SOME FACTS CAN'T BE FORGOTTEN....OR FORGIVEN.
I miss my childhood days of pretend-playtime; more and more, every day, I miss my father.
Many girls dream of wearing a crown. There’s a Cinderella magic associated with a crown and a beauty queen title; a certainty that once you wear the crown you’ll have it all: fame, fortune, the happy ending and best of all---The Prince.
As a child I remember visiting the Library and seeing photos of Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945. From that moment I switched my pretend-playtime from being a movie star---to being a beauty queen. Discarded curtains became my flowing train and an old wire light fixture easily twisted into a crown. One day I grew up and, too soon, pretend-playtime ended. Sadly, I learned my pretend world and the real world had little in common.
After the Miss America Pageant and prior to returning home, my seasoned chaperone versed me on my future as a reigning Miss Arkansas. Clearly, I would be expected to travel, attend events like ribbon-cuttings, television/radio interviews, speaking/singing engagements, and also crown many local queens like Miss Hot Dog and Miss Pink Tomato. Unlike today’s professional beauty queens with business agents and legal contracts, I was expected to manage every detail involving my “queenly” duties.
Before leaving for the Miss America Pageant, the pageant director had booked future appearances for me as the new Miss Arkansas. Now, back in Arkansas and facing a full calendar, I needed answers.
I was shocked to learn the pageant's director hadn’t give me a second thought since leaving Atlantic City. The director had resumed his management position with the family printing business and, judging from his voice, was also back, full-swing, with his alcohol addiction.
Anxious to know what car to use for all these scheduled appearances and how to pay for gasoline, travel expenses, hotel rooms, I spoke with the director. His response shocked me. I was told to use my own car and pay my own expenses!
Still in denial, I questioned the many wardrobe changes for so many public appearances and again... the director’s answer: “Wear what you have and be damned grateful for the opportunity to serve your state.”
I didn’t have the luxury of another question since the phone call suddenly disconnected at the other end. A one thousand dollar wardrobe was included in my title winnings; a one thousand dollar wardrobe that barely paid for the two elaborate gowns I wore in Atlantic City !
Learning of my dilemma, my daddy stepped forward to pay for the wardrobe I needed, including suits, dresses, shoes, undergarments, and jewelry. In fact, daddy picked up the tab for everything during my year as Miss Arkansas, including a new car with personalized license plate, gasoline charge card, makeup, clothes, and spending money. The world’s greatest father insured I had everything for a worry-free, beauty queen year.
Please note: In 1974, sixteen years after serving as Miss Arkansas, I made plans to attend the pageant. My employer, The Arkansas Educational Television Network, agreed that attending the pageant would be a great talent resource for my educational television show called "Arkansas Talent".
Imagine my surprise when I was told by the Pageant Director I must purchase tickets for each night. I reminded the pageant director that as a former Miss Arkansas, I had entertained at more than six pageants for free and had never been required to buy a ticket. In response I was told: “Tickets are required for anyone who attends the pageant, regardless of who you “once-were” or how many times you performed "for free".
The television station purchased the tickets and I attended each night of the pageant. It was difficult to hide my irritation when, night after night, the master of ceremonies introduced me as a former Miss Arkansas and asked me to stand for the audience.
That was my last Miss Arkansas Pageant.