towns may have their Onion (or Corn or Potato or Other Vegetable)
Festivals, Downtown Daze, Sidewalk Fests, Wing Ding Days, Whoop-Dee-Doo Jamborees,
and Rooster-Ramas, but there has never been anything to match the one and
only, first (and last) Miss Flying Saucer Contest in Centerboro, New York. Of
course, not many other towns have been visited by extra-terrestrials who would
have naturally inspired such an event, so perhaps the uniqueness of the Centerboro
contest is understandable.
Martian visitation, while certainly a scientific curiosity, was also a big social
event and commercial opportunity for many Centerboro residents and businesses,
my own included as you can see below in the poster which hung in the store windows
all along downtown Main Street during April and May of 1955. There was considerable
grumbling about the "racy pinup" from a couple of the local churches and a fussy
proto-feminist women's social group, the long extinct Ladies' Literary Society
of Centerboro. Some members of certain congregations and the LLSC raised quite
the large stink and threatened to boycott the stores which displayed the poster,
but since almost all the downtown stores displayed the poster and because
the shopping wasn't particularly good in neighboring towns, the principle of the
thing was, as usual, quickly overshadowed by the practicalities, and the whole
rumpus blew over. I understand, though, that the poster became a much-coveted
"collectible" among the young men of Centerboro, and that a cropped version has
been seen on eBay at least once. Of course, I kept my original poster,
and it is not for sale at any price, so don't ask.
contest ran during the weekend of the big Centerboro-Tushville baseball game.
It was open to never-been-married Oteseraga County females of good character between
the ages of 18 and 25, and I can't remember more contestants entering any other
pageant or contest that took place in Centerboro before or ever since. I must
say that most of the contestants should have stayed home; however, the winner,
Francine Margarine, and the first runner-up, Priscilla Belette, sure were "lookers"--and
talented, too! Miss Belette was an accomplished baton-twirler and tap dancer.
Miss Margarine was a splendid classical pianist. Given the intellectual level
and artistic sensibilities of most of the residents of Oteseraga County, Miss
Belette would have been the hands-down winner--had the hoi polloi judged
the contest, that is, and were it not for the influence that Miss Margarine's
wealthy father exerted among the pols, merchants, and second-tier wealthy and
prestigious among the county's "elite" class, such as it was, who comprised the
panel of judges. There was one Martian judge on the panel, but he simply
voted along with the crowd, although a certain incident (described in the interview)
may have prejudiced him against Miss Belette.
daughter, who, I suppose, could have won the contest on her own merits
anyway, certainly did win the contest on her father's say-so. After the
contest, there was however not one single published letter to the editor, of course.
There were no petitions. The common folk, ever suspicious and jealous of the powerful
and wealthy, were just as meekly craven in the face of that power and wealth as
they always have been and always will be, and so they contented themselves with
snide grousing in diners, on street corners, and over backyard fences for about
a week or so. But their discontent died quickly away to be replaced by morbid
curiosity when Francine suddenly vanished about a week after the contest--a curiosity
which has never been satisfied since the case is still open. But that's a story
for another time.
you proceed to the interview, please note that I am hereby issuing a bad language
advisory. Miss Belette is not a cultured person--indeed, she is rather vulgar
and even irreverent at times. Rather than "bleep" her profane assaults upon common
decency, I have left them in to preserve her authentic voice, coarse as it is.
But be warned! I must also warn you that there is a certain incoherence
to the interview owing to Miss Belette's tendency to wander off the mark--sometimes
for some distance. I make no apology. I simply state the fact.
In Its Entirety
EHA: Good morning,
Miss Belette. It's a pleasure to speak with you about the Miss Flying Saucer
Contest after all these years. I know that my readers will be very interested
in what you have to say about it, and I'd like to thank you very much for
consenting to talk with me today. May I record this session?
Miss Belette: Is that
there thing the recorder? Jeez, it's really small. An' hey, Eddie, what's
with "Miss Belette"? Call me "Pris" like everybody. Everybody calls me "Pris,"
so you, too.
EHA: Well, we
really don't know each other that well. If you don't mind, we'll keep it
formal, all right?
Miss Belette: Whatever,
Eddie. You got readers? You work for the paper, hey? Since when?
EHA: That would be "Mr.
Anderson," and I have a website.
Miss Belette: Sure,
sure, Mister Anderson. A website, hey? What's that? You a spider
or somethin'? (Laughs)
EHA: It's rather
complicated, and I don't think now's the time to get into a technical discussion,
so if you don't mind, I'd like to begin by asking you a few questions about
Miss Belette: I'm not
stupid, Eddie...I mean, Mister Anderson. Websites got somethin'
to do with those computers, right?
