Scanning the DirectTV guide last night I decided to switch on the Miss American pageant just in time for the winnowing down to the final 10 contestants. As one who despises Survivor and other so-called "reality" shows I was unpleasantly surprised to see the six young ladies being eliminated called out and told goodbye American Idol style.
As the Baltimore Sun reports, crowd fave and Army medic Jill Stevens and her friends dropped and did a set of pushups after her name was called, an uplifting move in an otherwise dismal display of modern non-winner bashing. Granted, the pageant is trying hard to update its look and feel, but frankly the outcome was more than a little crass – a definite step back for the classic American event.
Ah memories. I vividly recall my first Miss America pageant. I was seven years old, visiting my great-aunt in Rock Island, IL, and wanted nothing more than for Rocky, her 19 year old son, to come outside and throw the baseball with me.
"Someday you’ll be old enough to want to watch these girls," he said with a distracted smile, one eye still on the TV.
Not likely, I thought defiantly. And that proved to be more or less true. During my mid and late teens – prime babe ogling years – I was too busy with sports, friends, and real girls to watch them on the tube. In my twenties, when I might have liked looking at the beautiful young women only a few years my junior my own young, beautiful wife frowned on that sort of behavior in no uncertain terms. Now I’m old enough and round enough that she doesn’t care any longer if I watch the pageant or not. But while the contestants were as lovely as ever last night, if not more so, the format of the show is distinctly less appealing now.
Perhaps at 41 I have vaulted over the generation gap. But I really think that there’s something unsavory about this gleeful eliminating, voting off, and "firing" of contestants, especially in front of a TV audience who, in most cases, have never done anything as gutsy as getting up on stage with 49 of the most beautiful women in American to be judged on national TV.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write this piece at first. Times change, I thought, why fight it? You’re just getting old and grumpy. In fact, I had already switched over to and old Seinfeld rerun when I decided to flip back on the spur of the moment to give the contest another chance.
What was I greeted with? A vocal performance of Feelings or God Bless America? A young American beauty promising to use her crown to foment world peace? I wish.
Instead a young-ish, scruffy-faced dude with a hideous bit of chin stubble sat among the freshly dropped contestants with his mike open.
(I’ve since learned that this was one Clinton Kelly, star of TV’s What Not to Wear, something that explains so much).
Kelly’s scintillating question?
"How did you keep your bikini bottoms from riding up?"
Not exactly Bert Parks, is he?