23rd place – Corinna Tsopei (Greece)
(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)
Miss Universe 1964, the 13th edition of the pageant, took place on August 1, 1964, at the Miami Beach Auditorium, in Miami Beach, USA. It was hosted by Jack Linkletter, and 59 nations’ representatives competed. Aruba, Grenada (first and only), Nigeria and Saint Vincent competed for the first time.
There were doubts about Miss Universe happening in Miami Beach again, the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, and Dade County, claimed they did not have the money to invest in the event that year. After much negotiation, they realized the exposure the region had been getting in the US and around the world (a television audience of about 60 million people) was priceless, and in the end, they kept the event, and it was one of the best of the decade.
It was the last time that the American and the foreign delegates competed simultaneously. Starting in 1965, Miss USA would be elected on a different event and date. In 1964 the “Little Miss Universe” contest was created, with girls from several countries competing. Aida Vargas, sister of Ieda Maria Vargas (Miss Universe 1963) competed and won the “Miss Hospitality” award.
Philip M. Bottfeld, executive director of Miss Universe, declared that the 1964 group of delegates had been the strongest one in history. Although that was a matter of personal taste, what was a fact was the the 1964 group was the most diverse Miss Universe had ever had. Miss Nigeria, for instance, was only the second black woman from Africa to compete in Miss Universe. Considered a true queen back home, Miss Nigeria was sure that she was going to win. When she did not even place among the semi-finalists, she passed out, and then cried out loud, saying she could not understand what had gone wrong. Her stress was such, that Miss Nigeria needed to be hospitalized!
The 1964 edition of Miss Universe had a formula of dispute similar to today’s. Fifteen semi-finalists were selected, then 10, and finally the winner and her runner-ups were announced.
The two big press favorites were both Mediterranean stunners: Greece’s Corinna Tsopei, and Israel’s Ronit Rechtman. It was always believed one of the two would walk away with the crown and sash of Miss Universe 1964.
Other favorites from Europe were Misses Sweden, Finland, England, Germany, Spain, and Holland. From Latin America, the front-runners were Misses Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Uruguay and Brazil (Miss Brazil spoke five languages fluently and helped most candidates communicating among themselves and with the press). From Asia, Misses Japan and Philippines were the most commented, and finally there was Miss New Zealand, a charming blond who was ignored by Miss Universe judges, but who would later that year be one of Miss World’s finalists (4th runner-up).
Two former Misses Universe declared their favorites as well: for Peru’s Gladys Zender, Miss Universe 1957, Miss Sweden should be the winner. In Brazil’s Ieda Maria Vargas opinion, it was Miss Greece who should succeed her.
Alleging that Miss Universe was a “jail”, Miss Scotland Doreen Swan escaped from the pageant with the help of her boyfriend. She was replaced by Wendy Barrie, Miss Scotland International 1963.
The election of Miss USA was surrounded with controversies. The big favorite, Miss Alabama, was just a semi-finalist, while the winner, Miss District of Columbia, Barbara ‘Bobbi” Johnson, was not expected even as a semi-finalist! It was one of the hugest upsets in Miss USA’s history.
Gladys Zender (1957), Luz Marina Zuluaga (1958), Akiko Kojima (1959) and Norman Nolan (1962), were all guests of honor in the pageant. Luz Marina, the 1958 winner, was a judge – the only woman in the panel of judges, along with 8 men.
The 15 semi-finalists were Misses Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, England, Finland, France, Greece, Israel, Italy (Miss Photogenic), Norway, Paraguay, Rep. Of China (Taiwan), Sweden, USA & Venezuela. Bolivia, Paraguay and Republic of China were the big surprises of the night.
In addition to Miss Nigeria, who had to be taken to a hospital, Miss Japan also cried a lot for not placing. Miss Philippines was clearly mad and openly said she did not agree with the judges’ choices, mostly questioning Miss Republic of China instead of her as Asia’s representative in Miss U’s semi-finals.
But the show had to go on, and only 10 remained after a second cut. They were: Argentina, England, Finland, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, Rep. Of China and Sweden. Miss USA and 4 South American candidates, including the very elegant Miss Venezuela, and brainy Miss Brazil (she spoke 5 languages, studied Philosophy and Arts, and had lived in Germany), two beauties who many thought would reach the Top 5.
The crowd was divided between Greece and Israel, but Israel at that point was the #1 favorite for the crown.
Miss Republic of China (Taiwan) broke all the odds and finished as 4th runner-up; beautiful Miss Sweden was the 3rd runner-up; Miss Israel was announced as 2nd runner-up, originating loud protests by the crowd; a surprising Miss England was the 1st runner-up; and having gotten 5 out of 9 first place-votes, Miss Greece was crowned as Miss Universe 1964!
Miss Israel did not take her defeat easily, and cried a lot after the pageant.
The new Miss Universe, Greece’s Corinna Tsopei, was 19 years old. Not only beautiful, the Greek representative had a strong character, was very intelligent, and mastered the runway like few. As Miss Universe, she traveled the world and was always ready to take on her duties.
Anamaria Cumba mentioned in her book “The World of Miss Universe” that Corinna had had one of her lungs removed, which never stopped her from attending her many activities as Miss Universe (although always with special care). Cumba also mentioned that she was a lovely titleholder, who she liked a lot.
Months before the Miss Universe pageant, a gypsy woman approached Tsopei in Athens to read her palm and told her: “You will be chosen as the most beautiful girl in the world”. A journalist from Kansas who was present on the occasion, reported it when he learned she had actually been crowned as Miss Universe. Corinna confirmed the story!
She pursued a movie career, appearing in a few Hollywood movies and television series such as A Man Called Horse, Daniel Boone, Lost in Space, Valley of the Dolls and A Guide for the Married Man. Apart from her beauty pageant work and acting career, Corinna also is a chairman for an organisation for children with leukemia. Tsopei was married to Hollywood Super Agent Freddie Fields, brother of band leader Shep Fields.
Special thanks to Alberto Dubal!