| 15 February 2010
On a lovely summer day in 1975, Lila Wallace taught five of her male colleagues a simple lesson in proper behavior. She had invited us to a luncheon at the Guest House to meet a “special person.” The “special person” turned out to be the recently-elected Miss America. Miss America at Reader’s Digest? As it happened, our gorgeous guest was also a student at Macalester College, and in view of the generous Wallace legacy at Macalester she had been asked to come to Pleasantville to pay her respects. (click Read More above)
When we men (Lila tended to invite men only to her luncheons, as befits a proper queen) assembled at noon in the main Guesthouse sitting room, Lila was already in place in her favorite wing chair by the fireplace. Miss America hadn’t arrived yet, so as drinks were delivered the five of us circled around Lila, babbling inanely as we always did in her presence. Then the guests arrived -- an older chaperon and a stunning Nordic creature who was a dead ringer for Brigitte Bardot.
Introductions were made, chairs assigned, more drinks brought out. We all sat down -- Lila at one end of the small room and Miss America and her chaperon at the other. And in between five stupefied males who should have known better. Lila had ordered her usual vodka martini, and a small plate of hors d’oeuvres had been placed at her right side. As the odd ritual unfolded, the chairs of all five men gravitated as if by lunar force toward the lovely and seductive Brigitte. But not for long.
“JOHN!” Our heads snapped in the direction of this harsh and unexpected sound. Lila Wallace was staring daggers at John Allen, her closest confidante among the five of us. Her martini glass was empty. The hors d’oeuvres had disappeared and the little plate was gripped in her right hand. And just that fast she sent the plate sailing across the room in the general direction of John’s head. He reached up and somehow snatched it from the air. He stared at it, and then at Lila. “Why, Lila,” he said, searching for the right word. “What a lovely ... toss! Would you ... um ... care for more hors d’oevres? Another drink?”As he spoke, his chair turned -- all our chairs turned -- and what had been a semicircle facing Miss America became a semicircle facing Lila Wallace. We all began to speak at once, and as we did Lila settled back with a satisfied smile. She was eighty-seven years old. Her eye makeup, excessive as it often was in those days, made her look vaguely like a raccoon. But her point had been made. There was only one Miss America in that room! And now, by God, we were looking at her!
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