The World of Miss Universe by Ana Maria Cumba. 1975. Manyland Books, Inc.
CHAPTER 1: HOW IT ALL BEGAN
"How did you get this job?" people everywhere asked me and I could only say that being a suburban housewife and a part-time operating room nurse I had never set out to play the role of duenna to Miss Universe. However, one evening in early May, 1963, I left the hospital much later than usual and as I stopped for gas, a sports car driven by a beautiful woman pulled in beside me. Now, all my life I have been a sports car bug and so I couldn't help but stare at her Jaguar convertible. We soon became involved in a prolonged conversation, discovering that we both seemed to have exactly the same enthusiasm about people, travel, places and sports cars.
A week later, the same lady, Mrs. Shirley Knox, telephoned me for tea with a friend of hers in Miami Beach. Naturally, I accepted.
Midway through tea Shirley said, "Ana Maria, I want to talk to you about our project. It does not have anything to do with the world of medicine, but it is a good cause in which we would like to ask you to join us. We are recruiting hostesses for the Miss Universe Pageant in July. You are the kind of person that we are looking for, especially since the languages you speak will be a great asset to the pageant."
CHAPTER 2: MY FIRST PAGEANT
On July 9, 1963, I entered the Miami Beach Convention Hall to report as a hostess for the Miss Universe contestants. The lobby looked like an international bazaar. People of all colors, sizes, and shapes, mostly relatives and friends of the beauty delegates, as well as members of the press accompanying their countries' representatives to the competition, were milling around. Some were dressed in their native costumes, flitting like bees from flower to flower, splashing and buzzing in many different languages and dialects.
Later, I returned for further observation of that "pageant." Amidst the profusion of guests, beauty delegates, and hotel personnel, was Christine Welker, a very gracious hostess from Fort Lauderdale.
"Oh, Ana Maria, how good to see you!" she exclaimed. "I've got a problem I'm sure you can help me with. I've lost Miss Jamaica, and Miss Idaho still hasn't shown up. Have you seen her? She's about five feet six inches and blonde."
After dinner I bumped into hostess Elvira Menezes, in charge of Miss Brazil, the representative of my homeland.
At 1 A.M. I found myself gazing through the glass window at Miami International Airport at a tall blonde wearing a tailored green suit and a beige hat.
As she walked out, followed by a porter with a cart full of luggage, I approached and asked if she was Gabriela Pinto, Miss Uruguay
"Yes," she said stiffly. "But my name is Graciela, not Gabriela, and my English is poor."
"I'll melt if it's going to be so hot all the time," she added in Spanish, taking a deep breath and removing the jacket and hat.
Following registration, each girl had to be measured for her swimsuit, and the whole pageant seemed to revolve around the swimsuit competition. Joanne Warner of Catalina Swimwear did the measuring. Padding was verboten ("forbidden") in those days, and for some the tape measure turned out to be a lie detector of sorts and so, every measurement had to be verified. Of course Graciela was the first to put up a fuss about the whole thing. She proved to be extremely modest and flatly refused to be measured by anyone while in the nude. Shouting and chaos ensued in the fitting room between the two strong-willed women, and I was thrust into the dual role of mediator and intepreter. When the little scene was over, Graciela was allowed to do her own measurement.
The official curfew was still 11 P.M., but we never got to bed before 1:00 A.M. Nonetheless the girls had to be at rehearsals at 9:00 A.M. sharp. The Pageant's Executive Producer, Mr. Arthur Knorr, established a code - "B.O.T.," Be On Time - and it was a hostess's duty to have her charges everywhere on time.
This was the hardest part of my task. To get up early was hard enough, but to rush the girls and cope with the struggle of sharing one small bathroom was frequently a herculean task. We tried to set up a schedule of who was to use the lavatory first. The girls were first because they needed more time to perform the rituals of makeup and hairdos. One of the hostesses always complained that her girl took precisely one hour to affix her lashes on one eyelid and that it was an agony to have to wait so long and then rush them at the last minute. Some of the hostesses would literally collapse under the stress but, somehow, I always managed.
When I finally did get backstage, I was still jittery and the ceremonies were about to begin. Two of the hostesses told me that Miss Uruguay had fainted from heat prostration but they didn't know where she was. Again I panicked and started looking frantically for my charges until I happened to spot them over in a corner together. Graciela was seated and Rhea (Miss Idaho) was placing ice compresses on her forehead."
[...] The girls' gifts were souvenirs of their countries. Most of the European and Middle Eastern girls brought beautiful dolls dressed in their native costumes, similar to what the contestants were wearing. The American girls brought more practical gifts. Miss Virginia brought fifty pounds of ham; Miss Wisconsin, cheese; Miss California brought wine; Miss Kentucky, bourbon; Miss Georgia, a large basket of peaches. The most unusual gifts were from Miss Oregon and Miss Montana who brought a pair of live ducks and a live calf, respectively.
CHAPTER 3: THE CARE AND FEEDING OF MISS UNIVERSE
On August 1, 1963 at 10:00 A.M., I embarked on a United Airlines flight for Charleston, West Virginia, on the first leg of my "Alice-in-Wonderland" career. Miss Universe and her mother were coming from New York and I was to meet them at the Charleston airport.
As I entered the plane and approached Miss Universe and her mother, I got the most surprising greetings. (Luckily no one else there spoke Portuguese!) I had met "Mama" before and she appeared pleasant and stable. What was causing her anger over a theoretically happy event, I couldn't imagine. "Mama, please calm down," I implored. "There are so many people waiting for you and Ieda. They are all so anxious to meet Miss Universe."
"Miss Universe! that is all they are thinking about, this is terrible!" exploded Mama. "There is no consideration for a human being in this outfit. If I had known it, I would have never let my daughter enter such a contest. We have not stopped going since the night she won, but now I am going to put my foot down and nobody is going to push me around!"
It was my first experience facing the press, but they were charming, mostly women's editors. Ieda handled herself graciously, which made my task easier. Fortuntately, Mama behaved too.
After a long talk with Mama Vargas, our relationship improved, especially when she saw all the people cheering her daughter. She seemed very happy and began taking our travels more responsibly and with much more pride. Our schedule was really tough and my sympathy for Mama increased when I realized she simply was not up to it.
CHAPTER 4: IEDA GOES HOME
Wednesday, August 7, 1963: Miss Universe's group partied all night long on board Pan Am Jet Clipper 441 all the way down to Rio.
Accompanying the "queen" home were Maritze Ozers, Miss USA, and her chaperon Steveanna Bernard, Mr. Bottfeld, Mama, and myself. None of us slept during the nine-hour-long flight between Miami and Rio. No matter how much champagne was poured into our glasses, the excitement was so great that nothing could anesthesize us.
When Ieda stood at the door of the plane wearing her crown and banner, somewhat dwarfed by the huge Miss Universe trophy she was holding, the clamoring throng broke through security lines and got so rambunctious they almost destroyed the Galeao International Airport.
It was a truly frightening experience - the violence, pushing, and shoving of the people, and the fights by newsmen and photographers - relentless people in their efforts to be first to reach the "queen." Thank heaven the police were able to form a human barricade around the plane to protect us.
The first person from the Miss Brazil organization to reach Ieda was Arnaldo Oliveira, completely out of breath and looking as if he hadn't slept in ages. He would be her official escort during her stay in Rio.
He took Ieda firmly by the arm and told her, "I will be responsible for your activities here in Rio, so don't listen to anyone. There are going to be many people inviting you to different places, but you must not do anything without consulting with me."
"But I want to see my family," Ieda protested. "My father, brothers, and sisters are out there somewhere."
I had thought the night Ieda won her title in Miami Beach was exciting, as was the night of our arrival in Richwood, West Virginia, but this experience in Rio was beyond comparison. Many of the South Americans absolutely worship beauty queens. To them, it was the highlight of the century when Ieda arrived.
That evening we went to a cocktail party at the American embassy in honor of Maritze Ozers, Miss USA, and Ieda. The girls were escorted by the United States officials, but we had the Brazilian Army behind us for extra protection. The embassy party was lavish and elegant; in the midst of it, Arnaldo showed up in a happy state of inebriation and started dancing by himself when there was no music playing. [...] One of the security guards rushed to his aid and led him away carefully. [...]
In Sao Paulo, at the Danubio Azul Hotel, the Miss Universe party again occupied an entire floor. My room was connected to the Miss Universe suite, which was continaually bustling with people. A stream of flowers and telegrams kept coming in all day long. The hallway looked like a posh funeral parlor covered with all kinds of expensive baskets of flowers, beautiful roses and orchids of every color. Ieda sent most of them to the nearby hospital and gave some to me to take home to my mother.
There were a few calls from critics. A woman called and wanted personally to talk to Ieda. When I asked her to give me the message because Ieda was not available, she agreed. "Yes, I will. On behalf of the women of Brazil, I am ashamed of that wild monkey representing us as the most beautiful woman in the world. We do have beautiful girls in this country," the caller stated.
Meanwhile, I was quite a celebrity in the little village of Velierors, where my family lives. Everyone except my mother was clamoring for my attention and bursting with pride for me. But my mother was glad that I was home though she did not approve of all this beauty business.
CHAPTER 5: FACING UP TO THE SPONSORS
September 5: We left for New York for Ieda's first appearance for the Prestolite Co. I had been much warned about this company, how fussy they were, and I dreaded this first venture. Besides the demands of the sponsors, I now had Mama and Papa* along. Fortunately, Papa said that he wanted to meet the people that Mama and Ieda would be traveling with, but he appeared more interested in seeing New York. Clearly he was not a patriarch to match Mama's matriarchal nature.
(*Mama and Papa refer to Ieda's parents)
Then I realized that Ieda was not the little saint that her mother wanted her to be. Though she was close to her mother, she would have liked to have had more freedom. She told me that she had never in her life been alone with a boy. She thought she was in love with Flavio, because he was the only boy that didn't seem to be afraid of her parents and he had paid more attention to her than any other man heretofore. She felt that she could trust me and wanted to share her innermost secrets. Since Mama was with Papa, we shared the same room so that we could talk more intimately.
