Judges for the 1933 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City

from an Ohio newspaper (Daily Mirror) pasted into Miss Ohio's scrapbook
There were ten judges and officers of the Atlantic City Pageant who were responsible for choosing Miss America 1933 (see picture and caption at left):
1. David Allman
2. Peter Arno
3. George Bucher
4. Edward Coward
5. Armand Nichols
6. Gladys Glad
7. Russell Patterson
8. Walter Thornton
9. Hugh Walter
10. George White

Some newspaper excerpts:
• "But the decision is in the hands of the judges -- Peter Arno, Gladys Glad, George White -- all known for the sophistication of their various lines of artistic endeavor. But Miss Ohio has certainly attracted the attention of Gladys Glad, the most beautiful woman in America and the wife of Mark Hellinger, Broadway columnist." - Daily Mirror clipping
• "George White and Gladys Glad, two of the judges, were reported favoring "Miss Ohio" and White, it is reported, walked out on the show before the contest was over Saturday night." - Daily Mirror clipping
• "Judges favored others. Russell Patterson, famous artist, told the Mirror reporter that although he and other judges, discussing the contest unofficially, favored "Miss New York" and "Miss California" to win, he had decided to vote for "Miss Connecticut" because he felt she was a "safe choice." Patterson also revealed that the judges, disgusted by the rumors the contest was not honest and unable to get any official information on that score, Thursday night discussed a plan to resign and announce that there was no girl at the pageant worthy of the title, "Miss America."" - Daily Mirror clipping
• "Age surprises Judges. Patterson and the other New York judges were amazed when they were informed today that "Miss America" is only 15. All were unanimous in saying "this is the last beauty contest for me."" - Daily Mirror clipping



Excerpt: 1955 article by Russell Patterson, 1933 Pageant Judge

gossip magazine of unknown name, circa 1955 (see footnote below)
"Gosh, it wouldn't be so hard for me to be in her shoes. Maybe if I bought the same clothes she buys, or used the same kind of make-up or accessories, I could be right up there. . ."

The "packed" contest is nothing new at Atlantic City. Many of the early Miss Americas were simply the personal choices of the notorious Mayor "Nucky" Johnson. In 1933, as a freshman judge at the Miss America Pageant, I was privileged to observe Johnson's methods at first-hand. I was in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel with another first-time judge, artist Peter Arno, when we were buttonholed by two rough-looking agents from Johnson's office.

"'This is the name of the winner Johnson wants you to pick," they said, flaunting a piece of paper at us. "If you know what's good for you, you'll vote for this girl.'"

When Arno and I became indignant, they said, "Look, that's the way we run the contest down here."

After the two toughs had gone, we decided to discuss the situation with Mark Hellinger, Gladys Glad, and George White, three other judges we knew to be beyond reproach. We found they had been pressured by the same Johnson emissaries, "They told us that just to make sure there'll be no slip-up, they're going to ring in five new judges -- judges we've never even heard of," Hellinger told us. We held a caucus, decided by majority vote that Miss Connecticut was the fairest of them all, and agreed to give her all our first-place votes. At the same time, we decided to boycott Johnson's choice by depriving her of any runner-up points.

Russell Patterson in 1937
Although the new crop of judges -- whose names I was never able to learn -- supported the Johnson selection, they gave Miss Connecticut a number of runner-up votes so by virtue of our reverse "squeeze play," she received enough cumulative points to win the crown. When the official announcement was made, there were angry shouts from the box seating the city officials. The float for the Connecticut entry had already been dismantled and had to be hurriedly re-assembled to be used in the victory parade! One City Hall employee later told me, "This was the first legitimate Miss America I've ever seen chosen here!"

There was no contest in 1934, but I was invited . . . (Continued on page 60)

---------------------
Note: quality of article image is poor, and there may be mistakes in the transcription above

Article sent to me by Daryl Schabinger, August 3, 2010 -- I went through my four drawer filing cabinet full of Miss America news clippings and found the following article from a magazine from 1955 (do not know the name of the magazine, but I am guessing it was one of the gossip type rags from the 50's), written by Russell Patterson who was ones of the judges at the Miss America competition in 1933. I have scanned the part of the article where he talks about the 1933 pageant. Very interesting. So I am wondering who the thugs wanted the judges to vote for??? Sorry, I had no idea I had this!

