California Rachel's other Oregon pageant
If Oregon seems a little off-kilter this morning, maybe it's because for the first time in memory, there is no reigning Miss Oregon. The Miss Oregon who won the title on June 30, Rachel Berry, resigned nearly four days ago after this blog demonstrated that she did not meet the residency requirement for the position and thus was ineligible to compete.
Remembering the speech Bert Parks used to make just before announcing the last results at Miss America, we assumed that the first runner-up in the Miss Oregon contest, Nichole Mead of Newport, would promptly be named Berry's successor. But here it is more than half a week later and there's been no announcement confirming that. It's puzzling, but not as puzzling as the circumstances surrounding the Berry fiasco. We're still scratching our head about how she was allowed to compete if she was not eligible.
We suggested last week that the directors of the Miss Oregon pageant be pressed to come forth with an explanation, but none has been forthcoming and readers have suggested that none will be. Another group that ought to have some questions posed to it is the local pageant that Berry won here in the Portland area on April 21. The main point of that local pageant is to send three or four women to the state contest in Seaside, and so if Berry wasn't eligible to compete in the state competition, why was she allowed in the local? In her only on-camera appearance so far in the Berry flap, Miss Oregon head honcho Dana Phillips blamed the local pageant director.
The local affiliate of the Miss America organization is called Miss Three Rivers. This year it awarded three titles in its senior division: Miss Three Rivers, Miss Willamette Valley, and Miss Portland. Its website banner alludes to a Miss Clackamas instead of a Miss Willamette Valley, but no Miss Clackamas was crowned this year. Berry won Miss Willamette Valley. Mead won Miss Three Rivers and shows up higher than Berry on the winners' list. Miss Portland was won by Kaitlin Endres. First runner-up, who should have gone to Seaside had Berry not done so, was Ashley Cranston.
The information sheet and registration form for Miss Three Rivers is here. It points out that any winner of the local contest must attend the entire week of Miss Oregon in June as well as something called Miss Oregon Pageant Camp in May. Presumably that means as a contestant, which necessarily implies that one would have to be eligible to compete for Miss Oregon; links are provided to the Miss Oregon and Miss America websites, which both show the residency requirements. Curiously, however, there's no discussion of residency on the Miss Three Rivers entry form.
There is a separate page on the Miss Three Rivers website with eligibility rules set out. They state:
Here is where things get odd indeed. The six-month residency rule is clearly set out for Miss Portland and Miss Clackamas, but there's nothing about length of residency for Miss Three Rivers or Miss Willamette Valley. Why is that?
Contestants in those last two competitions are advised to direct eligibility questions to the pageant director, Julie Fleck. Fleck, who gives a Happy Valley address on this state filing, is not only the director of the pageant, but also the mother of Miss Oregon 2005, Lucy Fleck. Did Berry ask Julie Fleck about eligibility in the state meet, and if so, what did Fleck tell her? And how could someone become Miss Willamette Valley and not be eligible to go to Miss Oregon?
The Miss Three Rivers information sheet has two other names on its masthead: Vicki Mills-O'Donnell and Yvonne Peebles. This duo is part of a threesome that runs a local children's theater program known as Krayon Kids. (The troupe performs in the same Oregon City theater in which the Miss Three Rivers shindig is held.) Perhaps Mills-O'Donnell or Peebles can shed some light on what was said between Miss Three Rivers and Berry. Finally, the state corporate filing shows the secretary of Miss Three Rivers to be Pam Stauffer of Vancouver, Washington.
One thing is for certain: If Berry or either of the pageants ever comes clean on what happened, it is going to be hard for any of them, including Berry, to plead ignorance of the rules. Fleck and Phillips are both long-time veterans of the pageant scene. And Berry was actively coached and mentored by Connie Benson, a California attorney and former Astoria pageant winner, who currently directs the Miss City of Orange pageant and the Miss Orange County pageant, both of which Berry previously won. (In another on a growing list of curiosities, the copyright notice on the Miss City of Orange home page lists Benson's mother, Lynda Benson of Prineville, Oregon, as copyright owner.) In any event, ignorance of the rules, even if it were an excuse, does not seem a plausible factor in what happened. (Our prior stories linked here.)