REALITY IS STARK AND COMPLETELY-VOID OF GLAMOUR.
More and more, I miss the days of pretend-playtime. And, 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 nothing in common.
After competing in the Miss America Pageant and finishing in the top ten-- my seasoned chaperone began explaining what my duties would be for the next ten months---as the 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 who have business agents, an established bank account, and legal contracts--- I was expected to manage all the details/arrangements involving my “queenly” duties—for free.
Even before I’d left Arkansas to compete in the Miss America Pageant, the pageant director had begun signing me up for appearances. Now, back in Arkansas and facing a full calendar-- I needed answers. The pageant director—a full-time manager for his family’s printing business--showed no interest in talking with me. Judging from his voice, he was back—full swing—with his only interest—alcohol. Yes, he was also a full-time alcoholic.
But---I took my Miss Arkansas responsibilities seriously and--- like it or not---the Pageant Director was the only person with the answers. Anxious to know what car to use for all my scheduled appearances and how to pay for the gasoline and travel expenses--- I began asking questions. The director’s answers shocked me.
I was told to use my own car and pay my own expenses! Still in denial, I questioned the wardrobe necessary for so many public appearances and 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 had barely paid for the two elaborate gowns I wore in Atlantic City. Learning of my bizarre dilemma, my daddy immediately 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 a personalized license plate, gasoline charge cards, makeup, clothes, and spending money. The world’s greatest father made certain I had everything I needed 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. I thought some of the contestants might be a good talent resource for my weekly show---a popular Educational Television Show. Imagine my surprise when I was told I would be required to purchase tickets for each night of the pageant! I reminded the pageant director that all former Miss Arkansas winners were encouraged to attend every Miss Arkansas Pageant—with no charge! In response I heard: “Tickets are required of anyone and everyone “working” at the Pageant, regardless of who you are now or who you-- once-were.”
So—Educational TV paid for the tickets and I-- somewhat reluctantly-- attended the Pageant. It was difficult to hide my irritation when—every 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.