Would America Miss Miss America?

Just to prove that even beautiful people have troubles, it seems as though Miss America is suddenly dateless.

In years past, a new Miss America would be crowned this week in Atlantic City. The pageant was cooked up in 1921 as a ploy to extend the tourist season a week after Labor Day. Now, after 84 glittering years, the pageant has fallen on tiara-ble times.

In August, Miss America officials announced that festivities would be moving away from the New Jersey casino Mecca and would be pushed back to January -- requiring 2005 winner Deidre Downs to wear her crown just a little bit longer.

But as of yet, no host city or pageant date has been announced -- and that sort of uncertainty can wipe a smile off even the perkiest contestant.

"It's disappointing. I'd have loved to have been competing this weekend. But you've got to stay positive, especially if you want to win," says Kandice Pelletier, a 23-year-old college senior who was recently coroneted Miss New York.

"I'm preparing for January, because I know in my heart it's going to happen, and I want to do my best."

Many pageant watchers assume that the contest move and delay are to accommodate the pageant's new broadcast partner, Country Music Television. Orlando is said to be the leading candidate among several Southern cities, although Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino is said to be in the running.

But with time slipping away, and the massive Hurricane Katrina relief effort influencing nearly every aspect of American life, especially in the South, Miss America might be dateless for the next few months.

Calls to Miss America offices, still located in Atlantic City, were unreturned.

"Many of these girls look to this contest to pay for school, so they have to hold the contest soon, or they're doing a disservice to the people who spent all that time preparing," said a former contest competitor, who now volunteers with the organization and wishes to remain anonymous.

"Nobody doubts that they'll have a contest. But it does seem like they're having trouble getting their act together."

Luckily for Pelletier, staying in shape isn't a problem. Pelletier dances with Radio City Music Hall's Rockettes when she's not studying at NYU.

Pelletier's professional ambition: "To be the next Kelly Ripa."

A Bad Time for Swimsuits and High Heels

The decline of Miss America would surely be celebrated in some corners of America. It could be argued that parading women around in swimsuits and high heels is out of step with the times, and that's why TV audiences have dropped from 25 million in 1995 to less than 10 million. But supporters say a Miss America contest is downright dignified compared to bug-eating, bachelor-chasing reality TV.

The Miss America Organization doesn't even see itself as a beauty pageant. Rather, it holds itself out as a scholarship competition, making $45 million in tuition assistance available to 18-to-24-year-old women. You can get $7,000 just for being crowned Miss Staten Island.

But whatever the cause, Miss America lost $1.7 million last year, and after a 37-year run on ABC and NBC, the pageant's future on TV was in doubt this year until CMT announced in July that it was stepping in with a multiyear deal.

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