We left Washington and went to Tampa, Florida. Papa went back to Miami. At Tampa Airport we met Mr. Pratt and he drove us to Weekiwachee Springs where Ieda was to give the mermaids Royal Crown Cola samples. The Royal Crown Cola appearance was informal and we always met the consumers of our sponsor's products. They were all as enthusiastic as the elite, sophisticated executives. This day in Weekiwachee there was a long line of people waiting to get Ieda's autograph. Some were tourists, dressed comfortably in shorts and sneakers. Others were working people from that area, who had left work to come to get her signature.
After dinner, Mr. Davoren invited us to the Playboy Club for after-dinner cordials. Ieda had never seen a Playboy bunny before. We were amazed that the priest came with us and what's more that he appeared to know every one of the bunnies by name! As soon as we arrived, the bunnies, about ten of them, came to greet Father Patrick. There was one particular Hungarian bunny who talked like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her name was Maria and she and Father appeared to be close friends. I wondered if the good father was really a priest or whether Mr. Davoren was putting us on. At one point, Maria came to our table with a pink carnation stuck between her breasts and asked the Father if he wanted it. If he did, he would have to come and get it. At this point, Father blushed., his face as red as a tomato.
[...] By this time, Ieda's English was improving and we were more familiar with what to expect. In Venezuela, the people went out of their way to show their hospitality. They even had a special bullfight performance in her honor on Saturday afternoon before we left for London.
[...] As soon as the first bull entered the arena and was wounded, Ieda saw blood running from his shoulder and began to faint. I told her to put her head down and try to control her emotions and we would leave as soon as the appropriate moment came.
"Let's get out of here before anything else happens," she screamed. Mr Acosta Rubio, our official escort, asked her to wait a few minutes for the dedication of the ears and gave her a bouquet of red carnations for her to throw to the matador after he offered the bull ears to her.
"I'm going to throw up, if he cuts those ears for me. I just can't take it any more," she told him. She was cold and pale, so I insisted that Mr. Rubio take us out. As we were walking out, she asked him what they would do with dead bull.
"They sell it to the market. It is good beef."
"I will never eat meat again," she told him. Later that evening on board Avianca Airlines en route to London, steak chateubriand was served for dinner. Ieda asked the stewardess where this dish was prepared.
"In Caracas," the stewardess replied.
Ieda gave me a long look and said, "So sorry, but I am not hungry."
I lost my appetite too, and we sipped champagne.
CHAPTER 6: THE PRIZE OF BEAUTY
We arrived in Lima totally exhausted after a twelve-hour trip. The aggressive mob that had waited all day was pushing and shoving and throwing flowers, a group of children were yelling and a military band was playing Cielito Lindo.
The appearance in Peru was very hectic and confusing and were late for practically every assignment, including a visit to the Casa Presidencial where President Belaonde waited for Miss Universe for almost two hours.
A local cosmetic company, a Miss Universe sponsor, was the culprit. Their people wanted Ieda made up by them before she could appear anywhere. They brought their own hairdresser and insisted that he do her coiffure. Every morning the same thing happened. She would let the hairdresser do her hair and then go into the bedroom and take it all down and re-do it her own way. She couldn't stand having her hair teased but didn't want to offend the cosmetic people or the hairdresser, Ramon. The reason he took so long doing Ieda's hair was because he chattered with his mouth and hands at the same time. Punctuality meant nothing to him. Every morning he brought a different young boy with him and introduced him to us as a cousin. We became suspicious of Ramon when he became openly cozy with his so-called cousins. He was always stroking their faces and talking very sweetly to them. This was our first experience with that sort of person. One morning, Mama was very upset and said that her daughter was delayed because she had to have her hair done by that "queer who talked and giggled like a bitch in heat!" She couldn't stand him and from that day on, he was not to touch her daughter's hair. The next day the cosmetic sponsors brought a different hairdresser, but the agony was the same. We continued to be late.
It was impossible for Ieda to rest in Belem; while the doctor wanted her to be in bed and quiet, the sponsors wanted their money's worth, as most of them had already paid for her appearances. I thought the best place for her to rest was Rio. When we got there, I called Mama and she came to see Ieda and so did Flavio, Ieda's boyfriend. Mama and Ieda began to argue over Flavio. One afternoon the conflict was so strong I was afraid that there would be murder on the tenth floor. When the storm ceased, Stanio and I invited Flavio to a movie.
He took Ieda firmly by the arm and told her, "I will be responsible for your activities here in Rio, so don't listen to anyone. There are going to be many people inviting you to different places, but you must not do anything without consulting with me."
At Terazina there was the wildest and worst mob. It took us almost an hour to go from the hotel lobby to our rooms. Thousands of people, holding little pieces of paper, wanted Ieda's autograph. Most of these people were Indians. They thought Ieda was a saint. They looked at her, put the palms of their hands together, and looked as if they were worshipping. There is just no way to describe their reactions to her.
When we left for the contracted appearance at the country club I asked for extra security but we didn't get it. A woman came to the door and grabbed Ieda by the hair and shook her head - she wanted a piece of Ieda's hair for a souvenir. I opened my purse and took out a hairbrush and hit her hands and screamed for help.
In Puerto Rico, the officials at the Royal Crown Cola Company, who were sponsoring the appearance, invited Ieda and me to a baseball game and Ieda threw out the first ball. The day was delightful, but that night, about 1:00 A.M., someone knocked on the door. When I asked, "Who is it?" a drunken voice speaking Spanish said: "I want to see Miss Universe and I want to sleep with her. If you don't open the door, I will break it down and shoot your... " (He used a very bad word in Spanish.)
"But this is different," our hostess said. "Balut is duck egg cooked on the 21st day of incubation."
It was a dish prepared for special occasions and for celebrity guests. Also we were told that cats and dogs were used for food in the Philippines. When a waiter came by with a meat dish trimmed with vegetables, Ieda asked, "Miaw, Miaw?"
From Manila, we flew to Hong Kong where Ieda was to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremonies of the President Hotel. Firecrackers and explosives marked the official opening of the hotel, followed by a banquet for officials and special guest. We were served food prepared especially for the occasion - monkey brains! It was Chinese tradition all the way. The monkeys were still alive when the brains were removed. They tied the animal to a table with a hole in themiddle near the top of the head. Tears flowed from the monkey's eyes when the cook sawed off the top of his skull. Both Ieda and I got sick from this horrible spectacle, but we sat there holding our breath and out stomachs so that we wouldn't throw up in front of our honorable hostess. [...]
CHAPTER 7: FAREWELL AND HAIL
Ieda and I walked the long concourse at Kennedy Airport in thoughtful silence to board our Pan American flight 201 bound for Rio. This was Ieda's last appearance as Miss Universe, and supposedly my last trip as a chaperon. We were approaching the end of a year that had been full of excitement, travel, turmoil and joy, ecstasy and agony which neither of us had expected. Now, here we were heading toward the last leg of this glorious unexpected assignment. However, neither of us felt that we had been spoiled by the luxury living that was offered to us, for we had known quite well that it was only temporary and we would soon have to return to our normal lives. "The title of Miss Universe is really a contracted glamorous job and sometimes not so glamorous as it sounds. For every victory, there is a penalty," Ieda said.
"I mean, when are we going to see each other again? I feel as if it is all over, and I miss you already, you have been a real mother to me," she said, and then she took my hands and with a voice as if she were choking, went on, "there is no adequate way to thank you."
There were tears in her eyes and I was crying, too. However, I managed to whisper, "I am going to miss you, too, Ieda, and thank you for being so nice and making my job so easy and pleasant."
The crying continued on and off all the way down to Rio, and I am sure that the people sitting across from us thought we were going to a funeral, and not to the Miss Brazil pageant where Ieda was going to crown her successor as Miss Brazil."
My task, as Ieda's official chaperon and interpreter, was not too easy at times. I was included in all the official functions, was seated next to her, and had to act as an ambassador-at-large. Ieda was very fussy about food. Many times after those elite dinners with all the trimmings of caviar and champagne, we went back to our room and ordered hot dogs, french fries, and cokes. However, at dinner she was always gracious, tasting and appearing to enjoy the food. On certain occasions I had to explain to our host that the reason she didn't eat it at all was because of her allergies or that she was a vegetarian.
The European beauties had arrived in New York, all twenty-two of them, and were touring the big town and the World's Fair. On July 12, Doris called me again and said that Miss Luxembourg was ill. She said that Herb Landon, who was in charge of the group in New York, was sending her to Miami and asked me to take care of her when she arrived.
An hour later, Mr. Landon called me in a state of panic, for he thought the girl had hepatitis.
I told him that I would take care of her. "But," I said, "if it is infectious hepatitis, I will have to take her directly to the hospital."
"No, I don't want this known to the public. Will you please keep her in your home?" he asked.
On Wednesday, July 13, 1964, a new person entered my life.
Doris and I drove to the airport to meet Mariette Stephano, Miss Luxembourg, 1964. There stood this tall, thin, beautiful creature, wearing a black suit and white blouse, and she looked like a very scared Mickey Mouse!"
Ieda came to visit Mariette and brought her brother, Jose Miguel, who was very curious to know where Luxembourg is. Mariette told him that one of the reasons that she entered the contest was because she wanted to show the rest of the world where her country was. "It seems that only the war veterans know that Luxembourg is a country and a city in Germany," she said. "I am proud of my country and my people. Luxembourg is one of the smallest and oldest independent countries in Europe. We have our own language, we also speak French and German, but we have nothing to do with Germany."
On Saturday, August 1, 1964, Ieda turned over the Miss Universe crown to Kiriaki Corinna Tsopei of Greece, and while the excitement was beginning for Miss Greece, we left through the back door and went to a party at the home of Dr. Mietus, in honor of Ieda and his special guest, the Ambassador of Nairobi.
