Sunday, September 17, 1995

Miss Oklahoma took the famous walk down the runway in Atlantic City last night as she won the 1996 Miss America Pageant.
“I don’t believe this,” gasped Shawntel Smith who turned 24 yesterday as her name was announced.
Smith won the 75th anniversary pageant shortly after the conclusion of the traditional swimsuit parade by the competition’s 10 finalists which proceeded as usual after Americans, via telephone poll, voted overwhelmingly not to discard it.
Nearly 900,000 persons called in to vote yea or nay on the swimsuit question and 79% of them said yea.
Pageant sponsors hoped the gimmick would increase interest in the show and answer charges that the tradition is outdated.
Most of the contestants themselves 42 out of 50 said they favored continuing the swimsuit contest. They said the attire shows off their physically fit figures an important ingredient of America’s health-conscious society.
Contestants wore identical one-piece red swimsuits, each carrying a white jacket slung over a shoulder.
Among those opposed to suits on stage are the current Miss America, Heather Whitestone, and Miss America 1971, Phyllis George. George suggested the contestants wear tennis outfits if they want to show off their physical fitness.
Leonard Horn, the pageant’s director, had predicted viewers would vote to keep the swimsuits. He said the show’s producers had prepared alternate entertainment in case viewers nix the suits, although he refused to say what that entertainment was.
Regis Philbin, co-host of the pageant with Kathie Lee Gifford, volunteered to fill the time with a song. Pageant officials seemed less than enthusiastic about that suggestion.
Other controversies surrounded this year’s pageant. One state winner, Virginia’s Andrea Ballengee, was stripped of her title for allegedly embellishing her academic credentials. A state runnerup, Maryland’s Linda Yueh, is suing the pageant because she believes judges were told to ignore her despite high competitions scores.
Yueh, a Harvard undergraduate, plans to study law at Georgetown next year.
Pageant officials billed last night’s show, held in Atlantic City’s Convention Hall and televised on NBC, as their 75th anniversary. The first contest took place in September 1921, however, when 16-year-old marbles champion Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C., took the prize.
The pageant had its ups and downs during its initial years, relying on the support of local businesses to keep it going.
It took off in 1954, when television brought the pageant into the homes of millions of Americans. Ratings have dropped in recent years, but the show is still considered a network powerhouse.
The winner of last night’s competition receives a $ 40,000 scholarship; other finalists receive scholarships ranging from $ 8,000 to $ 30,000.
The first runnerup was Miss Oregon, Emily John Orton. The other eight finalists were Miss Alabama, Leigh Sherer; Miss Mississippi, Monica Louwerens; Miss Illinois, Tracy Hayes; Miss New York, Helen Goldsby; Miss California, Tiffany Stoker; Miss Kansas, Amy Beth Keller; Miss Massachusetts, Marcia Turner; and Miss Arkansas, Paula Gaye Montgomery.


Saturday, July 15, 1995

Columnist Murray Kempton, a New York newspaperman for as long as anyone can remember, was writing at his computer.
All around him in the offices of New York Newsday, there was overwhelming sadness.
He tried to lighten the funereal atmosphere. “All I lost was a hobby,” Kempton said.
“Look, this is not Bosnia, but all real tragedy is personal and to me this is personal. It’s only the disintegration of my family. This is a death in the family. That is the sadness.”
His colleagues were trying to digest the shutdown.
Some drank vodka and rum. Many hugged. Others cleaned out their desks. Still others stoically tapped out their stories for today’s paper. “It feels like we are in a bad dream,” said reporter Elaine Rivera.
The death knell sounded at 5 p.m., when staffers were called into a conference room.
Silence fell as they filed in. Rumors had been flying, but few expected anything this soon or this drastic.
“You were and are terrific,” Forst said. “Thank you. I love you all.”
Many burst into tears. Others appeared dazed.
“I am sad and angry and unhappy,” said reporter Russ Buettner. “As the shock wears off, those are feelings I’m left with.”
“This is hard news. This is heartbreaking,” said publisher Steven Isenberg. “Everyone played it to the bitter end. And this is a lousy ending.”
Photographer Jon Naso was on assignment when he got a message on pager that said, “Come Back. Newsday is gone.”
He rushed back to the newsroom. “I came back because I wanted to be with some of my colleagues.”


