Dottie Clark (1924-2011)

by Shawna Lewis


Dottie Clark was thrilled when the judges named her first runner-up in the Mrs. Tulsa pageant. But her husband, Elmer, seated about ten rows back in the audience, saw it differently.

“I’m not just saying that because she was my wife,” he said, “but there were a few details that I didn’t think were—well, how can I say this kindly?—I felt as though the officiating could have been a little fairer.”

Elmer, 92, says the competition was mostly based on whether a woman could be a good influence, bake outstanding desserts, and look good while doing it. It was the 1950s, after all.

“I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember this: Dottie deserved to win. She was by far the prettiest and the best baker.”

Still sore about it decades later, Elmer and Dottie wrote a comedy sketch about the pageant, and performed it at First Baptist Church during a seniors’ meeting.

“This is something we did a lot,” he explained. “We wrote skits about local events or politics or sports and performed them for our friends. Dottie was the best performer I ever saw.”

Elmer says the skit was full of boffolas that poked fun at the Mrs. Tulsa pageant, like when Dottie performed her “talent” by dancing horrifically on purpose.

“Of course, she was really a great dancer, but it was funnier for her to fumble around. And she had on this silly hairpiece, too, so that helped.” Later in the skit, Elmer interviewed Dottie about the swimsuit competition, and held up a skimpy bikini that sent the audience into immediate guffaws because “it clearly wasn’t sufficient size.” Ultimate vindication came when Dottie announced that all of the other contestants were killed in a terrible bus accident, making her the winner by default. “It was just a lot of fun,” he said. Inspiration for their skits came primarily from famous comedian Phyllis Diller, whom Elmer got to meet when she was traveling through Tulsa.

“I was working at a local television station, and she was there to do an interview,” he said. “I introduced myself and told her how much Dottie and I just loved her. She took me up on my offer to drive her around and show her the sights, and we talked about each other’s comedy styles.”

At the end of their tour, Diller gave him two of her comedy records and wished him well with his skits.

“We listened to them all the time, and drew a lot of ideas from them. In fact, Dottie worked on an impression of her that was just perfect.”