“There she is, lighter than air she is…”
I saw in the news the other day that the Miss America contest was held over the weekend, apparently when I was watching football.
It was held in Las Vegas, where it emigrated to from its home in Atlantic City a few years ago. (Is Las Vegas all that much more wholesome than Atlantic City, or just a place that people would rather be?)
Because I was watching football, I did not see Teresa Scanlan of Gerig, Nebraska, the 17-year old who will wear the crown for the next year.
That seems awfully young to me, but this is perhaps one of those cases where the judges hoped to crown someone without much mileage on her - similar in reasoning to why The Royals opted for the sweet young Diana as an appropriate bride for the older Prince Charles. I.e., they are in hopes that there will be no surprises emerging – no YouTube scandals in the wings. And Miss Scanlan – I was going to write “Ms. Scanlan”, but I think not – has the requisite bland, conventional, whiter-than-white teeth looks that go with the territory.
Plus, Miss Scanlan is a student at Patrick Henry College, a conservative Christian college hoping to turn out conservative Christian politicians and judges, both of which Miss Scanlan hopes to be someday.
She beat out our Miss Massachusetts, Loren Geller Rabinowitz, who I suspect didn’t have a prayer of a chance.
Ms. Rabinowitz – and I think I’m on safe ground with the Ms. here – was profiled the other day in The Boston Globe. She’s only 5’2”, which puts here at more than a munchkin-sized disadvantage when compared to the statuesque, leggy swimsuit blondes. (There hasn’t been a winner this short since 1921.) And, while she’s plenty attractive, her looks aren’t of the bland and conventionally pretty variety. She’s also Jewish, and, if she’d won, would have been only the second Jewish Miss A. (Bess Myerson remains the one and only.) Not the mention that she would have been the first to graduate from Harvard. (Fight fiercely, Harvard!)
What Ms. Geller is, however, in every other aspect of her life, something of a superstar.
It was exhausting just reading about her: Ivy League grad (magna), championship skater, poet, concert pianist, combo skating coach-tutor, and future pediatrician. She’s weighing her med school acceptances now. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that she will not have to attend med school in Grenada. While at Harvard, she won the David McCord Prize for "depth of talent in the literary arts," and the Harvard University Le Baron Briggs Prize, "for work as a humanitarian and poet." Oh, yeah, and she’s the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.
I’m guessing that there were few Miss America candidates who could top Ms. Rabinowitz when it comes to résumé or likelihood of stellar future accomplishment.
But none of this helped get her the crown, or even a place in the semi-finals.
Probably the biggest thing she had going against her was being from Massachusetts, which has never, ever, ever in the whole wide world has had a candidate who won. Only a handful have even placed in the semis. One was 1st runner-up. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for confirming what I knew in my heart, anyway. Massachusetts across your however ample chest is a kiss of Miss America death.)
I guess there’s just not all that much of a beauty pageant culture in these parts. No Little Miss Cunning starter events for three year olds who’ve already had their eyebrows done. No, “oh, goodie, Miss America is coming to town for a ribbon cutting at the new WalMart.”
So instead of sending contenders, we apparently send girls from Massachusetts who are actually in it for the scholarship loot.
I do, however, believe that Ms. Rabinowitz stood a better chance than our 1965 candidate, Mabel Bendiksen, whose talent was a Dramatic Reading & Folk Singing of "The Hazards of Nuclear Fallout" & "What Have They Done to the Rain".
Bet that went over big with the judges!
Anyway, Mabel Bendiksen was handily beaten by Vonda Kay VanDyke, a signing ventriloquist.
Take that, Mabel Bendiksen.
When I was in high school, a girl from our parish, Carol Ann Kennedy, was Miss Massachusetts. She was a dancer and, as I recall, a pretty enough blonde who did The Commonwealth proud by making it to the semi-finals. I remember seeing her once, in a convertible, wearing her crown on the way to some function.
I did not, however, know her personally because she lived in a different neighborhood and, more important, was a “pub”, i.e., someone who attended public school. Unless you lived next door to one, you just didn’t know any pubs.
Carol Ann Kennedy did, however, factor tangentially in an earlier event in my life.
Every year, each grade at Our Lady of Angels grammar school put on some bit of entertainment as part of the annual Christmas Pageant (the only “pageant” any of us were ever associated with). One grade might have a “rhythm band” (clap sticks and tambourines); another might play “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” on their recorders. The eighth grade always did the Nativity tableau. Generally, there was some latitude in what each nun picked for her grade.
In fifth grade, Sister Saint Wilhelmina decided that we would all don kelly-green crepe paper vests and sing “Christmas in Killarney,” while a hand-picked selection of girls step danced. Since Sister Saint Wilhelmina despised me (among a number of other girls, one of whom I’m guessing is reading this blog), I was not one of the chosen few. Sister Saint Wilhelmina also thought it would look better if all the step dancers were short, which further knocked me (not to mention that other girl, my cousin MB, who I’m guessing is reading this blog) out of the box. She did, however, invite her pets among the tall girls (MB and I not among them) to “join in the fun of the jigs and reels” and learn to step dance.
Step dancing was taught by Carol Ann Kennedy, still in her pre-Miss Massachusetts days, and a catechism student of Sister Saint Wilhelmina. (Catholic pubs had to attend weekly religious education classes. On catechism day, we were warned to bring anything valuable home, and to hide our pens and pencils in the back of our desks so it would be harder for the pubs to filch them. I’m guessing that Carol Ann Kennedy was not a pencil-filching pub.)
Surprisingly, given the Irish-American majority in our parish, I didn’t actually know anyone who took step dancing.
We all knew about it, as it was a frequent act on Community Auditions, “New England’s Showcase for Talented Amateurs”, which ran on Channel 4 ever Sunday morning for years. Our neighborhood talented amateurs took piano, tap, or baton.
Anyway, because I was both tall and despised by Sister Saint Wilhelmina, I did not get the opportunity to meet the future Miss Massachusetts personally.
Thanks, Sister Saint Wilhelmina. Thanks for nothing.
Think how ticked off I would be if Carol Ann Kennedy had actually gone on to win the whole shebang?