Press: There She Goes, Miss America

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Before going into seclusion after her press conference last week, Williams allowed that "this is the worst thing that ever happened to me," and that she felt "violated" by Penthouse, the photographer and the pageant too, because it told the press rather than her directly that it wanted her resignation. She claimed that she consented to have the pictures taken because she was "curious" and that she never agreed to let the shots be published. All this brings a derisive snort from Guccione, who says he has a model release form signed by Williams and authenticated by two handwriting experts. He has declined so far to produce the form or to say what date is on it, claiming that such information might help Williams' lawyers in case they are planning a lawsuit. Penthouse Attorney Roy Grutman, who calls the document "a comprehensive, cover-the-waterfront, adult-model release," is equally definite on another point. "Everything in my legally educated mind knows that a lawsuit is in the wind."

Also gusting around are some idle questions about the photos. Williams she was only 19 when they were that Chiapel told her he wanted to try "a new concept of silhouettes with two models" after he had done one nude session with her alone. The first nudes were unexceptionally raunchy (two of the Penthouse shots are apparently from this take). But material from the second session with Williams and another woman is enough to take the starch out of anyone's shirt, even the Playboy Bunny's. One of the minor amusements of this whole episode was the sight of Hugh Hefner, swathed in silk loungewear, being interviewed on the Today show show and expressing concern for Williams' career. "The single victim in all of this was the young woman herself, whose right to make this decision was taken away from her. If she wanted to make this kind of statement, that would be her business, but the statement wasn't made by her. What we're talking about here is going into someone's private life. And it's that invasion that is immoral here, and improper." Playboy, offered the photos first, turned them down, it said, because of uneasiness about the model release form and because it does not use what Spokesman Dave Salyers calls lesbian material.

Chances are there will decision no long-term damage on any side. The homogenized harmony of the Miss America Pageant continues. Suzette Charles, 21, first runner-up Williams last September, has gracefully stepped in to fill out the remaining weeks of the reign.

Williams, who has frequently mused in print about the possibility of a theatrical career, comes out with a bonanza sympathetic publicity, most of it kindled by stories on television and in print where the accompanying samples of the Penthouse pictures— suitably edited— look no racier than 1950s calendar art. Censorship, in a sense, has helped her. She comes across in the mainstream media as a woman dignified in adversity and just a little dangerous in private. Hollywood has gambled a lot on much less.

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