Drop Dead, Gorgeous

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

She is good friends with several former Miss Arizonas. But she's distanced herself from Corrie Hill and Kapri Rose. "How do you carry on a normal conversation with someone when you know they have so much animosity for someone you care about?" she says. "I don't want to get caught in the middle of it, but it's important to stay loyal."

The only board member who agreed to talk about the Riches, Nanci Wudel, called Monica Rich "proactive," "fair," and "a little dynamo." She adds, "And maybe people who are dynamos as well will butt heads with her."

Both Hendrix and Wudel insist Rich would never gossip. Wudel speculates that the anti-Rich faction is composed of sore losers. "Whether it's sour grapes, or stage mothers who thought their daughters should score higher than they did . . . you see so much of this."

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.

But Wudel can't explain why two of the loudest critics are Corrie Hill and Kapri Rose, two women who should have nothing to be sour about. "It is strange," she says.

"I don't know why there's this personal vendetta against Monica," she says. "I don't understand that."

The reigning Miss Arizona, Katherine Kennedy, did not return calls for comment.

Steve and Monica Rich initially agreed to an interview, but Steve Rich called the next day to say their lawyer had advised against it. He then faxed over a cheerful two-paragraph statement stating that the organization's status is "excellent," and the staff "is operating with extreme efficiency in a true spirit of cooperative volunteerism."

After New Times left a message with the organization's lawyer, Ilya Lerma, she replied with a fax of her own, threatening a libel suit.

Lerma, a former Miss Douglas, wrote that Miss America had "conducted investigations" in response to the letters it received and declined to take action. (Miss America, of course, says it never investigated.)

Lerma added, "I must assume that the materials made available to the New Times were provided by the disgruntled few former affiliates who seek to use your paper to work out their petty personal vendettas. I can assure you that for every one letter of spiteful and misleading information, there are ten others that can refute and support the leadership of this program."

Despite a written request to Lerma's office, no such letters were forthcoming.

And so Corrie Hill and Kapri Rose continue to talk about Monica Rich.

"Before this happened to my family, there were little groups of people who'd been cast out, but they were never united," Corrie Hill says, from her home in Colorado.

She's gotten married and started a career in banking. She's not giving up.

"People know us," she says. "And we're saying to them, 'You are not alone. If you want to help us out, come help.'"

Rose is less diplomatic. On the subject of Monica Rich, she says flatly, "I hate her."

But then she adds, "If I knew she wouldn't hurt another girl, I wouldn't care. She could stay. I just don't want anyone else to go through what I went through. Because it really, really was awful."

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