And then on August 12, I drove Ieda and the whole Vargas family, including the dog, to the airport. In the midst of our farewell tears, Ieda opened her purse and pulled out a small gift wrapped in red and told me not to open it until I got home. When I did open it there was a note, "This is your medal, you sure earned it. Thank you for the year of your life that you spent with me. Love, Ieda." I was numb. Inside the box was a gold medal with the Miss Universe insignia and the date that she had won the crown. Needless to say, I felt like catching the next plane and going after them.
CHAPTER 8: IT WAS GREEK TO ME
I had met Corinna before and after she became Miss Universe, and I liked her. As I recall, the morning of the swimsuit measuring, she took the tape from June Montagna, who was in charge of this particular task, and measured herself. Corinna also made a practical change in pageant procedure by suggesting that the girls be measured after they had their swimsuits on to avoid embarrassment and conflict in the dressing rooms. Her suggestion worked out well.
My first trip with Corinna was to Dublin, Gerogia, where she toured the wards of the Veterans Hospital and visited the special treatment areas, responding graciously to the greetings of staff and patients along the way. When that was over, we were driven to East Dublin, where was again honored with another key to that city and more beautiful roses.
Our next stop was Boston. By this time Corinna spoke a few more words of English, and we were invited to various Greek social affairs. There were a lot of proud Greeks in Boston.
That same day, we flew to Milwaukee and were mobbed by thousands of Greeks. Suddenly, everything became Greek to me! Everyone was talking in Greek, and no matter how many times I told them that I didn't understand a word, they still kept speaking to me in Greek.
On our way to Rio, Corinna wrote a speech and asked me to translate it. It was amazing how well she memorized it and at her presentation at the Miss Brazil Pageant, which was part of the Rio Centennial celebration, she made her speech in perfect Portuguese.
After a tour of the city, we went back to the airport where an Air Force plane flew back to Belo Horizonte to pick up Miss England. When we landed, she and her consul were there waiting, and he brought her onto the plane. She looked well enough to continue the tour, but then she told me that she had only one lung. She was only 19 years old but had the misfortune of having had a lung removed. I was extremely worried about her and relayed this to Mr. Bottfeld, telling him that we had to exercise caution with her activities. She had to blow into a paper bag four times a day and was allowed to participate only on the last night of the Miss Brazil pageant. It was sad that she had to miss so much!
And so ended my second Miss Universe year. If it didn't have quite as much excitement as the first year had, it was mostly because I spent much less time with my second winner. But if I ever thought for a moment that I had become at all jaded, the years still ahead would prove how wrong that idea was!
CHAPTER 9: THE DOLL OF SIAM
Pook means fat in Thai, and because she was a fat baby her mother called her "Pook"!
This was the story of Apasra Hongsakula, Miss Thailand, who became Miss Universe in 1965. In reality, Pook was born to be a queen, for she possessed the royal serenity and lived by the royal protocol.
Pook told me that she was excited and looking forward to meeting her escort for the ball that evening. So far she only knew his name and that he was a Marine - Lieutenant Robert Wade. She also told me that she was very sad because the next day all the other girls were going home, but she had to stay. "I am going to be so alone," she added.
She spent a lot of time in front of the mirror admiring herself. Sometimes she would try on two or three dresses before an appointment, and she was often late because she took so long to dress. She likes her dresses very tight with low necklines.
Another memory of Pook ... once we attended a dinner at the Mai-Kai, a Polynesian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, as the guests of Elliott MacLean and the astronaut John Glenn, and my husband was invited. Pook was very pleased that my John had accepted the invitation. When they served us the "Mystery Drink" she wanted him to do the toasting, so that he would be kissed by the hula girl serving the drink, a specialty of the house. This drink is served in a large bowl with a mountain of ice, with fire coming out of the ice. Everyone in the party sips from it with long bamboo straws. Pook told John to eat the ice and drink the fire - John got such a kick out of her expression - and we all laughed our heads off.
In spite of her Siamese temper, Pook was a grateful and generous person. She was always thinking of her three sisters and her brother and buying gifts for them. She said that her youngest sister, Pavina, who was only sixteen at the time she entered the contest, had encouraged her very much. "My sister prayed for me and put gold paper to the emerald Buddha. That is the Thai way of worship. We make sacrifices to the Buddha by giving him gold leaves. Just as the Christians light candles, we pass gold leaves to our Buddha," she explained.
The afternoon of dress rehearsal, Pook came to change in the infirmary and was very upset because the pageant didn't have a room for her as C.B.S. had for June Lockhart, in the auditorium. She was also upset over the fact that she had to appear in the Miss USA pageant. Then Martha Betancourt, a dressmaker, was late in finishing her gown. It was a red silk with rhinestones all over it, and Martha had sewn them on one by one. When she arrived with the gown, Pook was in one of her moods and told Martha she didn't like the way the rhinestones were sewn on the gown. Hanging there were two other gowns, one of pink lace, also decorated with rhinestones, and a white satin gown, but Pook felt like wearing red for the Miss USA occasion. After struggling with her over the gown, Martha blew her Cuban cool. "Look, don't give me such a hard time over these stupid stones. Just smile and nobody will even notice them."
On her last day as Miss Universe, Pook cried continuously. Right after she crowned her successor, Miss Sweden, I saw Pook hurrying from the auditorium, still in tears. Two weeks later I heard on the news that she had become officially engaged to a cousin of Queen Sirikit, whom she had met during the Queen's birthday celebration. A few months later they were married.
CHAPTER 10: I AM MISS SWEDEN
On July 16, 1966, when Margareta Arvidsson of Sweden won the coveted crown of Miss Universe, I knew that there would be a few miles of traveling added to my life. I had been assigned to meet Margareta when she arrived in New York with the European beauty delegates bound for Miami Beach. My first impression of her was negative. All the other girls appeared excited and full of enthusiasm, but Margareta didn't seem to give a damn and appeared to be dragging along after the rest of the group. After the introductions at Kennedy International, I approached to ask if I could assist her in any way. She turned to me and said she was okay and needed no help.
"Chaperon! Do I have to have a chaperon? I hate that word," she said.
"Perhaps I should not say chaperon. I should say hostess, as that is the word used during the contest.," I tried to explain. But she didn't like the word hostess either. She said both words meant the same thing and she was not used to being chaperoned. If her mother trusted her, then why shouldn't the contest people?
"The pageant people would probably trust you, but they don't trust those people who will try to take advantage of you. They just want to protect also the image of the pageant," I explained.
"If I don't like this contest, I will go back to Sweden," she declared.
I thought to myself, "If this is the way she is going to behave, I hope she does go back before she contaminates the others!" I told her that nobody was going to force her to participate and she was as free to go back as she had been free to come.
It was about midnight when we got back to our hotel. All the girls were happy, but tired, and went directly to their rooms. A few minutes later, Miss Ireland called and told Ardele, one of the other chaperones, that she was coming to see us and that it was urgent. Ardele hung up the phone and dashed to open the door for Miss Ireland. As she opened it, we saw the tall, green-eyed brunette secretary pass by very quickly. Nothing came to our minds until Miss Ireland walked in and, in a state of shock, told us that the woman was making odd passes at her and always sat next to her trying to squeeze her legs. We were all stunned by Miss Ireland's complaint. The four of us older chaperones had never run into this kind of situation, but we tried to calm Miss Ireland, and Ardele accompanied her back to her room, which was just a few doors down the hall from our suite. About 3:00 A.M., we were awakened by noise in the hall. I dialed the operator and asked for security. Ardele got up in a hurry and went to see what the noise was. It was the green-eyed secretary, drunk as a skunk. She was knocking on Miss Ireland's room and screaming, "Hey Sweetie, it's me; open the door, I have something for you!"
When it was over, the whole group took turns sitting in his chair, acting like five year-olds! Miss Morocco and Miss France didn't want to leave. They didn't understand much of the lecture, but were delighted with the portraits of Washington and Lafayette.
The next day, I told Lee Bradbury and Bob Gibson that I thought Miss Sweden would win. I was sure that this time I had picked a winner. They laughed, and Lee said, "O.K., if she wins you'll take the first trip with her, and I already have the schedule for the next few months for the new Miss Universe."
"You are pretty sure, aren't you," Lee said, showing me the new Miss Universe schedule of appearances. She was pointing to Bogota, Colombia, and the annual Feniti show in Sao Paulo.
"That trip is yours regardless of who Miss Universe may be... but if Miss Sweden wins, we will have some problems as I have been informed that she despises chaperones. She is only eighteen years old, and it's too much responsibility to leave her alone," Lee said, expressing concern.
On Saturday night, when the five finalists were announced and Miss Brazil was not among them, it was a blow to all the Brazilians in the audience. I was so shocked I didn't even realize that Margareta was one of the five until I saw her and Satu (Miss Finland) standing with Art Linkletter who was asking them questions. Then, suddenly, Margareta was walking down the aisle wearing the red velvet robe lined with rabbit fur with the Miss Universe crown on her head. The crown was falling off, and her mascara was being washed down her face with tears. When she went to her throne for pictures with her court, everyone was smiling except her. Margareta was now the queen, but... "I didn't want to win... I don't want to be a queen!" She said, staring at me as I approached her with a glass of cold water.
During the fashion show, Margareta met a Don Juan, and this was her first experience with a Latin lover. She couldn't get over how deeply he had fallen in love with her in such a short time... if she wanted the moon blue with green cheese on it, he would give it to her. He promised her half of Colombia, and a castle anywhere in the world that she wanted to live in if she would just say, "yes" and marry him. Oh, Margareta had a ball just listening to romantic Antonio Rogas!"
