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Lifestyle

October 13, 2012

Decades of Miss Subways smiled on NYC straphangers

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She searched the Internet, voter registration and municipal archives and even hired a private eye. With journalist Amy Zimmer, she tracked down 146 Miss Subways posters and interviewed 41 winners in person. Together they collaborated on the book, with Gardner taking the women’s portraits wearing their Miss Subways sashes at home or at work.

“Many of these women are very interesting and have accomplished many things. You realize there’s a much more complex story behind the headshots. Many of them went back and had second and third careers,” said Gardner.

Marcia Kilpatrick Hocker’s dream to study with the Negro Ensemble Company repertory theater came true. She auditioned after becoming Miss Subways in 1975, calling the contest “very confidence-boosting.”

“I’m basically very shy. ... I didn’t know I would be representing Miss Subways at various functions, speaking at kickoff events, addressing school groups,” the 65-year-old Hocker said in a telephone interview from Gresham, Ore., where she now lives.

She wanted to be Miss Subways because she “wanted to be discovered. I wanted to do commercials and be an actress,” Hocker said.

She married an American diplomat in 1981 and lived for a time in Colombia and New Zealand. She put her talents to use, singing at embassy functions and coaching American children in drama. For the past 11 years, she’s been a DJ at Jazz Radio KMHD in Portland.

For the first 22 years, winners were selected by the John Robert Powers modeling agency and the New York Subways Advertising Company. Afterward, it became a more democratic contest, with straphangers voting via postcard for their favorite finalist.

Changing times including the women’s movement, the city’s fiscal crisis and rampant graffiti in the transit system brought an end to the contest.

Only 17 when she won, Sturm’s poster said she wanted to pursue an acting career and devote all her spare time to acting, singing and speech lessons.

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