Television and film producer Francis Gasparini was listening to the local NPR station in Los Angeles when he heard a story about edible underwear creators David Sanderson and Lee Brady.
“When I heard it, I was captivated,” recalled Gasparini. “It immediately occurred to make an amazing documentary. As a filmmaker, I’m interested in stories and personalities.”
Gasparini tracked the entrepreneurial couple, who had moved from Chicago to South Florida and have called Wilton Manors home for the past nine years.
The producer, who is straight but has an interest in pop culture and recently completed a project for Logo, convinced the couple to consider making a film about their invention, but also exploring their relationship over nearly 50 years.
Brady said of their 1975 invention, “It really started as a joke. We didn’t expect them to take off.”
A friend who owned a bath shop in Chicago displayed them in the window, attracting the attention of a writer from the University of Indiana. Her story hit the Associated Press news wire and soon the couple’s phone began ringing off the hook.
“When NBC called we didn’t have a factory or employees,” said Sanderson. “Within a week we found a warehouse and it was sort of like Willy Wonka.”
Soon, the products were being sold by the thousands in Bloomingdale’s and Montgomery Ward department stores.
Brady said, “They were something you give for a wedding shower or a birthday party. Most people didn’t ever open the box.”
The fruit-flavored underwear changed culture, though, landing on People magazine’s list of 434 most influential pop icons and sending the couple to the Supreme Court after they were drawn into controversial freedom of speech cases.
“It was a ridiculous product,” said Sanderson, whose thought was quickly completed by Brady, “but so was the pet rock and we’ve outlived the pet rock.”
“I don’t think they necessarily see themselves as role models, but their lives are inspiration and aspirational,” Gasparini said of Sanderson and Brady.
When the couple met in 1967, they could be arrested just for holding hands in the street. Since that night they’ve endured discrimination, AIDS, legal challenges and even the mafia. Last year, they were married and police officers were the witnesses.
Gasparini conducted several days of interviews with Sanderson and Brady last October and will be returning to South Florida later this year for further interviews before submitting his film on the documentary circuit.
The project, “Candy Pants,” is being featured this week by the International Documentary Association (IDA).
In addition to serving as a fiduciary sponsor, allowing Gasparini’s production company to qualify for charitable donations and foundation grants, IDA helps promote the project and secure future funding.
Footage from the film is now available for viewing at Documentary.org/Film/CandyPants.
More Docs for Pride Month
Tune in for three new documentaries to mark Gay Pride month: On Monday, June 13, Logo will air “Out of Iraq,” which chronicles the love story between an Iraqi soldier and an Iraqi translator, both working with the U.S. military. Their story unfolds in a war-torn country where homosexuality is banned. HBO will air “Suited,” a fascinating movie about a London tailor who specializes in creating fashions designed for the specific needs of transgender clients, and “Mariela Castro’s March” about the fight for LGBT rights in Cuba. Check local listings for channels and show times.