Sunday, January 16, 2005

734 Miss Universe of 1957

A newsletter about collectibles and antiques comes to my e-mailbox. I read it mainly for the old recipes, but also I enjoy the little stories people tell about finding things, or trying to find the rightful owners of photographs and Bibles they've purchased at a sale. Jan, a reader, writes about finding some old Miss Universe brochures when cleaning out her aunt's house.

"My husband's aunt died and we were in charge of having an estate sale of all her belongings. I found so many wonderful things to keep that I pulled out of the house before the sale. One of these was a stack of Miss Universe program brochures from 1953 to 1959. This lady and her sisters were hostesses at the Miss Universe pageant in Long Beach, CA, and my husband remembers, as a young boy, these beautiful girls from all over the world staying at their house for a week during the pageant. Anyway, my hobby is selling on E-bay, and just for the heck of it one day I offered one of these brochures for sale. I was amazed that it went for over $100 - people were bidding like crazy for this program brochure that originally cost 25 cents at the pageant.

One day I offered the 1957 program brochure on E-bay as an auction. I got an email from a woman in South Dakota, and she asked me: "My mother was in the Miss Universe pageant that year. But she would never talk about that time in her life - it is like a closed chapter - and we would love to know about it. I don't suppose her picture would be in that book." She gave me her mother's maiden name, and I told her, "Sure, her picture is here, on page such and such." She was so excited to hear this and she won the auction and I sent her the program. I received an email from her telling me how delighted her sisters and she were to finally have this artifact from their mother's past!... Jan" The Collectors Newsletter #287 December 2004

Just out of curiosity I went online and looked at the Miss USA for 1957 and according to the website the Miss USA for 1957 was disqualified because she was underage, married for the second time and had two children! She was replaced by the first runner-up. No wonder she didn't talk about it!

Miss USA 1957 (for a day) of Miss Universe Pagent

Now it is possible that all the candidates of Miss USA are folded into that brochure, but apparently the 1957 event was quite a scandal. But I don't know why any candidate other than Leona Gage (Mrs. Ennis), the disqualified Miss USA, would not tell her daughters about it. There are several horror movies of the early 1960s with an actress named Leona Gage, and a book for sale at a used book site called My Name is Leona Gage, Will Somebody Please Help Me? It was published in 1965, and if the blurb on this paperback is true, life didn't go well for Mrs. Gage Ennis. "Her beauty attracted brutality; her love, rejection; her tenderness, contempt. Suicide, birth, stardom, drugs, beauty, madness- here is the fantastic true story of Leona gage." For someone who only had 48 hours of notariety, she was still apparently well known enough in 1965 to warrant a book. In 1999 someone was looking for her on a genealogy site--wanted to write a story about the 1957 pageant.

So it is possible that because the 1957 pageant was so famous, the bidders on E-bay weren't even who they said they were, but were doing a bit of a scam on Jan--maybe hoping she'd just give them the brochure. The names of all the contestants who placed are on the web, so it wouldn't have been difficult to provide a name for "good old Mom."

Update: Leona Gage died October 9, 2010. She was 71. Link.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My mother is Charlotte Sheffield the one who replaced Leona Gage. She was just telling me the story of staying with a couple while she was in Long Beach for the pageant. She isn't here for me to ask the name of the couple she stayed with but I wonder if it was your husband's aunt or her sisters? That would be fun to find out. I enjoyed your story about this.
Thanks for posting it.