and careers?

    Robert Green Jr.: No. I think it just aggravated problems that they already had in their marriage that existed maybe from the beginning. I think it's telling that my dad accepted my mom's version of Christianity right around the time they got married. That was kind of a condition of their getting married.

    From what I could tell from the time when I was old enough to pay attention to such things, there was always this tension between them about the direction her career should go in, about how many engagements she should take on. … I think from pretty early on as her manager, he saw all of the praise she was getting from everybody, and so he made a deliberate effort to play devil's advocate, play her toughest critic. She would finish a show, and everyone would tell her how great she had been. Then, when the two of them would be alone, he would point out every single mistake she had made. I have to doubt that was purely something he did to make her a better performer. I think he maybe subconsciously resented her success.

    WCT: Your dad has been portrayed as someone whose life just stopped after their divorce. Do you think that's accurate?

    Robert Green Jr.: Yeah. I think in a lot of ways it did. I know that in the year or two after that he pretty much broke down. I don't think he was really fully-functioning for a couple of years. Three out of the four of us kids moved away with my mom. I decided to stay, largely because I was worried about my dad, you know, what if he decided to kill himself? I had one more year of high school, so I figured I would stay with him. Here were the two of us in this big, more or less empty, big house. He never really let go of his sense of loss, his grief, the resentment over the breakup of his family.

    WCT: What was he like as a person?

    Robert Green Jr.: Like any human being, he was a complicated guy. It is unfortunate that most people only had gotten to see them through the lens of their position against gay rights. As a dad, he was a lot of fun to be around. He had a perverse sense of humor his whole life. To people outside our family, I think he would often come across at first as a prickly character, but once they saw the prickliness was part of the sense of humor, they enjoyed being around him.

    WCT: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your parents?

    Robert Green Jr.: I guess that they were hateful. I remember in the heat of the controversy going into a shop with my mom… [a man] came over and shook her hand and said he backed what she was doing and basically said "I hate fags, too." She immediately set him straight about that, that she did not hate anyone. That wasn't the point for her about what she was trying to do.

    WCT: Do you remember when you started actually interacting with gay people?

    Robert Green Jr.: When my parents first got involved in this, I was a teenager. Being at that age, I was questioning pretty much everything about what my parents thought and did anyway, regardless of whether they had gotten involved in that or not. It's not like I sought out this strange forbidden tribe, but I was very open to meeting and talking with gays and lesbians.

    Since then, I've made friends with a lot of people, some of whom I didn't know were gay or lesbian. I don't think in some cases they knew for a while… it's deepened our friendship, or sense of loyalty and solidarity to still be friends after each came out and for them to see that there was no need to worry in our case.

    WCT: Were your gay friends afraid to come out to you because you are the son of Anita Bryant?

    Robert Green Jr.: I don't really think so, becau
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    Mar 13, 2012 10:18 PM GMT
    without Ann Coulter's adam's apple, of course
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    Mar 14, 2012 3:13 AM GMT
    May he be rotting in hell with her soon to follow. No sympathies from me.