Miss Universe 1987

The Dish On The Universe

The 80's - Part One

By Jeannie Szoradi, Ph.D,

Miss Universe-ology



The Decision of the Decade:The final moment of the 1987 Miss Universe Pageant...two incredible women left standing...Miss Italy, Roberta Capua...and Miss Chile, Cecilia Bolocco. If you had been a judge that year, who would you have voted for? It would have been a hand-wringing decision, no? Well, one judge that night, journalist Neil Hickey, in a 1988 article for the U.S. magazine TV GUIDE, dished the 1987 pageant and revealed who he voted for...Miss Italy!


1980 - Seoul, South Korea

Three weeks of preliminary events included a spectacular parade down the main thoroughfare of Seoul, aboard flowered “Kotcha” floats, each decorated with the round “Taeguk” symbol of eternity. One- million persons lined the streets to cheer the ladies. One of the most enthusiastic fans was Colombian Ambassador, Dr. Virgilio Olano, who was so taken by the beauty of his country’s representative, Maria Patricia Arbelaez, that he drove beside her float in his Mercedes-Benz the entire length of the parade.

Among the most popular delegates in the parade were Australia’s Katrina Redina (on the left), a big hit in her teeny-tiny silver lame bikini, which was supposed to be her national costume; press-favorite Delyse Nottle, impersonating Captain Cook; Korea’s own Kim Eun-jung; and Germany’s Kathrin Gloetzi who periodically clicked her heels and saluted the crowd, following on the theme of her costume - a mini-skirted military uniform.

The competition evenings of the pageant featured the fastest-paced Parade of Nations on record. The girls were instructed to introduce themselves with only their name and country. Things became unglued during the finals, when Bolivia’s Carmen Pereira jumped the gun ahead of Bermuda, messing up the alphabetical order.

One of the big favorites of the press and public, from the very beginning, was New Zealand’s stunning Delyse Nottle, who won the Miss Photogenic trophy, in addition to making the top five. When queried by reporters to explain her beauty secrets that led to the Photogenic trophy, the none-too-shy Delyse sweetly chirped, “My shining blue eyes, my smile, and the curves on my chest are another attractive point.”

The Korea Times reported that Miss Australia, Katrina Rendina, lost the Photogenic prize by only one photographer’s vote.

The Korea Times revealed one of pageant emcee Bob Barker’s tricks in getting through the semifinalist interviews. During the commercial break immediately preceding the first set of interviews, Bob instructed the audience to laugh whenever he touched his left ear. Said Bob, “This is known as the Old Korean Left Ear Trick.”

Going into the finals, local newspapers reported that the Misses New Zealand (Ms. Nottle), Australia (Ms. Rendina), USA (Shaewn Weatherly), Tahiti (Tilda Fuller) and Philippines (Maria del Rosario Silayan) were the most favored to win the crown, among beauty experts and international visitors. All made the semi-finals except for Australia.

USA’s Shawn Weatherly won the crown, enjoying a strong lead from the moment that she was named as a semifinalist. She was cheered on by 29 Miss USA 1980 delegates, who were invited (all-expenses paid) by the Seoul Organizering Committee. Hence, Arizona’s Jineane Ford, first runner-up at Miss USA, had the special pleasure of being on-hand as she was named to succeed Shawn as Miss USA. In the photo on the left, we see Shawn as the new Miss USA. On the right is Jineane, the future new Miss USA.

The international press commented disfavorably on the poor quality of the on-stage translators during the finals. At least two of the twelve semifinalists suffered poor interviews with Bob Barker due to the shoddy translations. For example, Bob asked Colombia’s Maria Patricia Arbelaez what she planned to do if she won the crown. The translator simply asked the girl, “What do you want to do?” and the girl’s answer related to a different period in time - in the distant future. Similarly, Miss Korea’s answer to Bob’s question about matchmaking was very diplomatic, yet the interpreter gave a very brusque and rude answer in English.

Quelle coincidence! Miss Universe and her first runner-up (Scotland’s Linda Gallagher) were roomates throughout the pageant. In an interview with the Korea Times, their chaperone, Hedy Yun revealed that both misses were very sociable and warm-hearted. Nonetheless, Linda of Scotland became rather upset when Miss USA’s beaded designer gown arrived and she had nothing comparable to wear. The chaperone placed a phone call to Korea’s top designer, Andre Kim, who happily allowed the Scottish lass to wear one of his sequined gowns for the finals

During her morning-after interview, Queen Shawn said, “My job is not the exhibition of my body. Talking with people and making friends in all nations is my main duty.” Her goal, at the time, was to become a sports commentator, following completion of a communications degree at Clemson University. Ironically, her career following her reign was not that of sports commentator but, instead, an actress who exhibited her famous body many times in the popular television series “Baywatch.”


