Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 | 12:34 p.m.
2012 Miss America Pageant
More arts and entertainment
- Check out Robin Leach's VegasDeLuxe.com for more celebrity and A&E coverage.
2012 Miss America
2012 Miss America
2012 Miss America
2012 Miss America
2012 Miss America
It was a full day and night of heart-tugging, tear-jerking emotions and awards at the 2012 Miss America Pageant — and Mark Ballas and Kris Jenner wound up in a fun battle for a surprise Judge of the Year talent contest. There wasn’t a dry eye in Planet Hollywood’s Theater for the Performing Arts as 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan revealed that she had pulled 53 diamonds from her crown and turned them into pendants as a gift for each one of this year’s 53 competitors.
She said: “I am so impressed by them, I’m looking up to them as role models. They’re all older than me, so I still find myself watching them and going, ‘I want to be like them when I grow up!’ ” Scanlan said she created the gifts because she wanted whoever wins Saturday night to be reminded that she is always with her to root her on and encourage her to do even better in the job.
“I hope she builds on the power of the Miss Americas who have gone before her. I hope Saturday’s winner will be better than me and improve so that every year now on the hard work put in makes the pageant stronger, bigger and better.” Incidentally, Scanlan said she will have her own piano CD recording released this fall and that she now has won sufficient scholarship money from the Miss America Organization to pay for her tuition at Harvard Law School.
Thursday began with the Quality of Life Scholarship Awards to four contestants for dedication and devotion to their charity platforms. Miss Kentucky Ann Blair Thornton was awarded a $6,000 scholarship; first runner-up was Miss New Hampshire Regan Hartley, $4,000; and second runner-up was Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger, $2,000. Miss Idaho Genevieve Nutting received a $2,000 Four Points Scholarship.
Then 15 Miss America winners met for a reunion lunch at Vintner Grill in Summerlin, among them “Fox & Friends” host Gretchen Carlson and “The Amazing Race” contestant Ericka Dunlap, who revealed that she is celebrating an important birthday: “I’m 30, flirty, and proud of it!” It was the largest turnout for the annual reunion since the pageant moved to Las Vegas seven years ago.
Guests included Steve Wynn’s wife, Andrea Hissom, seated alongside Cheryl Goldstein, wife of Venetian and Palazzo chief Rob Goldstein, and civic leaders Lynn Weidner, Gloria Fine and Sue Lowden. They all agreed that Scanlan had been the best role model ever as the 2011 Miss America.
Former Radio City Music Hall Rockettes member Maria Fletcher, 69, won the 1962 Miss America Pageant as Miss North Carolina and celebrated her 50th anniversary at the luncheon. She said: “Miss America does make dreams come true. I crawled out of my hole thanks to its scholarship program and went on to graduate in French and philosophy.” Here’s a YouTube video of the Miss Americas talking about their lifetime experiences:
TV personality Phyllis George arrives today, while Lee Meriwether, who has been here this week, did a one-day, round-trip flight to New York to promote Saturday’s ABC pageant broadcast on “Good Morning America” this morning with head judge Lara Spencer’s backstage, behind-the-scenes report. Lee was on a return flight here at noon. Incredibly, only one week ago, the 77-year-old actress had successful surgery for a burst appendix.
Miss Hawaii Lauren Cheape was Thursday night’s preliminary talent winner for her jump-rope routine to the music of “Hawaii Five-O.” Lauren, who dazzled a cheering audience with her unique butt lifts under the high-speed rope, won a $2,000 scholarship. Miss New York Kaitlin Monte was the $1,000 lifestyle and fitness scholarship winner in a Monte Carlo Komplique swimsuit.
Additionally, thanks to awards set up by the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Scanlan, 2012 Miss America Outstanding Teen Elizabeth Fechtel and 14 current contestants won Duke of Edinburgh Awards presented by Josh Randle, national executive director of the Duke of Edinburgh’s “Award Young Americans Challenge.” The 14 winning contestants are from Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
However, quote of the night honors goes to our Miss Nevada Alana Lee, who sang as if she was a Las Vegas headline act. She urged the cheering crowd to “spend, spend, spend while you are here in Vegas.” Other talent contestants who dazzled last night were Miss Washington Britney Henry, who played an Irish medley on the violin she used to play on the streets to escape poverty and put herself through school, and Miss Missouri Hope Driskill, who KO’d the audience singing Aerosmith’s “Dream On” wearing a sparkly cloak over leather hot pants.
JUDGE OF THE YEAR
MC and comedienne Dena Blizzard came through with her promise to pull the celebrity judges onstage to perform in a talent contest to understand how nerve-wracking the segment was for contestants. But only Mark Ballas from “Dancing With the Stars” accepted, as the other judges each relinquished their time slot so he could perform longer. He performed a series of guitar solos and danced a sultry tango with Dena as the other judges gave him a standing ovation and grooved to his dance moves. Kris Jenner took photos and tweeted them.
Dena returned onstage wearing a Kardashian wig and implored Kris to let her become a member of the Kardashian family. “I’ll change my name to Kena,” she laughed. Kris went onstage, looked her over and gave her the OK to become a honorary family member!
It was a hysterically funny routine that had the audience on its feet, especially when Kris closed with: “Only if you promise that when you marry, the wedding last longer than 72 hours like some people I know!” Mark won the Judge of the Year Award, with Kris as the first runner-up. Describing this week’s Miss America visit to Las Vegas, chairman Sam Haskell said: ”We’ve proved that Miss America is a dream machine you can take all the way to the stars.”
MISS AMERICA AND CANCER SURVIVOR
After the contest Thursday night, I chatted with cancer survivor and 1974 Miss America Rebecca King Dreman, mom of competing Miss Colorado Diana Dreman. From her wheelchair, she told me: “I was determined to get to Las Vegas and walk on that stage. I needed help, assistance to steady me and to propel me, but I am making progress in the battle against Stage 4 melanoma cancer. I wanted to be here for my sisters and also for my daughter Diana, who is this year’s Miss Colorado. She’s doing well so far, and I’m very proud of her. Naturally, she’s already a winner in my eyes, whatever happens.
“I am very fortunate that we caught the cancer when we did. The tumor in my back had grown as large as what looked to me to be a basketball. But we have incredible doctors and wonderful treatments at the Cancer Institute in Denver. They are amazed that we have stopped the growths, and the clinical trials are working. There was a point when I thought it was all over and that I wouldn’t make it to Vegas to see Diana compete. So, yes, this is all a miracle.”
A big thank you to Tom Donoghue for yet another stellar photo gallery. We’ll be back later with our interviews with co-hosts Chris Harrison of “The Bachelor” and “Dancing With the Stars” beauty Brooke Burke-Charvet, plus a sneak preview by Executive Producer Tony Eaton of the changes and surprise opening for Saturday night’s telecast.
The @MissAmericaOrganization and I (@robin_leach) will tweet the pageant in real time Saturday as of 6 p.m. PT, so please accept this as a SPOILER ALERT for PT/West Coast tape-delayed viewers!
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.