EHA: That's right, but
about the contest--
Miss Belette: And computers,
they kinda all hook up together, right?
EHA: Right, but--
Miss Belette: So that's
a website, right? You know, all hooked up together like?
EHA: Uh...O.K., right.
That's a website. That's what I have. And I'm going to put our interview on the
website so my readers can see what you have to say about the contest.
Miss Belette: Can they
hear it, too?
EHA: Hear what?
Miss Belette: What I
got to say 'bout the contest.
EHA: No, they won't
be able to hear it. They'll read it. On the website.
Miss Belette: Well,
that's good, 'cause I don't sound too good anymore. It's these goddam cigarettes.
Just can't give 'em up. Jeez, y'know, there wasn't no Sturgeon General's warning
on the goddam things when I started smokin'. Let's see now, that'd be...about...well,
I was, what?--twenty in 1955? And I started smokin'--what was it, LS/MFT...Lucky
Strikes Mean Fine Tobacco?--right, Lucky Strikes when I was sixteen, and I'm about
65 now, and no lung cancer, so then, it's 1999 right? An' ninety-nine minus sixteen...wait
a minute...that's not right, 'cause I--
me, Miss Belette, please. Could we get on with the interview?
Miss Belette: Oh, sure,
sure, Eddie. Go right ahead. Fire away. I'm all ears. Glad to help. Be
my guest. How old are you, Eddie? You look pretty good. What're
you? 'Bout 80, 85--what? You go about 200, right? Little bit tubby?
EHA: Uh, that's
not relevant. Now, I'd just like to ask--
Miss Belette: And they
wouldn't be seein' anything either, like on TV, right? 'Cause computers
got TVs hooked up to them, but they're not real TVs to watch shows on,
EHA: Right. No shows
like on TV. Right. So let's--
Miss Belette: Well,
that's good 'cause I don't look too good neither if I gotta be honest.
Y'know, it's all that goddam fat in all the food that tastes good--the
food, not the fat, I mean--not like that health food tofu stuff crap. I
mean, I use to look real good, remember? Jeez, what'd I weigh then--'bout
108 maybe, I think it was--or what, maybe 110 tops? And I was 5' 8", but now I'm
more like 5' 6" an' I must go about--whatsis, 135, 140, I dunno--what? Forget
about tap dancin' now! I'm lucky to haul my caboose outta bed without fallin'
on my keister nowadays. And I was like almost the Queen of the Flying
Saucers, right? Jeez, it's just like yesterday, ain't it? Hey, you want
a Sprite or Coke or somethin'? Y'know they don't even have Fresca anymore
down at the store.
EHA: No, no thank you.
Now about the contest--
Miss Belette: Oh, the
contest--that! I try not thinkin' 'bout that too much I get so goddam
mad. The doc says, "You better watch your blood pressure," but do I listen? Hell
no, I don't. Y'know, I was robbed. Oooooo, that Francine with her little
snoot in the air an' her big, fat, rich daddy! I can just see her prancin' 'n'
flouncin' around Main Street in that convertible she had that her daddy gave her.
I mean I never even got a car ever. I take the bus or I walk. I walk all
over, Eddie. I must of walked a million miles my whole life. You'd think I'd be
able to keep the weight off, but nooooo...I just keep pilin' on the flab.
Whatta they call it now--cellu-something or other? Jeez, my ankles get
so swollen up. It's real tragic when you think about it. (Stands up) Hooo, boy!
I mean, whaddya think, Eddie? Jeez, will you look at them
varicose veins! I oughta have 'em took care of, but I can't afford it. You know
what it costs to get them veins stripped? Ain't it a shame...although I do have
my admirers. I haven't exactly been lonesome all these years, now have
I? (Laughs and winks)
EHA: I wouldn't know,
Miss Belette. Could we please focus on--
Miss Belette: I mean,
boy, could I tell you some stories 'bout some of them "respectable"
fellas you wouldn't believe. Some of 'em were real peculiar. Hey, that
reminds me! Lemme tell you 'bout this once when Mr.--
me, Miss Belette, but I think we're straying off the topic which is the
1955 Miss Flying Saucer Contest. Please, could we concentrate on that?
Miss Belette: Oh, yeah.
Well, O.K., Eddie. Whatever you say. You sure you don't want a drink? I
got a root beer I think someplace, too. Or somethin' to eat? Lemme think now.
I got some baloney yesterday I could fry up for you for a sandwich in a
jiffy. Now what was the question?