May/June 1995

The Star-Ledger has always seen New Jersey — from the shore communities in the south through the urban/suburban sprawl of its central counties to the exurban north — as one big hometown, and it has chronicled its citizens’ common concerns. A common concern these days is the tumult of change at the Ledger.

Comprehensive, successful, and dull, the newspaper was shaped by the obsessive vision of editor Mort Pye, who retired in December after three decades at the helm. It is being reshaped by James P. Willse, who has all of the state wondering what its somnolent giant of a newspaper will be like when it’s finally wide awake.

The Newhouse-owned Star-Ledger was little more than a scandal sheet when Pye arrived as a top editor in 1957. Assuming full leadership six years later, he tied its fate to that of New Jersey. The paper aggressively promoted development and commerce in New Jersey and followed its largely white, upper-middle-class readers out to the suburbs after they fled the paper’s urban base. The Ledger thrived while its main competition, the respected Newark Evening News, closed up shop in 1972 after a disastrous strike.

Pye’s formula included covering the hell out of local sports as well as the state government, building an enormous statehouse bureau. He dropped the word Newark from the masthead in the early 1960s. “What we set out to do was very simple,” Pye says. “It was to create a paper that anybody with interest in what is going on in New Jersey would find it in the paper.” All this for 15 cents, until its climb to a quarter in 1990.

In a business sense, Pye’s strategy worked. The Ledger has a circulation of 455,919 daily and 685,551 on Sundays, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, making it respectively the fourteenth- and twelfth- largest paper in the nation. In a journalistic sense, however, even the paper’s admirers had to admit that The Star-Ledger could be mind-numbing. Its clumsily designed look was vintage 1949, heavy gray with hard-to-understand headlines; its gigantic newshole was both a blessing and a curse — a huge beast with an insatiable appetite that, combined with weak editing, often produced lifeless prose. The paper sometimes gave the impression it produced type only to wrap around the voluminous ads.

That Willse’s every move since he took over in January is still subject to speculation and analysis all around New Jersey illustrates the delicacy of his task. How do you fix a newspaper that, in an economic sense, ain’t broke?

E. Donald Lass, editor and publisher of the Asbury Park Press, the state’s second-largest paper, wonders how much he would change the Ledger if he were running it. Why change when you have such a potent formula for success? he asks. But in a six-page “Memo” to Willse the New Jersey Reporter’s Stephen Barr, the “spokes-man” for “Ledger Junkies of New Jersey,”offered a not-so-modest list of requests: better writing, editing, photography, and layout, less dependence on institutional coverage, more explanatory and investigative work, thoughtful editorial and op-ed pages, and so forth. The Ledger, the memo said, is “indispensable, but not admired.”

In a competitive market, Willse has been reluctant to disclose his vision for the paper, but he leaves no doubt about the company he’d like it to keep. The Star-Ledger, he says, can play in the same league as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald,The Boston Globe, and The Dallas Morning News, regional newspapers that are both economic and journalistic successes. “The trick,” he says, “is to not lose sight of what is good and valuable about the Ledger: its commitment to New Jersey and its communities and the breadth of its information.”

Ledger junkies already see a better newspaper, somewhat cleaner looking with more inviting headlines and sharper stories. Reporters say their pieces are now getting “massaged.” “He is asking questions about stories that we’ve never heard before, which is very exciting,” says general assignment reporter Bill Gannon.

One of Willse’s first moves was far from subtle. He hired Richard Aregood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, to rejuvenate the Ledger’s editorial section. Aregood, simply put, is everything that The Star-Ledger’s editorial page never was.

