- Bob Green: Anita's ex paid dearly in the fight (2007)
- Gay rights debate rages on 30 years after Miami-Dade challenge (2007)
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER AND STEVE ROTHAUS, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob 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.
“The trouble with life is that it’s so daily. You have to have a mindset that you’re going to work out your problems and God is going to help you. But he’s not going to lay it all in your lap.’’
Robert Einar Green was born on June 13, 1931, in the Bronx, to Swedish immigrants. He was a U. S. Air Force veteran and suffered from heart problems. He was on kidney dialysis at the time of his death, his sons said.
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.”
Green was pursuing a broadcast career when he met Bryant. He’d studied drama, speech, and psychology at Trinity University, according to Robert Jr., and graduated from New York’s School of Radio and Television Technique in 1955. He got a job on camera at WJNO, the NBC affiliate in West Palm Beach.
In 1958, he moved to Miami, where he joined WINZ-AM radio as a rock/jazz DJ. The following year, said his son, “he escorted a...pop singer named Anita Bryant to a music-industry convention in Miami. They were married on June 25, 1960. Bob then gave up his broadcasting career to manage Anita’s career.’’
She had multiple top-40 hits in the ‘60s, including three gold records by age 21, and made TV commercials for Coca-Cola.
“Bob and Anita spent seven Christmases in that decade, touring the world with Bob Hope to entertain U.S. troops [and] were frequent guests at the LBJ White House,’’ the son said.
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.’’
Green continued to produce conventions and made documentaries for a relief agency.
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.’’
In addition to sons Robert and William, Green is survived by daughters Gloria and Barbara, William’s twin. The body was cremated. The family suggests that donations in his memory be made to Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief agency: www.samaritanspurse.org.
A Miami memorial service is being planned.