At the International Beauty Congress held in Los Angeles in August 1963, when Miss Luxembourg (Catherine Paulus) learned during rehearsals that she was expected to appear in a bathing suit during the contest, she started laughing hysterically and was reported to have said, "I will look like a horse. The people will all laugh at me. And then I will laugh. I can't do it... I can't do it."
The judges had to give her a tranquilizer to calm her down.
Somehow she was nevertheless talked into wearing a bathing suit the next day. And, of course, because of her outburst the picture of her wearing it then ran in papers nationwide.
She received a round of applause during her appearance, but didn't make it through to the finals. However, she was awarded the title of "Miss International Friendship" during the contest.
The winner of the 1925 Miss Plump of Coney Island contest was Jolly Irene, which was the stage name of sideshow performer Amanda Siebert. According to Marc Hartzman's American Sideshow:
Amanda Siebert wasn't always the jiggly Jolly Irene. Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, she was quite normal for the first twenty-one years of her life. In 1901 she weighed a respectable 120 pounds and gave birth to a child. Not only was a baby born, but because of a few glands gone awry, so was Jolly Irene.
The pounds piled up and the flesh got fleshier. Diets were ineffective, leaving her helpless against her newly acquired mass. One reporter later described her as having "biceps three times as large as Jack Dempsey." But at 620 pounds, rather than box the heavyweight champion, she turned her tragedy into profit by joining Ringling Bros.
The Miss Vacant Lot of the World contest was started in 1972. It was part of the Annual Armadillo Exposition and Confab held in Victoria, Texas. The contest rules were as follows:
The contest will be open to women between the ages of 18 and 65. Mandatory requirements of the contest will be certified proof of one of the following happening to the contestant while a child: broken arm or leg, dog bite, one or more of the various childhood diseases, such as measles, chickenpox, mumps, etc. If medical evidence cannot be provided, a note from the mother will be accepted. Contestants will have three minutes in the final judging to exhibit their talents, which can be anything. Judging will be on the basis of dress and talent. Beauty will not be a factor.
Valley Morning Star - May 26, 1975
Here's what I was able to find out about the first six winners of the Miss Vacant Lot title:
1972: Cindy Hudler won for her "dance of the Dasypodidae" which involved waltzing around a vacant lot in an armadillo suit. 1973: Modine Gunch won for standing on her head while spinning a hula-hoop on one leg. 1974: Algeria Sadberry won for playing a song through her nose. 1975: Elvira Rose Hunt (aka Karen Janecka) won for stuffing 264 pennies in her mouth. 1976: Linda Strelczyk won by stuffing 200 poptop tabs into her size 36EEE bikini bra while singing a song titled "Keep Your Finger Out Of It; It Don't Belong To You." 1977: A 200-pound woman (unnamed) won for dressing like an armadillo and singing an armadillo song.
Some of the prizes that the winners received included a trophy, a $25 check, a gift certificate, a bouquet of weeds, and a picture of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. They also got to wear the Armadillo Crown.
The contest was discontinued in 1979. The organizers noted, "you can only tell the same joke so many times." However, it seems that it was revived at various times, such as in the late 1980s and again in 2011.
Continuing our exploration of strange beauty contests, here's the Miss Food Freezer contest of 1951.
Arizona Republic - Mar 6, 1951
The favorite to win seemed to be Marianne Davis, who had already won the title of Miss General Electric. I could be wrong, but in the publicity photo below I think they've got her wrapped in freezer wrap while she sits on top of a deep freeze.
Arizona Republic - Mar 19, 1951
And sure enough, Marianne Davis won the coveted title of Miss Food Freezer. As far as I can tell, 1951 was the only year the contest was held. So she was the one and only Miss Food Freezer.
Actress and singer Janis Paige earned the reputation of having the longest list of 'misses' in show business. Her career as a Miss began at the age of 9 when she was awarded the title of Miss Olive Oyl in a Popeye contest. She went on to be named (among other things) Miss Valley Aviation, Miss National Buddy Poppy, Miss Damsite, Miss Front Paige (named by Boston newspaper editors), Miss Delicious Apples, Miss Best Table Decoration, Miss Atomic Energy, Miss Airmail Parcel Post, and Miss Hollywood Canteen.
Inspired by Paul's post yesterday about the Potato Chip Queen contest, I did some research over at newspapers.com (subscription required) and came up with what I believe is a complete list of the Potato Chip Queens from 1946 to 1956, except for 1947 for which year I can't find any info. Perhaps there was no queen that year. After 1956 the contest seems to have transitioned into a Miss Teen Potato Chip contest. So, not quite the same.
Based on what I found, Nikki Geer was awarded the crown in 1946, but Paul found info indicating it was given to Dorothea Fagnano. Since Dorothea was only 15, I'm guessing she must have been given some kind of teen version of the crown.
Also, In 1952 the crown was given to a chipmunk ("Miss Potato Chip-munk").
Finally, the Potato Chip Queen for 1953, Joan Gehan (aka UN-KA-PU-CHI), was so popular that the next year they promoted her to "Miss Potato Chip of the Century."
1946: Nikki Geer Shickshinny Mountain Echo - Nov 8, 1946
1948: Joan Smith Opelousas Daily World - Feb 12, 1948
1949: Patricia Hunter Zanesville Times Recorder - Jan 29, 1949
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Who We Are
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
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