Bess you’ve seen

It’s the 89th birthday of Miss America 1945, who, had pageant officials gotten their way, would have been introduced to you as Beth Merrick, which sounded a hair less Jewish than her real name.

Bess Myerson was having none of that. (The girl was born in the Bronx, ya know, and you don’t pull that kind of thing on a girl from the Bronx.) She tied for first in the talent competition (with Frances Ladell Dorn from Birmingham, Alabama, who wound up as second runner-up) and took the swimsuit competition outright, despite some logistical issues:

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945

The swim suit provided to Myerson proved too tight. Rather than wear the ugly suit pageant officials provided as a backup, Myerson had her sister Sylvia sleep in the original suit to stretch it out. When that wasn’t enough, Sylvia altered the suit to improve the fit. The tailoring worked, but Sylvia had to sew Myerson into the bathing suit. That meant Myerson had to wear the suit under her evening gown and talent costume during the final night of competition. While undoubtedly uncomfortable, the plan did the trick.

Well, that and Myerson’s piano prowess, which was apparently substantial enough to get her a record deal. Released late in 1959:

Fashions in Music by Bess Myerson

Andrew Ackers conducts the orchestra behind Bess on a dozen familiar standards, as old as “Ain’t She Sweet” (once covered by the Beatles, kinda sorta), as new as “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” Oh, and she also sold bleach.



  1. Roger Green »

    16 July 2013 · 2:01 pm

    I recognized her right away, even before I saw the sash. I even cited her recently.

  2. Rule 5 Sunday: Pyjamarama : The Other McCain »

    21 July 2013 · 6:25 pm

    […] for Granny!  Also, Girls of PETA XXXV and Agnieszka Radwanska in her birthday suit. Dustbury has Bess Myerson and Gabrielle Union, and at The Camp of the Saints, it’s Sara Stone. Three Beers Later serves […]

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