Monday, April 23, 2007

There she is ... Miss America 1944

OLD AGE has failed to slow down Venus Ramey.
And at 82 she has managed to thrust herself back in the headlines because of her tenacity.
For certain, there are other more descriptive words, but tenacity will do for now.
At an age when most seniors start to mellow, Venus Ramey, is just beginning to show that the red in her hair means something.
The other day, a guy named Curtis Parrish from Ohio and apparently others decided to "invade" her farm near Waynesburg, Ky. It was a bad idea.
When Miss Venus saw her dog run into a storage building, she knew something was up. And sure enough, apparently the scoundrels were trying to steal some old farm equipment.
They had been caught red-handed and one of them told her they were just leaving.
Well, Miss Venus wasn't having any of that and balancing on her walker she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-calibre handgun and plugged the intruder's tires.
In an AP news story, she was quoted as saying, "I'm trying to live a quiet, peaceful life and stay out of trouble, and all it is, is one thing after another."
And that should be the end of the story, but there's more, for Venus Ramey happens to be Miss America of 1944 and she's been a "fighter," all her life.
In peering into the Miss America scrapbook, it showed Venus had solid roots, for a relative fought in the Revolutionary War, a grandfather was a Kentucky state senator and her father was a Kentucky State Representative in 1934.
Venus showed her passion for politics by becoming a page in the Kentucky House and then she left for Washington, D.C.
She was never one to stay idle and with a flair for dancing, singing and comedy, Venus entered and won the Miss Washington D.C. title and then went on to claim the Miss America 1944 title, and without missing a beat she proceeded to sell war bonds.
According to the Miss America website, her picture was pasted on a B-17 fighter plane and that plane made 68 sorties over war-torn Germany without losing a man.
In 1945 she worked for Senator Kaper of Kansas and Congressman Somner of Missouri on the "suffrage" bill and, in 1947, Warner Brothers tried to sign her up for a Hollywood film, but by that time she was fed up with show biz.
Although Venus Ramey returned to Kentucky and her tobaco farm, where she married and raised two sons, her name never seemed to disappear from the newswires.
She ran for a seat in the Kentucky House on educational issues as well as trying to eradicate the word "illegitimate" from the birth certificates of "innocent children." And she even has had her own radio show and was publisher of a political newspaper.
One of her major achievements was getting the Over-The-Rhine area listed on the U.S. Registry of Historic Places in the 1970s.
And then her name faded; that was until just the other day when she fired her snub-nosed .38 at an intruder's get-away vehicle.
Now, the culprit and the world know of Miss Venus' tenacity.
Alright, since we're introduced you to Miss Venus, it might be interesting to find out who preceded her and who followed her as Miss America.
In 1943, soprano Jean Bartel from Los Angeles took the crown by singing Cole Porter's Night and Day.
While the pageant had been awash with bathing suits, Bartel refused to pose in one after taking the title and then she went on a Bond-selling tour.
Later, Bartel starred in a Broadway musical; worked in radio and TV on such shows as The Red Skelton Show, The Danny Thomas Show, Perry Mason and she even has had her own production called, It's a Woman's World.
Later she would run her own travel agency as well as being active in church work.
On September 17, 1945, a Time Magazine article read: "Atlantic City, once a mecca for giggling cuties in Mack Sennett bathing suits, abandoned itself for five days last week to a ponderous appraisal of the female mind. The occasion: the annual Miss America contest. The prize: a $5,000 college scholarship on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. The winner: Miss New York City, a Hunter College graduate named Bess Myerson, who excels at the flute and pianoforte."
Then the last paragraph of the article read: "On the last night of this unique academic process Miss America 1945 was crowned by Miss America of 1944, a typist named Venus Ramey, who seemed more the physical than the intellectual type. It was obvious that the winner deserved her victory. She had been cool and ladylike throughout and had played Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor without a bobble. She also looked good in a bathing suit."
Bess Myerson also made a name for herself, having appearing in various TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s and being involved in controversial New York City politics in the 1970s and 1980s.
In recent years, although ailing, she has been involved in social causes and philanthropy.

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