Bob Green, former DJ and ex-husband of Anita Bryant, dies at 80
By Elinor J. Brecher and Steve Rothaus,
Bob Green, a onetime radio DJ who married pop singer and Miss Oklahoma Anita Bryant, was found dead Jan. 26 at his home in Miami Beach. He was 80.
Mr. 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, Mr. Green lived quietly, alone and resentful.
“Bob internalized a lot of his own anger and frustration and disappointments,” said Bryant, 71, on Wednesday from her home in Oklahoma City. That’s what happens “if you don’t let your faith rise up and you give into all those anxieties.
“The trouble with life is that it’s so daily,” she continued. “You have to have a mind-set 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 an Air Force veteran and suffered from heart problems. He was on kidney dialysis at the time of his death, his sons said.
In 1977, Mr. 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. said 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, Mr. Green told the Miami Herald in 2007.
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 big-ticket income.
In 1980, she filed for divorce, a scandal in the Christian circles where she’d been revered. Mr. 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, Mr. 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.”
Mr. Green was pursuing a broadcast career when he met Bryant. He graduated from New York’s School of Radio and Television Technique in 1955.
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. They adopted Robert Jr., then had three more children, whom they raised in a six-bedroom mansion 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,’ ” Mr. 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.”
In addition to sons Robert and William, Mr. Green is survived by daughters Gloria and Barbara, William’s twin.
Said Bryant, who remarried 21 years ago: “I tried to be his friend, but you can only go so far.”
— Miami Herald