Margareta's contract with the Feniti included a photography session at the Livio Studio, and as I was feeling better, I went with her. The studio was under reconstruction and some of the facilities were temporary, including the toilet, which didn't have a door. While Margareta was posing, I had to go to the toilet. As I sat down, the whole seat fell apart and I fell in! My buttocks were sunk into the hole. I was in such an awkward position that I couldn't move, and I was in terrible pain. All I could do was scream for help. When Margareta heard me, she ran to me and when she saw me, she started screaming too. It took Mario, the photographer, and two other men almost half an hour to get me out; and to do so, they had to break the comment around the hole!"
Margareta loved animals so much that when we went to Peru, I told her that she might be invited to see a bullfight. She got very excited and surprisingly enough, not only was she invited to see the bullfight, but the matador invited her to fight the bull! When I looked around, there was Margareta inside the arena trying to pet the wild animal.
She assured everyone that she would not cry the day she passed her crown over to the next Miss Universe, because she was tired of traveling and signing autographs. She just wanted to be herself again. When the day came, her mother and sister, Ullalena, and her best friend, Mona, were there. Before she went on stage for the last time, she came to assure her mother and me that she was not going to cry. But after she relinquished the crown to Sylvia Hitchcock, she came back in tears just as she had when she had been crowned the year before!
CHAPTER 11: LOCAL GIRL MAKES GOOD
On May 12, 1967, while I was still recuperating from the automobile accident, Margareta called and asked me to fo with her to the Miami Beach Auditorium to watch the excitement of the arrival of the American contestants. The Miss USA Pageant was under way.
While there, I went first to see Phyllis at the infirmary. "The girls that I have met so far are the prettiest ones I have ever seen, but after all, we say that before every pageant," Phyllis said.
"This year it is going to be hard to find one to replace Margareta," I said.
Saturday, May 20, 1967, the Miami girl who was representing the state of Alabama, Sylvia Louise Hitchcock, won the title of Miss USA in front of her proud parents, relatives, and friends - she had made it from a chicken farm to the splendid throne of beauty.
While Sylvia was having her pictures taken sitting on a throne with a court of beauties surrounding her, the rest of the girls were in the dressing room packing their belonging, and some were protesting loudly. One of them said she was going to save her banner to hang the judges if she ever ran into them again.
Another one said, "Oh, well, I will go home, marry my Joe, and when my children grow up I will tell them how their mother was cheated in a beauty pageant in 1967."
There were all kinds of comments from the losers in the dressing rooms. "I have no regrets, and when I get back home I'll still be the queen... maybe in a smaller territory, but I will have a happy year reigning in my neighborhood." That was fairly typical.
"Don't kid yourself - spirit of comradeship - every one of us wanted that piece of metal with those rhinestones on it. I bet I'd win if the pageant were in Vietnam. Say, wouldn't that be nice if they ran the pageant out there for the boys?" asked one in a loud voice. "What really bugs me is not being among the fifteen finalists."
At 10:40 P.M., lovely Sylvia Hitchcock was chosen as the most beautiful girl in the universe over the representatives of seventy-two nations! Her parents and relatives were seated in the same row they had been two months earlier when she was elected Miss USA.
Next day the Fontainebleau ballroom was packed to capacity. The Miss Universe Coronation Ball was oversold for the first time. There were people standing around the ballroom without seats. Sylvia was radiant, seated with her family in a little gazebo at the entrance.
On August 4, 1967, I met Sylvia at Miami International Airport to take a 6:15 flight to Brazil. When I asked Sylvia for her passport, she said that she didn't have it.
"Then you can't go, and you are the star of the show!" I told her.
As we were waiting for our flight, she saw a necklace in a gift shop window priced at eighteen dollars. It appeared too expensive for a piece of costume jewelry. Sylvia whispered to me, "Tell the saleslady who I am." Then she walked away, leaving me alone with the woman. I told her that the girl who was admiring the necklace was Miss Universe. The saleswoman didn't seem too impressed and when Sylvia came back in the price was still 18 dollars plus tax. She decided not to buy it.
CHAPTER 12: BRAZIL '68: THE CROWN OF THORNS
Each year I anxiously waited to see Miss Brazil and watched the Brazilian magazines for her picture before she arrived in Miami Beach. In 1968, John bought me the July issue of O Cruzeiro, a leading Brazilian magazine, with her picture on the cover. I was thrilled when I learned she was from my home state, Baia. In the year 1954, Miss Brazil had been from Baia and she was the first runner-up for Miss Universe in Long Beach. Her name was Martha Rocha; the new Miss Baia, Brazil, was Martha Vasconcellos. I thought it a striking coincidence that they should both be from the same place and have the same first name.
Next morning I met Lourdes at the registration office. She was with Miss Bonair, so I asked her for Miss Brazil. "Still sleeping," said Lourdes.
"She should be here for registration," I told her.
"Miss Brazil is a spoiled brat - wait till you see her. The first thing she did after she arrived was to order a big meal and wash her long hair; then she took one of the beds for herself. There is a woman who came with her, and she has been bossing me around. She is driving me crazy!" she replied.
[...]I followed Lourdes down to the auditorium to see whom she had gone to meet in such a hurry. When we got there, she was embracing Paul Max, the emcee for the Miss Brazil contest, who had just arrived. They were talking about Reynaldo, then her fianc .
"But you didn't say that you were engaged! There is a lot of conflict between him and your father," Paul was telling her.
"Reynaldo wanted me to enter the contest so that we could get extra money for our wedding and other things that we want," Martha told Paul, laughing and in a loud voice. It was impossible to make the introductions and Lourdes, Miss Bonair, and I stood there speechless listening to them.
Martha often appeared anxious and fidgety. One day Lourdes came to the infirmary and asked for some sleeping pills for herself and Martha. She does not sleep and does not let the others sleep," Lourdes said, looking very fatigued. "I think the woman who came with her drives her crazy. As soon as that woman calls, Martha becomes hysterical. I just don't know what they talk about. One morning after their phone conversation, Martha threatened to jump from the balcony, and that really worried me."
[...]Martha's gown was transparent. It was a sky blue veil embroidered with sequins. After she had a bra on, she started screaming for the panties. Lourdes looked in her large shopping bag but found no panties, and no one had seen them. Christine Francois, the hostess for Miss France, immediately lifted her skirt and removed her panties and loaned them to Miss Brazil. After this episode, Lourdes was crying, "I will never go through this again!"
I went to Salvador with Martha, where her mother and a few relatives were waiting. So was her Brazilian chaperon. One day I saw the woman going through Martha's suitcases, and when she saw me she looked scared and told me she was looking for a powder puff. Next day Martha couldn't find a gold-piece gift that was presented to her during the Miss Baia contest.
The organizers of the World's Fair gave a party in Martha's honor and sent orchid corsaged to both of us. My escort was Mario Laville, a tall and handsome blue-eyed mounted policeman, and Martha's escort was the Chief of Police, an older man. When they came to our door to accompany us to the reception, Martha couldn't understand why my escort was young and handsome while hers was old enough to be her father. In front of the men, she turned to me and in Portuguese asked that we changed escorts. The chief sensed what she was talking about and, without a word, he took my arm and we made the grand entrance followed by Martha and Mario.
After a walk through Hong Kong, we took a cab to Aberdeen. Martha was frightened since our driver spoke very little English; she was always suspicious of people. I told her not to worry because they didn't know who she was; and if they did, I didn't think it would matter. "That is what you think!" she said.
While we had been touring Rome, someone had toured our rooms, but we did not notice that things were missing until we arrived in Paris. Martha had bought some silverware in Hong Kong and it was among the missing objects. She started to cry when she found the silverware was missing, but although we called the hotel in Rome and wrote to the manager, it did no good.
We had twenty-four hours in Paris, and we made good use of the time. Didi wanted to go to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, and Martha wanted to take a walk in the Champs Elysee and see the Eiffel Tower. It was pouring rain, but we went to the museum, then took a cab to the Tower. The cab driver was the most hostile I had ever run into. He acted very rudely to Didi because she was an American. He spoke in an ugly tone and wanted me to translate it to her. I told him that I would not tolerate his language. I could not see a policeman anywhere and we could not get out of the cab. I just told the girls to be quiet and by the time we arrved at the Tower, I was trembling. I don't know whether it was from fear, anger or weakness from the flu.
When June met Martha, it was like a German Shepherd meeting an alley cat, and I was in between. June didn't like the way Martha talked or walked. Martha didn't like the way June looked. Martha didn't need any translator - she spoke fluent English. June was in charge of our expenses and was kind of frugal. Martha didn't care how much she was allowed to spend her day. She demanded service and a daily telegram to Reynaldo in Brazil.
When Martha stayed with me she made me a prisoner in my own home. When she was there, I couldn't answer the phone. In fact, I had to call the phone company to put a gadget to control the bell on my phone so that she wouldn't hear it ring.
"What has Mr. Glasser done to you?"
"He does not pay any attention to me. He never even calls me. He just wants me to work, work."
"You are acting like a ten-year-old dum-dum. Mr. Glasser is a busy man and he does care for you, too. Mr. Landon is the one responsible for you. He is always concerned that you have enough rest and he argues with the sponsors to cut your appearance time, and he likes you very much," I told her.
Then she turned on me, "Oh, you are on their side, you fake Brazilian!"
"O.K., Martha, please tell them to get you another chaperon, too, because when you get back tonight, all your things will be at the Shelborne Hotel where you are supposed to be anyway, and I don't have to put up with you anymore," I said.
Martha joined the pageant strictly to market her beauty. She needed money and the only way to get it was to take advantage of her merchandise. That was her then... "If you got it... flaunt it!"
On July 20, 1969, when she crowned Gloria Diaz from the Philippines as her successor, it was the happiest day of the year for me!"
CHAPTER 13: TO MISS PHILIPPINES WITH LOVE
"Why me?" were the first words of Gloria Diaz, Miss Philippines, when she was elected Miss Universe in 1969. "All those beautiful, tall, blonde, blue-eyed girls out there, why did they pick me?" she asked the reporters at her first interview. Surrounded by her court, her dark brown eyes filled with tears, Gloria answered every question with a question. "I joined the pageant for the fun and the experience - I never thought that I would win - not even in my primary pageant in Manila."
