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Texas Domination Of Miss USA Pageant Raises New Controversy

March 2, 1988

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ Texas women extended their reign over the Miss USA pageant to a fourth consecutive year as a beaming Courtney Gibbs took the crown in a contest marred by arrests, an assault and protests.

Pageant spokeswoman Stacy Sacco said she was stunned by the Texas victory record and felt compelled to assure reporters Tuesday night that the contest televised nationally by CBS was not rigged.

The woman who started the winning streak in 1985, Laura Martinez-Herring of El Paso, did a little jig after Ms. Gibbs was crowned, and echoed the sentiments of many pageant-watchers: ″I just feel sorry for the next Miss Texas.″

Ms. Gibbs, a 21-year-old junior at Texas Christian University, smiled broadly when outgoing Miss USA Michelle Royer of Keller put the crown on her head.

″It feels fabulous,″ the blue-eyed brunette said calmly, seemingly unsurprised by her victory.

″One of the gifts Michelle (Royer) gave me was a dictionary with the word ‘impossible’ whited out. So of course it was possible,″ she said.

The pageant made the news weeks before the coronation: Bob Barker ended his 21-year reign as host to protest the awarding of furs to the winner and use of furs during the show. The first two Miss Minnesotas bowed out after it was disclosed they had been arrested. Animal-rights protesters picketed the El Paso Convention Center. And co-host Tracy Scoggins fought off an attacker in a hotel elevator.

Ms. Gibbs of Fort Worth beat Diana Magana, 22, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., who was first runner-up. It was one of two best possible results for Guyrex Associates of El Paso, the company that produces the Miss Texas-USA and Miss California-USA contests and hones those winners’ pageant skills for the Miss USA contest.

Ms. Gibbs, who won about $200,000 worth of prizes, including a mink coat and jacket, will represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant May 23 in Taipei, Taiwan. Ms. Magana, a brown-eyed brunette, will represent the United States in the Miss World pageant.

Second runner-up Tuesday was Donna Rampy, 24, of Riverdale, Ga.; followed by Monica Farrell, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Dana Michele, 20, of Richmond, Miss.

Officials did not rank the other five semifinalists: Gina Zordani, 23, of Illinois; Rowann Brewer, 23, of Maryland; Tamara Walker, 18, of Oklahoma; April Abel, 20, of South Carolina; and Stephanie Potts, 23, of Tennessee.

The 11 judges scored each semifinalist on interviews and on the swimsuit and evening gown competitions. The five highest scorers became finalists.

Miss Minnesota, Julie Nelson, was the second runner-up in her state’s contest, but the first two finishers, Sue Bolich and Jolene Stavrakis, quit the Miss USA pageant after it was disclosed they had been arrested in separate shoplifting incidents.

About 25 animal-rights activists peacefully picketed the pageant to protest the mink awards. Members of Sangre de Cristo Animal Rights contend that fur ranching and trapping are cruel to animals.

Bob Young, director of the group’s Las Cruces, N.M., chapter, asked co-host Alan Thicke to resign as Barker did to protest the awarding of the fur coats. But Thicke refused, saying the furs were taken from ranch-raised minks that were treated humanely.

In the pre-pageant incident, the man accused of attempted sexual assault in the attack on Miss Scoggins last week was released on $100 bail. Prosecutors usually ask for $15,000 bail for such third-degree felonies.

A state judge ordered Pedro Concepcion Padill, 35, of El Paso, re-arrested and imposed $100,000 bail, which he posted.

The associate municipal magistrate who imposed the original bail was suspended and is under investigation, police said.

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