Did New Jersey make Miss America an offer she couldn’t refuse?
Eight years after the annual beauty pageant decamped from its historic seaside home for the brighter lights of Las Vegas, the great American celebration of bikini wear, baton-twirling and Vaseline-coated smiles will return to Atlantic City this fall.
Pageant officials announced the move Thursday at a press conference with New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
“We’re moving back because of the history, because of the recognizability, because it is better for us in rebuilding the brand,” Sam Haskell, chairman of the Miss America Organization board, told our colleague Lisa de Moraes. “Coming back to Atlantic City is not only creatively but economically sound for us.”
How so? No specific terms were announced. But Atlantic City has been working overtime to lure back visitors scared off by the blight of Superstorm Sandy, and the announcement Thursday mentioned a pending “multi-year agreement” being hammered out with state development officials and the city’s tourism bureau.
The pageant left the Jersey shore on bad terms after the 2004 crowning, complaining that it was too costly to mount a show in the cavernous old Boardwalk Hall and that the city didn’t offer enough support.
They may both appreciate each other a little more these days. Las Vegas tourism officials greeted the news with a shrug — but then Vegas never really doted on Miss America the way Atlantic City did, with kitschy parades, front-page stories and surfside photo shoots for the visiting beauty queens.
Meanwhile, Miss A is looking a little better herself: The show is back on network TV after a few years in basic-cable exile — ratings up, ABC just renewed it for three more years. And while it hasn’t launched a bona fide star in more than a generation — Vanessa Williams in 1983 — it seems to be creeping back up on the pop-cultural radar. At least judging by the fact that paparazzi this week were stalking newly crowned Mallory Hagan to the beach to debate whether her abs are flat enough.
Updated 6:30 p.m.
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