Miss Universe 1987

The Dish On The Universe

The 80's - Part Two

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!


1984 - Miami, USA

For the second year in a row, the originally-announced venue of the Miss Universe Pageant dropped out. Calgary, Canada, had to forego the pageant due to financial troubles. That occurred very late - in April, to be exact. Miami stepped in to fill the void, with only two months of preparation time before the arrival of the 81 beauty delegates...the largest number for the decade, not topped until 1995 (82 delegates).

The originally scheduled number of delegates was 82. Miss Sri Lanka, Nimini Iddamalgoda, age 18, dropped out because she was depressed and homesick. Pageant president, Harold Glasser (in his 25th straight year in that capacity…and his last) explained, “I’ve never seen such a case before this one. We even sent her to counseling but it was impossible.” The sad beauty telephoned her mother every day, since her arrival in Miami two weeks before dropping out. Her chaperone explained, “At one point, the girl was catatonic!”

Favorites of the local press and audience included Miss Venezuela, Carmen Maria Montiel; Colombia’s Susana Caldas; and Holland’s exotic model, Nancy Neede. Guatemala’s Julieta Urrutia impressed more and more as the pageant progressed. However, Sweden’s Yvonne Ryding was the clear leader among the experts and, eventually, the judges.

Denmark’s Katarina Claussen had a small distraction that drove her nuts, according to the Miami Herald. She was unable to rehearse and cried all day, as a man with whom she fell in love at a Miami party was not returning her favors. The heartbroken beauty refused to talk with anyone. According to one pageant official, “She turned away five chaperones.”

The taping of the first 30 seconds of the pageant’s opening number, “All Night Long,” turned out to be the most expensive segment of all. It was an outdoor nighttime scene showing all of the delegate arriving in the port of Miami on board a sleek white yacht, wearing their native costumes, greeted by throngs of colorful folkloric dancers from several cultures (flamenco, Cuban, Ukrainian, etc.). A cast of hundreds! It rained the night that it was first scheduled to be shot. Dancers, technicians, and caterers had to be paid for showing up. They waited and waited for the rain to stop - all night long, in fact! The scene was rescheduled three times-with further outlays of cash to pay for the performers and crew-before Mother Nature finally cooperated and the scene was shot. This was the most expensive opening seconds of any Miss Universe Pageant telecast. “Come join our party - here in Miami - all night long (all night, all night)….”

Footnote about the “All Night Long” number: the Herald duly noted that there was “not one INS official in sight” as the yacht docked, and the scene was shot on the Miami River, directly across from the U.S. Customs Building!

Miss Colombia 1984In his last year a pageant-meister, Glasser had to lecture the delegates not to overeat during the social events. He told a Herald reporter, “The other day, a waiter witnessed one contestant eating three plates of fetuccine. This has got to stop!” We wonder if one of the overeaters was Colombia’s Susanan Caldas? By the time of the pageant finals, she was visibly heftier than she was four weeks earlier when she arrived in Miami, as pointed out by Colombia’s CROMOS magazine. This was said to be the cause for her 4th runner-up finish; it was commonly thought that she could have won the crown if she had been a few kilos lighter in the swimsuit competition. Hmmm...she does have that full Alicia Machado look in the photo on the right...

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose: One pageant tradition that never changes is the question posed to all contestants, “Who is the greatest person in the world, for you?"”The Miami Herald published some of the more unique answers in 1984. Our favorite: Canada’s Cynthia Kereluk selected Santa Claus!

The return of the pageant to Miami, after a 12-year absence, was a treat for Miami-based staff & volunteers from the Golden Age of the 1960s, when Miami Beach was home-base for the Miss Universe and USA pageants. Among these was June Wylie, publicity director for Catalina Swimsuits, for 25 years. The styles may change, but judges still look for the same qualities when a contestant wears a swimsuit: “A nice straight back…legs that come together nicely.”

