BESS MYERSON
1924-2014

 

1924

Bess Myerson is born in the Bronx to Russian immigrants Louis and Bella Myerson.

1945

Becomes the first Jewish Miss America. During her tour as Miss America, she is prevented from speaking in certain venues across the country, because she is Jewish.   She becomes discouraged and returns home before the official end of her reign.  Shortly thereafter she is recruited by the Anti-Defamation League to speak out against discrimination.  She writes a speech entitled, “You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate” and, under the auspices of the ADL,  tours the country with it.  

1951

Begins a lucrative television career as the mistress of ceremonies, known as the “Lady in Mink,” for The Big Payoff.

1958-1967

Becomes is a regular panelist on I’ve Got a Secret.

1954-1968 

Co-hosts the Miss America pageant along with distinguished co-hosts such as Walter Cronkite, while also becoming active in New York City politics.

1969

Mayor John Lindsay appoints Bess Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, and she becomes the most visible city official apart from the mayor during the years she served under him, from 1969 to 1973. 

1979

Publishes The Complete Consumer.

1982

Co-authors The I Love New York Diet with Bill Adler, which reaches the New York Times best-seller list.

1977

Continues her career in city politics as the campaign chair for Ed Koch.

1980

Runs for U.S.Senate but loses in the primary.

1983

Appointed Commissioner of Cultural Affairs.  During her tenure from 1983 to 1987, she dramatically increases financial support to many of New York’s cultural institutions. 

1987

Myerson’s Mafia boyfriend Andy Capasso is indicted. An investigation into Myerson’s involvement finds her guilty of “serious misconduct.” She is subsequently indicted on six counts, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and mail fraud.

1988 

Acquitted of all charges. 

1998 

Serves as national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League and endows the ADL’s annual Bess Myerson Campus Journalism Award. Throughout the rest of her life, she continues her involvement with Jewish causes, acting as the spokeswoman for Israeli Bonds and the United Jewish Appeal.  She is instrumental in the founding of The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, which houses the Bess Myerson Film and Video Collection.

2014 

Bess Meyerson dies in Los Angeles.

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