Cover of Miss International 1960 Program Book





In 1960, independence movements around the world saw their dreams come to fruition. A total of 11 new nations were born that year, from Cyprus to Togo. And in Long Beach, California, USA, another independence movement saw its dream come true, with the crowning of the first Miss International.

From 1952 to 1959, the civic pride and joy of the city of Long Beach was the Miss Universe Pageant. The city, through the Long Beach Beauty Pageant, Inc., co-sponsored the pageant along with a subsidiary (the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, Inc.) of the Catalina Swimsuit Corporation. Each year, Long Beach’s community leaders swelled with pride as the Miss Universe Pageant grew larger and more famous.

However, the partnership between the city of Long Beach and the Catalina Swimsuit Corporation began to fray. By 1958, it was clear that Long Beach’s civic vision of the pageant was at odds with Catalina’s commercial vision of the pageant. Long Beach wanted to keep the pageant a non-profit, community-based project. Catalina had other things in mind for Miss Universe, wanting the pageant to become an entirely commercial, profit-making enterprise.

And so in 1959, the city of Long Beach and the Catalina Swimsuit Corporation agreed to disagree. Catalina kept the rights to the Miss Universe title and moved to Miami Beach, Florida. Long Beach kept Oscar Meinhardt (the man who developed the Miss Universe idea and who had directed the pageant since the beginning) and established the International Beauty Congress (IBC).

“The Largest Array of Beauty Ever Assembled”

In February 1960, Oscar Meinhardt proclaimed that the 1960 International Beauty Congress , to be held in August 1960, would be an unparalleled success. In a breakfast address to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, he announced that the new pageant had “greater world-wide acceptance than we did the first year of Miss Universe.” He said 60 nations were expected to participate, calling it “the largest array of beauty ever assembled.”

Mr. Meinhardt also announced that the 1960 International Beauty Congress would have token commercial sponsorships from Trans World Airlines (TWA) and the Orient and Pacific Steamship Lines, both of which would transport the contestants to Long Beach. Despite these two sponsorships, the pageant would remain a community-led affair.

The 1960 International Beauty Congress was set to be held from August 4 - 14, 1960, and by late June, many of the contestants were already on their way to Long Beach. The luxurious SS Orcades, of the Orient and Pacific Steamship Lines, left from Sydney, Australia, with Miss Australia, Joan Stanbury, on June 26. The first port of call was Manila, where Miss Philippines, Edita Vital, came aboard. From Manila, the SS Orcades sailed to Hong Kong to pick up Miss Hong Kong, Lina Woo.

In Yokohama, Japan, the delegates from Borneo, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore embarked. The last port of call before Long Beach was Vancouver, Canada, where Miss Canada, Margaret Powell, and Miss South Pacific, Patricia Apoliona, joined the rest of the delegates. On July 29, the SS Orcades sailed into the Long Beach harbor, just days before the rest of the overseas contestants - and the U.S. representative - were scheduled to arrive via TWA.

When the TWA flight arrived at the Long Beach airport, throngs of fans and journalists greeted the contestants. Actually, the flight first landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, where the ladies changed from street clothes into their national costumes for the short flight to Long Beach.

One lady, though, had a bit of trouble with her national costume. It seems that Miss Morocco, Raymonde Valle, was missing her costume from her luggage. TWA managed to locate a sheet to use as a replacement for her veiled costume. However, once the sheet was draped on her, it was apparent it was too skimpy and see-through, so TWA got another sheet to wrap around her. Poor Miss Morocco would suffer another peek-a-boo scandal later in the pageant, but after this contretemps, the flight flew to Long Beach. Once there, all the contestants, including the ones who arrived on the SS Orcades, posed for publicity photos and then were taken to their hotel.

Contestants on the tarmac
Contestants for Miss Interntional 1960 on the tarmac.

From left to right: Miss Japan, Michiko Takagi; Miss Austria, Elizabeth Hodacs; Miss Brazil, Magda Pfrimer; and Miss Portugal, Maria Santos.

Miss U.S.A. was one of the contestants on the TWA flight. She was Charlene Lundberg, selected as Miss U.S.A. by the National Press Photographers. Unlike the past eight Miss Universe Pageants, the 1960 International Beauty Congress would not be a “two for one” beauty contest. It was strictly international, with a total of 52 beauties - as opposed to the 60 announced in February - competing for the newest title in the cosmos.

Two of the ladies were pageant veterans - Miss Austria, Elizabeth Hodacs; and Miss Colombia, Stella Marquez. Both had just competed in the 1960 Miss Universe Pageant, in fact, and would have a few things to say about that experience compared to this one. Other contestants would go on to compete in Miss World and Miss Europe after competing for the brand new title of Miss International.

Click here for the complete contestant list.

Familiar Faces

Many familiar “faces” greeted the representatives to the 1960 International Beauty Congress. Los Angeles Times reporter Art Ryon covered the contest, just as he had covered the Miss Universe pageant in the past. Television station KTTV broadcast all the pageant’s major festivities, from the arrival of the contestants at Long Beach airport to the night of the crowning of the first Miss International.

The Lafayette Hotel remained pageant headquarters. And several judges of past Miss Universe pageants were on hand to choose who would wear the newest crown in the cosmos. These included artist Alberto Varga of Peru; France’s Roger Zeiler, executive director of Miss Europe; and Vincent Trotta, Dean of Judges for several Miss Universe Pageants and serving in that capacity as well for this new pageant. Byron Palmer would again serve as Master of Ceremonies. And there was Oscar Meinhardt, of course, managing it all, just as he had managed all past eight Miss Universe Pageants.

