They Reign as Kings in the Land of the Beauty Queens

Times Staff Writer

Richard Guy and Rex Holt have this thing about beauty.

For starters, they've got perhaps 250 pictures of beauty queens spread over the walls of their office, from the downstairs coffee nook to the upstairs tanning salons. They've got life-size beauty queen cutouts. They've got pictures of themselves surrounded by beauty queens. They are taking care of a white dove that belongs to a beauty queen who is on the road. A beauty queen won the Subaru that sits outside in the driveway. For that matter, a beauty queen lives in the attic apartment of their house next door.

A Witch Among the Beauties

And on the mantel above the office fireplace, they've got a stuffed mongoose and cobra to ward off evil spirits. That doesn't have anything to do with beauty queens, but it does tell something about the wacky side of Guy and Holt, who brought in a witch to purify the office when they moved into it a couple of years back.

Richard Guy and Rex Holt are the beauty queen kings, the barons of pulchritude. Once they made their livings building parade floats and teaching the fox trot; now they're sitting pretty in the world of beauty pageantry, running state contests and grooming the winners for that next big step, the Miss USA competition.

They are a chain-smoking duo who have been the molders and shapers, teachers and confidants of the last three winners of the Miss Texas beauty pageant, who--three times running--have gone on to become Miss USA. They coached another Miss Texas USA to the national title in 1977, giving them four beauty championships in the last 10 years. Their latest winner is Michelle Royer, a small-town girl from Keller, Tex., who was crowned Miss USA last month.

Since 1975, when Guy and Holt went into the beauty contest business in a serious way, they have trained every Miss Texas for the Miss USA pageant, and every Miss Texas has been a semifinalist. In addition to their four winners, they had two first runners-up. No one has matched their three consecutive wins, ever, in the Miss USA pageant or the rival Miss America contest.

"We're the best now," Guy said.

"We've created history," Holt said.

And all this has taken place in El Paso, a border city that is a long drive from anywhere, the place where Tony Lama makes his boots and Levi Strauss its jeans. The downtown streets which aren't exactly bustling during the day, empty in the evening. Cold winds whip in from the desert during the winter and temperatures soar during the summer.

Yet these two men have carved a formidable niche in the beauty business from their offices on sleepy Montana Street, just east of downtown and right around the corner from a paint-and-body shop. Their reputation is such that, when the flagging Miss California USA pageant was casting about for someone to breathe life back into it last year, Guy and Holt were first on the list to produce it.

Deemed Best for the Job

"In the final analysis, Guy and Rex seemed best prepared to do it," said Stacey Trachtman, vice president for pageants of Los Angeles-based Miss Universe Inc., which oversees the beauty contests in all 50 states.

Lest there be confusion, Guy goes by his last name and Rex Holt by his first, and together they call themselves GuyRex Associates. They have been living and working together for the last 20 years. Once they taught dancing at the El Paso Arthur Murray studio before getting into the Christmas decoration business. Then they built parade floats, which led to putting together the Miss El Paso contest. Finally, in 1975, they began producing the Miss Texas USA pageant, one of the glitziest around.

In the process, they have made a lot of money for themselves and their beauties. The winner of the Miss USA pageant walks away with $200,000 in cash and prizes and a shot at the Miss Universe pageant. Miss Texas wins $18,000 in cash and $72,000 in prizes. Guy and Holt make their money from their pageants' television and advertising revenues.

Much of that money has gone back into the house they own next door. The doors, protected by burglar bars, are made of hammered copper. The house has mirrors and stained glass and enough pillows to open a store. That it has muted lighting is an understatement--plain old dark is more like it. A sheik would feel right at home in the sunken party rooms at the rear of the house.

And now that they have the Miss California USA pageant, the two have bought a house in Beverly Hills to centralize their operations there. Holt said, somewhat modestly, that the house needs a lot of work. He also said their witch would be going to California to de-spook it.

What is the secret of their success? Both are given to longish answers along the lines that preparing the body is easy but bringing out the inner self is tough. Holt, though, finally offers a less complex answer: "You work your butt off is what you do."

