Sunday, July 18, 2021

View: A Tribute to Candace L. Straight, Film Producer, Investment Banker and Tireless Advocate for Women

Candy Straight at Soho Film Festival (NYC)
By Suzanne Ordas Curry

The world lost Candy Straight, producer, banker and champion for women's causes.

When people leave this world, it is said that they will be missed. The world lost Candy Straight, and I know specifically the people and the projects this loss will affect. I also have a sense of the people she helped, especially females and young girls that were touched and inspired by her wisdom and strength. I am one of them.

I was privileged to have known Candy for the past ten years. We met at an educational seminar at a local college, where she was a speaker. I introduced myself afterwards and it grew from there. We had a lot of interests in common, Rutgers (she was on the Board of Governors), film, politics, women's issues and interestingly the world of the soap opera. In fact, we were both working on online soaps at that time.

What I saw of Candy - a successful, driven,  middle-aged women who had the mental energy of a woman half her age  - was just the tip of the iceberg as to what she had accomplished in her life. In her obituary I learned the details of what she did and even more that I did not know about. Suffice it to say her titles would fill up this article, so I will leave that for the obits to cover. Here's one:

Throughout our friendship I came to realize more and more of what she did, as she would always bring me into her world and her circle. Little by little more about her initiatives would be revealed to me. She was a champion for women's rights, fighting for reproductive rights and the ERA and helping prepare women for office. She was an advocate and fundraiser behind the scenes for many Republican women - many whom we all know - though her friends were across the aisle as well. 

She spearheaded or was influential in starting many initiatives regarding women at universities. In fact, one of her last projects was helping to start a program at Columbia. When she would become involved in things like this, as she did not partake in social media, she always asked me to please "tweet and share the word."

Candy on the set of An Acceptable Loss in Chicago

I also witnessed her philanthropy and willingness to donate to causes, there were very few she would say no to. And if the cause was strong enough for her, she spent the time and effort to have others join in with her. It was hard to say no to Candy  a
s it was hard not to recognize the importance of the causes she dedicated her life to.

One of the first events we attended together was at Rutgers. Ava DuVernay was a speaker - before she became really famous - and we mingled with all the power ladies in business and politics at Rutgers. One of the last events we attended together was also at Rutgers. Candy had been part of the steering committee for the new Gloria Steinem Chair at Rutgers. At that event, we both got to meet and chat with Gloria. When I spoke to Ms. Steinem - complete with a copy of my Ms. Magazine from 1979 in tow for her to sign -  her parting phrase to me was "pass it on.". How pertinent those words would end up being.

Candy Straight at the premiere of Gloria in NYC

Candy was a member and on the board of the Republican Women's Club in New York City, across the street from Rockefeller Center. She affectionately referred to it as "my club".  Her lunches at this club were legendary. Monthly she would hold lunches where she would invite accomplished and interesting men and women from the worlds of entertainment, business and politics. At first I had to get used to the red walls and larger than life portraits of well-known Republican women, but I felt more comfortable in this prestigious building when I realized this place was a tribute to them, really to what all women can do. 

Suzanne Curry, Candy Straight and Beverly Eisenbray at the club in NYC

In the year before the pandemic, she had invited me to host these lunches with her and invite guests for her to meet. Candy was always willing to meet with new people and hear new ideas. After awhile, I could tell when she was impressed by an idea or just thought it was utter bs.

Candy Straight with State Senator (NJ) Loretta Weinberg 

And though we were members of different political parties, Candy was a shining example of finding common ground. At her core she was a kind, smart and loyal woman.  She would get fired up - it was always best to be on her side - but even if she wasn't, she would keep most of it to herself. Actions spoke louder than words, and in this time in history, Candy knew there was no winning with words anyway.

On the Red Carpet at Tribeca with the producing team of Equity (Candy in red).

If Sheryl Sandberg's mantra was to lean in, Candy's was to "lean back." She listened, took notes, then methodically and with determination made her plan, made her calls and got the job done. Everyone that knew Candy knew Candy "and her IPad." She took it everywhere (I recall sitting with her at an early breakfast at Sundance where she was swiping before her orange juice came). 

Candy knew how to rally people. With her proverbial IPad in hand and a few purposeful taps, she would gather up whatever army she need to accomplish a goal. To watch her work was amazing.  She was always on auto pilot. But, she would also admit when she did not know something and then educate herself. I recall a discussion with her about NFT's in the film industry just months ago.

Alysia Reiner, Candy Straight and Sarah Megan Thomas at Ridgewood Guild International
Film Festival (NJ) for screening of Equity.

So many of the successful women who were her friends who came to be mine in time all said the same thing about her. That was "I learned so much from her." All along, I thought it had just been me. Even these highly-accomplished women were taking notes from the Candy playbook, and I know we will all be more successful using the skills that Candy showed us. She lead by example. 

Candy was a shining example of Gloria's mantra. In the lives of those who were lucky enough to know her, she contributed equity in so many ways, and though we must, it is hard to accept this loss.