Lucienne is photographed as the cellophane wrapped bouquet of Tulips who among the real colorful dozen tulips is the prettiest centerpiece. Similarly, Shannon Long in the outback Aussie gear, Jenny Vergdou of Greece dressed in blue with a pile of plates for her to smash, Spain’s Nuria Posariza Dobon as the torero, Marta Duca of Italy in a glittery green dress pulled by paparazzis posed by Jan and me, Lynne in her American West cowboy garb complete with the Stetson hat and Luma de Oliveira of Brazil in all her Samba School gold and glitter. The fun fantasy stuff. Except that editors of Germany and Japan are upset at the way we have planned to portray their girls. The German girl is decked out in all black leather, the bustier with three straps, a leather scarf and thigh high leather boots and her entire arms covered with tight leather gloves. There are rhinestone studs and she is wearing dark sinister looking sunglasses. The only image the props conjure up is that of a brutal Nazi officer. The Japanese girl is propped up on a chair with red ribbons sprouting out from a spoke, symbolizes The land of the Rising Sun. They are more than offended and the German editor Bernd Prievert even threatens to pack up and leave with his girl. Don’t ask me how I was able to pacify and convince them that those were meant to be funny and not meant to communicate anything else.

When I look at those photos today, I must confess, there is nothing funny about those two concepts. However inadvertently, in the place of Bernd and the Japanese editor, whose name escapes my memory, I too would have not only been upset, but would have forced the creative team to change the concepts. Probably put the German Fräuline in Dirndl and the Japanese girl in a revealing Kimono.  I would have not threatened to up and leave, because that would be against my nature and the team spirit. If anyone, me having lived in Germany, I should have known the sensitivity of what even a remotest hint at Nazism would make me feel. But I am glad that however I was able to resolve the conflict, the harmony and the spirit remained in tact. Perhaps the readers too saw those props as self-mockery instead of symbolizing anything so grave. Because as far as I know, there was no negative reaction to those shots.

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Not withstanding minor day-to-day crisis, the major crisis erupts when the waiter in the Royal Garden Hotel’s atrium (We have now moved to Royal Garden) where I am having drinks with the editors, informs me that I am wanted on the phone. Its almost two in the morning. On the line is Holland’s Lucienne.

‘Stella and I need to talk to you urgently.’ Now what? I look at my watch and walk over to the elevator.

‘We girls had a meeting earlier, and we won’t do it. Wear those ugly one piece swimming sacks they want us to.’

And I thought we had resolved the crisis that threatened cancellation of the pageant. The Christian Theological Society of Hong Kong had made waves about the Playboy show allowed to be aired in the prime time. They had threatened to protest outside the Queen Elizabeth Stadium from where the show would be broadcast live in the presence of Hong Kong’s 2000 who’s who audience. TVB would stand its ground by going ahead with the show live as planned, but was sufficiently worried about the aftermath and it was decided to tone down the presentation by having girls wear hastily made white single piece swimsuits with its flimsy conservative cuts that would make nuns look racier. Only distinguishing element among them would be different colored satin bands wrapped around their waists tied in large bows dangling in the back. This was the compromise nobody liked, but we had to defer to the decision by TVB. It seemed the only way to quell the fire the show could otherwise cause.

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