I'm sharing a VERY-EMOTIONAL excerpt from My Book...an unresolved memory that will haunt me until I die. This incident took place shortly after I returned from The 1958 Miss America
"I picked up an already-opened envelope postmarked New York and removed a two-page telegram. One week before the Miss America Pageant,
I had appeared on several television shows in New York City including the Ed Sullivan Show and the Today Show.
Television and I were old
friends. As a senior in high school I had been chosen by the local ABC affiliate, KATV, to host a weekly television show called Coca Cola’s Search for Talent. Not only did I host the show every Saturday night but served as the show’s featured performer.
Slowly I read the telegram aloud. The Director of the Today Show congratulated me on being a pageant finalist and praised my recent Today Show interview. Then came the
surprise: “NBC invites you to audition for the Today Show’s First Female Hostess Position. NBC-New York will cover all your travel expenses including a round trip airline ticket and hotel accommodations.” When I finished reading the telegram
my father hugged me. “Baby, I’m so happy for you; it’s the break of a lifetime! You can work in television while you study music.”
My mother interrupted. “She most certainly can’t! Only whores and prostitutes accept offers from strangers in a place like New York City. You both are stupid, there is no audition! It’s just some ‘big shot’ dangling
a phony offer in front of a small-town ‘wannabe’ to get her in bed! I have the last word in this house and she’s not going anywhere!” I begged and pleaded, “Please, let me go; this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity! Please,
Mother, if I don’t try, I’ll never know if I could have made it.” I looked at my father. His eyes were focused on the floor; his strong shoulders drooped in defeat. As usual, our side lost.
One year or more after the telegram incident, The Today Show interrupted its regular programming to make a landmark announcement. I watched a smiling Dave Garroway, The Today's Show's Top Host-- accompanied
by a drum-roll-- introduce the show’s First Female Television Hostess-- Barbara Walters.
Decades later, sifting through a very old box of
personal papers and photos, I pulled out a tissue-thin telegram. Carefully unfolding the yellowed paper, I re- read the long-ago invitation from the Today Show. A few seconds later I heard the scream. One scream followed another as the little girl in me cursed my mother. As the last scream faded, I placed the telegram in the waste basket.
Unfortunately, I have more than enough reminders of what might have been...THANKS to my "Mother".