Hotties In Hampton

A cascade of deep brunette hair. Crimson knee-high boots. The Lasso of Truth. Is this how Hampton Roads defines beauty? Okay, maybe we’re a bit more progressive than that in our taste in attractive women, but in the early 1970s Hampton Roads played host to a couple national beauty pageants and, in the end, you’ll never guess (unless you oldtimers remember) who walked away victorious.

None other than Wonder Woman herself. In the early 1970s, the Hampton Roads Coliseum (as the landmark was then called) was the site selected for two consecutive Miss World-USA pageants. Our beloved Peninsula was an improbable choice and one that probably had a lot to do with the fact that the Coliseum was freshly minted. Still, Hampton seemed an odd choice given that in previous years Miss World-USA had been held in places like Detroit and San Diego. When the 48 young ladies from around the country gathered at the Coliseum in October 1971, one of them revealingly asked a reporter, “What’s Newport News?”
The Miss World-USA contest was one of several competing pageants in the early 70s. There was also the famous Miss America pageant, as well as one to name Miss USA. Despite the crowded field, however, the Miss World-USA pageant was a big deal. Comedian Bob Hope, ever the beauty pageant authority, crowned the winner both years. Miss World-USA went on to compete in the Miss World contest in London.

A few pageants at the time were already beginning to include more respectable gauges of beauty—personality and intelligence, for instance. But the Miss World-USA was strictly about each contestant’s aesthetic attributes. Director Alfred Patricelli conceded as much. “We’re looking only for beauty; talent has nothing to do with it,” he told a Daily Press correspondent.

Testament to the pageant’s looks-only criteria was the dutiful reporting of the leading contestants’ bust-waist-hips measurements. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the judges, crowd and general public seemed most interested in the young ladies’ chest measurements, which, as the Daily Press reported, ranged from a healthy 33 inches to an ample 39.

Though a contest like Miss World-USA would be unlikely to fly today, attendees didn’t seem to mind the relatively shallow standards. In fact, the second year the Coliseum hosted the event, organizers handed o u t hundreds of free tickets at local military bases. It’s little wonder that the audience belched copious wolf calls while the beauties strutted their stuff onstage.

Karen Brucene Smith from Port Lavaca, Texas took the Miss World-USA title in 1971 and went on to place a respectable 6th at the Miss World competition a month later. The following year Miss World-USA again earned her tiara at the Coliseum, and this time it was a little-known 21-year-old singer and model from Arizona named Lynda Carter (who, in case anyone’s wondering, came in at 38-26-38).

Carter was eliminated in a semifinal round later that year at the Miss World competition, but her true stage debut came three years later, when she snagged the leading role in the TV series The New Adventures of Wonder Woman. Alas, all good things end, and Carter’s run as Wonder Woman lasted only three seasons. She launched a relatively successful singing career after Wonder Woman, but it’s her role as sexy superhero for which she’ll always be remembered—a television credit made possible by Hampton Roads’ impeccable taste in beautiful women.

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