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They Reign as Kings in the Land of the Beauty Queens

March 13, 1987|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

EL PASO — 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."

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