By People Staff
June 03, 1974 12:00 PM

The Miss USA contest is one of those old-fashioned beauty contests they don’t put on much any more—certainly not in Atlantic City. There’s no nonsense about talent, no baton twirlers or reedy sopranos. Miss USA is picked for how she fills a bathing suit and walks in a long gown. Karen Morrison (Miss Illinois) was the choice last weekend in Niagara Falls and she promptly uttered the first of an endless string of clichés the year-long reign requires: “This is the American girl’s dream come true.” An American girl she is: the 19-year-old daughter of a restaurant owner in St. Charles, Ill., a sometime waitress for Dad and a business student at Elgin Community College. Her mother, a beauty contest winner herself (“Miss Sycamore” from the Illinois hamlet of the same name), sent Karen off to Niagara Falls with the reminder: “Stand up straight.” When Karen does, she is 5’11” and measures 36-25-36. “I don’t want this title to become a pedestal,” Karen said, adding (inevitably), “I want people to treat me for me.” Being Miss USA means lots of publicity and travel, including a trip to the Miss Universe contest in the Philippines this summer. One of the ritual questions at Niagara Falls was whom all 51 entrants considered “the greatest person in the world.” Mom and Dad and Henry Kissinger were the runaway favorites, but Karen showed a faint liberated streak by nominating Golda Meir. Perhaps the most honest answer came from Miss Virginia: “My orthodontist.”