Two 1933 articles by Mark Hellinger, columnist husband of judge Gladys Glad, follow at the bottom of this page.



More information and thoughts on the Atlantic City Judges



Note: MAO historian Ric Ferentz said two Mafia-types threatened the judges with "it's Miss New York or else." While there were two New York entries -- New York State and New York City -- it would appear that the New York State, Florence Meyers, was Nucky's choice. This is derived from three observations:

     1. Miss New York City Elsa Donath withdrew on coronation night, three hours prior to the event, so she was not even in the running; her name is thought to have been removed from the ballots. The Atlantic City newspapers reported "Another beauty, Miss New York City, Elsie Donath, 20, of the Bronx, withdrew from the competition at 5 o'clock Saturday evening. When her manager, Harry Arder, publicity man for RKO, sent a letter to Armand T. Nichols, director general, saying that the Pageant was not 'on the up and up.'" However, it has also been reported that she was switched to the professional division. Both Miss New York City and Miss New York State were sponsored by RKO, and RKO gave the screen test promised to the Miss America winner to Miss New York City Elsa Donath anyway.
     2. The article above, written 22 years later, says there were angry shouts from the city officials box when the winner was announced, which would not have been the case if Elsa had been the choice; she had already withdrawn. It seems from the article that the expectation was another contestant would win, so it must have been Miss New York State.
     3. If Nucky's (1-5?) hand-picked judges all awarded the same one contestant with first place points, and none of the other 4/5/6 judges voted for her for any place points, it would appear likely that Nucky's choice would have garnered second place -- which was Miss New York State, Florence Meyers. However, this depends on the number of judges in each group and the scaling of the points awarded by place. For example, if 5 judges cast first-place votes for CT and no lower-place votes for NY, while 5 ringer judges cast first-place votes for NY and lower-place votes for the other contestants including CT, then CT would have won and NY would have been second, consistent with the actual outcome and seemingly suggested by the article above.
While it seems most likely that Miss New York State, Florence Meyers, the first runner-up, was Nucky's choice, it is not definitive. Miss New York City withdrew at 5pm, three hours before the coronation ceremonies were to begin. It is possible she was the choice, and she withdrew assuming some word leaked out that not all the judges were going to toe the Nucky line. Perhaps there was some literary license used in the article above, especially when recalling the incident 22 years later, about the surprise from the city officials box. Furthermore, there is not agreement about the number of judges in the article above and the Atlantic City newspapers. The newspaper article specifically lists seven judges for the final competition: Gladys Glad, George White, Peter Arno, Russell Patterson (four against Nucky's pick), and Walter Thornton, George Bucher and Hugh Walters (three unknown voters, but not the five ringers brought in at the last moment mentioned specifically in the article above). Nowhere in the Atlantic City newspapers is Mark Hellinger, Gladys Glad's husband and a judge in other beauty pageants, mentioned as a judge in this contest; it is unknown if he actually cast any votes (note, the article above did not specify he was a voting judge). Plus, as artist George Beucher/Bucher is mentioned previously as a judge, on day 4 newspaper (reporting on day 3 events), it is not clear that he is a "Nucky-voter" or just not part of the "anti-Nucky cabal," but he is not one of the supposedly five last-minute "Nucky-voters." Thus, it is known that four judges voted for Miss Connecticut; it is unknown if the other three voted for another contestant, or if there were even additional judges not named in the newspaper (and not announced by the master of ceremonies at the coronation ceremony).

In any event, judge Russell Patterson felt that the judges had arranged a way to ensure that their actual pick would be awarded the crown, despite pressure from mobster Nucky Johnson to commandeer the vote to his choice, Miss New York.

It is curious that the Atlantic City newspapers which reported on the events day-by-day specifically mention that it was the field against New York (State and City) on Saturday, Day 5, printed the morning of the final day. "As the Pageant grind began its final day early today, 28 tired girls left 'The Night of Merriment' at the Auditorium with one thing in common - a desire to see anyone win the coveted title except Miss New York City and Miss New York State, the other two of the 30 contestants for the crown. It was the theatrical concern sponsoring the two New York girls which instituted the investigation which resulted in the secret disqualification of three Western girls on the question of residence, but that's not the reason for the animosity. It's the old antagonism of the outlands for little old New York and the other contestants can't quite see why any girl from New York can be the queen of typical American girls." I wonder if there were rumors of the pressure brought to bear on the judges to pick New York; it might not have been safe for the local newspapers to openly report that a man so powerful as local racketeer Nucky Johnson, a known associate of Al Capone, was bringing his weight to bear on the outcome of the pageant. After all, Patterson intimates that Nucky was influential in all the 1920s judgings, and this had not been reported in the newspapers.

