If there’s one moment in history that brings a smile to my face, it’s the time Anita Bryant got pied in the face.
Born in Barnsdall, Okla., in 1940, Bryant rose to fame through the Miss America beauty pageant circuit, winning Miss Oklahoma in 1958 and taking home the national runner-up title in 1959.
She married Miami DJ, Bob Green and produced a string of hits in the early ‘60s, such as, “Paper Roses,” “My Little Corner of the World,” and “Wonderland by Night.”
Bryant went on to serve as a spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission from 1968 to 1980, also appearing in ads for Florida orange juice throughout the ‘70s, but it was the late ‘70s that would prove to be her undoing.
“As a mother,” she famously explained, “I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children.”
“If homosexuals are allowed their civil rights, so will prostitutes and thief’s”, Bryant said in a television interview.
Bryant’s focus turned away from singing and appearing in orange juice commercials, as she formed an organization called Save Our Children.
Save Our Children, Inc. was a political coalition formed in 1977 in Miami, Florida to overturn a recently legislated county ordinance that banned discrimination in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation. The coalition was publicly headed by celebrity singer Anita Bryant, Bryant’s ludicrous – argument was her fear that children would be molested or converted by gay perverts. In a fundraising letter she wrote, “As a mother I must protect my children from their evil influence.”
This type of Old Testament activism drew many followers at the time, and within a year the law was repealed, making it legal again to fire workers, deny people housing, or refuse their business based on their sexuality alone.
Bryant stayed on the anti-gay rights cause with speaking tours and went to California to support the Briggs Initiative in 1978, looking to mandate the firing of gay teachers, which failed. Her so-called “crusade” eventually led her to Des Moines in 1977, where, during an Oct. 14 press conference, a journalist, who was also a gay activist at the time; went up to Bryant and planted a pie in her face, finally shutting her up, momentarily!
“At least it was a fruit pie,” Bryant quipped before praying for Higgins, reportedly in tears.
Within a year of that pieing, Bryant had lost her foothold in the pop music market, and she was relegated to performing in revival tents for next to nothing. That same year, she and her husband, Bob Green, got divorced. This prompted the religious right to turn against her, lest they make a divorcée the face of American family values.
Bryant, through her ministry’s website, blames her divorce from Green on the “stresses and strains” of being targeted by “militant homosexuals” and a news media looking to push their agenda.