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Matt Weinstock -- July 24, 1959

July 24, 2009 |  4:00 pm

After the Ballyhoo Is Over

Matt Weinstock Two years ago, against the same backdrop of beauty and ballyhoo as emanates presently from Long Beach, Leona Gage, Miss Maryland, was acclaimed Miss U.S.A. At her moment of triumph, as she prepared to compete for the Miss Universe title, it was revealed she was married and the mother of two children. Her husband had talked in a bar in Baltimore.

Leona first denied, then admitted, it was true. There followed an unprecedented uproar in which horrified pageant officials gave off wild double talk. It was as though she had committed a capital crime. All she had done was reach for the big break a pretty girl knows she needs to get anywhere in the tough entertainment business. In the end she was disqualified and sent packing.

But life was not too grim for tearful Leona. She virtually had to run from Ed Sullivan's program to Steve Allen's show one Sunday. Then there was the showgirl job in Las Vegas. After that, nothing.

IT OCCURRED to a city editor a few days ago that there might be an interesting feature story in finding her and taking her to Long Beach and getting her views on the widely exploited Miss Universe clambake.

After a long search a reporter located her, and Wednesday morning went to see her. She lives in an old frame house in a run-down neighborhood in the Echo Park section, two blocks from Angelus Temple.

The devil grass front lawn has not been watered. The garbage cans at the curbs had been spilled, and several alley cats were foraging in the contents. Only bright spot in the drab surroundings were several pastel travel posters incongruously tacked on the walls.

Leona Gage is now Mrs. Nicholas Covacevich. Her husband is a nightclub dancer and dancing teacher. Her two children live with her and she is expecting a baby in about a month.

The doorbell did not ring when the reporter pressed it so he knocked on the door. He noticed the doorknob was broken.

When Miss Maryland of 1957 asked who it was and he told her, she said she was tired, hadn't slept and didn't want to talk about the Miss Universe contest or have anything to do with it.

"Please go away," she pleaded from behind the door, and he did.


SHORTLY AFTER a prisoner charged with a narcotics violation jumped out of the Federal Building the other day, two secretaries on a coffee break were going down in the elevator and one said, "Did you hear about the man who just jumped out of the 5th floor window and landed on the 4th floor roof?" The other asked casually, "A taxpayer?"

Dorothy Coleman, a passenger in the elevator, could only surmise that they worked for the Internal Revenue Service.


A MAN WITH his eye on the White House has to reach for support wherever he can, sometimes without checking. This will explain a letter received by a downtown executive from Sen. John F. Kennedy, outlining his position against the loyalty oath section of the National Defense Education Act. The letter concludes, "I would welcome any comments you may have, in your capacity as a Democratic leader."

The executive's comments are not calculated to send Sen. Kennedy into raptures of joy. He is a Republican, a close friend and ardent supporter of Richard Nixon.


CHALKED ON the blackboard behind the bar in the Copper Kitchen, at Washington and Lincoln Blvds., Bob Ferris of KABC reports, is the following: "Nominations for 1959 Nobel Peace Prize: F. Castro, Gov. Long, Gov. Faubus, Godzilla."


PUBLIC AT LARGE -- Toni Besset heard a customer in a Montebello market say to a clerk, "Just wait until my rich uncle gets out of the poorhouse -- I'll be rich, too!" . . . Tom Cracraft is surprised that the people responsible for TV westerns, after reworking the same tired old plots, haven't thought of his idea -- running them backward . . . June RossDrummond says the boat and swimming pool craze has reached the point that a person is considered neurotic if he isn't aquatic.