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Chamber Seeks Trademark for Miss Lawndale

Times Staff Writer

What if Lawndale held a Miss Lawndale contest and couldn’t call the winner Miss Lawndale?

That is the delicious prospect being discussed by disgruntled members of the Lawndale Chamber of Commerce after the city on Thursday turned down their request for city funds to run the pageant.

“They can hold any kind of pageant they want, but they can’t use the name,” said the chamber’s pageant director, Laura Calderwood.

Calderwood said the chamber--not the city--has authority to use the Miss Lawndale name under a trademark application that has been submitted to the state.

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Besides, chamber officials said, the contest franchise agreement with the Miss California and Miss America contests is with the chamber, not the city.

The city’s possible embarrassment is a small consolation to the chamber, which suffered a major defeat by the council in a budget session Thursday night.

A three-member council majority--Harold E. Hofmann, Larry Rudolph and Dan McKenzie--flatly rejected the chamber’s request for $70,000--$25,000 for four events, including the Miss Lawndale pageant, and $45,000 for operating expenses.

The councilmen contend that the city can organize the pageant and other community events as well as the chamber can, and would retain more control.

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It is unclear, however, whether the city plans to hold a pageant or other events.

Amid cheers from a rival business organization formed to challenge the chamber, Hofmann, Rudolph and McKenzie argued that the chamber represents only a small fraction of the city’s 1,100 businesses. The chamber should find ways to become self-supporting rather than relying on city funds, the councilmen said.

Mayor Sarann Kruse and Councilwoman Carol Norman argued unsuccessfully for chamber funds, saying that a strong chamber is needed to promote the city’s business community.

The chamber will be meeting in the next few weeks to decide how to cope with the loss of the $70,000, which represents about 70% of the chamber’s operating budget of $101,025 for 1988-89, said chamber Director Jerry Enis.

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This is the second time in recent years the council has attacked funding for the chamber.

In 1986, the council denied the chamber funding but later reversed itself.

And now, on three separate occasions in recent months, the chamber has asked the council for funding and been turned down each time.

Local businesses generate 51% of the city’s general fund revenues from sales, business license and hotel taxes, Enis said.

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Asked whether the city might look foolish if it were unable to crown its pageant winner Miss Lawndale, Enis responded: “We are not particularly concerned with the image of the city at this point.”

Calderwood said that she came up with the idea of registering the Miss Lawndale name last fall when it became evident that there might be some controversy over the pageant.

The pageant was criticized by one resident as a “Rent-A-Queen” contest in December after 24-year-old Valencia Bilyeu was introduced to the council as the new Miss Lawndale. Bilyeu was a resident of Irvine.

The rules of the chamber’s pageant do not require contestants to live in Lawndale.

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Billed as a scholarship program rather than a beauty contest, the pageant gives the winner an $800 scholarship and an opportunity to compete in the Miss California contest, chamber officials said.

Calderwood said the chamber has already received 32 applications for the pageant, scheduled for Nov. 19.

Ironically, chamber officials said it may end up that two contests will take place, one sponsored by the city and one by the chamber, and that neither will use the Miss Lawndale name.

Business leaders do not want the Miss Lawndale/Miss California contest to become overshadowed by politics, Calderwood said. A new name has not yet been decided upon, she said.

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