He was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for twelve years. But Whitey Bulger was ultimately brought down by Miss Congeniality.
No, not Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock’s eponymous female FBI character in the 2000 film), but Anna Bjornsdottir.
According to The Boston Globe, which broke the story, Bjornsdottir is a 57-year-old graphic designer and yoga instructor who splits her time between Reykjavik, Iceland and Santa Monica, California. During her California months she stays near Bulger’s former hideout– where he lived for sixteen years with girlfriend Catherine Greig while on the run from authorities in Boston (If you aren’t familiar with Bulger, he was a former boss of the Irish mob in Boston, accused of killing at least nineteen; he was also the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in 2006’s The Departed). Ever congenial, Bjornsdottir and Greig bonded over the neighborhood stray cat… Though at the time Bjornsdottir knew Greig as Carol Gasko.
After seeing a story on Whitey Bulger and Greig back home in Iceland, Bjornsdottir made the connection between Gasko and Greig and called in a tip to the FBI. She has since, reportedly, collected $2 million for her good deed. And, now, she has also gained international attention.
But this isn’t Anna Bjornsdottir’s first time in the international spotlight. Back in 1974 she competed in the Miss Universe Pageant as Miss Iceland. While she didn’t win– or even place as a semi-finalist– she was crowned Miss Congeniality.
If you’re interested in her national costume (my favorite part of the Miss Universe Pageant, which I’ve written about before) start watching at about 3:04:
After her pageant experience Bjornsdottir moved to California to pursue modeling, apparently doing quite well in print and television commercials (according to a People story, she earned more than $2000 a day for appearing in Vidal Sassoon and Noxzema commercials).
This also isn’t the first time that the 1974 Miss Universe Pageant has been touched by intrigue and scandal. The winner, Miss Spain Ampara Muñoz, resigned her title a few months after crowning, citing irreconcilable differences with the Miss Universe Pageant. By that time the first runner-up, Miss Wales Helen Morgan, had won the title of Miss World (as Miss United Kingdom). In a bizarre twist, she also gave up her crown after it was revealed that she was a single mother. The Miss Universe title wasn’t offered to any other runners-up. The following year Miss Universe 1972 crowned Miss Universe 1975, since there was no reigning queen.
Muñoz passed away earlier this year, not knowing that eventually one of her fellow contestants’ involvement with a scandal would overshadow her own. Miss Congeniality, indeed. Just ask Whitey.