LIFE'S RHYME, RHYTHM, AND REASON.
I don't believe in coincidences. Early this morning--before daylight-- I was online, looking for Willie Nelson's song about No Peace anymore when I saw this video listed on the same page titled "Miss America1959. Because I was Miss Arkansas 1958--and that's how The Miss America Pageant was referred to the year I competed, I assumed this was a short clip about the Pageant the next year. Somewhat intrigued, since Anita Bryant and I were invited back to the Pageant in 1959 as part of the Court of Honor, I decided to check it out.
I clicked on the above link and there it was.. the final night of the 1958 Miss America Pageant. Suddenly, I found myself inside Convention Auditorium in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was 1958 all over again and there I am, on stage in the Miss America Pageant. Stunned to see myself, again, after almost sixty years...I watched as I modeled my evening gown, my swimsuit, and, of course, cried... as I performed my talent.
I was so young then--- only nineteen years old---and maybe if I'd had a few more years, a little more experience, BUT... we were all young with not-much experience yet, most importantly, we were all ladies. We were genuine females---nothing false or phony, distasteful or crude.
Each of us had been chosen to represent our home state--- to compete for the most valuable title a young woman could hope to win---the title of Miss America. As young ladies, we tried our best. We displayed our perfect manners and years of proper upbringing; we demonstrated our poise and sincerity and proudly showed-off our ladylike charm.
From childhood, young girls in the fifties were taught to be ladies, regardless of our "station" in life. Whether you dreamed of being Miss America or a school teacher, a secretary, or a mother, life required you be a Lady-- first. It meant white gloves, hats, hose, heels, appropriate attire, and excellent manners for every day and every occasion. It meant knowing the art of conversation, including the proper way to meet people, speak with confidence, and most importantly--- when to remain silent.
Life is a series of moments. Each moment is unique. No two moments are alike and there's never a repeat of the same moment-- ever again. Life is lived.. moment to moment. ALL that's expected is to make each moment count; to try and be the best.
After sharing yesterday's piano heartbreak, I was meant to see today's video. The video is long... it's the final night of the 1958 Miss America Pageant to select Miss America for 1959....but for me ....its the most remarkable surprise I've received in years. It's like being chosen to re-live the most magical day of my life! I know few people are so fortunate and....I'm forever thankful for this priceless gift.
The top ten finalists are shown modeling evening gowns, swimsuits, and performing their talents. Then the judges select the top five, and, at last, the winner.
No, I didn't make the top five, I wasn't chosen Miss America, 1959, but...singing before thousands in Atlantic City's Convention Auditorium...and singing to millions watching on TV....was my crowning moment.
Most importantly, my Father was in the audience and....all those years later, he spoke of that moment as the highlight of his life. To him, I would always be Miss America.
PS...Years after the pageants ended, I enjoyed the friendship of Bernie Wayne, a songwriter, producer, and lover of music. I had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions at The Miss Arkansas Pageant...and to sing many of his original songs.
Regardless of his successes, Bernie was still best-know in entertainment circles, on Broadway, and around the world for two songs: BLUE VELVET and Miss America's Theme Song....THERE SHE IS.
I particularly like the part of the Miss America song that says "With so many beauties she took the town by storm, with her all American Face and Form and....there she is----walking on air, she is----fairest of the fair, she is....Miss America."
I was fortunate to grow up in an America that awarded people for reaching far-beyond themselves.... to be the best they could be. In those days, a "commitment to excellence" was more than just words.
Having lived during a time when life was simple but disciplined... when all of us followed life's basic rules...when we respected our heritage and traditions and honored God as our creator---- I agree it was the greatest of times and...the greatest generation. I believe that by honoring our roots, studying and learning from our past.... we can insure our future.
PS- Bernie's lyrics certainly don't describe the "Queen of Feminity" as being crude, rude, obnoxious, ugly-talking or acting. In those days, there was no mention of community bathrooms, or cosmetic alterations, nor was there any hint that a contestant might be a cross dresser or a transsexual.