Not many cities can claim a Miss America, says my first managing editor Keith Shelton in a Page 1A story today. He thinks Denton may be the only city in the U.S. that can claim two.
Local girls Phyllis George and Shirley Cothran Barret each cried under that coveted crown a few decades ago, and we were duly proud of them. It was a national honor, and Denton, Texas, had its two moments of beauty fame.
They've been crowning a national beauty queen since 1921, and the pageant has changed over the years. But try as they might, there's still a tiny bit of a meat-market ambience to the thing.
I wrote a column about a beauty pageant I once witnessed (or maybe dreamed up) a few years ago, and this seemed like an appropriate time to bring it out and dust it off.
The winners now have intelligence quotients bigger than their bra sizes, and they have causes to espouse, and in the talent contest they hardly ever tap-dance while accompanying themselves on the harmonica.
Beauty contests have become such earnest endeavors, in fact, that I almost long for the good old days of sky-high hair and sequin-studded hopefuls singing "You Light Up My Life."
Remember the way it used to be? Before Fear Factor brought us celebrities wallowing in snakes and eating beetles, beauty pageants were our first taste of reality TV.
There was a Miss Somethingorother beauty pageant on every channel three or four times a year. I recall one such contest in detail:
They were looking for the new Miss Cellaneous, and the competition was fierce.
"I want to win tonight to take advantage of the scholarships," said Miss Construed in the interview contest. "I'm hoping for a scholarship to the College of Applied Asininity. It's been my dream to become a certified mortuary makeup artist."
Miss Chievious won the talent contest that year with her enthusiastic rendition of "Let's Get Physical." The more she danced, the higher her leotard climbed her torso. I felt sure that a girl who showed that much talent would at least make the top five. And she did.
"I'd just like to thank everyone who's ever helped me at any time in my life," breathed Miss Demeanor. She received the special Dolly Parton humanitarian award for the most lifelike frontal acreage.
Some of the acts could have used a little polish, I thought. Miss Conduct's snake-charming routine bogged down in the middle when her cobra wandered into the audience and was lost, but she showed unusual aplomb when she led the audience in a singalong to "I Don't Like Spiders and Snakes."
Miss Anthrope won the evening gown competition hands down. Spurning the fashionable sequins and feathers, she had carefully attached live fireflies to every inch of the dress. When she made her entrance, the lights went down, and did she ever sparkle!
She could not, of course, sit in this dress without causing a power outage on her back porch, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Insects is mad about her stringing up all those little twinklers, but that's the price of winning.
The honor of Miss Congeniality went to Miss Nomer, for her uncanny ability to leave a perfect lipstick print on the face of every contestant as she came onto the stage.
"We girls have all had such fun this week, and we've come to love each other like sisters," she cooed. "You wouldn't believe how very little backstabbing and connivery these little witches have perpetrated this week."
At last the time came to pick a winner. Who would be Miss Cellaneous? The winner was Miss Represented.
"Miss Cellaneous, you're beautiful," sang the announcer. "Miss Cellaneous, you're unique."
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" she babbled at the audience. "I've so enjoyed being Miss Represented, and now I have the great honor of being Miss Cellaneous."
So it all ended well. She got a scholarship, the other contestants got all that exposure, and the audience got to see everything they exposed.
Am I being cynical? Or am I just Miss Interpreting?
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.