Miami City Council member Demetrio Perez caught wind that two Miss Universe delegates that year would be coming from Communist countries - Poland and Yugoslavia. So he tried to enact a city law banning Communists from participating in city-funded events. Perez’ measure failed and, thus, Poland’s Joanna Karska and Yugoslavia’s Ksenija Borojevic became the first delegates from the Eastern European bloc to participate in the pageant since Yugoslavia in 1977. In the photo on the right, we see Ksenija in the background, to the right of Sylvia Hitchcock, Miss Universe 1967.

A group of pageant fans was robbed when they paid scalpers $150 per ticket for the finals at the James L. Knight Center. It turned out that the seats were in a large room, far from the stage, where a crowd of 500 watched the show on a giant TV screen.

Colombian architectural engineer and millionaire businessman Baruch Vega gave a party and nobody came, so he sued Miss Universe Inc. and the City of Miami. Vega claimed to have been asked by Harold Glasser and others to arrange the gala party for the Miss Universe contestants, to be held a few days before the finals. The Symphony orchestra was booked, lobster and caviar catered, 500 engraved invitations sent out, hotel and air fare for VIPs booked…then, less than a week before the party, came a phone call from Glasser asking Vega to cancel, as the party had been rescheduled at a local restaurant. Vega discovered through the grapevine that Glasser and company had heard rumors about Vega’s “criminal background.” Vega insisted that he was clean - a showed the Miami Herald’s reporter a “good citizen letter” from the Metro Dade Organized Crime Unit, clearing his name! [We still don’t know how this turned out.]


1985 - Miami, USA

A New Attitude - A New President: Just as the 79 delegates sang “A New Attitude” in the opening number, 1985 saw the arrival of a new president at Miss Universe, Inc., show-biz savvy George Honchar, who would be in charge through the 1988 pageant.

Miss Uruguay 1985The U.S. magazine PEOPLE featured the pageant - and several bikini-clad contestants - in a four-page spread. Here are several tidbits from the article: Miss Korea, Young-Ok Choi, filling out her medical questionnaire, wrote down she was allergic to "old meat." Miss Yugoslavia, Dinka Delic, was not optimistic about moving to New York if she won the title. "I am scared. So much they kill people. The police have so much work. They are so busy." Miss Uruguay (that's her on the left) chatted throughout rehearsals and was continually reprimanded by pageant staff. "In school I love to talk, and they are always saying 'shut up' to me," she said.

The press favorite seemed to be Holland’s Brigitte Bergman, who won the Photogenic trophy. The overwhelming audience fave was Colombia’s regal beauty, Sandra Borda Caldas. When she failed to make the top ten, audience sentiments turned to Spain’s Teresa Sanchez. Among contestants, the favorite to win was Miss Canada, Karen Tilley; the Herald noted that her sister-contestants praised her classic blonde beauty, stature, and high cheekbones.

A hectic, nearly-four-week schedule of appearances and rehearsals took its tool on Miss Malaysia, Agnes Chin, who fainted during rehearsals. Miss England, Helen Westlake, was hospitalized for one full week, when she came down with intestinal infection.

A delegate from South Africa was scheduled to compete but didn’t show up after Miami anti-apartheid groups threatened mass demonstrations. The delegate's name? Andrea Stelzer, who would finally show up in 1989...as Miss Germany!

Miss Universe 1985The winner that year, Puerto Rico’s Deborah Carthy-Deu, was the only finalist who was fluent in English, the Miami Herald pointed out.

Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen noted some of the funnier events in the 1985 Miss Universe telecast, including Bob Barker’s mention that “…Jose Marti Park sits in the shadow of famous I-95.” Wrote Hiaasen, “Good thing that Barker did not mention what I-95 is famous for.” [The recent drive-by shooting of European tourists on I-95 was probably what he had in mind.]

Local press coverage of the 1985 Miss Universe pageant was skimpy, even less than in 1984 and almost as bad as 1982 in New York. Honchar pointed out this fact in an angry press conference after the final night, saying that he was looking for a new venue in 1986 - and was in negotiations with Budapest, Hungary. He also cited Egypt, Spain and Canada as possibilities. None of those cities were selected, as it turned out. Instead….


