Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Diane The Texas Beauty Queen

Hey all.  I had another great phone visit this weekend with Diane Mahree who played the part of Margaret in the iconic and classically bad 1966 film, Manos: The Hands of Fate, and am hoping to visit with her in person at the up coming Manos: The Hands of Fate stage production  in Portland, Oregon next month  capitaliproductions.com .  In the meantime, she was gracious enough to tell me another great story I would like to share with you Manos fans.

This one is about how Hal Warren signed Diane Mahree up for a beauty pageant without her consent in order to gain publicity for his up coming film, Manos: The Hands of Fate.  For a bit of background, first read my post  How Diane Met Hal  and then come back.

During the filming of  "Manos: The Hands of Fate", in the summer of 1966, Hal Warren, ever the salesman, decided that presenting Diane Mahree as the Texas Beauty Queen would make some pretty good publicity for his movie.  So he signed her up for a regional West Texas beauty pageant that would lead to Miss Texas and then to Miss America but he neglected to tell her about it until she was accepted as an entrant.  She went along with it and soon found herself onstage as one of the finalists.  In those days, after the formals, the bathing suits, the talent displays and everything else, they would ask each girl a different question.  Usually, they were rather simple to answer in a way that would make everyone smile and feel good.  When it came to Diane's turn, the question was, "What part do you feel religion should play in your life?"

Alright.  So now lets take a pause for a moment and put it all in context.  This is West Texas in 1966.  This is a beauty pageant that leads to Miss America who, by definition MUST believe in God. O.K.  Here's Diane, a young adult who was raised as a Christian and who has just spent her summer questioning her family and her communities long held beliefs. In fact, not just questioning but actively seeking out church leaders for help only to be told "You must have faith".  Of finding herself being answered with the claim of truth while they contradicted one other. Of becoming completely unsatisfied with the results of her queries.

Back on stage, she didn't hesitate.  She knew she was throwing the contest but didn't care.  They asked a question and she would answer.  She began giving her opinion on the hypocrisy of the church and just what she thought of  religion in general.  Fortunately, her mother was out of town and unable to attend but her father, who was in the audience told Diane later that while she was talking, the audience went dead silent and when she finished, you could have heard a pin drop for a few seconds...until the audience erupted in the loudest and longest applause of the evening.  Afterward each of the judges came to her individually and said they had really wanted her to go on and win but were not able to vote for her under the circumstances.  The  contest had been televised and broadcast to all the cities in the region which greatly increased the fallout that began the next day.  Probably not of the type that Hal had been hoping for in terms of publicity.  There were stories in the El Paso Times, editorials, preachers preached, letters sent and phones ringing off the hook.

Diane told me that the strangest thing for her was that of all the questions, they gave that particular one to her.  The girl after her was asked. "If you were traveling at 90 miles an hour and a truck was coming at you what would you do?"  The girl answered sweetly (Texas sweetly), "Well.  First of all, I would never be going 90 miles an hour but if I were, I would try to avoid the truck at all costs."

Thanks for reading and see you next week.


  1. These stories have to be collected into a book someday.

  2. After reading this, I have more respect for Diane than ever. Good for her.

    That Hal must have been one hell of a salesman. It sounds like he could have sold refrigerators to Eskimos.

  3. More and more it sounds like Hal Warren was a pompous egotist and Diane a wonderful lady.