Published on August 20th, 2012 | by Dr. Richard Martorano1
Anita Bryant – Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda
What happened at a 2000-guest Cadillac Dealer convention at the Orlando Disney Hyatt in 1974 with Anita Bryant in concert under my musical direction?
It was not a good night for any of us and in reflection; it was one of those things in my life I would have done differently.
In 1974, I was a musician, entertainer and conductor in Central Florida with show bands that performed throughout the area. In addition to teaching positions, I was the Music Director of Loch Haven Community Theater in Winter Park and a player on the adjunct staff of musicians at Disney World.
I had a great band of musicians, so I was fortunate enough to often act as Musical Director for national acts that came to Central Florida to perform at Disney and other convention centers.
In 1974, my band and I were contracted by a convention planner to back Anita Bryant at a Southeastern Cadillac Dealers convention.
Anita Bryant – Christian and Anti-Gay Activist.
Anita’s husband, Bob Greene, was her manager at this point in her career. He told me in private, before our rehearsal, that Anita had a tendency to be over enthusiastic about her role as a Christian and Anti-Gay activist during her performances.
She would preach to the audience between her songs as to what she thought the role of American businesspersons and private citizens should be as they dealt with social and moral issues facing the nation at that time. If she became long-winded in her patter between numbers, I was encouraged to “just start vamping” the next song of the show.
She was a sweetheart in rehearsal, very generous with her affection and compliments, a good musician, easy to like and very easy to work with. She exuded the role of the perfect American sweetheart.
She was received with great applause. The opening number of the show went fine- high energy, great musical arrangement, the band was “cooking”, and the audience LOVED her.
There was no patter between the first and second song.
Between the third and fourth song there was a little dialog thanking the audience, recognizing me as the Musical Director and how good the band was and saying how happy she was to be at the convention and blessed to “be there”.
After the next song, everyone was on his or her feet in appreciation.
Then she started.
She talked about “Being Saved”. I started vamping…
She spoke of how Jesus was her savior and if you did not have Jesus in your life, you were going to Hell. I started vamping louder…She did not stop.
She talked about homosexual politicians and schoolteachers in South Florida. I encouraged the band to play louder…
She talked about the poverty in America. Trying to get her attention, I stood up and walked to the front of the stage where she could see me. She did not stop.
She talked about her relationship with Jerry Falwell. I looked to her husband for help. He shrugged his shoulders.
For a crowd of rowdy partying Cadillac dealers at a convention, the room became absolutely hushed.
“Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda”
“I shoulda” talked with Anita before the show and told her about the kind of audience she was playing to. “I shoulda” convinced her to be careful with her opinions. “I shoulda” had the convention planner with the Cadillac dealerships talk to her. Was it part of my job or any of my business? I don’t know.
“I coulda” told the band what to expect from her “patter” between numbers and that I did not want to hear any snickering from them if the show got out of hand. “Just play the music, shut up, be a professional and do your job.”
I was pleased going into the gig, to be backing a name act like Anita Bryant. Even knowing what I was getting into, I needed the money and recognition that doing a date like that would bring.
If I had to do it all over – “I woulda” not have taken the gig. It was more aggravating and stressful than it was worth.
If I had to do it all over again – “I woulda” acted responsibly by being more sympathetic to Anita’s embarrassment, even if it was self-induced.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a crystal ball to see what “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s” might be coming our way?