Published Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 | 5:50 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 | 9:25 p.m.
2012 Miss America Pageant
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SPOILER ALERT: The 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood is live on the East Coast and tape delayed on the West Coast, or Pacific Time. Leave now if you want to watch the telecast without knowing the winner at 9 p.m. PT.
It’s been a memorable stay for the 53 2012 Miss America Pageant contestants since their arrival Jan. 5 at Planet Hollywood and leading up to tonight’s competition at the Theater for the Performing Arts airing on ABC. Be sure to check out the Miss America special section to get up to date on the past 1 1/2 weeks.
Chris Harrison of “The Bachelor” and Brooke Burke-Charvet of “Dancing With the Stars” are back as co-hosts. We go live at 6 p.m. PT. Follow Robin Leach on Twitter @robin_leach and here for live updates:
5:55 p.m.: Fifty-five minutes to start of Miss America at Planet Hollywood. Theater filling with frenzied fans holding posters, placards and photos. TV producer tells me entire show is ready to roll in 27 minutes. Fully confident will be best show yet and squirm factor is at the end. Parade of Miss America winners in warm-up show. Planet Hollywood International chief Robert Earl has arrived. Accountants in position. Co-hosts and contestants ready in position backstage. “Fox & Friends” anchor Gretchen Carlson here three rows from stage. OK magazine honchos from New York here.
6 p.m.: It’s the parade of 53 contestants starting at Hoover Dam. Miss Colorado Diana Dreman makes a shout-out to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, of course. More introductions at GhostBar at the Palms. Now they’re at the new Hyde Bellagio. Miss Nebraska Kayla Batt thanks Lady Gaga for the shout-out. Next up is “Le Reve” at the Wynn owned by Steve Wynn. Off to Fremont Street Experience downtown. Miss Illinois redhead Hannah Smith honors fellow redheads Raquel Welch and Ann-Margaret. The final 10 are at pageant headquarters at Planet Hollywood. Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, who won the first-night preliminary for talent, tells Super Bowl champion quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers to call her!
6:10 p.m.: The America’s Choice semifinalist choice is Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson.
6:14 p.m.: Burke interviews Miss Oklahoma about the week’s preliminary competition. The judges are introduced: Mark Ballas in a tuxedo onstage, Raul De Molina of Univision, “The Bachelor” producer Mike Fleiss, Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner, actress Teri Polo (“Meet the Parents”), Chris Powell of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover” and head judge Lara Spencer of “Good Morning America.”
6:17 p.m.: The 14 remaining semifinalists are Miss South Carolina Bree Boyce, Miss Florida Kristina Janolo, Miss New York Kaitlin Monte, Miss Iowa Jessica Pray, Miss Texas Kendall Morris, Miss Virginia Elizabeth Crot, Miss Illinois Hannah Smith, Miss Arizona Jennifer Sedler, Miss Alabama Courtney Porter, Miss Tennessee Erin Hatley and Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler.
6:25 p.m: Back from commercial break, the final three are Miss North Carolina Hailey Best, Miss California Noelle Freeman and Miss Louisiana Hope Anderson.
6:32 p.m.: 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan, now 18 but crowned when she was 17, is introduced and is ravishing in red. She salutes the 27 Miss America winners at the pageant. Brooke talks with the eliminated contestants, who start singing Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight” as a stress reliever.
6:35 p.m.: It’s the parade of bikinis for the lifestyle and fitness category: Miss Oklahoma in red, Miss South Carolina in black, Miss Florida in black, Miss New York in red, Miss Iowa in white, Miss Texas in purple, Miss Virginia in white, Miss Illinois in purple, Miss Arizona in red, Miss Alabama in red, Miss Tennessee in purple, Miss Wisconsin in white, Miss North Carolina in black, Miss California in silver and Miss Louisiana in red.
6:44 p.m.: The Top 12, who now must change into their evening gowns, are Miss Louisiana, Miss Iowa, Miss Illinois, Miss South Carolina, Miss New York, Miss Wisconsin, Miss Florida, Miss Tennessee, Miss Arizona, Miss Texas, Miss California and Miss Oklahoma.