Racketeer Enoch "Nucky" Johnson - The Rise and Fall of Nucky Johnson by David Schwartz
Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson (January 20, 1883 - December 9, 1968) was an Atlantic City, New Jersey political boss and racketeer. From 1911 until his imprisonment in 1941, he was the undisputed "boss" of the Republican political machine that controlled Atlantic City and the Atlantic County government. His rule encompassed the Roaring Twenties, when Atlantic City was at the height of its popularity. The organization he led was also involved in bootlegging during Prohibition, gambling and prostitution, and he derived substantial income from those activities. He was the host of the Atlantic City Conference in 1929, a meeting of national organized crime leaders, including Al Capone (1929 picture of Capone (middle) and Johnson (right)). (full Wikipedia article) In 2009, an article titled "The Rise and Fall of Nucky Johnson" was written about Nucky; Nucky has also been the subject of other articles as well as several books. Note: the contestants were housed at the Ritz Carlton where Nucky lived (Nucky lived on an entire floor!). It would appear that the judges were not housed at the Ritz; in the above article Russell Patterson mentions the Ambassador Hotel, while in his 1933 columns below Mark Hellinger (husband of judge Gladys Glad) writes from the Shelbourne Hotel.

Harry Bacharach was Mayor of Atlantic City in 1933; Enoch Johnson was never Mayor. It is possible that Russell Patterson used the term Mayor for Nucky Johnson ("notorious Mayor 'Nucky' Johnson") to emphasize that Nucky was the real powerhouse in Atlantic City; the actual position of Mayor may have been largely a figurehead in Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s.

Brief biographies and U.S. census data:
• Racketeer Enoch "Nucky" Johnson (1883-1968) -- 1900, 1910, 1920?, 1930? -- perhaps because he lived in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, he cannot be found on the 1920 and 1930 census.
• Pageant Director Armand Nichols (1878-?) -- 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
• Mayor Harry Bacharach (1874-1947) was an American politician and mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1912 (6 months), 1916-1920, and 1930-1935. He also served as a city commissioner. His brother was United States Congressman Isaac Bacharach. In 1914, Bacharach was tried for election fraud in the 1910 mayoral election. -- 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930

