Anita Bryant's success as a spokesman against homosexual rights threatens to cost her the $100,000-a-year job of pitching Florida orange juice in television ads, state officials say, though they hasten to add that it all depends on orange juice sales.
On Saturday, Arthur Darling, director of publicity for the Florida Department of Citrus told the Associated Press that, "The whole Anite thing is a mess. No matter what we decide, we're only going to lose. I wish she would just resign."
But yesterday Dan Richardson, chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, said there is no present plan to cancel Bryant's contract. He left no doubt however, that orange juice sales are the key to Bryant's continued employment.
In a prepared statement, Richardson said "The Florida Citrus Commission . . . has continually taken the position that what Anita Bryant does in private life is her decision, and we should not try to influence or direct this decision."
"If however, Anita Bryant's activities in her public life should develop to the point where, in the mind of the public, she could no longer be an effective saleswoman for our industry," the statement continued, "it is quite obvious that we would have to reconsider our position in fulfilling our responsibility to the citrus growers, whom we represent."
Darling refused to comment further yesterday other than to read Richardson's statement.
Department officials say the filming of this fall's television campaign has been suspended unitl they receive the results of a survey studying her "marketing effectiveness."
They say part of the problem is that the singer has become more recognized for her outspoken religious opposition to homosexual rights than as a spokeswoman for the citrus industry.
"You can't be a commercial star and an evangelist at the same time," says Douglas Hoffer, the department's marketing director.
Hoffer said the survey will measure whether consumers have come to identify Bryant with the homosexual issue more than with oranges.
Bryant was appearing Saturday in New Orleans. Her husband, Bob Green, said backstage that he would not show her a copy of the comments by Florida officials, and refused to let reporters talk to her.
"It would break her heart if she saw it," he said. "She will be in church in the morning and she'll be able to take it a lot better in church.
"It's sad, but if it's true, then a person doesn't have the right to stand up for free speech. I personally don't believe it. I would really have to hear this from the citrus growers. We've had some Florida citrus growers say their sales are up, and that means she's a good salesperson.
"If it is true, it's a big victory for homosexuals in the United States, and the homosexuals can be proud of their boycott against Anita Bryant."
When Bryant helped form Save Our Children, Inc., the group that led the successful campaign for the repeat of Dade County's homosexual rights campaign, Darling said he hoped the furor over Bryant's stand would die down after the election.
But in the week following the county referendum which repealed the law, personal appearances by the former beauty queen in Dallas, New Orleans and Chicago have touched off demonstrations for and against her position.
Darling says the department has received a stack of "Anita hate mail" mostly from California homosexuals vowing to boycott Florida citrus products.
"We're concerned that she is making herself such a national figure on this issue," says Dan Richardson, chairman of the state citrus commission.
The commission will have the final say on whether Bryant's contract will be renewed.
Officials say if the survey shows Bryant, who has been selling orange juice for 10 years, is no longer an effective saleswoman, the Florida Department of Citrus already has filmed back-up commercials using Olympic skating star Dorothy Hamill and Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler.
But Hoffer says the department is not looking forward to the final decision.
"If Anita goes," he said, "who knows what kind of backlash we'll got from her supporters."