16th place – Anne Marie Pohtamo, Finland
(Our judges are: Greg Borowski, Willian Prendiz de Jurado, Edwin Toledo (Times of Beauty), Ricardo Guiraldes (Chilean Charm), Julio Rodriguez (Belleza Venezolana), Alberto Dubal (Miss Memorabilia), Jimmy Harris (Beauty School), Pepe Medel, Jean-Marie Vandecasteele, Andre Sleigh, Rose Foulger, Luis Trujillo. From GB, Ed Dominguez, Henrique Fontes, and Chris Kuntz)
The 24th edition of Miss Universe happened at the National Gymnasium, in San Salvador, El Salvador, on July 19, 1975. It was the first time that the pageant had more than 70 participants, 71 to be exact. Belize, Mauritius, Micronesia, and Samoa debuted. Bob Barker hosted the event.
Because of diplomatic issues between El Salvador and Honduras, the second one did not compete in Miss Universe 1975. Speaking of political tension, according to the New York Times, “while a worldwide television audience saw El Salvador’s sunny beaches before the “Miss Universe” finals July 19, off-camera heavily armed troops were called out to halt demonstrations by students protesting the Government’s expenditure of $1-million on the contest.” Protests took place in Santa Ana and San Salvador. Again, from the NY Times: “According to the military Government, which contended that the march was part of a “Communist plot,” one person was killed, five wounded, and 11 arrested. But according to the students, at least 12 persons were killed, 20 wounded, and 40 arrested.
If Yugoslavia and France were ignored by Miss Universe judges, in Miss International 1975 and 1976, respectively, their fate would be much happier: Lidija Vera Manić from Yugoslavia, and Sophie Sonia Perin from France, were both elected and crowned Miss International in Tokyo. Manic (1975) actually got to crown Perin (1976).
The number 1 favorite for the title in 1975 was Miss Venezuela, Maritza Pineda Montoya. Others favorite to capture the crown were Miss USA, Summer Bartholomew, Miss Sweden, Catharina Sjödahl, Miss Bolivia, Jacqueline Gamarra, Miss Finland, Anne-Marie Pohtamo, Miss Mexico, Delia Servin Nieto, Miss Israel, Orit Cooper, Miss England, Vicki Harris (2nd runner-up in Miss World 1975, as Miss UK), and Miss Colombia, Martha Lucia Echeverri.
The most applauded beauties during the parade of nations were the ones from El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, USA and Venezuela.
El Salvador was very careful when selecting the “hometown girl”: Carmen Elena Figueroa was a gracious hostess, very polite and well-educated, who came from a good family and spoke English fluently. It was no surprise to see her among the semi-finalists.
Marieta Arrieta, Miss Universe 1955’s 1st runner-up, and Luz Marina Zuluaga, Miss Universe 1958, from Colombia, were among the judges who selected Miss Universe 1975.
Other former titleholders present at the event were Gladys Zender (1957), Norma Nolan (1962), Corinna Tsopei (1964) and Kerry Ann Wells (1972).
Co-host Helen O’Connell did her best to promote the beauties of El Salvador, especially its beaches, some of which perfect for surfing, its volcanos, and historical sights.
Bob Barker announced the ‘top 12′, and they were: Haiti, Finland, El Salvador, Colombia, Philippines, England, Japan, Israel, Ireland, Brazil, Sweden and USA. The non-inclusion of Miss Venezuela was considered outrageous. In contrast, nobody expected Miss Haiti among the semi-finalists.
In the end, the so-celebrated Latin team stayed all behind when the 5 finalists were announced: Finland, Anne-Marie Pohtamo, Philippines, Rose Marie Singson Brosas, USA, Summer Bartholomew, Sweden, Catharina Sjödahl (the crowd favorite), and Haiti, Gerthie David, who proved to be very charming and elegant. Her speech about the Haitian superstitions swayed thunderous applause from the local audience and conquered the judges.
Miss Philippines was the 4th runner-up, Miss Sweden the 3rd (with loud protests by the crowd, who wanted to see her as the winner), Miss USA the 2nd, Miss Haiti, the 1st, and Miss Finland, Anne-Marie Pohtamo, was crowned Miss Universe 1975.
Amparo Muñoz, the Miss Universe 1974 who did not finish her reign, didn’t show up to crown Miss Universe 1975. Instead, it was Kerry-Ann Wells, Miss U72, who put the crown on Pohtamo’s head.
Finland, a country which had had the very first Miss Universe, back in 1952, and had been so successful in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, with 9 finalists, including three 1st runners-up, finally won its second Miss Universe crown.
As for Gerthie David, Miss Haiti, she made history by becoming the 2nd black woman to reach the 1st runner-up position in Miss Universe. She was one of the most exotic delegates in all history of Miss Universe. In the 1970s, Gerthie David, a model from Port-au Prince, became a role model and an idol to the Haitian youth.
Back to Pohtamo, she was a professional model, and always was a favorite. Her beauty and elegance more than justified her victory. Pohtamo later pursued a movie career. She married Arto Hietanen in 1980, and is a mother of four.
Special thanks to Alberto Dubal!
(Still competing – TOP 15 – 1953, 1961, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1987, 1989, 2000, 2001, 2002-dethroned Oxana, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010)