Russell Patterson and Gladys Glad judge the swimsuit competition in 1933 - source of identification of judges
Judges:
------ Voted for Miss Connecticut for first place; cast no vote for Miss New York for any place:
• Russell Patterson -- (1893-1977) was a celebrated and prolific American cartoonist, illustrator and scenic designer. Patterson's art deco magazine illustrations helped promote the idea of the 1920s and 1930s fashion style known as the flapper. He continued to be a Miss America judge for 12 more years, through 1945. (Wikipedia) -- 1930?
• Peter Arno -- (1904-1968) was born Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr. in New York, New York, and educated at the Hotchkiss School and Yale University, his cartoons were published in The New Yorker from 1925-1968. They often depicted a cross-section of New York society from the 1920s through the 1960s. -- 1930?
• Gladys Glad (1907-1983) -- Ziegfield Follies Girl in 1920s and 1930s (picture); note she was only 26 at the time of the Pageant; just a couple years older than the contestants. Married to Mark Hellinger, but retained her maiden/stage name for publicity. Her husband: Mark Hellinger (not a voting judge) -- (1903-1947) was an American journalist, theatre columnist, and film producer. In 1926, Hellinger was one of the judges for a beauty contest sponsored by the Daily News. The winner was Ziegfeld showgirl Gladys Glad, and on July 11, 1929, the two were wed. She divorced him in 1932, but after a year the two remarried on the same date as their original wedding. (1947 LIFE Magazine article; picture) -- 1930?
• George White -- (1890-1968) film and stage producer, known for George White's Scandals (a long-running string of Broadway revues produced by George White that ran from 1919-1939, modelled after the Ziegfeld Follies. The "Scandals" launched the careers of many entertainers, including W.C. Fields, the Three Stooges, Ray Bolger, Helen Morgan, Ethel Merman, Ann Miller, Bert Lahr, and Rudy Vallée, Louise Brooks and Eleanor Powell got their show business start as lavishly dressed (or underdressed) chorus girls strutting to the "Scandal Walk"). White was one of the more colorful figures of 20th Century American theatre. He was cocky: he claimed that Broadway's nickname, "The Great White Way", had been coined for him. He was pugnacious: he once punched out singer Rudy Vallee over a salary dispute. And in the 1920s his name was synonymous with Broadway at its jazziest and sexiest. -- 1930?
------ Unknown for whom they voted:
• David Allman -- unknown -- perhaps Pageant official
• George Bucher/Beucher -- NY artist. Unknown. -- 1930?
• Edward Coward -- unknown -- perhaps Pageant official
• Armand Nichols -- Pageant Director. It is unknown if he conceded to the demands of Nucky Johnson or not.
• Walter Thornton -- NY artist. Perhaps he was the self-billed "Merchant of Venus," (1902-1990) who opened a model agency in 1930 which became one of the three biggest in the U.S., and claimed to be the discoverer of Lauren Bacall, Susan Hayward, Dorothy McGuire, Lizabeth Scott and Arlene Dahl; he was reputedly the first to use the phrase "pinup girl." -- 1930?
• Hugh Walters -- artist. Perhaps he was the artist in Atlantic City who was born circa 1900. -- 1930?
------ Voted for Miss New York for first place:
• It is thought there may have been additional secret judges, whose identities were not announced from the floor (it is not clear if Allman, Coward and Nichols were announced from the floor -- only the Ohio Daily Mirror listed their names). Russell Patterson states above he never learned the names of the secret judges ("Although the new crop of judges -- whose names I was never able to learn..."), which indicates that not only were there additional judges, but that they were secret judges (ones whose names were not announced from the floor prior to the coronation) -- so specifically judges in addition to Bucher/Beucher, Thornton and Walters. (see more discussion below)

Live From Atlantic City (published 1992), based on many sources but largely on the Atlantic City newspapers, said the evening gown competition was judged by a "panel of judges which, besides Gladys Glad, included Peter Arno, caricaturist; George White, producer of the "Scandals;" George Beucher and Russell Patterson, New York based artists, and two secret judges." It further mentioned that for the final competition, "the judges were announced to the audience by master of ceremonies, Norman Brokenshire. They were: Gladys Glad, "one-time Follies beauty"; George White, Scandals producer; Peter Arno, caricaturist; Russell Patterson, Walter Thornton, and Hugh Walters, artists." This is not entirely consistent with the 1933 newspapers from Atlantic City:

The Atlantic City newspaper on day four, reported on the judges for the day 3 afternoon bathing revue as "... Miss Glad .. [and] Peter Arno, noted caricaturist; George White, producer of the "Scandals;" George Beucher and Russell Patterson, both prominent New York artists." For that night's evening gown competition the newspaper specified "judges were George White, Peter Arno, Russel Paterson, Walter Thornton, Hugh Walter, George Bucher and Gladys Glad." There was a mention of "two secret judges" in the newspaper, although it appears to be more of a non-disclosure or non-finalization rather than conspiracy -- how the five preliminary competition judges would be supplemented to seven for the final judging: "Poise, personality, carriage and figure are the points upon which the girls are being judged. The judges made their records on slips prepared for them, but the system is being kept a secret. There are also two secret judges whose names will not be announced until Saturday night." And in Monday's paper detailing the coronation on Saturday night, the Atlantic Press said "Then with the girls sitting facing the audience, Norman Brokenshire, the master of ceremonies, introduced the seven judges. They were: Gladys Glad, one-time Follies beauty; George White, producer; Peter Arno, caricaturist; Russell Patterson, Walter Thornton, George Bucher and Hugh Walters." The newspaper included George Bucher in the final list; this would appear to have been a simple omission by the Live from Atlantic City book.

