St. Louis hosted 1983 Miss Universe pageant

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Did you know that on this day in 1983 St. Louis hosted the Miss Universe pageant?

We did. The 80 contestants competed downtown at Kiel Auditorium on July 11, 1983. Miss New Zealand, 19-year-old Lorraine Downes, was crowned by 1982's winner, Miss Canada, Karen Dianne Baldwin. Downes was the first woman from New Zealand to win the Miss Universe crown.

Former "The Price is Right" host and TV veteran Bob Barker hosted the pageant. He joked that as an ex-Missourian he was asked to deliver a three-part message from the host city to the nearly 700 million people watching the pageant around the world.

PHOTOS:St. Louis hosts 1983 Miss Universe pageant

"The message reads, 'First, we wish you peace. Second, we wish you prosperity. And third, the name of this city is not 'St. Louie,' it's 'St. Louis' and please don't forget it,'" Barker said.

But the pageant didn't come without controversy. It ranthe St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Commission roughly $200,000 more than anticipated, bringing the grand total to $1 million.

A crucial aspect of the CVC breaking even on the project depended on ticket sales, which were slow. KSDK reported a few days before thetelecast a big reason for this is "Super Bowl Syndrome," which is when potential spectators believe the event is already sold out or think the ticket pricemay betoo high.

We reported tickets for the telecast were "high," but tickets for other events were going for as low as $7.

On the night of the big telecast a group of protestors gathered outside Kiel Auditorium. The group, members of The Coalition of Women, said the pageant was exploiting women sexually and economically.

Spectators ignored the protestors, and walked right on into the auditorium.

The following morning, Miss Universe enjoyed breakfast in bed while answering questions from reporters. She said once she was named as a top five contestant, she was having so much fun that she could hardly believe it when she won.

"But I must say the interview with the judges, every girl came out saying, 'That was wonderful!' We really did enjoy the interview. The judges were so friendly, and the questions they asked really quizzed us to find out what sort of girls we really were," said Downes.

In case you were wondering, Miss USA, Julie Hayek of California, was named first runner up.


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