"The funny thing is, that for the entire pageant week, the press never bothered with me. They didn't even seem to see me, or perhaps they thought that I didn't speak English," she told the reporters.
Once again, we went to Brazil for the annual Feniti show along with the four runners-up, for this was part of their prize: a month-long, all-expenses-paid trip in Miami Beach and Brazil, plus $200 cash for their two days' appearances at the Feniti show.
Kikuio, Miss Japan, stayed at the hotel sleeping while the others were sightseeing. When we returned, the place was in a turmoil and Kikuio was crying hysterically. None of us could understand her. We could tell that something had happened and that a thief had been in our rooms. While Arnaldo Oliveria was getting someone to translate for Kikuio, I called the hotel manager and the house detective. Then Gloria came in screaming. "Someone went into my suitcase and my purse, and my dollars are missing!" My room was in a mess, too, but it seemed to me that everything was there until I checked the drawer where I had left my bankbook and the passports. Sure enough, my cruzeiros were missing from my bankbook pockets, and that was the expense money for tipping and valets. It was equivalent to sixty dollars. Gloria had about thirty dollars, and that was missing too.
[...] The hotel manager reimbursed us for our losses, as he was afraid of bad publicity for the hotel. Somehow, it got to the press anyway, and made front page news that the Miss Universe girls had been robbed in Rio.
At the Corcovado, Gloria met a man named Fernando, who fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. He wrote her long, passionate letters, and I had to translate them. She enjoyed receiving them but never answered him. As a matter of fact, Gloria had a young man in every town, and they were all in love with her.
In Mexico, there were two Don Juans in love with her - our phone never stopped ringing. In Mexico also Gloria was to present the trophy to the best Latin performer of the year - the Latin Academy Award. I was very excited, for the actor had been my favorite as long as I could remember - Mario Moreno - best known as Cantinflas. I had told Gloria how thrilled I was just to think I might have the opportunity to meet him.
Before leaving the hotel, we stopped for dinner and there was lobster on the menu - it sounded good. Gloria loved lobster but, like Ieda, she was allergic to it. Carlos Cavet, our escort, ordered it. Gloria asked just to taste the Mexican lobster because it looked so good. Halfway to the theater the little bit she had tasted affected her.
The only sauna in Salisbury was in our suite, and Gloria spent part of the night in it. I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of the night to hear the clicking in the bath. I looked through the little glass window in the door, and there she sat eating chicken salad sandwiches in the nude.
"Gloria, it's three o'clock in the morning; what are you still doing in there?" I asked her.
"Then you can't go, and you are the star of the show!" I told her.
"Oh, as soon as I get back home, my father will have to build one of those for me so I can eat all I want and it will melt right out!" she said, giggling. After she went to bed, the thing got stuck and then neither of us could sleep with the noise.
[...] When Gloria returned from the Philippines she was as fat as a whale! Mr. Landon almost had a heart attack when he saw her. They sent her as fast as possible to the Miss Universe Health Salon to try to lose a few pounds for the swimsuit show. Though she had gained weight, it was very becoming to her.
Gloria was one of the sweetest of the Miss Universes and I was sorry to see her reign end in July when she crowned Marisol Malaret of Puerto Rico
CHAPTER 14: BEAUTY AND CHAOS - SEA AND SUN
In July 1970, fifty-six of the Miss Universe contenders met in Osaka, Japan to participate in the Osaka Expo 70 before heading for Miami Beach. I was one of the chaperons assigned to go there and meet them. I was late arriving and missed one of the most special events, "The Queen of the Expo 70 Contest." This was a unique contest, in that the girls were judged by computer. The pageant setup was a miniature of the Miss Universe Contest except that the judges were machines! Apparently the machines were set for girls with big bosoms. The winner was Miss Malaysia with her statistics of 39-26-36 and she was 5'6". The first runner-up was Miss Czechoslovakia with the same measurements except that she was an inch taller.
The morning that we left Tokyo on Pan-Am flight 800-01 for New York and Miami Beach, I was so proud to be included in that passenger list as a VIP! As we boarded the plane, I told the chief stewardess of my past association with the airline and of my position now as an interpreter for the Miss Universe beauty delegates. "Oh, good, as you know, stewardesses are always excited about having celebrities on board and we will need your help with the Spanish-speaking beauties. It just so happens that we don't have a Spanish-speaking cabin attendant on this flight," Yvonne Sober, the chief stewardess, told me.
I wasn't long before we were airborne and my beautiful group of celebrities created havoc and upset the rest of the passengers and the crew. My pride turned to embarrassment, but there was no way I could control my charges. Yvonne, doing the job of a gracious hostess, offered them wine and it went directly to their heads. Some got sick and others lost their class. Miss Turkey threw up all over Miss Holland. Miss Tunisia became depressed and started to cry hysterically. Miss Portugal lost her dignity, went to the back of the plane and said to the steward that if there were a sugar daddy on the flight to let her know.
When we finally arrived at the New York Hilton Hotel, things were almost under control. Miss Chile became hysterical because she had lost her bags, which she had seen in the hallway but had disappeared. Miss Nicaragua had lost her purse with her passport in it. Miss Czechoslovakia was sick and nobody could understand her, so she was in a panic too. Miss India came to the chaperon's suite crying that she left her mascot doll on the plane and "could someone go to get us?" Miss Sweden wanted a masseur; she had to lose ten pounds fast or she would have to quite the pageant.
Debbie Shelton was going from room to room welcoming the girls to the USA and advising them on how to apply their cosmetics in hot, humid Miami Beach. "You don't need much - just lipstick, eyelashes, and mascara," she told them. "Any kind of base will melt away with the heat of the lights." It was getting late, but a group of girls gathered to listen to Debbie in the hall. The forty-second floor of the New York Hilton was in a turmoil, as girls were in and out of each others' rooms.
Everyone was sure that Debbie was going to win. She was beautiful, congenial, intelligent, and independent.
When we arrived at Miami Beach, there was Anna Santistavo, the pageatn franchise director for Puerto Rico, with her pride, Marisol Malaret. The pageant in Puerto Rico was late; therefore, Miss Puerto Rico could not participate in the Japan events. "Marisol" means see and sun in Spanish. When Anna entered the Miami Beach Auditorium with Marisol she told Mr. Landon that she had brought the new Miss Universe. Nobody paid much attention to her except the Latin press, who were following Marisol very closely. Marisol appeared timid and very plain. The night of the swimming suit competition she didn't make the twelve finalists. She made up for it in beauty and personality.
That was the last pageant in which they announced the finalists in swimming suits. Afterward this procedure was omitted to avoid hurt feelings, although the girls were told that the twelve best selected in swimming suits were to promote Catalina and were not really the finalists. Since then, only the twelve finalists compete in swimming suit.
In fact, in 1970 the contest seemed more liberalized. The pageant rules for high moral standards still prevailed, but they no longer restricted the girls from going out without a chaperon. The chaperones were there to manage activities and schedule. The new breed of the 70's was different. The girls did not appear so interested in cultural exchange; they were more on the lookout for opportunities and adventures.
Marisol's triumph was a great sensation to the Puerto Rican people throughout the USA and Latin America. In New York she was received by Governor Rockefeller and Mayor Lindsay in a very regal manner, and they rode with her in the Puerto Rican Day parade.
As Miss USA, Debbie Shelton was under contract with Miss Universe, Inc., and would travel just as much as Miss Universe. On many occasions I was assigned to travel with Debbie.
[...] On our last evening in Rio, Debbie invited all of us to a farewell champagne party in her suite at the Hotel Gloria, where we were the guests of the house. After a few bottles, the champagne became cheaper but lasted better and we all became very lonely and longed for our loved ones far away. To cure the loneliness, we placed phone calls to all corners of the world. Little Miss Japan, June Shimada, had met a drum player in Miami and decided to call him, too. It was about 2:00 A.M. and we were on the phone trying to help June find Ross, 8,000 miles apart. June's English was limited to half a dozen words, "Ross, I love you!" She repeated it over and over. Then she started to cry and Debbie came to console her. The phone was still connected between Rio and Miami.
The appearance in Chicago consisted of lunches and dinners in different places, and sometimes chicken was served. Debbie forgot about the chicken that was nicely wrapped piece by piece in aluminum foil for her midnight snack. One day when she opened the bag, the chicken was bluish and didn't smell very good.
At 6:30 P.M. we were airborne again, bound for Miami, where Debbie was to crown the queen of the Miami Irish Club. When we arrived at the club there were all kinds of four-leaf clovers and a huge sign, "WELCOME MISS UNIVERSE." When Debbie saw the sign she said, "Guess I am not supposed to be there. I see they were expecting Miss Universe and not Miss USA." I approached one of the club officials and asked him if there was any misunderstanding in this appearance.
"No," he said, "we knew that Debbie was Miss USA, but she is living in the world of Miss Universe."
Marisol had been a popular winner, but if ever a girl had been meant to be queen, it was Debbie Shelton. perhaps if she had gotten all those four-leaf clovers before the pageant...
CHAPTER 15: MISS LEBANON AND FAREWELL TO MIAMI BEACH
When the 1971 flock of beauties from Europe landed at Kennedy International, I noticed a very restless girl dressed in black slacks, a dark brown blouse and a brown bonnet. She appeared worried and I overheard her saying, "But they were supposed to deliver my purse here. I am worried because my passport is in it."
I thought to myself, "Where in the world did she leave her purse?" Those girls are so scatterbrained, and they are always losing their things. Some of them even lose their heads!"
I was there at the airport to meet them, so I approached the girl with the brown bonnet and asked who she was and where she had left her purse.
"I am Georgina Rizk, from Lebanon. I was late for the plane, and when I ran, I left my purse on the counter," she explained.
