Readers of the Republic’s better newspapers – those consumed at the coffeehouse or delivered to the door – may have missed this story.  For devotees of the colorful U-Bahn dailies, this has been the week of the Miss Austria contest – a roller-coaster of joy and tears, a showbiz tale wounded vanities and cascading rumors of jury manipulation.

Like most thrillers, the story began quietly, tucked away in the back pages of the Boulevard freebies. On April 12 Österreich reported that trouble was brewing behind the scenes, as Jörg Rigger, owner of the Miss Austria corporation, was apparently trying to cancel the contract with the franchise holders for Miss Upper Austria.  “Miss Austria vote at risk?” asked the paper with admirable reserve. A few days later the story had graduated to the front page, while the problem was still barely mentioned above a whisper — leaving plenty of space for radiant toothpaste smiles from winners of the individual Province Beauty Queens who make up the finalists for Miss Austria.

It was then that the pace picked up. Next day the tabloid reported Rigger had won his court case and successfully fired the franchise partners – one of whom turned out to be his ex-wife.

“There are rumors that this was perhaps behind it,” suggested Österreich archly.  Then came the big headline, the election of Miss Vienna and the story was back on the front page with a twist: “Skandal …”  The lucky winner Beatrice Körmer barely had time to don her diadem und deliver the obligatory golly gosh “a childhood dream come true” before fresh rumors appeared that her title would be annulled. By now even the serious dailies Die Presse and Der Standard were chipping in and seemed to relish listing the allegations, among them “irregularities … Freundlwirtschaft (buddy business) … manipulation … even corruption.”

Whatever: The chaos seemed complete: “The Misses thriller:” summed up the scribes from Österreich, “Now it’s everyone against everyone.”

For any who wish to follow the tale further, hop on the U-Bahn nearest you.

Simon Ballam
Simon Ballam
English, studied in NY and worked in London, Düsseldorf, NY, Fankfurt, Prague and Vienna. This covered stints in market research and the film industry, international advertising coordination and strategic planning. Currently business school lecturer and journalist.

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