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Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2000 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports

The Miss America parody -- The little old lady from Little Rock has written me again:

Dear Inky Wretch,

It would take too long -- as long as some of those unreadable columns you write with all those big words you probably make up -- to tell you my opinion of this year's Miss America Pageant, and, yes, it is a beauty pageant no matter what they call it now. I will not have my words censored. Even if the pageant's wimpy sponsors censor themselves and call it something else -- a Celebration of Multiculturalism or whatever. I still call a spade a spade and a beauty pageant a beauty pageant. I hope I make myself clear.

I was really looking forward to this year's pageant because it had been a whole year since I'd last been disappointed in it, and I'd forgotten what they keep doing to it. I have to tell you that the last few years of this wonderful tradition have been miserable failures, but this year's finally hit rock bottom.

You have to understand that I have never missed a pageant, at home or away, for the last 43 years! If that's not a record, it should be enough to tell you that I am serious about this, and not just one of your casual fly-by-night channel-surfers who couldn't tell you who won in 1957 if their pitiful little glamour-starved lives depended on it.

You're not dealing with some kind of amateur here, but a connoisseur. I have turned down anywhere from one to three invitations a year in order to stay home and watch the pageant because I fell in love with it, I just want you to know, when I was little more than a girl and on my very first marriage. That's how long I have been a devoted fan, and I still love Bert Parks!

I prepared myself for the big night by canceling a date with my boyfriend, which was no big sacrifice, and relaxing in a nice big bubble bath. I'd given myself plenty of time to get ready, having fixed myself a glass of my favorite vintage (Cheap Red) in one of my good glasses with a big old ice cube in it, and a favorite book or two handy.

I gave myself plenty of sudsy time to alternate chapters of the latest P. D. James and ``Left Behind.'' And you really better read it if you don't want to be. That's the book about The Rapture, you know. And a prudent person doesn't take any chances. You've got to be prepared for the next world but not ignore this one, which explains the P. D. James. (Don't you just adore English thrillers full of lorries and lifts and all those foreign terms?)

Then I slipped into my favorite peignoir, my comfortable housecoat, and settled in before the good television set in the living room for a wonderful evening with my three cats and Miss America ... .

(Here follow several paragraphs on the wisdom, precocity and general superiority of cats over cute-but-dispensable breeds like dogs and men, a passage that, however heartfelt and detailed, Gentle Reader may be spared.)

Well, I needn't have bothered. First of all, the beginning of the event was horrible, with all the girls dressed like cheap hookers and with abominable music and grotesque camera angles that made them look homelier than they were.

And then there came the Parade of States -- which has always been my favorite because it's so traditional and so GOOD! -- and this year it was nothing more than more crooked camera shots, which distorted all their faces, and the kind of narration that sounded like a cheap robot.

Why, oh why, do they always have to fix what ain't broke? If this is progress, I don't want any of it.

And then came the talent, which was always the greatest feature of the show and was always so terrific. Now it's limited to five girls, and those five, except maybe one, were pathetic!

The only decent thing they left alone was the swimsuit competition. (Thank G-d they haven't yet prohibited the swimsuit or the two-piece swimsuit!) I've always said there's nothing wrong with the feminine figure, it's one of G-d's gifts. Also, the evening gown competition was very good. But why in the world would they want to ruin it by making the audience have to look and listen at all these girls' hokey life histories, which we all know are staged and phony, and who cares?

To us true fans, the pageant should feature only four things: Beauty. What's wrong with beauty? It's G-d's gift, and half of these girls were homely. I don't know what's wrong with those people who have taken over the pageant, probably their eyesight. Next swimsuit. (There's nothing wrong with a figure -- it didn't bother anybody for 70 years.) Evening gown and TALENT. That is what the pageant has been based on, and it has always been very successful.

In case you're thinking that this is just older people rambling, my four daughters who are in their late 20s and 30s all agreed with me when we talked about this over the phone and e-mail. Also, I know for a fact that the younger generation doesn't watch this show anyway. They have better things to do on a Saturday night.

It is us older folks who grew up with the pageant who are its most loyal followers. But we won't be if they keep on fooling with it. I've noticed they're doing the same thing with presidential campaigns -- dumbing them down. A person doesn't have any choice at all any more except but between the insufferable and the indecipherable. This country couldn't produce another Jackie Kennedy or Adlai Stevenson if its life depended on it. And now they're doing the same thing with traditions like Miss America.

I hate to be critical, but I am absolutely crushed and angry at what has happened to one of America's most wonderful traditions and, let me tell you, I do not think I will be turning down any more invitations to stay home and watch this event again. It appears that the folks in charge have decided to be so politically correct and bring the event into the next millennium that they have forgotten what made it so successful in the first place for the past 70 years or so.

I beg you to write something that would get the pageant's format back the way it was, with the girls all looking so healthy, all-American and girl-next-door -- brainy but also lovely to look at, don't you know, and talented, too. Could you do something useful like that for a change?

And for goodness sakes, tell them to get rid of Donnie and Marie and find a mature male to host this thing, someone who doesn't turn it all into an insipid three-ring circus!

Respectfully yours ....

Paul Greenberg Archives


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