Born: July 16, 1924 – The Bronx, New York
Died: Still Living!
Years on IGaS: 1958-1967
On the Set:
Bess was a good panelist, a lovely woman, and a great person. She aged incredibly well, even by the time IGaS was cancelled she was very pretty and you practically can’t tell the difference when you compare them to the old episodes.
Facts About Bess:
- She was crowned Miss America in 1945
- She was the first (and so far, only) Jewish Miss America
- She has raised more than $1 million for Israel.
- She introduced unit pricing and freshness dating on food, which became standard.
For a really great bio, check out the JewishSF.com article.
This summary was loosely based on the above bio:
Bess won the Miss America pageant in 1945. She was the first (and so far, only) Jewish Miss America. Being Jewish affected her life very much. While competing for Miss America, a judge tried to get her to change her name to something less ethnic, but she refused. Some judges were even threatened not to choose the Jew. Bess didn’t get to do all the “normal” Miss America events, because she was Jewish. These experiences made her want to use her celebrity to speak out against anti-Semitism.
She accomplished other things as well, such as introducing unit pricing and freshness dating on food, which became standard.
In 1973 Bess learned she had ovarian cancer, but survived after going through surgery and chemotherapy. She supported cancer research, and was a support-group volunteer. She had a stroke in 1980.
In 1988 she was accused of giving a judge’s daughter a job so that the judge would rule favorably toward Bess’s lover in his divorce case. This was big news, dubbed the “Bess Mess.” There was even a book written about it (see below). She was acquitted of all charges, however. Around the same time, she was also arrested for shoplifting, possibly because of kleptomania. Bess is still alive today.
There is a book about the “Bess Mess” called “When She Was Bad – The Story of Bess, Hortense, Sukhreet & Nancy” According to the tag-line, “it is more than a superb recreation of an absorbing tale of selfish ambition and self-delusion. It is a compelling portrait of obsession gone awry — of four strong women brought down by love.” It is 305 pages long and was written by Shana Alexander and published in 1990.
There was also a book that was released in 1998 about Bess and the Miss America pageant. It is called “Miss America 1945: Bess Myerson and The Year That Changed Our Lives.” It was written by Susan Dworkin, Adam Grouper, Bess Myerson, and Adam Gruper.
Another book written about her is called “Miss America, 1945: Bess Myerson’s Own Story” by Susan Dworkin.