Does a Whiff of Scandal Help Miss USA?

Tara Conner certainly isn't the first embarrassed celebrity to issue a public apology, and if the reigning Miss USA plays her cards right, it might help her career, according to celebrity professionals.

"The key for a celebrity to come out on top is to lead the story -- and not let the story lead her. And I think she did that," says Elliot Mintz, who has negotiated many stars through media firestorms, including one of his most prominent clients, Paris Hilton.

"Sure, a scandal will give you name recognition, and that can certainly be a good thing, but only if you can prove to the public that you have control over the situation."

Donald Trump -- co-owner of the Miss Universe Organization -- was widely expected to strip Conner of her title in a news conference amid allegations of underage drinking, drug use and publicly kissing Miss Teen USA Katie Blair.

Instead, the billionaire real estate mogul -- so famous for saying "You're fired" -- let the Kentucky beauty queen, who turned 21 this week, keep her job.

"I've always been a believer in second chances," Trump said.

"In the case of Tara, she made some very, very bad choices, some foolish choices and she will readily admit she made some mistakes. Some of those mistakes were bad mistakes."

"After speaking to her, I saw not only a beautiful young woman, that was obvious, I saw somebody that had a good heart that really, really tried. She left a small town in Kentucky, and she got caught up in the whirlwind of New York."

Conner tearfully agreed to go into rehab (though she said she did not believe she had a drinking problem) and tearfully told Trump, "I will not let you down," amid popping flashbulbs.

In recent days, as it seemed likely that Trump would dethrone Conner, rumors spread that Penthouse magazine was offering her a contract to do a pictorial. But with her apology, and her promise to make changes in her life, she has the opportunity to get a second chance.

Just like Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and other humbled celebrities, Conner can certainly set off on a morning TV show contrition tour.

Gibson's drunken rant over the summer didn't prevent his latest movie, "Apocalypto," from opening at No. 1 at the box office, nor has Richards' comedy club tirade damaged the sale of "Seinfeld" DVDs.

No Penthouse Pictorial … for Now

Schmidt had been one of the agents hoping to sign Conner, had she been dethroned.

In recent days, rumors spread that Penthouse magazine was offering her a contract to do a pictorial.

"You don't have to be in the business to know there was money to be made," Schmidt said. "But that money will be waiting for her when she ends her Miss USA reign in a few months."

"Trump knows that she's gotten Miss USA more attention through this than the pageant has gotten in years. Not many people knew who she was before this got started. He's not going to give that up. So he gets the best of both worlds. He waves the flag of morality and gets publicity."

Like Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, and other humbled celebrities, Conner can certainly set off on a morning TV show contrition tour.

Gibson's drunken rant over the summer didn't prevent his latest movie, "Apocalypto," from opening at No. 1 at the box office. And Richards' comedy club tirade did not damage the sale of "Seinfeld" DVDs.

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