During the two weeks of hectic competition, Georgina never complained. It didn't bother her. Her serene and beautiful smile was ever-present, her voice was dramatically low but vibrant as she advised her competition on grooming, posture, and make-up. She said that she was very liberal and couldn't see why people got so uptight over little things. She knew that her people were proud of her. Every day she received a batch of mail, encouraging her to do her best.
The big night came, and the pride of Lebanon, Georgina Rizk, became Miss Universe. Georgina broke tradition by winning in a typical Lebanese dress, a see-through, light green chiffon pants and low-necked top outfit.
A month after Miss Lebanon won in Miami Beach, the pageant moved to Puerto Rico,. Georgina didn't have anything to do with the conflict between the city and pageant officials, but she became a victim of political circumstances. Ironically, Miss Lebanon was the last Miss Universe to visit the Feniti Fair of Textiles in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which had been an annual event for over a decade.
After Georgina moved to Puerto Rico, Yvonne Arena and I frequently traveled to New York to meet her and accompany her on different assignments. Once Georgina met a connection in San Juan and it caused a big stir in Chicago. My plane was late leaving Miami too, so we both were late to dinner at the Conrad Hilton where George Romney, former Governor of Michigan, was a guest speaker. Georgina was to sit next to him at the head table. We heard the next day that the ex-Governor was very disappointed, and the chair next to him remained empty during this great annual event in Chicago.
While in Los Angeles, the promoter made arrangements for her to appear for CBS on Bob Barker's "Truth of Consequences" program. She was to appear in a swimming suit with all the Miss Universe accessories. When we arrived at the studio, we realized that we had forgotten the shoes that had been specially dyed to match the swimsuit. When we told Sam Hongsburg, the P.R. man responsible for having her at the studio, he had a fit. It was a half-hour before taping time. The shoes were part of the script. I asked Sam to drive me back to get the shoes, and he was furious.
"Two heads, and you forget the most important thing to go with the swimsuit?
Georgina very calmly said, "That is an insult, Sam. The most important thing to go with the swimsuit is my body!" Her humor created a needed change in the atmosphere. Sam drove me back and we made it to the studio in time for Georgina to wear the blue satin shoes with the blue swimsuit. During her stay in Los Angeles, Georgina wined and dined day and night and the royal treatment made her fat.
When she returned to New York, Mr. Landon went into shock. Miss Universe was fat as a cow, and he had the opposite problem with Miss USA, who was as thin as a stick. The girls were in the spotlight all over the world. It was a big problem for the promoters. How could they introduce those beauties in that condition? They were supposed to represent glamour and beauty as they traveled around promoting the new home of Miss Universe and the Miss USA contest.
Georgina never lost the weight and had to be presented as a fat Miss Universe in this first historic pageant in the beautiful Cerromar Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico. She was kept behind the scenes until the last minute when she was introduced to welcome the Miss USA contestants. Right after the contest, Georgina was sent to Beirut to continue the struggle to lose the pounds.
Then only three weeks before the pageant, when Georgina was getting ready to come back to Puerto Rico to relinquish her crown, a group of Japanese hired by Arab terrorists, attacked the international airport in Tel Aviv and killed twenty-two Puerto Rican tourists. The Puerto Ricans were en route to the Holy Land when the massacre occurred. Georgina had nothing to do with this brutal act, but she was a victim of it and her government would not allow her to return to Puerto Rico to relinquish her crown for fear that her life would be endangered. No matter how much protection the pageant officials assured Georgina, still her government would not take a chance. Georgina still had many of her belongings in Puerto Rico and one-third of her cash prize. Her clothes and belongings, including a whole house of furniture, were shipped to her, but since she broke the contract by not coming back to fulfill her last appearance, the pageant held her check for $3,250. "Although it was not her fault that she broke the contract," said Mr. Landon.
A year later I met Georgina in Beirut. When I walked into the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel, there were all kinds of welcoming messages.
When I saw her, she looked beautiful, thin, and even taller. She told me that she was not angry with the pageant officials, but that she was going to sue them for her prize money.
CHAPTER 16: BOMBS OVER BEAUTY
The first Miss USA Pageant in Puerto Rico in May, 1972 went very well, until the last day. During the dress rehearsal in the afternoon, demonstrators came by the hundreds, yelling, "Yankees, go home."
At 8:30 all the girls were on stage in their state costumes, the orchestra was playing the Miss USA theme song and I was backstage holding my first aid kit, when I heard a bomb explode in the parking lot.
The girls were dressed in their evening gowns and the finalists were being interviewed by Bob Barker. Michele McDonald was seated on her throne ready to crown the new Miss USA when the second bomb exploded in the kitchen!
The place was in turmoil, pieces of glass were everywhere, and the tension was very high. When Michele stood up to crown Tanya Wilson, Miss Hawaii, who had just been announced the new 1972 Miss USA, a huge blast was heard again. This time it shook the whole building. Clothes were flying in the air. There was no place to run to because no one knew where the next explosion would be. Everyone just held his breath. Although everyone was trembling, no one panicked and the telecast continued right on. I'm sure the TV audience was never aware of all the drama behind the scenes.
The post-pageant party was attended by very few. The new Miss USA was taken to a room and told that a generator had exploded, and she had to stay there until they fixed it.
Mitchell Potter, who was in charge of the judges, had lost all his clothes. The biggest bomb explosion was on the sixth floor, under his room. The whole floor of his room was gone and so were his belongings.
Among the many dignitaries watching the first Miss USA Contest in Puerto Rico, was Governor Luis Ferr , surrounded by his proteg s. After the first bomb exploded, the Governor was taken to a room on the side where he could watch the rest of the show on TV.
Puerto Rico had already paid the pageant the sum of $200,000 for the first year. Now after this big threat in which, fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, how were they to plan for the bigger event in July - the Miss Universe Contest - which would have 72 countries coming to Puerto Rico, to share the best of their best in feminine beauty? Now how could Puerto Rico show the guests the best of their best hospitality?
Meanwhile, to clean up the mess of the Miss USA Sunday afternoon, the Cerromar Beach Hotel was vacated. The beautiful guests left as fast as they could leave. Tanya Wilson, the new Miss USA, moved to San Juan to prepare herself for the Miss Universe competition.
CHAPTER 17: LAST STAND AT "FORT" CERROMAR
A group of us flew back together to Miami, the day after the explosive Miss USA Contest in Puerto Rico.
After that frightening experience, Bob Barker, John Christ, June Montagna, Fay and Mitchell Potter and I didn't think that we would return to Puerto Rico in July for the Miss Universe contest.
I thought to myself, "I've had it. It's not worth it to risk my life. The fun is gone. It's become tedious and monotonous. Every year it's the same thing. Besides, there are so many beauty contests there is no fun or excitement anymore."
As often as we said that we would not return, we all did. It's like an addiction.
"Besides, I enjoy the many friends that I made from it. And the most gratifying experience is to meet those girls when they are so immature and see how rapidly they grow and become so sophisticated," I said to Fay.
Fay agreed with me, and when Mr. Landon called, I was ready. On July 2, I went to New York to meet Tanya Wilson. She had just arrived from Hawaii and was staying at the Landons'.
Tanya was not only sweet and sensitive, but a very intelligent girl. She told me that she feared going back to Cerromar in Puerto Rico, but she had to represent the United States in the Miss Universe competition.
On Thursday I checked in at the New York Hilton and called the girls. Miss Australia was Kerry Ann Wells and Miss Iceland, Maria Johansdottir.
"Maria speaks a few words of English and I speak zero Icelandic," Kerry said, "but we are getting along with sign language."
Kerry wanted to go to Greenwich Village to shop and see the hippies, so we walked down to Washington Squate. I had never been in that part of New York. The Square was dirty and the people sitting around looked so sad and poor. There were people up in a tree playing the guitar but I couldn't tell if they were boys or girls.
On July 18, I was with the group on the inauguration flight of the Eastern Airlines Tri-Star L1011 Lockheed from New York to Puerto Rico. What a way to inaugurate a flight! We arrived in Puerto Rico and were greeted by the hostess committee and the press at the airport. A few of the Latin girls had arrived and were there to meet the others, and there was June Montagna with her stage crew...
Miss Japan thought that all of this was to protect her because of the incident in Israel. She became hysterical all we could understand was, "It's all because of my people. Many, many police here. I want to go back to Japan." I had to stay with her that evening trying to calm her down. A few days later, Mr. Hiro arrive to be a judge. Miss Japan felt more at ease with her countryman, and fortunately Mrs. Hiro came too so that Harumi could chat with her.
It was a long ten days. The girls began to call the place the glamorous Fort Cerromar. It was like a prison. Every day we saw the same faces, each one more frosty than the other. It was sad to look out and see the seagulls flying up and down and around, over the beautiful Carribean Sea.
"The worst thing is to be in a hotel like this, with a beautiful beach at your bedroom door, and be forbidden to take a dip," said Miss Brazil Rejane Vieira Costa. The girls were allowed to swim in the pool but not on the beach, and most of them revolted against it."
While the new Miss Universe from Australia was making her home at the El San Juan Hotel where she was supposed to live for one year in the executive suite with all expenses paid, Governer Ferr lost the election in Puerto Rico, and all his men lost with him. The new government wanted nothing to do with the Miss Universe or Miss USA contests and declared the contract void. Miss Universe and the pageant were deported from Puerto Rico, and for a few months, the world's most glamorous contest and queen had no home. Later, Kerry Ann moved to the New York Hilton.
The pageant filed a suit for $2,000,000 against the Puerto Rican government and their Tourism Trade Association for breaking the contract and causing the pageant so many complications.
The Puerto Ricans complained that the pageant publicity was very destructive and that they did not need a beauty pageant to publicize their beautiful island.
CHAPTER 18: MISS UNIVERSE MEETS THE STARS
Even though Kerry Ann Wells won the coveted crown, she was not happy. The turmoil and turbulence in Puerto Rico had affected her. It was also not as glorious and glamorous as she had thought it would be.
