my-oh, my-oh, my-oh -- look who we found in ohio
It is precisely two p.m. in the little township of Sidney, Ohio, a gingerbread hamlet 30 scenic minutes north of Dayton's city limits. As the clock strikes the hour, "Beautiful Dreamer" chimes from the Shelby County courthouse bell tower. For Sidneyite Stacy Leigh Arthur, it is a fitting song -- perfectly fitting, in fact. For although Stacy is a small-town girl by day -- watching after the kids, running errands, checking in with the Main Street ceramics studio she and her husband own -- by night, she dreams of hitting the big time. Funny thing is, Stacy's dreams keep coming true. Yes, our Miss January is actually a Mrs. -- a double Mrs., to be exact. First and foremost, she is Mrs. James Arthur, devoted wife of a local businessman who divides his time between renting out commercial space and being a Stacy fan. But she is also Mrs. Ohio, a title that was bestowed upon her last June at a state-wide competition held near Columbus. The pageant's youngest contestant and the only one ever to win the crown on her first try, Stacy will travel to Moscow this month. There she'll represent the Buckeye State in the Mrs. America pageant, which will take place concurrently with the Mrs. U.S.S.R. pageant, both to be globally televised. Ohio is crossing its fingers; Sidney is beside itself. Talk about your hometown girl making good. A high school bride, a mother at 19, Stacy settled in Sidney two years ago after a decidedly nomadic childhood. "We moved from Illinois to Michigan six weeks after I was born," explains Stacy, "and then six more times before I was fourteen. And it was always small towns," she adds, tossing back a thick forest of blonde hair and laughing. "Small towns with guys who constantly wanted to find out what the new chick looked like." In 1987, Stacy had a baby, opened her studio and, for a while, all was well. But in one of the few not-so-happily-ever-afters of her life, her first marriage hit the rocks in 1988 ("It was a mutual thing," she says. "No hard feelings"). That's when she met Jim Arthur -- also newly single, with children -- who was buying the building in which her shop was located. An admirer, Jim proposed to Stacy the day her divorce was final; they were married four months later. Learning that Stacy had always been a fan of beauty contests, Jim decided to help her enter some and became her manager. "Without him, I wouldn't have been able to make it," she says now. "He always told me that if I had patience, I'd get what I was dreaming about."
After breezing successfully through the Miss Sunburst contests, a series of privately sponsored pageants in which Stacy got to the national finals and nabbed first-runner-up honors in both the beauty and the talent categories -- country music is her thing -- the Arthurs set their sights on the big show: the Mrs. Ohio pageant. She easily bested 28 other contestants in the finals and was instantly catapulted to local stardom. Sidney even declared a Stacy Arthur Day.
Which is where we came in. "Jim and I went to Chicago on this little modeling job I'd booked, and while I was there, I said, 'We can't waste this trip. Let's call Playboy.' So I made the call and said, 'Look, I don't want a lot of time, I just want to do test shots, OK?' They said, 'All right, come on in.' What was supposed to be a fifteen-minute test lasted almost an hour.
I couldn't believe it when I was accepted as Playmate of the Month. Ever since high school, I had fantasized about being in the magazine. Even my first boyfriend, Todd Becktal, predicted I'd be a Playmate one day -- and I was only thirteen! But I never thought it would actually happen. This is another lifelong dream come true."
So today, the Arthur household has become Stacy Central. In the foyer are 32 trophies, one crown and a scepter -- Stacy's spoils from just over a year of pageantry competition; unopened mail and magazines (Popular Ceramics, Pageantry and Playboy, to name three) pile up on the kitchen table; videos of Stacy's pageant performances sing from the TV. And manning the phones is Jim, handling an endless stream of calls in which he hopes to persuade local sponsors to ride the wave of Stacymania all the way to Moscow.
"We're asking everyone to pitch in." says Stacy, beaming. "After all, this could be the first time anyone brings the Mrs. America title to Ohio."
You have our vote, Stacy. We'll be watching.
Photography by Arny Freytag