Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In Memoriam ... Tony Randall

The death of Tony Randall makes us think of Watauga County, in a round-about way.

It happens that the recent anti-gay flare-up over at Watauga High School has a distant connection to Tony Randall. The connection goes through the Rev. Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association.

The American Family Association is the rabidly anti-gay org that is supposedly funding a WHS student's lawsuit against the Watauga County school system for suspending him over an anti-gay T-shirt he wore to school. (Story in the Watauga Democrat here.)

The Rev. Don Wildmon from Tupelo, Mississippi, started his career of censorship and suppression against TV shows he didn't like. He once organized a boycott against "Mighty Mouse" because, he alleged, the caped rodent was symbolically snorting cocaine in one episode.

The Rev. Wildmon has gradually moved his hysterics from TV to the "gay menace," managing to land on Tony Randall for a brief moment in 1981 when Randall was chosen to star in "Love Sidney," a TV sitcom featuring a closeted gay character. (The details of Wildmon's TV censorship binge can be found here, and dozens of other places.)

Randall did not suffer fools gladly and dismissed Wildmon as "that ignorant, cynical, Bible-thumping ass in Mississippi."

Who has now brought his road-show to Watauga County, evidently.

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