May 17, 2013

20,000 vinyl LPs 20: Conan ~ Tell Ol' Anita

Conan - Tell Ol' Anita album cover
album cover photo by Neal Johnson
photo of album cover by Styrous®

It seems recollections of details and events of my life are coming together, tighter and tighter and spreading out more and more with astonishing rapidity. As they come closer and clearer, they are vanishing into the distance.

Umm . . .  how do I follow up that statement?

There has been another layer of my sash (see Beemer Pt 2 link below) to unexpectedly come unraveled for me to look at, examine, savor and remember memories long forgotten.

I started the process of selling my vinyl LP collection (see 20,000 Vinyl link below) last year and, as I was trying to get a handle on what I was facing with this monumental endeavor, I came across the albums I had of Conan Dunham, Tell Ol' Anita, Heart of the City, Conan III, as well as the test pressing of his Conan III album.

Conan III test pressing with dedication
photo by Styrous®

Conan and I had been friends, compatriots, ex-patriots, etc., for well over 20 years. He had signed and dedicated all the albums to me.

album back cover
album back cover photos by Neal Johnson
photo of album back cover by Styrous®

dedication detail
album back cover photo by Neal Johnson
detail photo of album back cover by Styrous®

I figured the albums should be returned to him rather than selling them, although they were selling for good prices. The problem was we had lost contact 10 or 15 years ago. I pondered how I would return the albums to him with no contact info.

Some background is in order. The title of the album was also the song that gained Conan the fame (notoriety?) that became his. The Anita of the song refers to singer Anita Bryant who was a Miss Oklahoma beauty pageant winner and spokesperson for the Florida Citrus Commission; she sang the virtues of Florida orange juice.

Anita Bryant 1971
photo from Billboard Magazine
photographer unknown

In 1977, Bryant led a highly publicized campaign organized in opposition to gay rights based on conservative Christian beliefs regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality. Because of her efforts, Florida legislators approved a measure that prohibited gay adoption. Bryant led several more campaigns around the country to repeal local anti-discrimination ordinances. Her many successes led to an effort to pass the Briggs Initiative in California. However, the success of Bryant's previous campaigns galvanized her opponents and the gay community retaliated against her by organizing a boycott of orange juice. Boycott orange juice? Does that sound silly? Not so silly after all; grass-roots liberal organizations, chiefly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, sprang up to try to defeat the initiative. The initiative failed!

The fallout from her political activism hurt her business and entertainment career. The orange juice boycott had consequences. Her contract with the Florida Citrus Commission was allowed to lapse in 1979 because of the controversy and the negative publicity generated by her political campaigns and the resulting boycott of Florida orange juice. Even many years after her campaign, the gay community continued to regard her name as synonymous with bigotry and homophobia. Ya! Enough about Anita.

My brother, John Simonson, had played bass guitar for Conan's group. It was how I met Conan. John was the darling of our family; everybody loved him and one day I will write an entry in my blog about him.

My brother, John Simonson, with Conan's group.
That's John on the right
album photo by Neal Johnson
detail photo of album back by Styrous®

Oh, yes, back to the original topic. Conan and I DID reconnect last year. Out of the blue, in August, just weeks after I'd found his records and was wondering how I was going to get them to him, I was totally blown away when I received the following email:

From: Conan
Subject: conan here
To: "Styrous"
Date: Sunday, August 12, 2012, 6:47 PM

This was a wonderful day for us. I thought we had lost touch with you and Tom forever.

end of message

After we had exchange several emails, I shipped all my Conan albums to him. We finally met for lunch yesterday and talked over old times; there were many tales of smokey bars, wild times and loose women (or men, for that matter). It was incredible to see him again after so many years and exchange stories of what strange twists and turns each of our lives have taken.

Conan ~ May 16, 2013
photo by Styrous®

Conan with long-time partner, Rusty Lewis ~ May 16, 2013
photo by Styrous®

left: Ben Simonson (John's dad),
Rusty & Conan ~ May 16, 2013
photo by Styrous®

After lunch we went to the beach in Alameda which looks across the San Francisco Bay to the city of San Francisco (it's very tiny in the background just to the left of Conan's right shoulder).
Conan on the beach in Alameda, CA
 May 16, 2013
photo by Styrous®

Tom White & Rusty ~ May 16, 2013
photo by Styrous®

Tell Ol' Anita album info:

Conan personel
photo by Styrous®

Conan: lead vocals & piano
Drums:  Gene Beck, Ron Castro, Ian Mars, John Fisher
Guitars: Don Smithey, Michael Telle, Alex Lund
Bass: Max Perry, Dave Weidenheimer, John Simonson
Keyboards & Synthesizers: Conan, Larry Cohn, Brian Reeves, Dave Houston
Pedal Steel: Cris Ivey, Steve Epstein
Sax & woodwinds: Steve Sax
Harmonica & vocal: Jon Sugar
Violin: Karen Lamb

Life IS strange but life can be very good when it behaves itself and wants to be generous. Thanks for those good ol' memories, Conan.
Styrous© ~ May 17, 2013



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