Live from Atlantic City and the newspaper clearly intimate that there were only seven judges, and no secret judges, for the judging of the final competiton, by stating that the seven judges were introduced. Neither source mentions any secret judges in addition to the seven judges specifically named; however, for the purposes of describing who the judges were, since Live from Atltantic City appears based on the newspaper account, this can be considered a single source. In my opinion, although normally you would trust the report of the event closest in time to that event (the newspaper), in this instance it might not be as accurate, or at least as complete, a recording of the events as the exposé 22 years later by Patterson. The newspaper reporters may not have known of secret judges, as surely Armand Nichols would only want the legitimate judges, with impeccable credentials, to be publicized, to underscore the legitimacy of the contest he was trying to rebuild. Additionally, even if the newspaper reporters had known of secret judges bending to mobster Nucky Johnson's influence, they may not have wanted to report on this due to potential reprisals or because it was outside their scope, falling more into a gossip column than news reporting. It seems that the most weight should be given to the in-depth interview with "insider" judge Patterson, made 22 years later, who clearly knew what was going on, had no reason to make up a story that would cast the Pageant in a poor light, and no longer had fear of reprisal from the Atlantic City mobsters. Furthermore, he had no personal stake in the interview -- he was 62 years old, his reputation as a cartoonist, illustrator and scenic designer had been established for over 30 years, there was no bad press at the time he was trying to refute, the Pageant was now an American icon, and his involvement in it in the 1930s and 1940s would seem appropriate and of historic interest only (he had stopped judging 10 years previously).

Note: Russell Patterson gave at least one other interview in 1955. FOCUS magazine -- 1955 September (Volume-5 #9); back cover Marilyn Monroe and Milton Berle; Contents; Davy Crockett; Wild French cartoons; Maneely Illo; Bunny Yeager photo's; Russell Patterson fashion illustrator -- Russell Patterson confesses: "I Framed this Girl" -- He first saw Carol Ohmart in a Beauty Contest he was Judging; (2 page article with 3 Photo's); D.J.D. Cartoons; FN = $12 -- with S/H it would be $16. FOCUS is a small-sized magazine, and not the larger-size of the above article (so the above article is not from another issue of FOCUS). This FOCUS article is only about Carol Ohmart; the online seller of the magazine, courteously confirmed that this article did not mention 1933 or Marion Bergeron -- thank you Doug Sulipa at dougcomicworld.com.


September 1933 articles by Mark Hellinger, judge Gladys Glad's husband:

