So sad! Bess Myerson, an actress, politician and civil rights activist who was crowned the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, has died at age 90.
Bess Myerson passed away at her home in Santa Monica, Calif. on Dec. 14, The New York Times reports. Her death was not confirmed until today, Jan. 5.
Bess Myerson Dead: First Jewish Miss America Dies At 90
Bess enjoyed a long career in the public eye, first as Miss America and as a TV personality, and later as a feminist icon and New York politician, before she was forced into obscurity by several political scandals.
The 5-foot-10, Bronx-born beauty famously parlayed her historic Miss America win into a successful stint as an actress and game show host in the 1950s and ’60s, before diving head first into a tumultuous political career that spanned decades.
Bess was appointed New York City’s chief consumer watchdog in 1969, and later helped Ed Koch win the bid for mayor of New York City in 1977. She ran for U.S. Senate from New York in 1980 but lost. But she was back in action three years later, when Ed appointed her Cultural Affairs commissioner of New York City.
The Bess Mess
Sadly, Bess’ image and career were destroyed in the mid-1980s after she became mired in a series of scandals that would become known as “The Bess Mess.”
Bess was revealed to be having an affair with a married man, Carl Andrew Capasso, and after invoking the fifth amendment during a 1986 “corruption probe” against her lover, she was investigated for “serious misconduct” and forced to resign from her position as Cultural Affairs commissioner in 1987. In 1988, Bess, Carl and a third party were tried on federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and using interstate facilities to violate state bribery laws. All three were aquitted of all the charges.
Despite her downfall, Bess is still remembered fondly by many who knew and loved her. According to Fox News, the Miss America Organization said in a statement Jan. 5: “Bess used her Miss America title to fight anti-Semitism and racial bigotry as she traveled around the country.”
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bess’ friends and family during this difficult time.
— Tierney McAfee