Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Anita Who?

HBO is thinking about doing a bio-pic about Anita Bryant.

“Sex and the City” creator Darren Star is on board to direct the film, which is being written by “Runaway” creator Chad Hodge. Star also is executive producing with Dennis Erdman.

“She is a fascinating person on every single level,” said Hodge, who has a connection to Bryant — they both attended Northwestern. “The twists and turns of her life are incredible.”

By age 18, Bryant, who was born to a religious Oklahoma family in 1940, had won Arthur Godfrey’s talent show and a Miss Oklahoma pageant and finished as second runner-up for Miss America.

In 1959 and ’60, she was a major pop star with three million-selling records. After marrying and settling in Florida, she reverted to Christian music and, projecting a wholesome image, began plugging such blue-chip companies as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Holiday Inn.

Her most famous celebrity endorsement gig was for the Florida Citrus Commission, for which she sang in a series of TV commercials, closing each ad with the tag line, “A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.”

By the mid-’70s, Bryant was a Christian celebrity. She published several best-selling books and won Good Housekeeping’s “Most Admired Woman in America” poll for three consecutive years.

In 1977, she switched to political activism, launching a crusade to repeal a new Miami-Dade County ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children,” she said. Her Save the Children coalition got the new law overturned within a year, and it took 20 years for it to be reinstated.

Celebrating her victory, Bryant promised she would “seek help and change for homosexuals, whose sick and sad values belie the word ‘gay,’ which they pathetically use to cover their unhappy lives.”

I don’t know how being a mother automatically gives Ms. Bryant insight into the complicated field of biology and gender identification, but I know a lot of gay people who are parents and who have “reproduced” children (without, I assume, the use of a Xerox machine). As for the idea of “recruiting,” I don’t know anyone who was ever asked to sign up to be gay. (As one of my gay friends put it, “When I was eighteen and horny, I sure as hell tried to get some cute guy to recruit me, but I had no luck.”)

I also wonder who was the one who ended up with the unhappy life. Ms. Bryant’s career took a nosedive after her campaign in Miami, she lost her contract with the Citrus Commission, her own marriage dissolved, and she’s now living in Oklahoma. Her defenders say that she’s the victim of the “radical homosexual agenda,” but when you go around promoting bigotry and intolerance, shit has a way of happening without any help from someone else.