1981 - New York City, USA

Some 76 contestants spent three whirlwind weeks in the Big Apple, where the toured Chinatown, shopped at Macy’s, cruised around Manhattan Island, met Mayor Ed Kock and posed for photos with King Kong atop the Empire State Building! They also rehearsed non-stop for some of the most elaborate dancing numbers ever seen in pageant history, including tap dancing and a Rockette kick-line.

Two girls dropped out during the course of the competitions, including a homesick Miss Mauritius, Carole Fitzgerald. Hong Kong’s Irene Lokan-Sheung was not quite so willing to leave; she was forced out by her local pageant chief when he discovered that she was 25 years old and not 22, as she had originally stated.

A lady who was kicked out of the Miss USA pageant two months earlier for allegedly padding the bustline of her swimsuit, Miss New York USA Deborah Fountain, from the Bronx, tried to stir up a little brou-ha-ha of her own. In the midst of the Universe pageant, she filed a charge against Miss Universe, Inc., trying to halt the international pageant and, specifically, to annul the results of the Miss USA pageant and, thus, exclude Kim Seelbrede from the roster of Universe candidates. Just a couple of days before the Universe finals, the case was dismissed by Judge Vincent Broderick who found “…no legal basis for this frivolous suit!” He ordered Ms. Fountain to pay both sides’ legal costs, as punishment for trying to inflate such a trivial matter. In the photo on the left, we see the null and void Kim.

In one of the all-time memorable photo-ops from Miss Universe Pageants, Misses USA (Kim Seelbrede) and Sweden (Eva Lundgren) were photographed playing squash…while wearing their Catalina swimsuits and four-inch spiked-heel pumps! Beauty School regrets that we do not have a copy of this photo to share with you. However, if you have a copy, please email us.

The intense rehearsal schedule resulted in more than the usual complaints to press by the delegates. Brazil’s Adriana Oliveira pouted, “We’re rehearshing every day, from 8 a.m. to midnight.” England’s Joanna Longley fainted from the exhaustion and had to be carried out of the pageant venue, Broadway's Minskoff Theater, on a stretcher. Meanwhile, Miss Panama, Ana Maria Henriquez, was bold enough to complain about the catering, puffing that “Every day it’s the same old lunch - cold chicken, cold potato salad and cold cabbage! The only hot item is the soft drink!”

The New York Times was most impressed by the beauty of Miss Israel, Dana Wechsler, but deemed her to be “too intelligent and bored by it all” to win.

Going into the finals, the overwhelming favorite among the press and beauty experts was Venezuela’s Irene Saez, the eventual winner. Other favorites: Misses USA and Brazil, Adriana Oliveira (that's her on the right). The audience, jammed with Latinos, cheered wildly for Misses Colombia (Eddy Cano), Dominican Republic (Lucia Pena) and Puerto Rico (Carmen Lotti), in addition to those named above.

Among the 12 semifinalists, USA’s Kim Seelbrede suffered the most from emcee Bob Barker’s somewhat-sarcastic questioning about the “exciting” places that she has visited since becoming Miss USA in May. Kim dropped from #2 in the preliminary standings, not making the top five. On the other hand, Canada’s Dominique Dufour had the surprise jump of the evening. Barely squeaking into the semifinals in 12th place, she ended up first runner-up, just behind Miss Venezuela, who coasted in the #1 spot all evening long.

In general terms, coverage of the 1981 pageant by local news media was the worst of the decade, if not the worst ever in pageant history. The following year would see the exact opposite…as Miss Universe moved to pageant-crazed Latin America!


1982 - Lima, Peru

By 1982, the Miss Universe Pageant had gone from a seven-day event (in 1952) to a full month-long extravaganza of social events, intense rehearsals, video-taping, and preliminary competitions leading up to the final Big Night. With few exceptions (e.g., 3-1/2 weeks in the 1984 and 1985 Miami pageants), all future Miss Universe pageants, up to the present, would be this long.

In stark contrast to pageants held in the U.S., this year’s event enjoyed adullating coverage by the local media, with complete daily coverage in all newspapers and television new shows. One newspaper, El Comercio, even boasted an anonymous ‘insider reporter’ who collected gossip for a daily column titled “Mundo de Bellezas” (“World of Beauties”).