9/11/33 article by Mark Hellinger
Sep 11, 1933 Lowell, Massachusetts article by Mark Hellinger --
"All In A Day"
Shelburne Hotel, Atlantic City, N. J. -- It's an exciting life I lead these days. What with beauty pageants, and murmurs of intrigue, and bands, and bathing suit parades, there is no end of excitement. Yesterday, for example, was an average day. I was awakened at the ungodly hour of eight in the morning by a band that insisted upon parading up and down the board walk, and blowing its loudest notes directly below my window. I gazed out to see miles of men in blue parading along. So I phoned the room clerk and asked him what was what.
The Parades Start Early
"It's a convention, Mr. Hellinger," he replied easily. "It's a convention of letter carriers from all over." "That's grand," I yodeled, "I like to see letter carriers having a good time. But will you tell me why they have to go parading in the early morning?" The clerk was very patient. "That's just it, sir," he returned. "You see, being letter carriers, I guess they just have to get up early to take a walk." I had to be satisfed with that. And I suppose I'm fairly lucky after all. Can you imagine the hour for parading if, instead of letter carriers, the convention had been composed of men who deliver the milk? ... At 9 o'clock, I fell asleep again. And at 9:30, the missus dropped a wet rag on my face. "Time for your bath," she announced, "I've got to go down to the Convention hall to do some beauty judging, so I'll have to bathe you now. Turn over." "Don't want any bath," I groaned. "Want sleep." "You can sleep after I've gone. You must have your bath now. Turn over." With a quick motion she pulled a huge towel, dripping wet, from a basin, and slapped it up on me. The water ran in all directions. "Hey," I cried, "look out. That water is running down in to my cast. Hey ----" The phone rang.
Must Have Been Evelyn
"Hello, Evelyn dear," cooed my wife. "It's grand to hear your voice. How is Bill? Are you coming down? What's that? Oh --- you're not? That's a shame. What's that? Yes, he's fine now. Feeling a lot better." "I'm not better," I grumbled, "I'm very sick. That water is running down my cast, I tell you." For all the attention I received, I might as well have been talking to an editor. "No, dear," she went on, "I didn't wear the blue hat with the brown flowers. That's right, Evelyn dear. Now, listen, Evelyn ---" "Hey," I howled, "don't you hear me? -- the cast's in the water. I mean the water's in the cast. Hey!" "What's that, Evelyn? All right, darling, I'll certainly tell him. Yes, dear, he's really fine. I'd let you speak to him, only he's resting now. All right, Evelyn. Thanks for calling Evelyn. Good bye Evelyn." She hung up and turned to me with a smile. "That was Evelyn," she said ...
What, More Parades?
The rest of the day rolled along on similar lines. At eleven o'clock, there was a parade of the letter carriers. At one o'clock I wrote my column. At two, three and four o'clock, there were parades of the letter carriers. At five o'clock, a piece of mail arrived for me from New York. It was marked "Important, Personal and Confidential," and Mr. William Massey, the genial bell captain, handed it to me very gingerly. I opened the letter in some excitement. I had been expecting a check and -- "Dear Mr. Hellinger," said the letter. "This is from the New York Surgical Appliance company, and the enclosed booklet will give you some idea of the work we do. Our light-weight ambulatory splint will certainly aid you. Every appliance is made for the individual case, and to get yours as soon as possible, send in the enclosed appointment card without delay." I tore up the letter with a sigh, turned to the window - and watched a parade of letter carriers... In the evening I had a real thrill. The judges were to pick the best dressed girl in evening gown - whatever that means - and I was bundled into a most uncomfortable chair and wheeled down to the Auditorium in order to watch the big goings-on. Thus it was that I had my first complete view of the pageant beauties - and a funnier looking set of monkeys I never gazed upon in all my life. There are two or three cute ones among the group, but the rest are all depression Miss Americas. So help me Winchell, half the time I didn't know whether I was looking at pageant beauties - or at Ripley's "Believe it or Not" exhibit in Chicago. I sat back in my chair and watched the judges doing their judging. Pretty soon, a tall and mysterious-appearing individual came over and stood beside my chair. "Watch out, Mr. Hellinger," he whispered, "It's a fake." I nodded comprehendingly.
Mark Hellinger and Gladys Glad in the 1930s
Dirty Work at the Crossroads
"I thought so," I asserted. "Some of those girls are not girls at all. They're female impersonators." He leaned closer. "No, no," he went on excitedly, "you don't understand. There are disturbing influences at work here. There are evil forces at work that fail to meet the eye." My heart began to beat rapidly. Dirty work at the cross roads, eh? And here was Hellinger right in on the know. "Tell me," I breathed. "What's wrong?" His eyes burned brightly. "Miss Idaho," he hissed, "comes from Spokane, Washington." "NO!" I cried. "Yes," he replied. "And that isn't all. Miss Illinois comes from Missouri!" I shivered with excitement. "Good Lord!" I exclaimed. "If what you say is true Miss Michigan is liable to be from Tennessee. And Miss California may be from Brooklyn." He raised a bony hand. "I'm working on that now," he murmured quietly. And he glided away. ... I was bursting with my inside information. My wife is a judge, and I thought it best to tell her. But I waited until I was home and in bed. And then, when she brought out the towel and the basin for another bath, I told her all. "Do you realize what this means dear?" I muttored anxiously. "With Miss Idaho coming from Washington and Miss Illinois from Missouri, the Miss America you finally choose is liable to have come from Poland!" If I had expected her to faint, I was sadly mistaken. She shrugged her shoulders and dropped the wet rag on my face. "So what?" was her reply. "And who cares? It's time for your bath. Turn over." Oh well. ...
[Clearly this was meant more as an entertainment article than a news article; Hellinger was an American journalist, theatre columnist, and film producer.]

Second article the following day:

9/12/33 article by Mark Hellinger
Sep 12, 1933 Lowell, Massachusetts article by Mark Hellinger --
"All In A Day"
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. [Note: this is incorrect even though his wife was a judge. California was third and New York State was second, according to nationally-syndicated sources and the LA Times. It is assumed since Hellinger has "always treated them [beauty pageants] in a light manner" he did not take pains to report the second and third places correctly.]
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. . . .