I actually watched this thing into the late nineties, back when it was held in mid-September. Also, back when it mattered a bit more. (Seinfeld built an entire episode -- a season premiere, no less -- around the pageant. Rhode Island is NEVER in contention!) Also, when it was held in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. What a fall for that building. You go from hosting one of the major cultural events of the year (in the middle of the last century) to the soon to be former home of the ECAC Hockey tournament! That aside, Miss America conjures up a cornucopia of references. Most recently, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo; those of my age and older might recall the name JonBenet Ramsey; and some might be familiar with a certain Miss Vermont*.
My interest in this year's telecast (now from Las Vegas) stems from something that came across my radar last summer. Namely, that Miss Maryland is a Cornell senior. The IvyGate post poked fun at her for her letter of resignation from her sorority's executive board. I'll grant that the letter has more than a tinge of a Ron Burgundy-esque "I'm very important... I have many leather bound books, and my apartment is filled with rich mahogany" quality to it. But Joanna Guy handled her decision extremely well; she realized she couldn't reconcile her duties to Cornell's Alpha Phi and the Miss America Organization, she didn't seek an exception to her chapter's rules, and she came to a conclusion and informed her sisters in a timely fashion. And on Saturday night, she represented both the Old Line State and the Big Red in an outstanding manner, reaching the top ten and crushing a number from Les Misérables.
Apart from the Cornell connection, I was of course rooting for the home front. The various Miss New York winners hadn't done so well when I was growing up, so I was a bit surprised to see this year's representative go through to the semifinals -- and then place first in both "lifestyle and fitness" (read: swimsuit) and evening wear. (After each round, the results were shared with the television audience, but not anyone in the auditorium.) She did nothing to lose that lead with her tap dance to James Brown's "Get Up Off of That Thing," and didn't lose composure and trip over her words in the question response (as Miss Iowa did). The final two were her and Miss South Carolina. Chris Harrison said that the first runner-up takes over if the winner must abdicate. I don't know if that line is standard; I thought it was obvious foreshadowing, since the last Miss America from New York did just that. (Wonder what ever happened to her?)
And indeed, after 29 years, the Empire State once again reigns over
* Here's the original version of Tucker's story. It's not the full retelling; that's only in his most recent book, Hilarity Ensues.