September 12, 1933 newspaper article
All In A Day, by Mark Hellinger

Lowell, Massachusetts Newspaper
King Features Syndicate
Copyright, 1933

1933 Lowell, Massachusetts article
Shelborne Hotel, Atlantic City, N.J. -- To me, beauty pageants have never been very serious affairs. I have covered many of them in this city, and I have always treated them in a light manner. I came here this year to do the same thing, but as I leave here now, I no longer feel like kidding. I have witnessed what turned out to be a sordid mess, and the taste in my mouth is bitter.

I sat in the beautiful convention hall the other night and watched seven judges choose a "Miss America of 1933." There had been several occasions during the week when a majority of these judges had been on the point of resigning in a body. But, having begun the thing, they decided to see it through.

Consider the picture. A tremendous auditorium and a huge stage. Some 7000 people assembled to see what they can see; an audience that stomps and whistles for action. In the rear, partitioned off by drapes, is a Walkathon, first cousin to a beauty pageant in point of hopelessness. An oppressive heat saps the vitality and makes one hope the thing will not last too long.

They Roll the Girls In

Enter the 30 girls in rolling chairs. Thirty girls, supposedly the cream of our American beauty. You look at them, and you wonder if the cream hasn't been served a trifle sour.

Where do these girls come from, and how did they get here? Well, some of them are bona-fide contestants, chosen in thoroughly legitimate fashion by newspaper and theatrical circuits. Some are the victors of small town local contests, where papa and the mayor are good friends. And some -------

Well, some are wondering how they got here themselves. That tall girl with the brown eyes, for example. She didn't have an evening dress when she got here, and she hadn't the money to buy a decent pair of stockings. A cafe-hostess bought her the stockings she now wears -- and one of the girls in the same cafe was gracious enough to lend her an evening gown.

Then there is "Miss Illinois," disqualified at the last moment because she is a native of Missouri. She has a prop smile on her face but there's plenty of worry in the background. For her return ticket will take her only as far as Elgin, Illinois -- and she has but $1.70 in her purse to carry her the hundreds of miles from Elgin to St. Louis.

Tough Racket on Road

The last girl is one of seven in the pageant who've just been through a heartbreaking experience. For almost two months these seven girls have been touring the sticks in an act called "The Pageant Beauties." They have slept in tenth-rate hotels, worked in the cheapest theatres and night clubs, and have had some terrifying experiences.

And for all this they received exactly nothing! It would give them, they were told, an opportunity to learn show business. More, they would see the country. More it meant a lot of publicity. And still more, they would all receive wardrobes and offers of jobs when they arrived at Atlantic City.

They have received no wardrobes and no jobs. I asked one of them why she didn't demand some money for playing four and five shows a day. She said she had asked for some -- but they refused to give her any on the ground that such an act would automatically make her a professional beauty! . . .

So these girls sit upon the huge stage in their rolling chairs and gaze out at the sea of faces. Within an hour one of them will be "Miss America of 1933," and she will be entitled to the dubious honor that goes with the title.

Those "Trick" Contracts

The winner will earn a little money, for a time, of course, but even in this direction most of them have been beaten to the punch. Mysterious contracts have been issued to all who have the slightest chance of being chosen by the judges as one of the winners.

These contracts give the girl $100 a week for 52 weeks if she becomes Miss America. If she doesn't win, the contract doesn't go. Many of the girls, not knowing any better, have signed these joke contracts. They have been conned before they start.

Oh, my friends, it's a brutal game. The judges have heard many of these things, but you cannot convict on heresay. More, Mr. Armand T. Nichols, director of the pageant, has always been a pretty regular guy, and he has paid many dollars out of his own pocket in order to stage this affair. So the only thing the judges can do is to keep judging -- and hope against hope that the winner they choose will be free from scandal.

In twos and fours, the girls are weeded out. The heat grows more and more unbearable. Mr. Ted Husing, expert announcer, speaks over a national hook-up and tells the nation about this great contest. The customers grow more restless. A drunk in the gallery applauds loudly for Miss Texas. There is no Miss Texas in the contest.

At last there is an end. "Miss Connecticut" is the winner. "Miss California" is second, and "Miss New York State" is third.

A Throne for the Winner

Soon they bring out the winner. A huge throne is shoved on the stage and a large American flag curtain is lowered. The band plays the "Star Spangled Banner" and a golden crown is placed on "Miss America's" dome. I am not close enough to see if there is a dollar sign on the crown.

The curtain falls. The crowd shuffles out. In the gallery, the drunk awakens and cries again for Miss Texas. The beauty pageant is over. . . .

They wheel me back stage to meet "Miss America." Her name is Marion Bergeron, and she is the daughter of Florence and Elmer R. Bergeron, of West Haven, Conn. Mr. Bergeron is a motorcycle policeman in that town, and he is very very proud of his sixteen-year-old daughter. He confides to me that he is due back at work on the morrow, but now he'll be damed if he'll go. He's going to celebrate.

Soon I meet the girl. She is a nice kid, natural and unaffected. I ask her the usual question. And as I talk, I regard her closely.

She is now the winner of a great beauty contest. She is now like so very many others whom I have interviewed in the past. She probably doesn't know that this mantle she has inherited has never brought more than momentary happiness to any girl in the past.

She is a child with a new toy. The photographers and the press are calling for her. She is radiantly happy. She doesn't know that that flickering shadow in the background is the curse of fleeting fame.

She tells me of her ambitions, and her plans. Before we part, I say a few words to her. "Be careful, honey," I tell her. "You're in a tough racket now. Be wise in everything you do."

She waves a hand. "Don't worry about me, Mr. Hellinger. I know what you mean. You're thinking of what has happened to other beauty winners. But don't worry about me. I'm -- I'm different."

Poor kid. They're always different. . . .

Note: it would appear that most of this article is based on extensive interviews with Miss Illinois Lillian Kroener; much of it echoes the statements Lillian made to the writer of the Romantic Confessions magazine article. The MidWest girl with no gown would be either Miss Kansas Pauline Sayre or Miss Kentucky Lucille Rader -- neither family has mentioned this story, but both girls were tall. But, curiously, the ads in West Virginia at the end of August mention that the MidWest contestants will model in bathing suits and evening gowns, so it is uncertain why either Kansas or Kentucky would be missing an evening gown, and they are the two tallest contestants. Perhaps it is a case of "literary license."

Also note that this article specifically states that California was 2nd and New York 3rd. And this Massachusetts reporter was at the Pageant. Despite this report by an eye-witness, it is thought that he reported the 2nd and 3rd place finishes incorrectly. The September 10, 1933 Los Angeles Times specifically mentioned Miss California was third. (It seems more likely that the Los Angeles paper, reporting on just the pageant outcome, would report on their home-town home-state girl correctly; the point of this article by the Massachusetts reporter was to describe the backstage feelings of the pageant, and not the obvious facts of the pageant. Note how most papers, even those in Atlantic City, only report that NY and CA were runners-up without reporting on exact finishes; the exact finish of NY and CA would only be of interest to those two states. Plus it should be noted that Miss California's finish was noted in the second headline of the Los Angeles Times article, supporting the idea of correct reporting on the home-town finish for their readers. --Donna Hay, 2009)

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