She had been promised the executive suite at the El San Juan, but she was moved to a smaller room which she had to share with Tanya Wilson (Miss USA). When Kerry Ann complained, she was told that since she was on the go constantly, she didn't need a larger room.
Then came a time when she had to move in a hurry. She was being deported from Puerto Rico, even though the only thing she had done was to be selected Miss Universe. "It was very humiliating," she said. "Just because I was Miss Universe, I was given a week's notice from the hotel to pack and leave." After these incidents, Kerry Ann changed. She was depressed and couldn't wait to finish her year.
A week before I left for Japan with Kerry, Lee Bradbury had called to tell me of June Montagna's sudden death at the youthful age of forty-two. I knew how much she enjoyed working on the same stage with her friends, Gene Bayless, Donald Epstein, Don Shirley, Christy Welker and all the others. This would be my first pageant without June. We had started together in 1963. She, too, was a nurse and started with the pageant on a volunteer basis as a hostess.
Our next assignment together was the trip to Japan. Kerry Ann was already living at the New York Hilton and she regarded her hotel home as a large international zoo.
When I arrived to meet her the night before we left for Japan, she was not friendly and her room was messy... clothes, suitcases, packages, boxes were all over the place. She was upset. I asked her, "Kerry Ann, what is wrong?"
She took a few minutes to answer. "The whole damned, bloody thing. Look at this place, and now they want me to pack everything and when we get back, I will have to move again."
"Kerry Ann, you don't expect to live in a hotel all your life. Store the things that you don't need, or send them home." I suggested.
"Home?" she said, "I am going to live right here in New York as soon as this is over! That is why I am putting up with all this."
In Tokyo, we stayed at the Imperial Hotel. One morning as Taki and I were waiting for Kerry by the elevator, we heard a noise as if a propeller airplane was passing by. Suddenly it hit the building and the whole place sounded as if it were falling down.
Mr. Taki explained that it was an earth tremor. This was my first experience with an earthquake and I hope the last one. I was afraid to ride the elevators after that, but we were on the eleventh floor. Kerry was brave. The tremor shook her up but didn't really bother her.
On Wednesday, March 28th, Kerry Ann and I said "sayonara" to our Japanese friends. We were 70 kilos overweight in excess baggage from the gifts that the Japanese people had presented to us. When I told the clerk at Japan Airlines that the excess weight was all gifts, he said, "Then I would like to present this to Miss Universe as a gift from Japan Airlines. She will not have to pay for the excess weight." He also presented Kerry with a large ashtray and me with a doll.
Kerry and I departed together for San Francisco and Los Angeles. Tanya joined us, and we had a gorgeous duplex suite at the Berkeley Hotel. Hugh Hefner invited us to a party, which shook up Mr. Landon when I told him about it. I promised him I would take the responsibility and assured him that we would not go "skinny dipping" in the famous pool.
Before the party, Kerry Ann was to appear on the Sonny & Cher show. It was 5:00 P.M., and the girls had to be ready to leave for the taping of the show at 6:30. Tanya decided to wash her long hair, and then she fell down the stairs and twisted her ankle. I began to panic.
Hugh Hefner himself greeted us at the door. I had pictured him a tall and husky man, and he was not as I thought, but a very good-looking, plain human being. His girl friend, Barbie Benton, was with him. She was dressed very conservatively, in a long beige jersey dress with a high neck and long sleeves.
Even with all the champagne and other drinks, I didn't see anything that would be considered immoral and I learned a great deal about movie stars. In fact, I felt as if I was among a group of old friends, every face was so familiar!
On January 28, 1973, we said good-bye to Tanya at the Los Angeles airport. She flew to Puerto Rico and Kerry came with me to Hialeah.
I went back to work at the hospital and left her alone in my home. About 10:00 P.M., I was scrubbed for an emergency operation when the O.R. secretary came to the door and asked if she could talk to me.
She said, "There is an emergency at your home."
I asked the circulating nurse to call and find out what it was.
Kerry answered the phone and said, "The toilet is flooding."
When I got home, there was not one dry towel nor sheet in the house and my living room was filling with water. All she had to do was to close the water valve under the toilet tank, but she didn't know that. She was as calm as could be. I thought it could have been worse; I was glad it was not a fire.
Before she left, she presented me with a beautiful gold ring with the emblem of life and love. Whenever I wear the ring, I remember the flood in Hialeah.
In July, I went to Athens with Kerry Ann where ended her reign as Miss Universe and crowned her successor, Margarita Moran, Miss Philippines, 1973.
CHAPTER 19: THE PAGEANT GOES GREEK
"This is truly the fitting place for the Miss Universe Pageant to celebrate its 22nd anniversary, the place where the first beauty contest was ever held," said Chryssanthos Dimitriadis, the man responsible for the Miss Universe contest in Greece. "Greece is where the Goddess Aphrodite, better known as Venus, won the first beauty contest and has remained the symbol of feminine beauty ever since." Their hilly, serene land, with an infinite variety of form and colors, bathed in a bright light and surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea, was bound to bring the Greeks close to nature and beauty. "An inspiration for our cultural heritage but not limited to the Greeks," Mr. Dimitriadis emphasized in his welcoming ceremonies.
That year in Greece, I had a unique assignment. I was to help with the judges and be the special interpreter for Manuel Benitez (El Cordobes) who was one of the judges and didn't speak English. I was excited about my assignment and looking forward to meeting my charge.
I arrived three days before the judges, anxious also to meet the girls and curious to learn how the pageant was elegant, and best organized pageant that I ever saw. The hostesses were mostly American-born ladies, wives of diplomats and servicemen in Greece. Most of them spoke three or four languages. They were a fine and very dignified group.
[...] It seemed to me that the girls were more refined that year. They appeared well-disciplined. There were a couple of spoiled brats; of course, there had to be at least two in every group, but not as bad as I had seen in past years. Some of them had their own problems.
One was Miss Spain, who missed her boyfriend terribly and always had a headache. The other was Miss Turkey, who was always fainting with severe stomach pains.
Miss Israel, Limor Schreibaiman, had to move around with four bodyguards. But she was never disturbed by the Greeks and her bodyguards seemed to be having a good time mingling with the girls.
Another girl, whom I will always remember in that contest in Greece, was Farzana Habib, Miss India. She had such a serene, queenly look. Her pastime during the rehearsal breaks was to read palms. Everyone participating had her palm read by Farzana.
I was amazed that there weren't many Greeks associated with the production of the pageant. As a matter of fact, there were very few associated with the entire pageant. They were proud and happy, that the pageant was being held in Greece, but didn't want to interfere in any way. Only those hired to assist the office staff, or communication and transportation services were around. I was told that the newspaper coverage was great. It was all in Greek and all we could understand was the phrase, Miss Universe, which appeared to be upside down.
Miss El Salvador, the tallest girl in the contest, told me that she didn't want to go back to her country after the contest. She was in love with Greece and with one of Miss Israel's bodyguards.
I told him [El Cordobes] that I could not influence the judges in any way, but that he should nudge my arm and I would write the girl's country for him when he saw a girl he wanted to vote for.
I asked him to select the twelve that he thought should be voted for and, again, to nudge me when he thought that a girl should be in the top twelve, then I would write the name of the country for him.
As the girls paraded, my ribs got sore! I had written twenty countries on my scratch pad for him to copy, and he was still nudging and saying, "that one, too; and that one is gorgeous and that one es muy linda and that es bella!"
"But you can only vote for twelve! Now tell me which ones I should scratch off. There are twenty-four on this list!" I explained to him.
"But they are all so beautiful. Why do we have to vote for only twelve?" he said, laughing.
Tuesday morning half of the contestants were in the hotel ballroom seated around a long, square table. The judges were inside the square moving from girl to girl. The other group was relaxing and would meet the judges the following day.
We moved on and when we stopped in front of Miss Philippines, Margarita Moran, she spoke Spanish and he didn't need me. His heart was captured to hear an Oriental girl speaking in Spanish. She had not been among his twelve the first time, although she had made the list when she appeared in a swimsuit. But now, after talking to her, she was his number one.
Now we were down to serious business, to select Miss Universe of 1973. When the accountant passed the ballots, he gave us two, one for El Cordobes and one for me. He would tell me his choice and I would write for him and he would copy the name. It had to be his handwriting.
As he was telling me the name to write, he would change his mind and that caused complications. Again, he wanted them all to become Miss Universe.
When it came to Miss Norway, he wrote in Spanish "Noruega," and it looked like Monaco. Mr. Landon came over to me, again in his upset way.
"Look," he said, "you are supposed to write it for him to copy, and here is a vote for Miss Monaco, and we don't even have a Miss Monaco."
Quickly, I wrote "Norway" and El Cordobes copied it. Finally, the votes were counted and Miss Philippines won.
CHAPTER 20: FROM ATHENS TO MANILA
Six months after her victory in Athens, I met Maria Margarita Moran at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. She looked more beautiful than she had in Greece, and more sophisticated. She was wearing a yellow wool pantsuit and her dark brown mink coat, which was one of her prizes.
Margie complained about her appearances, that they were not what she had expected. On top of that, Air France had lost a large trunk containing all her good gowns. She didn't have a gown for the appearance in Chicago. Fortunately, she could wear my size.
On my first evening with Margie in Chicago, we went out to separate dinner parties. The next morning, I called Margie and there was no answer. I went to her room and knocked several times. Then I asked the maid to check for me. The room was empty and the bed had not been slept in. I immediately thought that she had been in an accident with her friends, but fortunately, she had left her phone book in my room and I remembered a name she had mentioned, "Dr. Spinosa." I dialed his number and it rang a few times before a woman's sleepy voice answered. She told me that Margie had gone the night before to the home of Madame Gasposar to play mah-jong. She gave me the number. When I finally reached Margie, it was about 7:30 A.M. and she was still playing mah-jong. When I asked her why she didn't let me know that she was spending the night out, she just laughed. I reminded her that she had a commitment and had to be ready at 9:00 A.M.
