Public and judges’ votes
I’ve exclusively learned that a major change is in place for this year’s pageant: All 53 contestants have had to vote for whom they think should be in the final 12! Here’s how it will work:
At-home viewers on Friday will learn the 12 contestants that the 53 have nominated to be among the final 15 on the Saturday broadcast. Then they will vote their selections in a 1-12 order. If they correspond with the judges, then the judges’ next picks will balance out the final 15. So viewers and judges could jointly select 11, with America solely choosing four, or America and the judges agreeing on all 12, and then the next three judges’ picks would be on deck.
In theory, and probably in practice, this means that the contestants and the public have chosen one candidate who will become Miss America. “It’s much fairer, and the public gets a real say in the final choice,” one Miss America official told me.
On Saturday, the 53 candidates, including Miss Puerto Rico for the first time in more than 50 years, will be cut to the 15 selected by at-home viewers and judges. It will be interesting to see if the viewers and the judges agreed with one another.
After one competitive segment -- swimsuit for fitness, ball gown and talent -- the contestants will be reduced to 12. The 12 will get cut to 10, and then down to a final seven. From those remaining seven, the four runners-up in fourth, third, second and first will be named. That will leave three girls onstage with host Mario Lopez, and only one of them will win the Miss America title and crown.
I’ve also exclusively learned that Planet Hollywood, now being managed by Harrah’s, has beefed up security while controversial radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is staying at the casino resort. Opponents who have now threatened to disrupt his appearances here in Las Vegas this week regularly attack his conservative views.
Pole Position Raceway
Last night, contestants had their final fun night on the town after a weekend that included the Miss America hopefuls at The Venetian gondolas, a Fashion Show runway meet-and-greet and their celebration dinner at Buca di Beppo.
First, Lance welcomed them to Las Vegas, and after giving a special greeting to his home state contender Miss Kentucky Mallory Ervin, he performed several magic tricks for the astonished girls who discovered coins from their ears, multiplying rabbits in their hands and streamers flowing from their cardigan necks.
At one point in a mock fight between Miss Indiana Nicole Pollard and Miss Louisiana Katherine Putnam, I had to referee and separate them after the New Orleans Saints won their playoff game in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl next month. The new Miss America will make one of her first-week appearances as hostess of the Taste of the NFL in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., after her round of New York TV show appearances next week.
Then it was time for high-speed thrills as the 47 pageant queens at Pole Position Raceway opposite Palms Place raced around the indoor track at speeds of as fast as 35 mph. Our videographer Trent Ogle and contributing photographer Tom Donoghue captured all the action for our coverage -- check back for Trent’s video.
Miss New Hampshire Lindsey Graham won the race. Rounding out the Top 10, in order: Miss Massachusetts Amanda Kelly, Miss District of Columbia Jen Corey, Miss Arizona Savanna Troupe, Miss West Virginia Talia Markham, Miss Idaho Kara Jackson, Miss Kentucky Mallory Ervin, Miss Arkansas Sarah Slocum, Miss Illinois Erin O’Connor and Miss Alaska Sydnee Waggoner.
The competition begins
Today, the grueling week of judges’ interviews, talent practice and rehearsals and three nights of preliminary competitions get underway at Planet Hollywood. From hereon in, it’s a brutal 16-hour workday -- a 7a.m. to 11 p.m. schedule -- as they compete for the title, crown and scholarships.
Tonight, the contestants will attend Phantom -- The Las Vegas Spectacular at The Venetian, and they’ve been promised a backstage visit with the Phantom after the performance.
This year’s Miss America Pageant, hosted once again by Mario Lopez, will be broadcast on TLC from Planet Hollywood on Saturday. We’ll have live coverage of the winner and the very first exclusive interview also on Saturday moments after the 7 p.m. coronation.
We’ll continue our extensive coverage with photo galleries, stories and interviews here each day this week at VegasDeLuxe.com, and real-time news will be on our Twitter reports.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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