Pageant Crownings That Went Wrong
When outgoing Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell, crowned the new Miss America 2017, Savvy Shields, she accidentally placed the “Miss America” banner on Savvy upside down! Realizing what she had done, Betty quipped, “Oh, shit!” and whipped off the banner to flip it right-side up.
When emcee Dick Clark announced Charlotte Lopez as winner of the 1993 Miss Teen USA Pageant, her sister, who was watching the telecast at home, began screaming so loudly that a frightened neighbor called the police. Officers raced to the scene to investigate the crowning “crime.”
When Mrs. New Jersey heard her name announced as Mrs. America 1952, she passed out cold on-stage. It took panicked pageant officials several minutes to revive her.
In 1957, the newly-crowning Miss USA®, Leona Gage, resigned after her mother-in-law informed the press that 18-year-old Gage is not only married to an Air Force sergeant, but was also the mother of two small sons. In a sad scene, the teary-eyed titleholder explained that she entered the competition to earn prize money to supplement their family’s military salary.
When Diane Sawyer competed in the America’s Junior Miss Pageant, several judges considered her too serious and sophisticated to serve as a teen titleholder. Then, a silly stroke of luck changed their minds–and the course of the crown. During rehearsals, nearsighted Diane walked headfirst into a metal post in front of the judges and dissolved into girlish giggles. Charmed by Sawyer’s silly side, several judges changed their votes in her favor. That night she was named 1963 America’s Junior Miss.
In 1970, when the Miss America Pageant celebrated its 50th anniversary, officials ordered a specially-manufactured golden crown. During the telecast, Phyllis George, Miss Texas, was named that year’s winner.
Unaware that the new winner was wearing a hairpiece, the retiring queen, Pamela Eldred, discovered that the crown’s hairpins would not penetrate Phyllis’ “hair.” When producers urgently signaled her to rush the crowning, Pamela nudged Phyllis toward the runway for her victory walk. Phyllis nodded toward the judges, sending the crown crashing to the floor, splattering rhinestones. Phyllis picked it up and carried it, making her the only winner to drop her crown on live television. “It would have to happen to me,” she later exclaimed. “My big moment. I’ve won Miss America, and my crown is in my hand!”
Soviet Salute…During the Moscow Beauty ’88 contest, celebrating Soviet reforms, Maria Kalinina was chosen as the first-ever Muscovite beauty queen. The communist stage crew –unaccustomed to parades of pulchritude–couldn’t take their eyes off the winner. As she was being crowned, one fellow in charge of lightly sprinkling the new queen with long-stemmed flowers from an overhead bin, was so distracted that he accidentally dumped the entire load of flowers on her, knocking the crown off her head and causing the poor girl to duck for cover.
In 1967, Bert Parks got over-enthusiastic while singing There She is, Miss America to the new Miss America, Debra Barnes, of Kansas, and yanked out the microphone cord. Unaware of the mishap, the emcee continued to bellow into a dead microphone, giving the first “mime” rendition of the famous song. As detailed in Miss America: In Pursuit of the Crown, Bert recalled, “The audience in Convention Hall never saw it because they were in an uproar at that point–but it sure was a funny sight to see on camera!” When Parks got back to his hotel room that night, his wife, Annette, got a call from a southern fan. “MizParks,” he drawled, “How come your husband sang that song for the rest of the country and not for us folks down heah?