EHA: I don't
think that I've actually asked one yet.
Miss Belette: Well,
what 'bout the sandwich then? You want one or not? C'mon, c'mon,
Eddie, I ain't got all day. Either way I'm going to make one for myself,
so's no problem to make two. (Goes to refrigerator) I fry 'em just till
the edge gets just a little black...that O.K. with you?
EHA: Miss Belette?
Miss Belette: I think
I got some potato salad in here someplace I made the other day. Where the hell
is it? C'mon now, don't make me eat alone. Jeez, where is that goddam
baloney! Wait a minute. That reminds me. I gotta write this down before I forget.
(Writes) "Get rye bread." There. Now where was I?
EHA: Miss Belette,
over here. You were going to answer a question.
That's right! Sure, O.K., Eddie, let 'er rip. You bet!
EHA: Well, to
begin, what made you enter the Miss Flying Saucer contest?
I got bread.
Miss Belette: I forgot
I already got rye bread. I got it yesterday an' it's still in the bag on
the back porch. I hate them plastic bags. They don't stand up nice like
paper bags, floppin' all over the place 'n' spilling out things. Now what were
EHA: Why did
you enter the Miss Flying Saucer contest?
That's a good question, Eddie. To this day I don't know the
Miss Belette: That's
right. I don't know why I got in the contest. I just did.
(Yawns) Excuse me. (Yawns) Hooo-eeee!
EHA: Oh. Well,
could you describe for me how it felt to participate in such a unique event?
Miss Belette: How d'ya
EHA: How did
you feel about being in the contest? What was it like?
Did I tell you about the prize I won?
EHA: No, not yet. We
were going to talk about how you--
Well, c'mon already--ask me. Go ahead.
EHA: All right.
What prize did you win?
Miss Belette: You know,
Eddie, I usually take a nap right 'round now. I get so tired, an'
I don't know why. Hang on a minute here. I gotta go flip the baloney, an' then
I'll tell you 'bout the prize. I love it when the baloney looks like a little
sombrero, don't you? Hah! Sometimes I poke a hole in it, right there, to
let the steam out an' sometimes I don't. There, see the steam? Hah! We're talking
about the prize, right? See, I was paying attention! Well, it was a lousy
fifty dollar gift certificate at the Busy Bee. Big deal! Miss Francine
got a hundred bucks at fancy-schmantzy Stott 'n' Brean's an' a ride down Main
Street in a big parade with a big crown on her big head. She got a--whaddyacallit,
a...a...thing like a baton that the queen would carry. It starts with "s"
or...or...I don't know what the hell. I hadda follow her big car in another car,
and mine was no fancy convertible, just...Whoa! Do you smell that, Eddie?
It's the cat. Come here, kitty, kitty, kitty. Come right over here to mama,
sweetie puss. That's mama's good boy. Now look right here, Eddie. You see
right here on his rear end...right here under his tail--look!...do
you think that's a boil? It sure looks like a boil to me! Jeez, it sure
smells, don't it, the poor guy? I wonder if--
Belette...please. The prize?
Miss Belette: Should
I take him to the vet, you think? He's had this boil thingy for 'bout a week
now, an' the poor guy's so restless he keeps me up half the night with--
EHA: Miss Belette, I'm
not qualified to diagnosis your cat's...your cat's rear end. Yes, take
him to the vet right after I leave. Now, about the prize...
Miss Belette: It was
a lousy fifty dollar gift certificate at the Busy Bee. Big deal! Miss Francine
got a hundred bucks at fancy-schmantzy Stott 'n' Brean's an' a ride...
EHA: You already
Miss Belette: Wha...?
What? I did? When?
EHA: Yes, you
did. Just now.
Isn't that the weirdest thing? That's remarkable! How much?
EHA: How much?
How much do I get paid for this?
EHA: Well, actually
nothing. I'm just interviewing you for--
A hundred bucks!
EHA: A hundred
bucks! Are you...? That's out of the question!
Miss Belette: OK. Fifty,
then. Take it or leave it.
EHA: If I give you twenty
dollars, will you promise to concentrate and answer the questions?
Miss Belette: You bet,
Eddie. Go right ahead. Fire away! I'm all ears.
EHA: I would
like to know what you thought of the Martian judge.
Miss Belette: Martian
judge? That goddam bug? I'll tell you what I thought! Let's
see, there was the high school principal--what's his name. Griply? And then there
was...there was Mr. Metacarpus, I think. He looked like a walrus, didn't
he? He'd chew on the ends of his mustache. An' there was...that guy...you
know? Jeez, I can't remember too good who else there was that judged. But
all of 'em was bought off.
