Article Pixel

Producer Suzi Dietz announced today that on the heels of its successful run in Los Angeles, Miss America's Ugly Daughter written and performed by Bess Myerson's only child, Barra Grant, will open in New York this winter. Miss America's Ugly Daughter is a darkly comedic, poignant two character solo show about the seismic mother-daughter relationship of Bess Myerson and Barra Grant and will be directed by Eve Brandstein.

Miss America's Ugly Daughter will begin performances at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater (10 W 64th Street) on Saturday, December 28, 2019, with an official opening night set for Friday, January 17, 2020. It will run through March 1, 2020.

Tickets can be purchased at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/2151/1575176400000

Bess Myerson was the first and only ever Jewish Miss America. She was famous; she was infamous. She had it all... until she fell in love with the wrong man and lost her reputation and a little of her mind.

Her daughter, Barra, was an awkward child who was not equipped to wear tiaras. As Barra takes us on the journey of her life, Bess is ever-present, fixated on "improving" Barra by molding her into a version of herself. Her advice is not very helpful... as Barra wages a feisty struggle, trying to fit in at school, meet the right man, find a career and forge her own place in the universe.

Born July 16, 1924, in the Bronx to Russian immigrants Louis and Bella Myerson, Bess Myerson grew up with her two sisters and lived in the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative, which housed 250 Jewish working-class, politically liberal families. As a student at the High School of Music and Art, Myerson studied the piano and the flute. Myerson began studying piano when she was nine years old and was in the second class of New York's High School of Music and Art in 1937, graduating in 1941. She went on to Hunter College, graduating with honors in 1945 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music. To support herself and her family while in college, she gave piano lessons for fifty cents an hour and worked as a music counselor at a girl's summer camp in Vermont.

In 1945, Bess was a contestant in the Miss America pageant. Although some of the judges received anonymous phone calls warning them not to vote for the Jewish contestant, Myerson was the favorite and won over the judges with her dark-haired beauty and musical talent. As the first Jewish Miss America, during her tour, she was prevented from speaking in certain venues across the country, because she was Jewish. She became discouraged and returned home before the official end of her reign. Shortly thereafter, she was recruited by the Anti-Defamation League to speak out against discrimination. She wrote a speech entitled, "You Can't Be Beautiful and Hate" and, under the auspices of the ADL, toured the country with it.

Myerson married Allan Wayne, a recently discharged U.S. Navy captain. They had one daughter, Barbara, born in 1948. The marriage was marred by domestic violence and the couple divorced after eleven years. In 1951, she began a lucrative television career as the mistress of ceremonies, known as the "Lady in Mink" for The Big Payoff and in 1958 she was a regular panelist on I've Got a Secret. From 1954-1968, Bess co-hosted the Miss America pageant along with distinguished co-hosts such as Walter Cronkite and Ronald Reagan, while also becoming active in New York City politics. In 1969, Mayor John Lindsay appointed Bess Commissioner of New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs and became the most visible city official. In her consumer affairs position, which she held until 1973, she became a pioneer in consumer protection law. Throughout the late 1970s and the beginning of his mayoral ambitions, Myerson was a frequent public companion of then-Congressman Ed Koch and later chaired his successful 1977 campaign for New York City mayor. In 1982, Bess co-authored the "I Love New York Diet" with Bill Adler, which reached the New York Times best-seller list.

In 1980, Bess vied for the Democratic nomination in New York's U.S. Senate race against Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, Queens District Attorney John J. Santucci, and Lindsay. Myerson lost to Holtzman by a slim margin. Then in 1982, she was appointed Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. During her tenure, she dramatically increased financial support to many of New York's cultural institutions.

In 1987, Bess became romantically involved with a married sewer contractor, Carl Andrew Capasso. It soon emerged that Hortense Gabel (the judge involved in Capasso's divorce case) had started socializing with Myerson. Judge Gabel's daughter (Sukhreet) was also hired by Myerson. After Gabel cut Capasso's child support payments, investigations began as to whether or not she had been bribed. In April of 1987, after she invoked the Fifth Amendment, Myerson was forced to resign her position with the Koch administration. The scandal became known as the "Bess Mess." An investigation was made into Myerson's involvement, which found her guilty of "serious misconduct." She was subsequently indicted on six counts, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and mail fraud, on October 3, 1987. However, she was acquitted of all charges in December 1988.

Following her acquittal, Bess served as the national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League and endowed the ADL's annual Bess Myerson Campus Journalism Award. Throughout the rest of her life, she continued her involvement with Jewish causes, acted as a spokeswoman for Israeli Bonds and the United Jewish Appeal. She was instrumental in founding of the Museum of Jewish Heritage on New York City, which houses the Bess Myerson Film and Video Collection.

On December 13, 2014, Bess Myerson passed away in Santa Monica, California.

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You