Byron Palmer
Byron Palmer, Emcee for the 1960 International Beauty Congress.

Even with all these familiar faces, there were some changes. For one, the format for the new pageant would be a bit different from the Miss Universe format. There would be three nights of preliminary judging, in which the contestants would be grouped alphabetically and compete in their respective groups in one of three categories of judging - evening gown, playsuit, and national costume. And each night of the preliminary judging would see divisional evening gown, playsuit, and national costume winners announced. So, what this meant was that instead of one award for best national costume, like with Miss Universe, there would be three awards for best national costume.

Now what in goodness sakes is a playsuit you might ask? Well, they were swimsuits fitted with short skirts, to be less revealing. Seems several nations participating in past Miss Universe pageants had found the plain old one-piece swimsuit to be objectionable.

Along with the new format, the city of Long Beach commissioned a new crown and robe for the first-ever holder of the title of Miss International. The crown was made of solid gold and platinum and contained 1,000 cultured and black pearls collected from the waters of Australia, Ceylon, India, Mexico, and the South Pacific. The crown also included a large star containing 12 precious stones, from garnet to diamond to ruby. The crown was appraised at one million dollars.

The robe was created by a local Long Beach furrier. It was made of satin and trimmed in genuine Russian ermine. It contained over 1,000 rhinestones and pearls and was valued at $1,500.

The $1M crown commissioned for Miss International 1960.

Premier Opening

The 1960 International Beauty Congress officially opened on Saturday, August 6, at Veteran’s Memorial Stadium. The contestants were formally introduced to the city and there was a gala fireworks display. The rest of the official schedule was as follows:

  • Sunday, August 7 - International Beauty Parade 1960
  • Tuesday, August 8 - Preliminary Judging
  • Wednesday, August 9 - Preliminary Judging (continued)
  • Thursday, August 10 - Preliminary Judging (continued)
  • Friday, August 11 - Preliminary Judging (continued); Announcement of 15 Semifinalists
  • Saturday, August 12 - Election of Miss International

International Beauty Parade 1960

The parade, retained from the Miss Universe format, began at 4pm on Sunday, August 7. It followed the same route the Miss Universe parades had followed, on Ocean Boulevard, west from Alamitos to Magnolia. There were a total of 109 contingents and floats, ranging from the Swedish Folk Dance Club to the Sons of Italy Lodge.

And of course there were the contestants, each one on her own float, which carried the name of her local business sponsor, such as Foasberg Laundry and Dry Cleaning (Miss India) and Chan’s Glamour Salon (Miss Republic of China). The parade was televised on KTTV, and an estimated 500,000 people lined Ocean Boulevard to watch it, including...we are William Prendiz de Jurado.

Miss Austria 1960
Here is Miss Austria, Elizabeth Hodacs, in the 1960 International Beauty Parade. Miss Austria's float was proudly sponsored by the Davis Furniture Co. of Long Beach.

Round One - August 9, 1960

After the parade on Sunday, the contestants had a day off to rest and rehearse before Tuesday’s first round of preliminary judging. All 52 contestants were divided into three groups, each group appearing in a different competition each night.

On the first night of judging, the evening gown group was composed of Miss Argentina through Miss Germany. Miss Greece through Miss Paraguay competed in playsuit and Miss Peru through Miss Venezuela competed in national costume. During the national costume competition, the contestants were also judged on speeches they gave, too.

At the end of the three rounds, Master of Ceremonies Byron Palmer handed out awards for each category. In the evening gown division, Miss Colombia, Stella Marquez bagged the award, wearing the same sequined lace gown with matching high-heel slippers she had worn at the Miss Universe Pageant. Miss Iceland, Sigridur Geirsdottir, received the playsuit division award, and Miss Venezuela, Gladys Ascanio, nailed the native costume and speech division and received that award. She also received the crowd’s approval when she steadfastly refused the services of a translator and made her speech in English.

Byron Palmer also announced the winner of the “Most Popular Girl In The Parade.” She was 18 year-old Caroline Lecerf, Miss Belgium, who exclaimed, “Thees ees vundervul!”

Round Two - August 10, 1960

On the second night of preliminary judging, Miss Peru through Miss Venezuela competed in evening gown. Miss Argentina through Miss Germany competed in playsuit, and Miss Greece through Miss Paraguay competed in national costume.

Before the national costume competition, James McNamara, president of the Long Beach Press Club, gave out the award for “Most Photogenic.” The lucky girl was one of the winners of round one, Miss Iceland, Sigridur Geirsdottir. When a phalanx of cameramen mobbed her and shouted, “Smile! Smile!,” she retorted, “Why don’t you fellows ever smile?”

After the national costume competition, emcee Byron Palmer handed out the division awards. Miss Poland, Marzena Malinowska, won the evening gown division, and Miss England, Joyce Kay, won the playsuit division. And the winner of the national costume and speech award? None other than Siggry...Sigridur Geirsdottir of Iceland, that is, who with three awards before the half-way mark of the competition was now considered the odds-on favorite to be the first woman to wear the new, sparkling $1M Miss International crown.

Miss Iceland 1960
Siggry in her award-winning playsuit.

Walking with Siggry are, from left to right, Miss England, Joyce Kay; Miss USA, Charlene Lundberg; and a Hollywood make-up artist.

Part Two

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