EHA: And the
Right...the bug. "Squaggelly."
Yep. That's a word I made up for the bugs.
EHA: What does
it mean exactly?
Miss Belette: Well,
I don't really remember. I think maybe it might mean...no, it wouldn't
mean that. You know, Eddie, I conked that little bastard right on the noggin.
I went over real friendly like an' petted him nice on his head before
the bathing beauty part, an'he goes 'n' grabs my arm 'n' bites
me right here on the wrist. Just look right here, Eddie! Just look at
this--you can still see the scar. Looks just like a...well, like maybe....Anyway,
he hung right on like a bulldog, an' I had to smash his head to make him
let go. Bent one of those antennas right over! I mean, Jeez, what the hell!
You try and be friendly an' look what you get. That goddam bite itched
like hell for a coupla weeks! Still itches! Just a minute now. I gotta make my
sandwich. Sure you don't want one, Eddie? I'll just have to give the other slice
to the cat if you don't eat it. No? Well, I'll just eat it myself, then! There's
nothing like fried baloney, but Jeez, I sure wish I hadda beer. You a drinkin'
man, Eddie? Wanna split one with me? I think I got a frosty one in the fridge.
EHA: Was the
Martian molting at the time, did you notice?
Miss Belette: Molting?
EHA: Never mind. It
doesn't matter. Now I'd like to ask--
Miss Belette: Hey, how
much longer you gonna be here, Eddie? I'm gettin' kinda tuckered out. An' I got
things to do, y'know. I gotta take the cat and do some sweepin'.
EHA: Well, I have several
other questions I'd like to ask you if you feel up to it.
Miss Belette: I got
some ginger ale if you don't wanna beer. Hey, maybe you could help me balance
my checkbook before you go? I got all the checks right over here from the last
three months. You could drink a ginger ale or a beer and--
EHA: After Francine
vanished, they offered you the crown as the first runner-up. Why did you refuse
to take over as Miss Flying Saucer?
Miss Belette: Hey, I
got my pride. I'm not just your average nobody! If I wasn't good
enough for them to begin with, I don't want no table scraps, if you follow my
drift. Y'know, there ain't too many gals who could tap dance an' twirl a baton
at the same time. Didja see the sequins on my suit? I mean, I was
gorgeous! Boy, I had great legs! I didn't miss one step an' I didn't
drop once. Not once! An' what was that funeral song that Francine
played? Jeez, I thought I was at some funeral parlor 'stead of a contest
or somethin'. You gotta be kiddin' me that I lost. But money talks, right,
Eddie? Am I right or what? (Yawns) Anyway, I got the crown.
EHA: You got
Miss Belette: Yep. I
swiped it right outta the back seat of Miss Francine's fancy parade car
when nobody was lookin'. (Yawns) I forget where I got it now. Maybe it's up in
the attic with all my good stuff. It's hot as hell up there. My records got all
wobbly up there 'cause of the heat. You wanna go see, Eddie?
EHA: I can see
that you're getting tired, Miss Belette. I think I've taken up enough of
your time for one day. Perhaps I can come back another time to finish the
Hundred bucks! Take it or leave it!
EHA: Well, I
think we said twenty, not a hundred. Thanks again, Miss Belette. I must
be going, really. Thank you very much for your time. It's been a
Miss Belette: You bet,
Eddie. Likewise, I'm sure. Hah! C'mon now, fork over the twenty, an'
I don't take no checks! Now just you wait before you go and get up. I don't know
what you're in such a all-fire big hurry for! I got somethin' for you here
somewheres. (Rummages through a pile of papers on her coffee table). Hooo, boy!
Here it is! Or is this the one? Nope, this one here is the one. Now just
lookit this! This is me back in nineteen-somethin' at the old Opera House.
Remember that place, Eddie? It smelt like stale popcorn 'n' pee, remember? It's
a good thing they tore it down. Before that it was better, before the strippers,
I mean, when nice people could go there for entertainment an' it didn't
smell so bad. By the way, if anybody tells you I did some strippin' there, just
don't believe everythin' you hear. I mighta done some artistic dancin'
now 'n' then, but...anyhoo, here's me waitin' for a toss to come down.
Can you believe those legs? I sure wish I....Well, hellooo there,
EHA: Thanks again, Miss
Belette, and thanks for the snapshot. Maybe I'll put it on my website. I'll be
getting back to you soon. 'Bye for now!
(Note: You may view the snapshot
on Picture Page 26. To go directly to my second interview
with Miss Belette, click here.)