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Cure for the ailing pageant

So, ratings are down big time for the Miss America Pageant, and the national institution is in danger of being booted off network TV.

Gee, we can't have that, can we?

Well, yes, we can. But the challenge of reviving the pageant is too good to pass up.

Looking at photos from the pageant and the aftermath, we had a great idea:

Give it an extreme makeover. And we mean that in every sense. Miss America should rip off a reality show (it's legal; the courts say so) and make the contestants suffer true pain and humiliation to win. America will go crazy.

There's no shortage of possibilities.

"SURVIVOR: ATLANTIC CITY": "Tonight, 52 women will be airlifted from the Boardwalk to a deserted Atlantic Ocean island during hurricane season. They will parachute out of a plane with only a pair of tweezers, a tube of lipstick, a can of hair spray and their Band-Aid swimsuits, and be forced to spend 14 days fighting whatever nature, and the other contestants, throw at them. . . . Fifty-two women. Fourteen days. One Miss America."

"FEAR FACTOR: MISS AMERICA": No eating pig parts. No vertical driving. No being covered in live bugs. This would go for the fear jugular: Contestants must do swimsuit and evening gown competitions without taping their body parts to the clothes. No makeup allowed. No Vaseline on the teeth for easier smiling; no brushing or flossing for a week before the big night. And the hairstyle you get out of bed with that day is the style you compete with.


"I'M A MISS AMERICA CONTESTANT, GET ME OUT OF HERE": The contestants live in a high-security women's prison for two weeks. Judging categories include best shank made from a toothbrush, best schmoozing of the guards and best escape attempt.

"MISS AMERICA IN THE AMISH COUNTRY": Miss District of Columbia milks a cow in her evening dress while trying not to harm it with her long fingernails. Miss California goes into hysterics upon realizing that no electricity means no way to use her hair dryer. Miss Alabama is shunned when she insists on wearing hot pink for the parade of states. The other girls are shocked to learn that Miss Wisconsin's talent really is barn-raising.

"MISS AMERICAN IDOL": With Simon Cowell as the sole judge, every contestant must sing. Imagine a night of: "I'd crown William Hung Miss America before I'd crown you." "I hope your taste in evening wear isn't as bad as your taste in music." "Someone tell the dogs of America they can uncover their ears now."

"THE APPRENTICE MOMMY": With cameras documenting her every move, the winner must spend her year being a full-time mother to a child, who at any time can tell Miss America, "You're fired."

"WHO WANTS TO MARRY MY DAD?": Each contestant puts her father on the market during the show. The one who gets the most viewer votes wins.

Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or