The undated letter from someone named Patti Schneider came complete with official letterhead, a New Jersey return address and even a telephone number.
Patti Schneider, according to the letter, is the State Director for the National American Miss beauty contest which, near as I can tell, is open to five age categories: Teen (16-18), Junior Teen (13-15), Pre-Teen (10-12), Junior Pre-Teen (7-9) and of course, the forever enduring and charming Princess (4-6).
I was immediately taken back to my days of covering pageants. I once covered the Miss Louisiana Pageant in Monroe and the guest was former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley and when she came down the runway and sang, I’m certain she was singing only to me because she glanced in my direction. Once. Ever-so-briefly. (She was obviously trying to be discreet, but her admiring sidelong look was a dead giveaway to everyone in the auditorium.) I asked my wife if she saw how Mary Ann (we’re that close) smiled at me and she said yes, adding that it was a bit unusual because most women laugh out loud at me.
And then there was that incredibly drawn-out Queen Dixie Gem Pageant in Louisiana Tech’s Howard Auditorium in Ruston way back in the late ’60s or early ’70s. The Queen Dixie Gem Pageant is the culmination of the annual Lincoln Parish Peach Festival. Some memories fade over time while others are etched indelibly on the brain. In this case the exact year is hazy but the details that follow are as clear as if they occurred yesterday.
To set the stage, the emcee was caught up in his own narcissistic sense of importance and did not understand that the show was not about him.
There were 23 contestants and he had index cards with biographical information on each one. Each contestant appeared onstage four times: casual street wear, evening gown, swimsuit, and talent. The emcee was supposed to give one or two biographical items each time a contestant came out. Instead, he read what seemed like each girl’s entire genealogical history with each appearance.
Do you have any concept of how incredibly maddening it is to hear some variation of “…and she enjoys the game of love—tennis”—92 times in one evening?
The insistence of giving every detail of each contestant’s life four times resulted in the pageant’s plodding on until well past midnight—more than five hours.
But the best was yet to come. The emcee, either an instructor or a student at a charm school in Shreveport, had compiled an interminable list of “things to do on a rainy day” that he was determined to get all the way through while the judges were compiling their final tabulations. This is just a fraction of that list:
“Read a book.”
“Bake a cake.”
“Clean the house.”
“Wash the car.”
“Write a letter to a friend.”
“Sprinkle perfume in your drawers.”
Yep, he really did say that. Of course he meant bureau drawers (at least we think that’s what he meant) but it didn’t matter because no one chose to take it that way and needless to say, it more or less brought down an otherwise exhausted house. We could barely hear the announcement of the winner’s name over the laughter that must have lasted a good 20 minutes.
But back to Ms. Schneider and the National American Miss. (The organization’s acronym is NAM, so I hope it doesn’t cause any flashbacks with our readers.)
“Your daughter has been referred to me as a possible candidate who may enjoy modeling,” the letter from Ms. Schneider begins. “I am writing to tell you that she is eligible to compete in this year’s official state pageant. This is her invitation to an Open Call for the National American Miss Louisiana State Pageant, the official preliminary to the national pageant held each year in sunny California at Hollywood and Disneyland.”
After waving the prizes like a carrot on a stick ($20,000 in cash, modeling scholarships, college scholarships, and a new 2013 Ford Mustang convertible—in all, more than $500,000 in cash, prizes and scholarships), the letter continued.
“National American Miss is a pageant experience designed for your daughter, today’s girl; that’s why we do not have a swimsuit competition. We believe that kids should look like kids, that’s why we have a no make-up rule for participants age 12 and under and she is not required to perform a talent. Scoring is based on an individual’s personality, poise and confidence.
“We are providing these Open Call session dates for all candidates who are interested in finding out more information about our production. We will hosting the Open Calls at these times:
• Tuesday, Feb. 26 at the Best Western Inn & Conference Center at 2720 North MacArthur Dr. in Alexandria;
• Wednesday, Feb. 27 at the Holiday Inn at 2032 NE Evangeline Thruway in Lafayette;
• Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Crowne Plaza, 4728 Constitution Ave., Baton Rouge.
Applicants may choose either the 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Open Call times in either city.
Attractive as Ms. Schneider’s offer is, however, we’re going to have to pass.
Oh, it’s not that we don’t have daughters. We do. Three, in fact.
But our youngest was born in 1977 and at 35 and with three children of her own, she might be a tad long in the tooth to qualify.
Now we do have granddaughters aged 17, 11 and six…
Oh, did I mention there’s a $20 registration fee—just for the Open Call. And then there is the National American Miss Apparel Store where one can make online purchases of shirts, sweats, caps, etc. for mom, pop and the little kiddies.
But I’d still like to know who referred my daughter (singular) and which one was being referred. I’m sure she’d be flattered.
Of course the other two might not be too happy at being slighted.