From the very start, the ‘darling’ of the Peruvian press and pageant-watchers was Italy’s vivacious Cinzia Fiordiponti, who enraged pageant officials at an early photo-shoot by wearing a revealing ‘tonga’ instead of the regulation Catalina swimsuit. Ciao, Cinzia! (that's her on the left)

Other early favorites included Israel (Deborah Hess), Venezuela (Ana Teresa Oropeza), Holland (Brigitte Dierik), Australia (Lou Anne Ronchi), Wales (Michelle Donelly) and, naturally, Peru’s own Francesca Zaza. [Among these early faves, only Italy and Peru made the semi-finals.] As the pageant weeks progressed, especially following the presentation show, the experts added Canada (Karen Baldwin), South Africa (Odette Scrooby) and Brazil (Celise Marques da Silva) to the very top of their lists. Interestingly, it was Karen Baldwin’s photo that accompanied the final predictions article in El Comercio newspaper, the day of the finals.

Poor Miss Mexico, Carmen Lopez, had quite a time getting to Lima. She missed her flight out of Mexico City five times before she succeeded in making the trip…arriving ten days into the pageant. Her welcoming committee in Lima finally saw her get off the plane on their sixth trip to the airport!

Over 2 million Soles went into the refurbishing of Lima’s largest sporting venue-the Coliseo Amauta-for the pageant. Additions included air-conditioning and several escalators. However, somebody forgot to re-install the water fountains, as the thirsty contestants found out during a break in rehearsals!

Miss Cyprus, Silvia Spania, was sent home packing...home to London that is, as it was discovered that she was a British citizen and not a Cypriot. She was disqualified for breaking Miss Universe Pageant rules regarding residency in the country represented by a contestant. It appears that Ms. Spania, while born in Cyprus to a Cypriot man and a British woman, resided almost her entire life in England. She returned to Cyprus only 10 days prior to the Miss Cyprus pageant, while pageant rules at the time stipulated a minimum six-month residency in the delegate’s country.

Sweetest candidates in the pageant, according to insiders, were Guam’s Patty Chong Kerkos and Switzerland’s Jeannette Linkenheil. Presumably, the Cayman Islands’ Maureen Lewis, winner of Miss Amity trophy that year, was every bit as nice.

El Comercio newspaper’s ‘insider’ reported that Miss Chile, Jenny Purto, was very upset at an Associated Press wire story quoting her as saying that there was a “Peruvian Conspiracy” to ruin her image. The AP stories followed on early reports that she was a conceited princess. El Comercio’s insider assured readers that Miss Chile possessed a great personality and a “strong desire to win.”

As the days and weeks rolled by, the inevitable complaints against chaperones were voiced. Spain’s Christina Perez huffed, “I can’t walk four meters by myself!”

Venezuela’s Ana Teresa Oropeza had the largest wardrobe. After two weeks of pageantry, her six trunks of clothes were not enough, so she wired her mother in Caracas to bring over another trunkload. Mom obliged, arriving in Lima with the new outfits, in time for the final week of judging. Alas, it was still not enough, as Venezuela failed to make the semifinals that year.

The Most Memorable Contestant in 1982 pageant was, undoubtedly, Paraguay’s Maris Stella Villalba. During an early interview, she showed her confidence by predicting that not only was she going to become Miss Universe 1982, but also she would some day become President of Paraguay. The 19-year-old civil engineering student declared: “I will serve only if voted into office legally - not if appointed!” Unfortunately, Miss Paraguay faced tougher challenges in her immediate future, in Lima. As she ran to take her spot on the stage in the pageant’s opening ceremonies, Maris Stella slipped and fell, badly hurting her knee, whereupon she was put in an ambulance and rushed to the closest hospital. The ambulance driver was so frazzled and drove so quickly that he crashed into a police car several blocks from the hospital, badly injuring himself and Maris Stella’s chaperone in the process. Maris Stella was released after one day in the hospital.

Thirteen contestants-mostly Caribbean delegates of African heritage, plus Misses Guam and Paraguay (Maris Stella, again!)-called a news conference to complain that they were being ignored by the press, as well as by their Peruvian socialite chaperones. Their spokesperson, Miss Guadeloupe (Martine Galin) revealed that most of the chaperones are “jealous” of them and were trying to make their lives miserable. Interestingly, just a couple of days later, one of the complaining island beauties -Miss Bahamas, Ava Marilyn Burke - was voted Miss Photogenic.

The ‘Inca Revenge’ hit several contestants, but none as badly as Singapore’s Judicia Nonis, who was taken by ambulance to a food-poison treatment center.

