Drop Dead, Gorgeous

Congratulations, you're Miss Arizona. Better keep your friends close and your enemies closer

Snair suggested that Rich liked things just as they were.

"Well," Trudy said blithely, "she might not be here forever!"

And that was a big mistake.

Monica Rich (left), with Kapri Rose, Miss Arizona 2001.
Lynn Ray
Monica Rich (left), with Kapri Rose, Miss Arizona 2001.
Trudy Hill at first found it hard to relate to Miss America's glamour.
Mark Skalny
Trudy Hill at first found it hard to relate to Miss America's glamour.

The next day, Snair called to say she couldn't come. And the day after that, Trudy and Fryer got a four-page e-mail from Laura Lawless, Miss Arizona 2002. (Lawless first agreed to an interview, then canceled after talking to Rich. She called Steve and Monica Rich "dear friends.")

Lawless wrote that she'd heard about the proposed meeting. "I was concerned," she wrote, "because I had not heard anything about this from Monica or Steve through whom -- as you well know -- any state activities must be cleared."

After a long digression about contract law, Lawless got to her point, kind of: "Word travels quickly in the intimate world of pageantry and it has been suggested that ideas are being sought for a contingency plan in the event of Monica's 'retirement.'"

If such plans were being made, Lawless wrote, "I believe the more correct characterization of such a meeting is mutiny."

Rich had long seemed paranoid, Fryer says. Each year, she would warn the state staff that there was no point in complaining to Miss America about anything, Fryer says. The national organization, she assured them, would immediately turn the complaint over to her.

Even Rich's friends had learned to be careful. Delia Mattice worked on the state staff with Rich and considered her a friend. But after Rich was promoted to director, she confronted Mattice with some perceived slight, screaming that Mattice had been trying to undermine her.

"I had no idea where this was coming from," Mattice recalls. "And once she gets an idea in her head, that's the only way it is. You can't sway her." Mattice quit soon after.

By that point, Trudy Hill was through with trying to be friends. But Fryer was intent on clearing her name.

She didn't have a chance.

She begged for a meeting to explain, but Granzella just wrote back tersely: "There will be no meeting." Boughan sent Lawless an e-mail defending her daughter and suggesting the whole thing was "junior highish," but she never got a response.

That spring, a new page appeared in the packet that the state gave local directors. It noted that each director's franchise was up for review. Miss Arizona had the right not to renew any local pageant "WITH OR WITHOUT GOOD CAUSE." (That part was underlined, too.)

All through pageant week, Fryer felt a palpable chill. Even Corrie, the reigning Miss Arizona, was getting snubbed. "There was just kind of this shoulder-turning," says Boucher, Miss Maricopa County. "It was obvious."

In August, Fryer got a certified letter informing her that her pageant, which sponsors Miss Mesa and Miss Maricopa County, had not been renewed. Her mother, who ran Miss Valley of the Sun and Miss Gilbert, got one, too, for good measure.

"I knew it was coming," Fryer says. "I could have quit. But I wanted to make a point. It was just such a slap in the face."

"There's been times it bothered me so much that I can't sleep at night," Boughan says. "It's not right."

Last summer, Trudy and Corrie Hill, Kapri Rose, and Cindy Boughan did what Monica Rich had always warned them not to do: They wrote letters to the Miss America Organization. Rose even included the story about Rich's talking to her church leadership.

Miss America didn't even investigate.

Marie Nicholes, director of field operations for Miss America, declined an interview, but answered some questions in writing. The organization received "not only letters of complaint, but letters of support and endorsement" for the Riches, she wrote. "The decision was made that there was not sufficient cause to warrant an investigation at present time."

As for Rose's complaint that Rich had contacted her church leadership, Nicholes wrote, "The alleged accusations were not predicated on tangible proof and therefore will not be recognized by this organization."

LeAnn Hendrix, Miss Arizona 1998, hasn't stayed up on pageant gossip lately. Her father died last year, and her grandfather recently suffered a stroke. Hendrix, who suffered a stroke herself a few years ago and now works in a dermatology-related field, has been busy.

She's still well aware of the battle that has ripped through Miss Arizona. Everyone is. But while she supports Steve and Monica Rich "100 percent," she says she hasn't talked to Monica about it.

Monica doesn't talk about it, Hendrix says.

"I can tell in the times I've seen her and spoken with her -- it's almost like her spirit is broken," she says. "She really just wants to make this one huge extended family."

High expectations, Hendrix says, may have been Corrie Hill's problem. "This is a pageant, and it can be an amazing steppingstone for young women, but you should just take it at face value: It's just a pageant!

"You can talk to any Miss Arizona. They'll tell you everything was not perfect. But you get over it."

Hendrix, who now lives in Ahwatukee, says she'd like to see everyone sit down and talk. She doesn't think it will happen. "There are so many vicious things that have been said. Sometimes anger goes away, but when you're hurt -- both for Steve and Monica and the other people in this, the hurt runs equally deep. And it gets to a point of no return."

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