There she goes, but here she stays.
With the Miss America Competition fleeing the Boardwalk for the rolling, late-December hills of a Connecticut Indian reservation, Atlantic City is back to being a one-pageant town again.
But what a pageant it is. Miss’d America, the campy but classy drag show once held on the roof of a gay bar, is also making a move of its own. But instead of traveling hundreds of miles and dissing its cadre of fans and its volunteer network, Miss’d America is only moving crosstown from one casino showroom to another.
“This is a monumental year for both pageants,” says Richard Helfant, executive producer of the Miss’d America Pageant and also executive director of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance, the community organization which presents the show that started out — and pretty much remains — a spoof of the real Miss America Competition.
“(We’re) sad to see Miss America leave Atlantic City, and we wish them nothing but the best up at Mohegan Sun,” he adds. “I’m happy to say the funnier and cuter and more entertaining pageant is still here, still with swimsuits and with a 36-foot-long runway this year.”
A panel of judges will scrutinize every move the Miss’d contestants will make and then pick a winner when the show — complete with production numbers, a guest star performer, contestants in swimsuits, talent (lots of lip-synching here), evening gowns, questions-and-answers — kicks up its heels at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, in Sound Waves at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
The winner will succeed Miss’d America 2019 Adriana Trent, who has held the title and served as an ambassador for Atlantic City and the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance since last September.
Television host and producer Carson Kressley, who’s nominated for 14 Emmy Awards this year, returns to host Miss’d America, then hops on a flight to Los Angeles to attend the Emmys.
For the past five years, Miss’d America was crowned in the Event Center at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa. That Miss’d America would move to the Boardwalk was something of a no-brainer after Hard Rock bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino and, shortly after opening, installed Joe Lupo as property president. As second in command at Borgata before leaving for Hard Rock, it was Lupo who brought Miss’d America to Borgata from its Marina District neighbor, Harrah’s Resort.
Helfant described the Miss’d America production “two hours of high-quality entertainment, side-splitting humor ... all for LGBT charities.”
Some of the organizations that benefit from Miss’d America’s generosity have been the South Jersey AIDS Alliance and Manna at the Shore, a monthly group that meets at Congregation Beth Israel to prepare and distribute to meals to AIDS and HIV patients, and others too ill to prepare their own meals.
For people who aren’t quite sure what to expect, a dozen or so drag queens will be put through the usual pageant paces. Expect campy humor, deliberately bad jokes (good ones, too) and costumes that are, in some cases, completely over the top.
Miss’d America usually has two types of contestants: Guys who go to great lengths and often big expense to make themselves as glamorous and lady-like as possible, and the opposite: men who go out of their way to create strange and almost caricature-like representations of woman.
“It’s true, and we’ve seen contestants from both ends of the spectrum over the years,” Helfant adds.
Miss’d America was created nearly 30 years ago. Many of the people working behind the scenes at the real Miss America Pageant were unhappy that they got to miss all the Miss America fun because they were working on Miss America.
So philanthropists John Schultz and Gary Hill turned the roof of their former Brass Rail Tavern into a temporary venue, their usual crowd from Schultz and Hill’s gay/straight-friendly Studio Six nightclub got together and, tongues planted firmly in cheeks, created Miss’d America, which has since raised more than $500,000 for charities.
Miss’d America took a hiatus for five years when Miss America moved to Las Vegas, but then the spoof show was revived when the big pageant returned to Atlantic City.
Changing venues after five years in one place does present a series of challenges for the Miss’d A staff and production team, Helfant admits.
“We had gotten very comfortable at Borgata,” he says. “The hotel and the entertainment staff had also gotten comfortable with the show and knew what to expect. They got to know our staff and we got to know theirs. So there were no surprises. It was like coming home each year. Now we have to ... start from scratch. But (Sound Waves) is a real theater more than a (multi-purpose) event center, so it has a bigger stage and more fly space.
And something Miss’d America has always dreamed of: A 36-foot-long runway for the contestants and the eventual winner off Miss’d America can finally strut their stuff.