Pageant winner gets crown, but no prize money Contest: Sid Sussman, organizer of the Mrs. Maryland contest, died before he had a chance to write the winner a check. Now Renee Shanahan has to come up with the money for expenses to compete for Mrs. America.

September 06, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Right about now, Renee Shanahan might be ready to hock her Mrs. Maryland crown for a couple of tickets to Las Vegas.

The 26-year-old Pasadena woman won the title and the tiara that goes with it in June, but she never got the prize money that was to have helped pay her way to the Mrs. America contest next week in Las Vegas. Sid Sussman, organizer of the state pageant, died five weeks ago, before he had a chance to write the check.

Now, Shanahan has to come up with the money to cover airline tickets, clothing, gifts for fellow contestants and other expenses or stay home.

"I think we're frustrated and bitter," said Helen Neisser, Shanahan's mother. "We really don't know what to do except to put [the money] up ourselves."

Several Pasadena businesses have donated money to the cause. Rumblefish, a nightclub at Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Mountain Road, has promised to donate part of its proceeds from the sale of $20 tickets tonight for its 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. happy hour.

Shanahan is keeping her chin up -- though she leaves for Las Vegas in five days. "It's not turning me off," said Shanahan, who was Ms. Maryland Teen USA in 1987 and Ms. Maryland USA in 1992. "I just have to put this out of my memory."

Shanahan, co-owner of Rumors Salon on Mountain Road in Pasadena, won the Mrs. Maryland crown June 22 at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum.

Along with being the first woman in the nation to win statewide pageants on all three levels, Shanahan earned enough prize money to cover the costs of two airline tickets, 50 state gifts for every competitor at the national contest, 11 business suits, and a $700 replica of Cal Ripken's uniform to represent her state.

But Sussman was the only one who could write checks for the state contest.

Organizers of state contests are independent entrepreneurs who buy licenses to run the pageants, said David Marmel, who has run the Mrs. America competition which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., since its inception in 1977.

Usually, a pageant director works with a group that would be responsible for meeting the contest winner's needs if anything happens to the director, he said. But this case is unusual because Sussman had no partners.

"This is the first time that something like this has happened in all of my years," Marmel said.

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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