Looking back on an interesting interview with the Miss America Organization's head Art McMaster from 2007.
Below are excerpts from an in-depth interview with Art McMaster, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization conducted at the 2007 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. The thrust of the interview was not about that pageant, but had to do with the future of Miss America and more importantly, its return to Atlantic City (which was announced officially Thursday, Feb. 14, during a press conference at Boardwalk Hall).
“Las Vegas is very happy to have the Miss America Pageant; they feel like they have stolen a great property away from Atlantic City,” said Art McMaster, president and CEO of the Miss America Organization.
Miss Oklahoma, Lauren Nelson, was crowned Miss America 2007 at the Aladdin Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, Monday evening, Jan. 29. However, this column is not about the new Miss America but about the “Miss America Pageant” and its future.
The pageant began in 1921 as a way of extending the tourist season for Atlantic City and remained a shining star in Atlantic City’s crown until January 2006 when the Miss America Pageant was moved from Atlantic City to Las Vegas.
Since that move, many questions have risen as to why it left Atlantic City and why move to Las Vegas.
Devoted fans wonder what does the future hold for the oldest and most cherished “Pageant” held in America.
Lois Elaine Smith-Zoll, the scholarship chairperson for Miss Washington State said, ”I have been a volunteer with the Miss America Organization for 40 years through the good, bad and indifferent years."
When asked about her thoughts regarding the pageant and how it is doing and where it is going, she echoed the feelings of so many of the pageant followers. “I miss Atlantic City immensely," she said. "Would I like to see it return there? Yes, immediately. In Atlantic City we always felt welcome and we felt like family. I miss the warm family-like feelings we don’t have here. In Las Vegas we, the people, are just another tourist, not special in any way, unlike Atlantic City where we were made to feel wanted and like we belonged. If I may, can I make one additional observation? I know I am not alone, but I feel so sorry for all of those Miss America volunteers who for all those years gave of themselves and contributed so much to making the Miss America Pageant so successful, what a shame.”
Sally Johnston, executive director of the Miss New Jersey Pageant, reflected back on her involvement with Miss America over the many years.
“Since coming to Las Vegas it seems to me the Pageant has lost its wholesomeness, which always set it apart from the other pageants,” said Johnston.
“Should it be back in Atlantic City where it started, of course, and if allowed to vote, I am sure a majority of the people involved with Miss America would vote a resounding 'Yes!' But then again I am from New Jersey so I am a bit biased.”
According to Johnston, “In Atlantic City we felt like a big fish in a little pond. Everyone, even the surrounding towns looked forward to the Miss America Pageant. Here [in Las Vegas] we are the little fish in a big pond and it seems uncomfortable.”
The following are the future plans of the Miss America Organization as expressed by Art McMaster, president and CEO of the organization. McMaster is not a stranger to the workings of the Miss America Organization, beginning his stint with them, not in an operational role, but as one involved with overseeing the financial management of the organization. McMaster was then asked to assume the role of acting president and CEO of the organization and did so in the time of need.
According to McMaster, “From a purely business stand-point Vegas has Atlantic City overshadowed. In Atlantic City, the cost to produce the show in Boardwalk Hall outstripped the income from ticket sales. Every year we were losing money. As a non-profit we were running out of money we needed for scholarships, which is the core of this organization. In Las Vegas, although our seats available are less than we had in Atlantic City, (7,100 vs. approximately 13,000) we make money as the casino picks up the costs for production. [It's] very little expense to us so even at a reduced capacity we make money, we are profitable.
"Las Vegas is very happy to have the Miss America Pageant; they feel like they have stolen a great property away from Atlantic City,” added McMaster. When asked if he and the organization had any regrets on leaving Atlantic City, McMaster replied with a show of emotion: “Wow, of course, we do. Everyone in the organization has some regrets and everyone feels for all those volunteers who devoted so much of their life to making the organization what it is today.”
So, what are the chances of the Miss America Pageant returning to Atlantic City?
South Jersey’s own Kate Shindle knows what is involved with being a part of the Miss America Organization as well as the challenges and rewards of being Miss America. During our interview on Aug. 31, 2013, Shindle, as always, was her warm, lovely self, engaging and, as always, willing to entertain questions on just about any subject.
Joni Mitchell: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
"I attended the pageant a couple of times when it was in Las Vegas, but I have to tell you now that it is back I think it will be wonderful."
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"I am looking forward to being here and participating in the pageant especially the Boardwalk Parade."
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"Miss America’s return to her home in Atlantic City, New Jersey will be a 13 day event following Labor Day weekend and will include three nights of Preliminary Competitions that will take place on Sept. 10, 11 and 12 at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall."
The Miss America Pageant is coming back home to Atlantic City in 2013, but it may not be the Miss America Pageant of old. In an exclusive interview with Atlantic City Weekly, the organization's CEO Art McMaster says a date for the pageant should be set within a week or so. Are there more changes in store for this year's pageant?
There’s something magical that happens when Atlantic City businessmen start thinking about pageants — and marketing — at the same time. Beloved and cherished traditions that last for decades can be born.
Since we won't have a parade to attend on Friday evening or a pageant to watch on Saturday night, we can't help but feel a little ... well, empty this week. No Miss America in Atlantic City after 85 years of history in the town that was always synonymous with the annual competition. Enjoy the trip down memory lane as we wax nostalgic over the pageants of yesteryear. 1921 First Miss America competition is held. A group of hoteliers and other businessmen invent a beauty pageant with the intention of attracting visitors in September and extending the summer season to pad their seasonal profits. The winner of the pageant was to be called "The Most Beautiful Bathing Girl in America." The pageant's first winner, Margaret Gorman of Washington, D.C., would soon be the first to be called "Miss America," but not until the end of her reign. 1925 The pageant is broadcast "live" on radio for the first time. 1928 Religious and women's advocacy groups gain ground in their annual protests of the Miss America pageant, which they content is an exploitation of the women involved. The pageant's organizers vote to cancel the pageant. No Miss America is crowned in 1928. 1929 A...
Every night, they walked the long runway — the statuesque queen in her dazzling duds, and the diminutive page in dutiful pursuit. The throngs beyond the footlights oohed and ogled. Television was not yet ready ....
In an era of reality TV and the cult of celebrity, we may find it difficult to fathom that a Miss America winner once fled from the spotlight at the very moment of her triumph. The pageant was more parochial back in 1937, when 17-year-old Bette Cooper emerged from a beauty contest in Lake Hopatcong, NJ as "Miss Bertrand Island" with a ticket to Atlantic City. She was an athletic, innocent, apple-cheeked blonde unprepared for the glare of publicity. They poured into town by rail, 51 aspiring Miss Americas with titles such as Miss Eastern Shore and Miss Buckeye Lake. The pageant assigned volunteer young men to chauffeur contestants in those days, and Bette Cooper drew 22-year-old Lou Off, whose father Frank owned the Brighton Hotel and a nursery business in Linwood. Off the Younger lived at the hotel and drove a maroon Buick Special convertible to work at his father's Brighton Farms. That Buick would soon turn from touring car to getaway car. Bette and her family settled into the Lafayette Hotel, and the high schooler stepped gingerly into the pageant's press luncheons and nightly competition. She was well versed in tennis, basketball, and churchgoing, but not in the brazen arts...
The classic Miss America theme song, "There She Is Miss America," with its lyrics — “The dream of a million girls who are more than pretty can come true in Atlantic City” — is relevant once again. The Miss America Pageant is headed back to Atlantic City.