Standing on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City for the second time, I could barely contain my excitement.
Tomorrow night, when the crowds gathered at convention auditorium for the beginning of the 1960 Miss America Pageant, I would be one of this year's COURT OF HONOR and a featured entertainer---not a contestant.
Anita Bryant, last year's Miss Oaklahoma, and also a Court of Honor member, was my roommate for this exciting week and together, we found ourselves included-- along with sponsors and celebrity judges-- in all the cocktail parties, dinners, and press conferences. It was a unique opportunity to make professional contacts for the future.
I was unpacking my suitcases when Anita pulled out the tickets. “Surprise!” she threw the tickets on the bed. “He’s invited us for tonight's performance and ...we have front row seats!”
HE was Anita’s friend who was performing at Atlantic City’s famous Steel Pier. Three hours later, I was all alone with America’s heartthrob, Ricky Nelson. For the first time in a very long time--- I found myself laughing, enjoying myself, experiencing some real fun and--- feeling happier than I’d been in months.
Midnight came too-soon and, hand-in-hand, the two of us walked the deserted boardwalk back to my hotel. Rickie surprised me with several romantic kisses before asking to see me the next evening.
With lips still tingling, I danced off the elevator and down the hall to my room. Ricky's kisses made my blank canvas come alive with color; his kisses played every note on my keyboard.
If only I could have ignored the message taped to my hotel door telling me to return my mother’s phone call. After my mother delivered her happy news, I wanted to run away:
“Tomorrow, Jack is flying to Atlantic City to surprise you. He'll be there all week so...take him to the fancy parties, find him a good seat in the auditorium, and introduce him to lots of important people. It’s a big deal for Jack so--- behave yourself and when you see him--- act surprised!”
Heart-sick, I left a message for Ricky, cancelling our date for the next night. I knew with certainty--- this moment would be my life’s biggest regret.
Like ships passing in the night, our paths never crossed again.
PS..Looking back, I don't regret all the things I did but rather.. all the opportunities I was never allowed to pursue....
From my book: THE BEAUTY QUEEN