Here they are in all their glory… The unusual pageant talents used by Miss America Pageant winners in the ever-so-entertaining talent competition.
1990: Miss America 1990, Debbye Turner, performs “Flight of the Bumblebee” on the marimba.
1985: Future ESPN reporter Sharlene Wells, Miss Utah, wins the 1985 Miss America Pageant, performing on a Paraguayan harp while she sings in Spanish.
1969: Miss Illinois, Judy Ford, a champion trampoline athlete, wins the 1969 title after literally flipping head-over-heels on a trampoline.
1967: Oklahoma’s Jane Jayroe is named Miss America 1967 after she conducted the pageant orchestra to ‘One, Two, Three”…or maybe pretended to?
1966: Drop-dead gorgeous Miss Kansas, handily wins the 1966 Miss America Pageant – clearly in spite of her “talent”…a drama, “The Miserable Miserliness of Midal Moneybags”, in which she performs all three roles — damsel in distress, hero, and villain… complete with flapping cape.
1965: Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss Arizona, and her adorable wooden buddy Curly-Q, won the crown with a ventriloquism routine to the song, “Together”.
1963: Maria Fletcher, Miss America 1963, of North Carolina, a long-legged Rockette, won the crown with a “pantomime tap dance”.
1962: The Miss America 1962 winner Maria Fletcher shows off her fashion designs by quickly changing garments hanging on a clothes pole behind a screen.
1959-1960: Two Miss Mississippi’s win back-to-back Miss America titles in 1959 and 1960. The first, Mary Ann Mobley, concludes her her classical aria, “Un Bel Di Vedremo”, with a mock strip tease as she suddenly growls, “They’ll be Some Changes made”. Her church organist writes the sassy little arrangement.
1960: Her successor, Lynda Lee Mead, performs a monologue to the rather oddly named, “Schizophrenia”.
1957: Miss Colorado, Marilyn Van Derbur, win the Miss America 1958 title after performing a medley of “Tea for Two” and “Tenderly” on a Hammond organ. It is the only song she can play. As (bad) luck would have it, the first thing that happens after she is crowned is TV talk show host Steve Allen asks her to play “Night and Day” with him on his live hit TV show. She “smiles like mad” and pretends to play the organ.
1957: South Carolina’s Marilyn McKnight, Miss America 1957, performs a sexy little drama entitled “The Monroe Doctrine”, in which she impersonates Marilyn Monroe — only to nearly pass out from shock after her crowning when she learns that Monroe’s ex-husband Joe DiMaggio has been in the audience watching.
1955: Lee Meriwether, Miss California, wins the 1955 Miss America crown with a dramatic recital of “Riders to the Sea”, which she performs in front of a panel of judges’ that includes film legend and future princess, Grace Kelly. She is so nervous, she forgets some of the lyrics.
1954: Evelyn Ay, the Miss Pennsylvania (who author Frank Deford gossiped had one of the best bodies ever to compete at Miss America), is named Miss America 1954 after she recites a poem called, “Leaves from my Grass House”.
1952: Colleen Hutchins, a spectacular 6 foot tall Miss Utah, grabs judges’ attention and the Miss America crown performing a dramatic recital of Queen Elizabeth I — in full Elizabethan costume.
1949: Miss Arizona 1949, Jacque Mercer, wins the crown performing a dramatic recital of “Romeo and Juliet”.
1948: BeBe Shopp, Miss Minnesota, who admits she rides a tractor back on the family farm, wins the 1948 Miss America Pageant playing the vibraharp.
1939: Miss America 1939, Pat Donnelly, Miss Michigan, plays “Ol’ Man Mose” on the bass fiddle.
- Source: Miss America: In Pursuit of the Crown (Cited with author’s permission)
- Related: Can unusual talents win Miss America or other pageants?