1986 - Panama City, Panama

The pageant returned to Latin America for four glorious weeks in summer 1986. It was to be the last Miss Universe to be held in July, with subsequent editions, to this day, taking place in May (with the exception of 1990 in mid-April).

The pageant was closely followed by the Panamanian media and citizens. The presentations held in the Atlapa Convention Center were sumptuous and enthusiastically-received.

There were several favorite candidates among the 79 beauties in attendance: USA’s Christi Fitchner and Venezuela’s Barbara Palacios were sure-finalists from the get-go, according to Panama newspapers.Miss Universe 1986 Also heavily favored were Misses Brazil (Deise Nunes d’Souza), Chile (Mariana Villasante), and Finland (Tuula Polvi). Of course, Panama’s Gilda Garcia was always mentioned as a top competitor. Others in the ‘second tier’ with strong chances of making the semifinals were Colombia (Maria Monica Urbina) and New Zealand (Chris Atkinson).

The U.S. newspaper USA TODAY featured a demographic profile of the typical Miss Universe pageant fan and telecast viewer in the USA: a woman, age 35 or older, with children at home; above average household income (US$40,000 and up); and living in the West, Central, or South USA (not on the East or West coast).

Very odd: Puerto Rican newspapers made little, if any, mention of their candidate, Elizabeth Robison, even though she ended up being a semifinalist and the reigning Miss Universe was Puerto Rican. Even after the 1986 outcome, when it was known that she made the top 10, the articles in El Nuevo Dia made no mention whatsoever of Elizabeth. Strange…

CPAs from Panama protested the use of the US-based accounting firm, Ernst & Whinney, as the official accountants. Local labor and accountancy law specified that the accounting profession can only be practiced by Panamanian nationals.

Miss Yugoslavia, Tatjana Spasich, was abruptly dismissed following her first week in Panama. She was found to be well below the pageant age limit…”between 15 and 16” according to sources. This was never officially announced by pageant officials. La Prensa newspaper caught wind of it from eyewitnesses who saw the young lady crying in front of the Marriot Caesar Park Hotel and asked what was the matter. It appeared that she was given one-half hour to pack and leave, according to sources who contacted the newspaper.

Just before the Miss Universe Pageant began, the Miss South Amerca pageant was held in Caracas, with many of the Miss Universe contestants from South America competing. For the 5th year in a row, the crown was won by Venezuela (Barbara Palacios), with Colombia (Maria Monica Urbina) in second, and Brazil (Deise Nunes d’Souza) in third.

As in Lima 1982, the world’s press covering the pageant complained about excessive security measures that impeded their ability to access the contestants for interviews and photos. What’s more, the few times that the press was notified about an opportunity to see the contestants, they were given only 15 minutes notice.

A most uniquely-Panamanian event held in conjunction with this pageant was a special “Night of Boxing” which pitted five contestants against two of Panama’s world-champion boxers. The boxing beauties were Misses USA, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Holland. We’re sorry that footage of this event did not make it to the final telecast!

La Prensa questioned the “suspect nature” of Miss Venezuela’s victory, despite the fact that she was always a clear favorite to make the top 5. The newspaper suspected that Barbara Palacios’ win was “fixed” by pageant organizers, pointing out the seemingly-premeditated question posed to her by emcee Bob Barker in the semifinals interview. Bob asked her to describe her publicity campaign for Panama. Miss Venezuela-according to La Prensa-reeled off the answer like a pre-programmed parrot, culminating in the slogan "Mi Nombre es Panama - My Name is Panama” (which, in 1986, was the tourism office’s slogan for that country).

La Prensa also commented on the attitude of Miss USA, immediately following the finals. It appears that Christy Fitchner took the first flight out of the country, before daybreak, therefore missing the photo sessions of the royal court of finalists with the new Miss Universe, and other social functions programmed for the day. “Malas lenguas” (“nasty tongues”) said that Christy was convinced that she was Miss Universe 1986 and did not want to have any part with Barbara’s victory celebration.

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