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August 20, 2014

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2012 Miss America photos: Utah, Wisconsin win first night; judges

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012. Winners Miss Utah Danica Olsen (lifestyle and fitness) and Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler (talent) are pictured here.

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2012 Miss America Pageant: First Preliminaries and Judges

First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012. Launch slideshow »
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First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges, including, pictured here, Chris Powell, Teri Polo and Kris Jenner, in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012.

For the first time in Miss America Pageant history, all seven judges were pulled onstage during the first night of preliminary pageant competition -- and put through the same tortures that face the 53 contestants: the runway poise, the posture and personality presentation and the grueling unknown question!

But this was all a hilarious, unscripted, unrehearsed and unknown segment that 1994 Miss New Jersey Dena Blizzard orchestrated, and everybody reveled in it, even the judges who received a standing ovation for their performances. Dena, who hosted, is a comedienne with numerous TV credits. She “mocked” Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner for trying to steal the spotlight; she “chastised” “Meet the Fockers” actress Teri Polo for wearing the shortest dress known to mankind that could have qualified as a swimsuit; and she “ordered” “Good Morning America’s” Lara Spencer to “rock it,” and she sure did, as Tom Donoghue’s photographs show.

Dina wasn’t enthusiastic about the runway walks of Mike Fleiss and Raul De Molina but raved about Chris Powell’s physical fitness with his startling display of jumps and push-ups. In the end, though, she admitted that she had a crush on “Dancing With the Stars” pro champion dancer Mark Ballas, and he was pronounced winner for his astounding jumping acrobatic twirls. “It was planned that way from the start,” Dina laughed.

Incidentally, Kris told me that Tuesday afternoon, Lara and she had gone on an antique shopping trip downtown, and she succeeded in buying a yellow antique duck lamp for daughter Kourtney Kardashian’s next baby. “When all three girls were born, I gave them a bright yellow duck lamp for their bedrooms. This was simply me continuing on with the tradition,” she said. “I didn’t go out specifically to find one. It was just right there catching my eye when we went downtown to the antiques center near the ‘Pawn Stars’ shop.”

There was a standing ovation for 1974 Miss America Rebecca King Dreman who, with assistance, was determined to walk onstage even though she’s battling crippling Stage 4 melanoma cancer. Becky resigned from the Miss America Board last year because of her cancer battle and also because her daughter Diana is competing in this year’s pageant as Miss Colorado. If she won, it would be the first time in the 91-year history of the pageant that a mother and daughter claimed the crown.

It was a premiere evening of magnificent evening gowns, some backless, some bare shouldered, and many with plunging necklines and thigh-high slits to show off glamorous gams. The gowns count for 20 percent of the overall vote. I cannot begin to tell you how many people, including Planet Hollywood staff, said: “This year, it’s looks over talent. This bunch of girls is smoking.”

But it was a night of serious talent -- from opera to Broadway numbers, from classical ballet to Irish tap dancing, from jazz to lyrical -- and a piano and a flute performance. Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler was named the first night’s preliminary talent winner for her operatic vocal performance of “Il Bacio” and won a $2,000 scholarship. You’ll recall Laura from our Sunday story of how she formed a mentor group for children of incarcerated parents, as she was brought up with an absentee father in jail for whiter-collar crimes.

No denying Laura’s win: She was flawless. I shouldn’t single out individuals but can’t help admitting that I was wowed by 20-year-old Jennifer Sedler, Miss Arizona, for her red-and-black-costumed, cabaret-girl-hot dance number. She’s a 4.0 honors medical graduate studying pediatric oncology when she could be a new star is born on Broadway. Miss Alabama Courtney Porter shined like a star of tomorrow, with Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger close behind.

It was a night of stunning, sassy -- and, yes, sexy -- swimsuits in gold, red, black and shining bright white. Miss Utah Danica Olsen, 21, was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in her Deaville Komplique swimsuit with 18K gold and Swarovski crystal accents. Danica won a $1,000 scholarship.

Our Miss Nevada Alana Lee had to tackle the judge’s question last night about her platform: “Patriotism: Rock the Vote.” Tonight, she’ll be seen in her swimsuit and her evening gown. I chatted with Alana before she started her day’s duties this morning at 7. At the final preliminary competition on Thursday, she’ll showcase her singing skills in the talent portion.

I also thought that Diana and Miss South Carolina Bree Boyce were two true beauties worth keeping your eyes on as the pageant week continues. The 2-hour ABC telecast is Saturday night at Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts, and tickets are still available for tonight and Thursday’s preliminary presentations.

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.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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