6:49 p.m.: Surprise! The contestants stand behind one of the three eliminated to save her! Who gets the second chance? Miss Alabama!
6:55 p.m.: It’s the parade of evening wear: Miss Louisiana is wearing white, Miss Iowa in red, Miss Illinois in sparkling cream, Miss South Carolina in white, Miss New York in white, Miss Wisconsin in black, Miss Florida in sparkling black, Miss Tennessee in white, Miss Arizona in sparkling white, Miss Texas in sparking gold, Miss California in white, Miss Oklahoma in white and Miss Alabama in sparkling pewter.
7:02 p.m.: Miss Nevada Alana Lee quips that she’s entering the race for president.
7:07 p.m.: It’s the talent competition, 10 performances for 30 percent of the final score. First up is Miss Arizona Jennifer Sedler in a very sexy jazz dance to Prince’s “It’s About That Walk.” Miss Illinois Hannah Smith performs ballet in a green tutu. Miss Oklahoma performs an Irish step dance. Miss Florida Kristina Janolo will not perform, as she is eliminated.
7:17 p.m.: Miss Texas Kendall Morris plays “New World Symphony” on the piano. Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler performs the aria “Il Bacio (The Kiss).” Miss New York Kaitlin Monte sings Marvin Hamlisch’s “Disneyland.” Miss Louisiana Hope Anderson performs a contemporary dance to “Sway” and mixes in ballet -- with full splits at the end. Miss South Carolina Bree Boyce is eliminated. “Being onstage was a dream come true for me,” she says.
7:30 p.m.: Miss Tennessee Erin Hatley sings “Memory” from “Cats” -- in Italian! Miss Iowa Jessica Pray sings Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.” Miss California Noelle Freeman performs a ballet variation from “Swan Lake,” so Miss Alabama Courtney Porter is eliminated.
7:42 p.m.: It’s the stressful onstage questions for the Top Five, who must answer in 20 seconds. Lara Spencer asks Miss Wisconsin about political affiliations: She says Miss America should represent all. Chris Powell asks Miss Oklahoma whether the government should control how children are fed: She says it is the parents’ responsibility. Kris Jenner asks Miss Arizona about Tim Tebow and his faith -- should celebrities use fame to spread their faith? She says Miss America represents everyone, not one faith. Teri Polo asks Miss New York about Occupy Wall Street: She says the protesters need solutions along with protesting. And Mark Ballas asks Miss California about “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant”: She says that you have to recognize reality TV entertainment vs. reality.
7:53 p.m.: The fourth runner-up is Miss California Noelle Freeman. Third runner-up is Miss Arizona Jennifer Stedler. Second runner-up is Miss New York Kaitlin Monte. First runner-up is Miss Oklahoma Betty Thompson, and the 2012 Miss America is Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, just as Johnny Avello of the Wynn sports book predicted.
8:19 p.m.: Robin and other media await backstage for 2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler of Wisconsin and her parents, mom Sue and father Jeff, who was imprisoned for white-collar crimes while Laura was a child. Her platform is mentoring children of imprisoned parents.
8:33 p.m.: Jeff tells Robin backstage that he served 18 months in prison for mail fraud. It taught him to take ownership and face responsibility, and he learned that mistakes don’t define you. “I made the best of it, I moved on. I was converted with my faith inside prison, and I learned that God can make everything good. It’s the good that comes out of this is the message. This is the proudest moment of my life.”
BACKSTAGE PRESS CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS
9:08 p.m.: Cameras snap away! Laura is honored and blessed to be the new Miss America. She will stress the importance of education. She wants to pursue her family law degree. Judges Mark Ballas, Teri Polo, Mike Fleiss, Chris Powell, Kris Jenner, Raul De Molina and Lara Spencer join Laura onstage for photographs.
9:12 p.m.: The judges talk about their experiences the past week. Mark says, “I think we nailed it!” Laura talks about her strong connection to her platform. Before it was announced, the runner-up told Laura, “You will be a fantastic Miss America.” Laura says her dad is her best friend, and he joins her onstage.
9:21 p.m.: The Dream Academy empowered and inspired Laura while her father was in prison. “No dream is too small, and I am living proof of it.”
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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