"Don't worry, I will be there on time," she said.
I had loaned her a green flowered chiffon gown to wear at the ceremonies. I asked her to please be careful with my dress because it was new. I was so upset for her lack of consideration that I didn't care to hear about her game and how much she had won.
Next morning, I went to the office and met Bob Parkinson. My first report to my new boss was that I had lost Miss Universe's crown.
"You must be kidding!" he insisted. Also, I told him what Margie had done to me on our first assignment. I found out then that that was why Agnes Jenning, her official chaperon, didn't want to travel with her anymore. There were a lot of things about Margie that I had to learn the hard way.
After this, I didn't see Margie again until we flew down to Bogota, Colombia. Margie was well received in Colombia and the people fell in love with her. We visited five cities in ten days, and it was a very pleasant adventure until one night when someone called me while we were having dinner and told me that if Miss Universe appeared in the caminata (walkathon) which was scheduled for the next day, she would be killed. I didn't know how to tell her the news. I asked the operator where the call had come from, but all she could tell me was that it came from the outside. I asked for hotel security and told them that an anonymous caller had threatened Miss Universe's life and asked them to alert the police.
We flew to Guayaquil after Quito and were having a peaceful day when Karen (Karen Morrison, Miss USA) met a Latin lover. I don't know what Karen said to him. I had warned her to say "no" whenever she didn't understand a question. But the Don Juan, much older than she, showed up in the evening to take her to a discotheque...
Later, I went down with Margie to listen to the music. Don Juan was about to rape Karen right there in the middle of the floor. When she saw Margie and me, she screamed, "Please call for help!"
Don Juan told me to get lost. He looked dangerous and he was drunk. Margie, who spoke Spanish fluently, stayed with them while I went to call for help. When I came back I tried to get the girls away from him but Don Juan held Karen by the arm and told her that she was not going to bed without him. I was furious but had to act calmly, so I asked the girls to go up while I talked to him. He grabbed me and started kissing me brutally just as the police arrived. When I saw them, I screamed for help and then ran. There were two other policemen at the elevator. I grabbed them by the arms and brought them up to our room. The girls were there, hiding behind the drapes. The three of us slept in my room, which was the smallest, with the policemen outside the door.
I shuddered, since I was going with the two girls to Manila, and I hoped for no more wild experiences. The 1974 Miss Universe contest was under way, as the most expensive pageant of all. In Greece, it had been beauty, luxury, and history. In Manila, it was a combination of the three and more. The First Lady of the Philippines was leaving nothing to chance.
But Mrs. Imelda Marcos, a former beauty queen herself (she was Miss Manila in the 40's), wanted the show to go on as scheduled. It would be a catastrophe if it didn't. She was a lady with power! She didn't have the power with God to get him to stop the storm, but she had the power to send up six Air Force jets loaded with zinc oxide to spread over the storm so that it could be directed away from Manila.
Four hours later, on Friday afternoon, the weather was clear and clear predicted for Sunday morning during the telecast.
The show went on as scheduled. It was the most glorious, exquisite Miss Universe performance ever. The girls were the prettiest and everyone who saw that show commented on how beautiful it was.
The Philippines were bursting with pride. Amparo Mu oz was the first Miss Spain to become Miss Universe. It was fitting for Maria Margarita Moran, Miss Philippines, to relinquish the crown to Amparo Mu oz. It was made more significant by the fact that Miss Spain was crowned in a land where her forefathers had played a great role in the culture and history.
CHAPTER 21: WHO ARE THE JUDGES?
"Who are the people appointed to judge the most beautiful girl in the universe? What are their qualifications? How are they selected? Is the pageant fixed? Or is it political?
Those are some of the questions that I was often asked during my travels with the beauties.
The men and women invited to be judges in the Miss Universe Contest also come from different corners of the world and each one is internationally known in his field. They are fashion designers, artists, sports luminaries, stage personalities, movie stars and eminent members of the broadcast media. It takes a lot of wheeling and dealing on the part of the pageant officials to line up such a group of international celebrities to form a panel of judges.
The pageant allows no politically affiliated persons to participate as a Miss Universe judge. The pageant remains neutral in political circles. In order to find qualified people, they deal through agents or promoters. Sometimes they run into complications when a judge cancels out at the last minute and at other times when too many judges appear. In order to avoid a tie, there should be an uneven number of judges, either nine or eleven. The pageant has professional accountants to tabulate the votes.
Judges are instructed not to discuss their decision with one another or be influenced by another judge or anyone else. They are supposed to vote for the girl and not be influenced by any political considerations. They must write the name of the country on the ballot because they do not know the girl's name. At the instruction session, they receive a kit that contains the pageant program, the "little bible" schedule book, the girls' biographies and pictures, a pad and two pens. They very seldom check the contestants' names. This is especially true of the bachelor judges. They are often more interested in the body than in the mind. The first thing they check in her biography is her measurements.
Women judges are more interested in high intelligence and personality than in physical statstics. I recall a statement by Pearl Bailey when she was a judge. She said that she was looking for the contestant with the greatest inner beauty. "Inner beauty is natural and never fades away and can be easily noticed," she said when she was interviewing the girls. Earl Wilson, however, looked at Kerry Ann Wells, Miss Australia, and told her that he didn't have to interview her because he was going to vote for her anyway.
Usually at the interview sessions, they eliminate the ones that were high on the list and vote for some that they didn't notice when they were presented on stage. On stage, most of the blondes with big bosoms seem more beautiful, but when the judges talk to the girls and discover others with more grace and beauty, they change their votes. As a matter of fact, in the twenty-four years of the Miss Universe contest, only three blondes have captured the title; Miriam Stevenson, Miss USA of 1954, Marlene Schmidt, Miss Germany 1961, and Hillevi Rombin, Miss Sweden 1955, but none of them had large bosoms.
During the pageant, there is only an occasion or two when the judges meet the girls socially. Some of them, particularly the bachelors, complain about this. They accept the task of being a judge with the idea of having a really good time, but when they find out that they are segregated, they become upset. Therefore, there are special committees to entertain them.
The judges were instructed not to be influenced by others, but some of them became friends during the festivities and sometimes one can charm the other into voting for his country's contestant. Sometimes they vote for each other's country as a mark of friendship, but of course, many of them vote for their own country. Often, not necessarily to win.
CHAPTER 22: AFTER THE PAGEANTS CAME THE WEDDINGS
Most of the Miss Universe winners had romantic attachments when they entered the contest. But I soon learned that, even with all the Casanovas around, the most beautiful girls in the world have love problems. It seems that their young men didn't want to share the excitement. Some were shy, others were jealous. I often found myself nursing brokenhearted girls. Sometimes it didn't take long for the condition to heal, but at other times it was a long road to recovery.
For instance, when Ieda Maria Vargas won, she was in love for the first time. Never before had she been away from home and from Flavio Corneiro, and she was ill every time a week passed and she didn't hear from him. At the beginning of her reign she wrote Flavio every day. It substituted for her nightly prayer until her mother confiscated her mail.
"Pook" was in love before she left Thailand, but once she won she forgot his name and every week she had a new boyfriend. Her romances never lasted. She never waited for a phone call. If the boy didn't call, the next day she had a new friend, so if the first one called, it was too late. She was determined that "No one is going to leave a scar on my heart," as she said in her fickle way.
Margaretta Arvidsson was in love with Hans, her countryman in Sweden, and didn't want to win the contest for fear of losing him. She was right. She won the title and lost Hans. But it wasn't long before she fell deeply in love with Omar Quintana of Ecuador. She used to wait for his call impatiently. If Omar called and couldn't find her, he would call my house. In fact, once he called around three o'clock in the morning and my husband blew his top at him. "What do you think this is? She does not live here and I am not her keeper!" John told Omar. Omar would forget the time differential and the phone would ring at odd hours.
Margareta's romance with Omar ended when she met David Roth in New York. David was the best-looking man she had ever met. Margareta would have given up her throne to marry him. When David didn't call, I had to pad my shoulder, but that romance did not last.
To make the girls happy, I acted as mailman, telephone answering service, timekeeper, and chauffeur by picking up boyfriends at airports and smuggling them through back doors. I was involved with their romances before, during, and after. Some of them invited me to witness their weddings and the groom was always a man I had never met.
Margareta and Otto were married in a beautiful little church filled with white flowers. Again, it was pouring rain. Margareta's dress was antique white satin, with a high neck and long sleeves, and she had daisies covering her head instead of a veil. It was unique and very lovely .
On November 28, 1970, Sylvia Hitchcock and Bill Carson were married in Miami. On Thanksgiving Day I had been in Salisbury, North Carolina, with Marisol Malaret for their annual parade and festival. Evelyn Kay flew there to relieve me so that I could go back to Miami for the wedding. And what a wedding! The large Methodist church in Coral Gables was packed to capacity. Maria Remenyi was Sylvia's maid of honor. Sylvia's dress was made of white satin and lace, embroidered all over with pearls.
June 29, 1973, was the wedding day for Tanya Wilson and Walter Senior on Governor's Island in New York. Both Tanya and Debbie relinquished their Miss USA crown and took their wedding vows two months later. Each met her groom during her Miss U.S.A. reign.
I shall never forget Tanya's wedding as it was the "race day" of my life. I attended a family funeral in the morning in Cliffwood, New Jersey,a nd spent some time with my sister and her husband afterward. The deceased had lived with them and they had been close so I knew that they were feeling their loss deeply.
We rushed to the Governor's Island ferry and made it just in time to see the bride's entrance. The reception followed the wedding there at the Officer's Club behind the church. At the reception, Mr. Landon was telling everyone that I was the only person that he had ever known to attend a funeral and wedding in the same day. But then my life has always been challenging, moving from one extreme to another!