That section had long spoken with a weak, inconsistent voice in editorials that were no more than summations of the news and suggestions and expectations about the future. Aregood, by contrast, writes editorials that are witty, engaging, and combative. “Somebody sedate the senator while we take a look here,” he wrote in March, after quoting an emotional Republican state senator who wants to free developers to build in a protected watershed. And for the kind of money that Henry Cisneros is alleged to have paid to keep his girlfriend quiet, Aregood wrote that the HUD secretary “could be wallowing in a vat of lime Jell-O with four hookers, twelve consenting farm animals, and a partridge in a pear tree to this very day.”

The twenty-six-newspaper Newhouse group has a reputation for running some of the most profitable but mediocre papers in the nation. In the past few years, however, it has been hiring respected editors and apparently giving them resources to improve their papers.

In Willse, it got a well-respected and well-organized editor known for his ability to spot talent and give it room to grow. The son of a New York City detective, he was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1944, and caught the journalism bug by working summers as a copy boy at The New York Times and as an intern at The Wall Street Journal. At Hamilton College, he studied Yeats by day and covered the cops by night for the Utica Daily Press in upstate New York. He joined The Associated Press in 1969, becoming its San Francisco bureau chief, then city editor and managing editor for the San Francisco Examiner. It was while he was at the Examiner that his photographer, Greg Robinson, was killed, along with congressman Leo Ryan, by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones and his People’s Temple cult in Guyana just before the mass suicide there. A grief-stricken Willse put that day’s paper to bed and flew to Guyana to cover the tragedy himself. He produced solid journalism at the New York Daily News, his most recent career stop, during some of the toughest periods in the paper’s history, notably the bitter 147-day strike in 1990-1991, the death of its phony “savior,” Robert Maxwell, in 1991, and its subsequent bankruptcy. When the News was finally sold to Mort Zuckerman, Willse had to walk the plank with scores of Daily News staff members.

Now he has been handed one of those rare jobs in journalism, a chance to shape a paper that is willing to spend money to improve. “I don’t think there is a better editing gig in the country,” he says. “This is a wonderful, wonderful opportunity.”

Allen is a reporter for the New York Daily News. He did not work under Willse.

FUGITIVE CAUGHT IN PARAMUS Killer Is Found at Shopping Mall By David Gibson and Michael O. Allen, Record Staff Writers

Day: Sunday    Section: NEWS
Edition: All Editions.=.Sunday    Date: 01/19/1992
Page: A01    Byline: By David Gibson and Michael O. Allen, Record Staff Writers
Source: The Record    Publication: The Record
PHOTO – STEVE HOCKSTEIN / THE RECORD – Fugitive suspect Frank Vandever, center, behind uniformed Officer Kenneth Ehrenberg, leaving Paramus police station Saturday night.



The wide-ranging manhunt for a killer who fled a Connecticut prison on New Year’s Eve ended late Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of Garden State Plaza, where Paramus police arrested him in the car he allegedly had stolen.

Frank Vandever, a 37-year-old former stockbroker with a penchant for dressing as a woman, was arrested about 5:15 p.m. and was in men’s clothes, said New York State Police Lt. Arthur Hawker, who coordinated several agencies in the weeks-long search.

“Paramus police saw the car in the parking lot,” Hawker said. “They had it under surveillance when Vandever came out, and as he approached the car, he was taken into custody without incident.”

Vandever was presumed to be armed and dangerous, but police found only a small pocket knife on him; he did not resist arrest.

“He appeared very surprised,” said Paramus plainclothes Detective Joseph Ackerman, who collared Vandever with Detective Jerry May. The detectives said they neared the car with guns drawn as Vanderver got inside.

“He tried to give us a story about how it is his car and he doesn’t know why we are stopping him,” Ackerman said. “He wasn’t convincing at all,” he added.

An eyewitness who claimed to have seen Vandever earlier in the day in a Bergenfield 7-Eleven said he looked “a little scroungy and was wearing a red flannel lumberjack coat, a scruffy beard, and his hair looked uncombed.”

But police said they weren’t sure it was Vandever. He was wearing a dark blue jacket when police transferred him to the Union County Jail on Saturday night; they declined to describe what he was wearing when he was arrested.

