It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad Pageant (Continued)
With its bags packed for the Aladdin Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas and its bank balances sagging, the Miss America Pageant is now asking former winners to donate money for the scholarship that goes with the crown.
Making an unprecedented move, Miss America Organization CEO Art McMaster appealed to former winners to kick in for the $50,000 scholarship, citing the Pageant's new fundraising push.
In a letter dated November 3rd, obtained by The Associated Press, McMaster noted the Pageant's loss of network television revenue, saying that donations were needed to underwrite the overall Miss America scholarship.
"I am asking that all of you make a donation towards this scholarship and support the organization that helped shape all of your lives, just as you would support your alma mater as alunmi," McMaster wrote. Having announced earlier in the week that the next Miss America would be crowned at the Aladdin in Vegas, the CEO did not return several phone calls seeking further comment. However, the closely knit group of former title holders had mixed emotions about McMaster's plea.
"I knew that this program was at a critical point in its history and, in many ways, in dire straits," said Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. "It didn't make me think that things were worse than they are. It did confirm my worst fears that we really are at a crossroads; and that something powerful needs to happen."
To Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, the request seemed "a little odd." "The formers, we're all in a very precarious position," she said. "You can't find bigger supporters of this organization than us --- but when you call upon us at practically the eleventh hour, it makes things a little difficult. We're trying to plan, as a group, to see what the best course of action is."
The world's leading provider of scholarships to young women, the Miss America Organization makes $45 million in scholarship aid available annually, including the $50,000 due the winner. Historically, money from the Pageant's TV partners has funded the scholarships and the organization's other operations, providing up to $6 million per year. But all that was put in jeopardy 13 months ago, when ABC pulled the plug on Miss America after record-poor viewership for the 2004 Pageant, seen by only 9.8 million people. Last year, the parent organization lost $1.7 million, and by August, McMaster made the decision to move the Pageant out of its Atlantic City, NJ home in favor of cheaper digs.
Though cable outlet Country Music Television has since picked up the broadcast rights to Miss America, word is that those rights are far less than previous. CMT will air the Pageant live on January 21st.
Again, kiddies, we see that ultimately what it all boils down to is money. The hip-hoppers, if memory serves me correctly, have their own philosophy about it: "CREAM --- Cash Rules Everything Around Me." No doubt that cash is ruling everything around Mr. McMaster, as well. What in the end will ultimately determine Miss America's future will be whether the telecast succeeds or fails on its own merits. Those of you who may not have learned, this was the very same dire straits that almost destroyed the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's annual Christmas Parade --- they dared to get in bed with executive producer Bob Bain, whose namesake production company is the reason Miss America made the move to CMT and Vegas.
Bain's idea was to not telecast any elements associated with the Hollywood Christmas Parade. The results of his folly were shown in December 2004 as an hour-long NBC travesty, The Blockbuster Hollywood Christmas Spectacular. Needless to say, nobody watched the thing, and the Chamber received a tsunami's worth of of e-mail complaints as a result. See ye now the outcome: this year's 74th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade airs locally this Sunday evening on KTLA-TV, to be hosted by Mark Steines and Lu Parker, with Ross King at the Parade route.
The show will air on 20 Tribune Broadcasting stations, principally New York's WPIX, WGN Superstation Chicago, WLVI Boston and WPHL Philadelphia. Needless to say, Tribune Entertainment will distribute.
The lesson to be learned here, boys and girls, is this: Never mess about with tradition. The minute you do, you're gonna burn in hell for it. I know what I'm talking about.
As always, I wanna know what you think, America. Gimme an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.