Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson's Own Story by Susan Dworkin
July 16, 1924 |
The Bronx, New York
|Occupation||Model, city commissioner|
|Known for||Miss America winner, TV show celebrity, city official|
|Spouse(s)||Arnold M. Grant (divorced)
Allan Wayne (divorced)
Bess Myerson (born July 16, 1924) became the first Jewish woman to win the Miss America pageant in 1945. She appeared on various television shows in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1970s and 1980s, she was involved in New York City politics.
Myerson was born in the Bronx, New York. While competing in beauty pageants, Myerson refused, despite entreaties, to use a pseudonym that "sounded less Jewish." She faced prejudice even after winning the Miss America title, with many sponsors and events long associated with the pageant refusing to deal with her. She later campaigned for civil rights, in particular, working with the Anti-Defamation League.
In 1954, Myerson was a panelist on The Name's the Same, a television game show. From 1958 through 1967, she was a panelist on I've Got a Secret. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Myerson enjoyed a successful television career as a TV personality, actress and commercial pitchwoman for myriad popular products.
Myerson was New York City's first Commissioner of Consumer Affairs (under Mayor John Lindsay), later serving as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Ed Koch. Throughout the late 1970s and the beginning of his mayoral ambitions, Myerson was a frequent public companion of Ed Koch.
In 1980, Myerson ran for the Democratic nomination for New York's U.S. Senate seat against Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, Queens District Attorney John J. Santucci, and former New York City mayor John Lindsay. Myerson lost to Holtzman by a slim margin.
Later years 
In the 1980s, Myerson's life was darkened by a legal controversy (colloquially known as "the Bess Mess"). Her lover, sewer contractor Carl Andrew Capasso, who had been convicted of tax fraud, was accused of bribing Judge Hortense Gabel by arranging for a job for Gabel's daughter in Myerson's department. Myerson was also indicted and resigned her positions with the City of New York. She was ultimately acquitted.
On May 27, 1988, Myerson was arrested for shoplifting in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, after she left the Hills Department Store with several items for which she had not paid. On July 15, 1988, she pleaded guilty to retail theft and was fined. The arrest occurred while she was believed to be visiting Capasso at the Allenwood Detention Camp.
See also 
- Dworkin, Susan, 1987. Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson's Own Story. ISBN 1-55704-000-1
- Shana Alexander, 1991. When She Was Bad. Dell.
- "Milestones, Oct. 28, 1946". Time. October 28, 1946. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
- "Personal Information for Bess Myerson". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved September 4, 2011.
- "Carl "Andy" Capasso". Find a Grave. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
- "Miss America Wins Again". Time Magazine. January 2, 1989. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
- "Bess Myerson Is Accused Of Shoplifting". New York Times. May 28, 1988. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
- "Myerson Pleads Guilty to Shoplifting Charge in Pennsylvania". New York Times. July 16, 1988. Retrieved January 14, 2011.