Anita Bryant and I both competed for the title of Miss America, 1958.
As Miss Arkansas and Miss Oklahoma, we were invited back to the pageant the next year to serve as entertainers. Through the years, we have continued to serve as...friends.
"We had just started unpacking when Anita pulled out the tickets. “Surprise!” she threw the tickets on the bed. “He’s invited us for tonight's opening performance and we have front row seats!” Anita’s friend was performing
at Atlantic City’s famous Steel Pier and three hours later, I was alone with her friend and America’s number-one heartthrob, Ricky Nelson.
For the first time in months
I laughed, had fun, and felt completely happy. Midnight came too soon and, hand-in-hand, we walked the deserted boardwalk back to my hotel. Rickie surprised me with several romantic kisses before asking to see me the next evening. With lips still tingling,
I danced off the elevator and down the hall to my room.
If only I could have ignored the note taped to my hotel door telling me to return my mother’s phone call. When my mother
delivered her happy news…I wanted to run away: “Tomorrow, Jack is flying to Atlantic City to surprise you. Take him to the fancy parties, find him a good seat in the auditorium, and introduce him to lots of important people. It’s a big deal
for Jack so--- behave yourself and when you see him.... act surprised!” Devastated, I left a phone message for Ricky, cancelling our date for the next night. Deep inside, I knew this moment would be one my life’s biggest regrets. Like ships
passing in the night, our paths never crossed again.
Jack arrived the next morning, looking like a poster boy for the quote: “You can take the boy out
of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” His shoes were un-shined, his socks were dirty white, and he wore a cheap, faded, wash and wear suit. His first words were memorable: “God damn, everything about this place is
expensive and everywhere I look some money-hungry Jew’s trying to pick my pocket! I hope you know the damn plane ticket was my salary for the next two months and I still have to pay for the train-trip home!!” At that moment, all my windows of opportunity
slammed shut---and all my good times ended.
The week couldn’t have been more devastating. Jack’s sudden appearance ruined my hopes for auditions, singing offers,
and any future in New York City. I felt defeated, more hopeless and helpless than at any point in my youth.
So.... I lost my virginity in a roomette, on a fast-moving
train from Atlantic City bound for Little Rock. Good lyrics for a country song, right? Like an escaped prisoner being returned to Arkansas’s death row, I chose to submit rather than struggle. Two weeks before the wedding, I went “all the
way” with a person who kissed badly, ignored foreplay, and satisfied no one but himself. Afterward, he apologized for not having a bigger “weapon.” For a man almost ten years older than me--- with years of sexual conquests--- someone who
considered himself an expert on female anatomy--- Jack knew absolutely nothing about what Southern Men refer to as “priming the pump.”
Follow-up: Many years have passed since that awful memory. During those years I've learned a lot about life and love and men.....and… one valuable truth: When a woman’s breathless with
excitement, overwhelmed with passion, and primed for the Grand Finale.....she isn’t thinking about the size of the equipment.....she’s only interested in how well it performs!"