Women Are Their 'Girls'

Guy and Holt won't win many points with the feminist movement. To them, beauty queens are their "girls."

"I love my girls and they love me," Guy said.

The names of their beauties, dozens of them, are inscribed in pink on the side of Holt's van. Their pride is wrapped in their ability to take one of the "girls" and in 10 months transform her into a world-class beauty. The idea, Holt said, is not to produce clones but to work on the strengths of each girl who comes their way.

Their latest project is Lori Dickerson of Lodi, otherwise known as Miss California. She is the beauty queen occupying the attic apartment. Royer, the latest Miss USA, who used to live there as well, is out on the television circuit.

Since Dickerson did not win the Miss USA contest, at the age of 20 her competition days are over. But, as Miss California, she still has personal appearances to make, and Guy and Holt have continued to coach her, building her confidence, "grooming her to be a winner in life," as Guy puts it.

If Dickerson did not fare that well in the Miss USA pageant, Guy and Holt point out that they only had two months to work with her instead of the usual 10 because the California and USA contests were so close together. And she did win Miss Amity, the only category that had previously escaped their repertoire.

Between personal appearances, Dickerson comes back to El Paso for more polishing. She stands 5 feet, 11 inches in her stocking feet, but in heels and with hair piled high, she dominates the room. At the Miss USA pageant she and Royer were dubbed the Twin Towers.

Dickerson, dressed in a black designer suit with pearl brooch, talked of how she used to be part of the jeans-and-T-shirt set before Guy and Holt came into her life. She said they even found something about Lodi to brag about--it's the home of the first A&W; root beer stand.

Now that she is Miss California, Dickerson has another problem: Guy and Holt want her to lose 10 pounds.

"I never had a weight problem before I got involved in beauty pageants. I became Miss California and had nothing but nice dinners all the time," she said.

Guy looked over at Rex.

"Now you see how she is always looking over at us before she answers?" he said. "We've got to work on that."

Busy Schedules

When Guy and Holt get down to the specifics about how they groom their beauty queens, it is, indeed, a rigorous regimen. They book them for as many public appearances as they can cram in before the Miss USA pageant.

"We expose the girls to this type of activity," Holt said. "When you are a little college girl, you don't experience this kind of thing."

They make tapes of TV and radio interviews and painstakingly go over each answer to see how it could have been improved. If the contestant is overweight, she is put on a diet. If she is out of shape, she is given exercises to do on the road. And if there is a physical flaw that can't be corrected, Guy and Holt design a dress for her to hide it. They are masters of camouflage. The basement of the office is filled with dazzling material, some of it selling for $450 a yard, that seamstresses put together for the latest beauty queen.

"She needs a fur coat, we get her a fur coat," Guy said. "If she needs 10 cocktail dresses, we get her 10 cocktail dresses."

But most of all, the beauties have to be turned over completely to Guy and Holt. They will brook no interference from meddling parents once their work begins.

Goal to Win Miss Universe

"They have to give me their daughter completely," said Guy, who calculates that a Miss Texas USA winning a fourth national title in a row would go against monumental odds. But he still wants the big one, the Miss Universe title.

"I want it for my ego," he said.

On a recent afternoon, Guy, Holt and Dickerson were in the GuyRex van, heading for the Marriott Hotel near the airport. They had been lured there with a story of how some big-time corporate hotel executives wanted to have lunch with them, now that they had copped three titles in a row.

The truth was, the hotel is naming a suite of rooms after them, spending $50,000 over the next six months to refurbish the place. Beauty queen pictures will line the walls. The local press was there when the three of them walked in. Cameras rolled. Lights went on. A bevy of former Miss El Pasos, along with the reigning queen, poured from the next room. Guy and Holt, who teach their beauties never to cry, were dewy-eyed.

The beauties hovered about Guy and Holt. They talked about the value of the experience and the toughness of their respective beauty queen years. Karen Wallace, a former Miss El Paso, described how she had to lose 30 pounds for Guy and Holt but still thought of them as part of her family. As for beauty pageants themselves, she was all business.

"A beauty pageant is a sport, just like football," she said. "It's competition."

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