1966 Miss America Pageant - Debra Bryant Miss Kansas wins
Deborah Bryant, Miss Kansas, won the 1966 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She was crowned in Convention Hall by her predecessor, the popular Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss America 1965, of Arizona. It was the first year the Miss America Pageant was broadcast in color.
Miss America 1966 Deborah Bryant, Miss Kansas, performed a "vaudevillian act" during the talent competition.
Miss Kansas won the swimsuit competition earlier in the week, wearing a cheerful yellow swimsuit she had purchased at the last moment.
During the talent competition, Bryant performed a silent film-themed "vaudevillian act" in which she played three character roles: a heroine, a villain and the hero who rescues her. As movie lights flickered against the walls of the heroine's quaint cardboard house, Miss Kansas enthusiastically acted out the three roles ... villain strangling her throat as his cape flaps, heroine struggling wildly, hero leaping to the rescue, heroine and hero kissing in conclusion. Nothing like it had ever been seen at the pageant.
When Bryant was named as the new Miss America, it came as no surprise when the pageant's matronly director, Lenora Slaughter, quipped in relief, "Thank goodness you'll never have to perform that again!"
The new Miss America was considered to be one of the prettiest winner ever...which was unfortunate for her first runner-up, Miss Mississippi, Patricia Puckett, who was one of those dreamy 1st runners-up who would have been a shoe-in for Miss America ... had she happened to run any other year.
In an interesting coincidence - and an inexplicable pageant journalism coupe - Post magazine happened to decide to write an article about the journey of a local titleholder, Miss Kansas City, as she competed at her state pageant and hopefully moved on to the nationals. To their astonishment, they girl they had chosen to chronicle, Miss Kansas City, Deborah Irene Bryant, not only won the Miss Kansas title, but was named Miss America 1966!
Her mother Irene Bryant who traveled with her daughter throughout her reign, became so adept at the role that she was hired as the official traveling companion for Miss America and faithfully served a string of titleholders before retiring.
Bryant went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa and become a TV commentator for Miss America Pageant broadcasts. She married Phoenix auto dealer Brent Berge and has five children.
Pageant Results > Miss America Pageant > 1966 Debby Bryant
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