“7-Eleven was just one of many look-alike sightings,” Hawker said. “We had numerous sightings during the day. Citizens kept calling us saying they’d seen him here and there.”

Federal marshals were examining cash the man in the lumberjack coat used to buy a money order in Bergenfield to see if they could draw a connection to Vandever.

Vandever was serving a 40-year sentence in Connecticut for murdering a client who had caught him embezzling.

Because of his escape, he now faces federal complaints as well as a host of criminal charges in three states.

The arrest was a low-key finale to an occasionally frantic and sometimes antic manhunt that led hundreds of police with helicopters and dogs from Connecticut to New York to New Jersey and back again, tracking down dozens of false leads and at least twice letting Vandever flee from right under their noses.

On Saturday morning, Vandever apparently stole the car he was found with in Paramus when he returned to the Spring Valley, N.Y., motel where he had eluded FBI agents three days earlier.

Police said Vandever stole the 1984 Dodge Omni at 8 a.m. Saturday from an EconoLodge motel on Route 59.

The fugitive had been at the motel with a fellow escapee since a few days after their New Year’s Eve flight from Somers State Prison in Connecticut, about 100 miles away. They were recognized on Thursday afternoon by a motel resident, but fled when confronted by two FBI agents who apparently moved in before sufficient backup units arrived.

Vandever hopped a fence and bolted into nearby woods; his cohort, Ronald Rutan, ran but was arrested. Rutan was serving a 19-year term for burglary.

Police continued combing the area near the motel on Friday, with reporters in tow and often with unexpected results.

A man in a tattered green coat, described as looking like Vandever’s double, was stopped in Spring Valley three times on Friday by the FBI and police before he was finally cleared of suspicion.

“It’s crazy,” the man said. “These people have no idea what they’re doing. They made me miss my bus.”

The focus shifted to Nyack, N.Y., later Friday, when a man wearing heavy makeup and carrying a fake bomb stole $10,000 from a drive-up bank teller there. Police still are not sure whether the robber was Vandever, or whether Vandever dressed as a woman during his flight.

As news of the manhunt spread on Saturday, the number of reported sightings – some legitimate, some wild goose chases – increased.

“It’s like a public phone booth in here,” a trooper at the special command center in West Nyack complained at one point. Officers on both sides of the state line followed up dozens of tips phoned in to police from Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, and Rockland counties.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Vandever was seen in Clarkstown. At 11 a.m., he was in Upper Saddle River. At noon, he was in Closter. At 2 p.m., he was in Bergenfield, getting a $70 American Express money order at a 7-Eleven store. A half-hour later in Wayne, a suspicious hitchhiker answering Vandever’s description was spotted.

“He acted just like anybody else,” said the 7-Eleven cashier, who declined to give her name. “I guess he figured nobody knew him anyway. He was dressed like a regular guy.”

Local police stopped by about 30 minutes later with photos of Vandever, whom the cashiers recognized, in part from his striking hazel-green eyes. FBI agents immediately followed, hot on the trail again.

At about 4:30 p.m., Paramus Officer Kenneth Ehrenberg, on routine patrol at Garden State Plaza, noticed the blue Omni in the shopping mall’s west parking lot. He called for backup, and waiting for Vandever, who emerged from the stores carrying no packages and got in the car.

“He returned to the car like an average person, got in the car, and at that point he was placed under arrest,” Ehrenberg said.

Vandever was convicted of killing a client, Ronald Hiiri of Stonington, Conn., who discovered that the stockbroker had been skimming his account.

Biography: FRANK VANDEVER    Graphic: YES
Length: 0025.3/0182    Notes: Late run version
ACN: 763095    Librarian: DB
Keywords: NEW JERSEY    Keywords: CONNECTICUT
Keywords: PARAMUS    Keywords: MURDER
Keywords: STOCK    Keywords: THEFT
Keywords: PRISON    Keywords: POLICE
New: No    Recent: NO
Status: 0