Pity the poor Florida orange growers. They are caught in a quandary since Anita Bryant's victory against homosexual rights in Dade County. The orange growers pay Bryant $100,000 a year to push Florida orange juice, a job that she has done magnificently.
Anita Bryant meant orange juice and orange juice meant Anita Bryant. It is this instant celebrity identification that sponsors dream of. When you speak of Bob Hope, you're supposed to think of Texaco; mention Joe Namath and people are supposed to have a vision of pantyhose. Danny Thomas goes together with Maxwell House coffee, and, recently, when you see a picture of former Sen. Sam Ervin, it is hoped your first thought is of an American Express credit card.
The problem in Florida is that when people now see Anita Bryant on television, the first thing that comes to mind is "gay," not as in breakfast but as in "homosexual."
The Florida orange juice people are not interested in selling homosexuals. That's not their business. A majority, I would guess, are sympathetic with Bryant's stand on the issue, but the trouble with fighting homosexuals is that it doesn't sell orange juice.
First of all, no one knows how many homosexuals there are in this country because, despite all the publicity, many of them have still not come out of the closet.
Secondly, there are no figures on how many of them drink orange juice. But there are presumably enough of them to hurt the sale of Florida oranges. A sudden switch to California orange juice by gay people in this country could cost the Florida orange grove owners millions of dollars.
At the same time, the Florida orange juice industry is aware that if Anita Bryant is fired there could be a backlash from the heterosexuals in this country who would boycott Florida orange in protest.
Market surveys indicate that heterosexuals are still the largest consumers of orange juice and drink it not only for its taste but also for its vitamins and the stamina it provides them. The Florida orange industry can't afford to lose the heterosexual orange juice drinkers if they expect to stay in business.
There is a solution to the problem, which I hesitate to suggest, since I don't want to get involved in the controversy. But I will because I believe the Florida orange growers need all the help they can get.
What the Florida orange industry could do is break down its TV budget. Half of it would to to Bryant to continue pushing Florida orange juice to the "straight" people, and half would got to a gay spokesperson who would appeal to the homosexual drinkers. It would mean cutting Bryant's fee to $50,000 a year, so the gay person would get paid the same as she does. But at the same time, Bryant would only be required to make half the number of TV commercials.
It seems to me that this would satisfy everyone. The heterosexuals would be pleased to see that Bryant was still selling orange juice, and the gays would be delighted to have finally broken through on big big-time television. Florida orange juice consumption would have to go up because the TV commercials would appeal to everyone, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference.
Of course, the advertising agency for the Florida orange growers would have to find a gay spokesperson who could sing as well as Bryant. But that shouldn't be a problem. Many of our finest performers come from the gay community and would be happy to supplement their income by doing orange juice commercials.
I would do it myself, but unfortunately I can't carry a tune.