Security was very tight around the contestants, due to several bomb threats received in the months prior to the pageant. Just one day before the finals, bombs went off at the U.S. Embassy and in the local offices of Coca-Cola. Measures taken to tighten security around the Hotel Bolivar - where the ladies were staying - were especially strict. Only pageant personnel and acredited journalists were allowed to enter (beside hotel staff). That didn’t keep a group of 200 angry feminists from protesting in the hotel’s lobby on the day of the finals. Police had to fire water cannon to disperse them.

Miss South Africa (Odette Scrooby) was a huge favorite after the preliminary competitions. She seemed to be on her way to the title, after winning preliminary swimsuit and the semifinalist interview portion on the final night. Then came the swimsuit finals, in which she received an incomprehensibly low score of 7.225, even though, just three days earlier, she was the top preliminary swimsuit scorer! Odette rallied to win the evening gown competition but it was too late-she failed to make top five due to the awful swimsuit score. Many pageant experts wrote that this was an injustice and that Miss South Africa should have contested the results. It remains one of the most baffling episodes in the history of the pageant.

The victory by Canada’s Karen Baldwin was no surprise to the delegates or to the local newspapers, because of her beauty, charm and strong interview skills. However, several contestants complained that Guam’s Patty Kerkos was undeserving of the first runner-up award. Most vocal of all was Italy’s Cinzia Fiordiponti, who apparently resented being named second runner-up behind Miss Guam. “I deserved to be first runner-up!” Cinzia pouted.


1983 - St. Louis, USA

This year’s pageant was originally scheduled for Panama, where it was eventually held in 1986.

The majority of the 80 contestants arrived in St. Louis on Sunday, June 19. They were greeted at the airport by a group of little girls in white dresses, each between the ages of 5 and 8. This was the start of the long-running and much-beloved tradition of “Little Sisters”! Between 1983 and 1995, every Miss Universe delegate would be assigned a “Little Sister” - a girl from the host-city who would also wear her country’s sash and serve as unofficial good-luck mascot and friend to her Big Sister. Most importantly, the Little Sisters serenaded the semifinalists in the evening gown competition, during the final night of competition, singing a medley of songs including the all-time favorite “You Are My Star,” which appeared several years after the St. Louis pageant. [The St. Louis Little Sisters sang, “You Are My Universe,” instead.] The little counterpart of each semifinalist presented the contestant with a flower and escorted her to center-stage. It all started in St. Louis, folks.

The contestants participated in many unique activities in St. Louis, including a tour of the Annheuser-Busch brewery, a Mississippi paddleboat cruise, participation in the Veiled Prophet Fair and an exciting nightime parade, which was filmed for the opening of the telecast.

The St. Louis press, while not as candid and pageant-crazy as the media in Latin America or Asia, were nonetheless generous in their reporting. The Globe-Democrat newspaper’s noted that favorites included Switzerland’s exotic beauty, Lolita Morena (that's Lo-lo-lita on the left); Italy’s sexy Federica Moro (who even wowed the priests at a local Roman Catholic church, who posed with her for a newspaper photo!); Ireland’s Roberta Brown; and local fave Miss USA, Julie Hayek.

President of Miss Universe, Inc., Harold Glasser, yanked the credentials from two local newspaper reports, when they began to ask tough questions concerning the organization’s finances and other subjects. Glasser was particularly irked when one of the reporters, Karen Ulenhuth of the Kansas City Times, asked why Namibia, an African country, was represented by a white contestant, Astrid Kloche. The mayor of St. Louis finally intervened, asking Glasser to reinstate the credentials. (He did.)

Miss Indonesia, Andi Botenri, was criticized by her Muslim country’s leaders, when a photo of her wearing the Catalina swimsuit was published in a Jakarta paper. She received a cable instructing her to not compete in the swimsuit segment any further. She refused and wore the swimsuit on the Presentation Night. [Indonesia didn’t compete again until 1995.]

Nearly 200 chanting, sign-carrying protesters from a group called Coalition of Women and Supporters (or “COWs”) criticized the city’s spending of nearly $1 million in city-county tax money to help pay for the pageant.

The new Miss Universe, New Zealand’s Lorraine Downes, flew first-class from St. Louis to her new home in New York City, accompanied by a reporter from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. In mid-flight, the pilot announced that a new drink, “The Miss Universe,” had been created by the airline, in honor of its most famous passenger. Free samples would be offered to all passengers! Upon tasting the drink, which was like an Orange Julius (a frothy orange milkshake), the new Miss Universe declared, “I prefer Brown Cows.” As the reporter tried to proceed with his interview with the beauty, she revealed, “Karen Baldwin told me the press is not a friend!”

8O's Dish: Part Two - Dish on the Universe Main Page - Main Lobby
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