Bess Myerson, Miss America Who Served New York City, Dies during 90

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Bess Myerson, a tall, dynamic musician
who in 1945 became a usually Jewish leader of a Miss America
Pageant and went on to a career in New York City government, has
died. She was 90.

She died on Dec. 14 during her home in Santa Monica,
California, according to a New York Times, citing public

As Miss America, Myerson combined a indication for subsequent
contest winners by selecting to prominence a concrete emanate —
in her case, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice — during
her one-year reign.

Later, she brought an component of glorious and luminary to
New York politics. Her work as a city’s consumer affairs
commissioner from 1969 to 1973 landed her on a cover of Life
magazine, and she loaned her high form to Edward Koch in his
1977 mayoral campaign. She ran a big-budget debate for U.S.
Senate in 1980, losing a Democratic assignment to Elizabeth Holtzman.

Myerson’s time in open use came to an unfortunate end.
She quiescent as New York’s informative affairs commissioner in 1987
during a sovereign grand jury examine of her longtime companion,
Carl Capasso, a vital city contractor. The grand jury indicted
her on charges that she had attempted to change Capasso’s divorce
case by giving a city pursuit to a daughter of a judge.

Myerson, Capasso and a judge, Hortense Gabel, were
acquitted in 1988 after a two-month trial. Capasso by afterwards was
serving a jail judgment for taxation evasion.

By Myerson’s account, she conjunction aspired to be a beauty
queen, nor deliberate herself quite beautiful, before she
pursued a Miss America climax in 1945.

A pianist and flutist, she hoped to investigate conducting during the
Juilliard School or Columbia University, according to her
authorized biography, “Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson’s Own

Scholarship Money

She was drawn to a manifestation because, for a initial time in
1945, it was charity grant income — $5,000 — to the
winner. The pot swelled to $25,000 a following year. Last
year, a volume was $50,000.

At a propelling of her sister, Sylvia, and John C. Pape, an
amateur photographer for whom she modeled, she entered and won a
Miss New York City competition. That warranted her a place in the
Miss America foe in Atlantic City.

Pape came adult with a thought of presenting Myerson in pageant
literature in an educational top and gown, casting her as a scholar
among entertainers. Myerson agreed.

Myerson pronounced Lenora Slaughter, a pageant’s longtime
director, offering a reduction appealing idea: that Myerson change her
name to something along a lines of “Betty Merrick.”

Myerson refused. As she removed in a 2000 talk with
People magazine, she told Slaughter, “I live in a cooperative
with 250 other families, all of them Jewish. If we win, they’ll
feel very, really good, though if we change my name, they won’t even
know it’s me.”

It was, Myerson said, “one of a many critical decisions
I ever made.”

Uplifting Moment

Myerson’s delight during Atlantic City’s Warner Theater on
Sept. 8, 1945, was a feel-good story for American Jews, who were
just interesting a horrific news entrance from Europe about the
extent of a Nazi Holocaust.

During her yearlong reign, Myerson pennyless with the
traditional activities of Miss America and became a traveling
speaker for a Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

“I was dynamic to do something with my year, to make it
mean something, to give a climax some genuine weight,” she wrote.

As Jennifer Preston wrote of Myerson in her 1990 biography,
“Queen Bess”:

“Although she began her open life as Miss America, she
aspired to be some-more than only a beauty queen, and she succeeded
like no other before or since.”

Bess Myerson was innate on Jul 16, 1924, in a Bronx, New
York, where she grew adult among other working-class Jewish
families in a Sholom Aleichem mild apartments. Her
father, Louis, a residence painter, had come to a U.S. from
Russia, where he had survived one anti-Jewish pogrom by hiding
under a kitchen floorboards.

Music Studies

Her mother, Bella, also innate in Russia, wanted her three
daughters to turn not only lettered though “brilliant,”
Myerson, a center daughter, wrote.

Myerson began piano lessons during age 9 and won entrance into the
High School of Music and Art, a open propagandize for artistically
gifted students. She took adult shriek as a second instrument during
her 4 years there.

Beauty pageants were never a consideration. “I was built
like a child — a tall, spare boy, all gangly legs and dangling
long arms,” Myerson recalled. She was 5 feet, 10 inches when
she graduated from high propagandize in 1941 and went on to Hunter
College, in New York, regulating income from training piano.

In her third year during Hunter, Myerson began displaying for
Pape for $5 an hour. She found a work “a glamorous fantasy”
— one she kept tip from her parents. Pape and Myerson’s
sister entered her in a Miss New York City foe in June

Sensing Prejudice

After winning that crown, Myerson soured fast on her
pageant-sponsored tour. Among other things, a outing gave her a
view of a anti-Semitism prevalent in some communities around
the U.S., convincing her she couldn’t be “a savoury Miss
America in an America that deserted Jews.”

Partway by her year as Miss America, she chose her own
course: vocalization in schools on interest of a Anti-Defamation

After her power finished in Sep 1946, Myerson applied
her $5,000 loot to pursue connoisseur studies during Columbia. She
also married a Jewish fight veteran, Allan Wayne. They had a
daughter, Barra, before divorcing. Myerson’s second marriage, to
tax profession Arnold Grant, also finished in divorce.

From 1951 to 1959, Myerson hosted a CBS diversion uncover “The
Big Payoff.” She replaced for Dave Garroway as horde of NBC’s
“Today,” was a unchanging panelist on a CBS module “I’ve Got
a Secret” and seemed on Miss America Pageant TV broadcasts.

City Affairs

In 1969, New York Mayor John Lindsay, a Republican, named
Myerson, a Democrat, commissioner of a city’s new Department
of Consumer Affairs.

A 1971 book of Life repository featured Myerson on the
cover, checking a furnish scale of a path grocer. The
headline: “A Consumer’s Best Friend: Bess Myerson on a prowl
for stores that lie us.”

After stepping down, Myerson declined entreaties to run for
mayor in 1974, partly given she had been diagnosed with
ovarian cancer and faced “a long, formidable encircle of
chemotherapy,” she wrote.

Myerson worked as a consultant to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
and Citibank, wrote a consumer mainstay for a New York Daily
News and reported on consumer issues for New York’s CBS
affiliate. Her book, “The Complete Consumer Book,” was
published in 1979.

Koch’s Campaign

In 1977, Myerson was a tie alongside Koch, a
congressman, during his successful bid for New York City mayor.
She was co-chairman of his debate and spoke for him during events.
Neither Koch, a bachelor, nor Myerson, twice divorced, answered
questions about either they had a regretful relationship.

Myerson spent an estimated $600,000 of her possess income on her
1980 bid for a Democratic assignment for U.S. Senate,
finishing second to Holtzman in a four-person field. Holtzman
ended adult losing to Republican Alfonse D’Amato, who had dissapoint the
incumbent senator, Jacob K. Javits, in a GOP primary.

In 1983, Koch named Myerson commissioner of cultural
affairs, a post she hold until a crime review of

In after years, Myerson was a inhabitant commissioner of the
Anti-Defamation League. She was a first donor and keeper at
the Museum of Jewish Heritage in reduce Manhattan.

To hit a contributor on this story:
Laurence Arnold in Washington at

To hit a editors obliged for this story:
Charles W. Stevens at
James Greiff, Steven Gittelson

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