In the 90’s I seemed to be constantly on the road traveling for business. One night in Cleveland, Ohio, I found myself at a convention evening function attended by the recently crowned Miss America, Carolyn Sapp. The former Miss Hawaii was the buzz of the evening. She was in Cleveland thanks to one of the evening’s co-sponsors, the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Bureau. During a pre-dinner reception, Ms. Sapp took photos with many of the convention’s attendees.
I had my photo taken more than once that evening with her, but there’s more to this story than that. In fact, I ended up spending much of the evening near her. Also, maybe a precurser of things to come, but if you look closely at the bottom of this photo, you’ll see me holding Miss America’s hand. 🙂 I saw the evening as my one and only opportunity to meet a Miss America, so I boldly walked up to the front tables hoping to find her as she sat down for dinner. Luckily, I had an acquaintance I knew up front and before I knew it I was sitting at the same dinner table, in fact two seats away, from the current Miss America! This was at a time when the Miss America pageant (originated as a beauty contest in 1921) was the most watched and anticipated pageant, prior to losing its major television exposure.
During dinner, Ms. Sapp was very personable, well-mannered, and everything you’d think a Miss America winner would be. What struck me most about the evening was seeing a small wooden box on the table, the box that contained the “crown” awarded to the Miss America winner. She had a chaperone with her the whole evening whose job was partly to secure this wooden box and crown. Dinner conversation was very cordial throughout the evening. Believe me, it’s pretty cool to have dinner two seats away from the recently crowned Miss America, especially in the late 90’s when the pageant was much bigger than it is now.
I remember asking Miss America what hotel she was staying at. She told me! It was the Cleveland Marriott Downtown. In fact, I further pressed her on this and even got the floor she was staying on as I asked if she was in a suite or exactly what the arrangements are for a Miss America. She seemed in good spirits, but a few months later it was reported in People Magazine that her ex boyfriend in Hawaii had physically abused her. It was big news at the time.
When dinner was over, the music started playing and many people started dancing. With little hesitation, I asked Miss America if she would dance with me! Ms. Sapp or Carolyn at this point asked the woman responsible for her crown if it was okay to leave the table and her crown behind. Once okay, we walked into the dance area and danced several dances together (as many as three as I remember). The music was contemporary, fast, so there was no slow dancing. Still, it was exciting to be dancing with that year’s Miss America winner. Thank you Carolyn. 🙂