Richard Guy and Rex Holt

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Richard Guy and Rex Holt, two of El Paso's most famous names in show business on a national level, are back in El Paso and living in the brownstone house at 1304 Montana Ave. where it all began.

They never left entirely and have been using the Montana Avenue home off and on all along, but they sold their newly built Beverly Hills mansion this summer and quit California permanently.

Better known by the single name GuyRex, the dynamic duo was the creative force behind 29 Miss El Paso contests and 16 Miss Texas pageants, and they coached six young women to become Miss USA pageant winners, including five in a row.

Guy, now 73, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was born in Panama while his father, a U.S. Army colonel, was stationed there.

He spent his earliest years in Japan, and didn't speak much English when his parents settled in the U.S.

"I learned how to speak English in Ozark, Ala.," he says.

Holt, who turns 71 next month, was born in Tucumcari, N.M., and is an Austin High School graduate who spent two years as a settlement clerk under the stacks at Asarco.

The two met a little over 50 years ago when they were working as instructors at a Fred Murray Dance Studio in El Paso. They've been together ever since.

In their day, they were a phenomenon featured in just about every major newspaper and news and entertainment magazine, not to mention a lot of TV shows.

Described as creative geniuses, neither was trained to do anything they have done, from creating and stitching elaborate gowns that are still in demand to working in the beauty pageant trade and producing shows for national TV audiences.

For some years, they even found themselves owners of an expanding chain of El Bandito Restaurants connected to Dillard's department stores in five cities.

"We were going to open a new one in Baton Rouge and finally said, ‘We don't want to do restaurants, we want to do pageants,'" Guy says. "We got out of that and gave the restaurants to our managers."

A People magazine cover story in 1987 was headlined "The Crowning Touch of Richard Guy and Rex Holt Shapes Texas Teens into Lovelies Who Just Can't Lose." It told how they transformed a plump Miss El Paso, Laura Martinez-Herring, into a sleek beauty who won the Miss USA title in 1985.

Guy says they treated the young women they worked with very differently from other promoters, didn't demand money from them and made their gowns and dresses themselves for free.

GuyRex was no cookie-cutter beauty queen mill.

"Parents would give us their daughters because they knew they would get a better girl back when it was over," he said.

The GuyRex formula probably kept beauty pageants, which have become increasingly problematic since the late 1960s, thriving for years beyond their expected cultural demise in the midst of feminism and the push for gender equity.

They were also the producers behind scores of pageants as the owners of the Texas and California franchises of the Miss USA industry, along with a string of smaller pageants, including Miss El Paso.

"It's all about the show, glamour and beauty," Guy says. "Glamour and beauty will always sell."

These days, Guy says, Donald Trump Pageants Inc. is wrecking whatever chance there might be of making pageants popular again.

The one-time headquarters of GuyRex, now a beauty salon with upper-floor apartments, sits next to their 6,400-square-foot home, with its big windows, heavy metal doors and, oddly, Bible citation on the porch over its front entrance.

The verse is Luke 2:14, and Guy says it's not only permanent; it is his name for the house itself.

Without being asked, he recites it using the traditional wording: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

An appropriate verse for Christmas, the angel's announcement of the birth to the shepherds is a fixture, not a decoration.

Inside, the GuyRex home was all about Christmas even in early November - permanently furnished more than decorated, though they have since added Christmas lights.

There are three huge Christmas trees in the five-level house, each 12- to 14-feet tall and lavishly decorated with ornaments and figurines that Guy says they have created themselves over the years.

In the entryway, there are pictures of two popes from the 1960s, John XXIII and John VI.

"I'm not really a Catholic," Guy says, laughing. "I seek my own church."

Also scattered through the house are statues and paintings of the Madonna and Jesus, dozens of mannequins wearing detailed gowns that GuyRex made themselves for their contestants, large dolls of movie stars in lavish gowns, and on one wall, poster-sized photos of their Miss USA winners in tight cowboy outfits.

There are well-dressed rabbits and cats and lots of Santas, elaborately dressed, each one different.

And a shoe signed by Elizabeth Taylor.

"This is a fantasy land," Guy says. "We're decorated for Christmas all year ‘round."

California leaving

He concedes that is it a little cluttered and explains that they were in the process of decorating and furnishing an 18,000-square-foot home designed by Holt that they were preparing to occupy when fortunes changed and they had to sell.

Before that, they lived in a house on Summit that actor Lionel Barrymore had built and Marilyn Monroe lived in, next door to Priscilla Presley and around the corner from Sharon Stone.

"I bought 11 acres on top of a mountain in Beverly Hills," Holt says. "It was unheard of, but I found it.

"But then, we started running up against the bureaucracy, design review boards, etc. It took nine years, but we finally got the house built."

Small by Beverly Hill standards, Holt said, it was a stone's throw from Denzel Washington's 45,000-square-foot home, next door to Warren Beatty and Annette Bening and across the street from Jack Nicholson in the hills where the stars hide.

It cost millions, he says, and then the housing market crashed, as did a partner's business.

"We had to sell it, but meanwhile we were buying all this stuff to fill it, and then we had to sell it or lose it," Holt says. "We decided to quit California and come back here."

So some of the decorations but hardly all have made their way into their El Paso home.

"We have lots of friends in California, but it's not like our friends here," Guy says. "They're so phony."

He recalls returning to El Paso was recommended to them by one of their girls - they call them all "girls" and speak of them like daughters - Kimberly Tomes who said, "When you cross the state line at Blythe, just look in the mirror, say goodbye and don't come back.

"Rex got out of the car and kissed the ground," Guy says.

Tomes won Miss Texas USA in 1976 and the Miss USA title a year later. Now 56, she works as an artist and designer in San Antonio, and remembers giving them that advice.

"I am glad they're out of California," she says. "El Paso has a lot of good memories for them. I loved it there. People opened up their arms and were so nice to me."

She says Guy and Holt were mentors from the time they met when she was a junior at Texas A&M.

"They knew how to make things positive out of the negative, and they were just a great influence on my whole life," she says. "Even today, I talk to them all the time on the phone. We keep up with each other."

Tomes stayed with GuyRex and co-hosted pageants for 12 years with Bob Eubanks for Miss California and Miss Texas contests.

"One of the great things each year was going and seeing what Rex came up with for set designs and costumes," Tomes says. "I just thought he was a genius as far as his vision for making the whole show come together.

"He's kind of my role model for the artistic end of it. Then, Guy is a role model about life. Guy has a lot of thoughts on how to make it in this world, the good, the bad and the ugly."

Now that they're back in town and settling in, they're not sure what they'll be doing, but they're not likely to stay still long.

"I'm making the most beautiful dresses I ever made in my life," says Guy, who adds that last year he made 28 pair of pajamas for an order of cloistered nuns in El Paso.

"I never would have thought that sometime in my life I'd be making pajamas for nuns," he says.


E-mail El Paso Inc. reporter David Crowder at dcrowder@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 122 and (915) 630-6622..

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