Brief impressions from the Miss America pageant:

After a full year as our ideal, Miss America, Cheryl Prewitt's legs are still the same size -- just long enough to reach the ground -- and she's still smiling. The secret? Maybe elastic lips.

A round of applause for Glenn Osser, the orchestra conductor. A charitable man, Osser will protect the weak singers by increasing the volume of the instruments so a contestant's minimal range won't be embarrassingly exposed.

Speaking of talent, because this is primarily a TV show, the one potentially devastating area of competition is talent.The judges won't risk putting a contestant with really thin talent in the top 10 so she can bomb on national TV. If you think the talent you're seeing is sometimes marginal, be thankful for the talent you're not seeing.

This is not a beauty pageant. Just one look at some of these contestants convinces you of that. Some states should have asked to audit the course this year.

No contestant this year said she weighed more than 130 pounds.

No contestant this year said she had more than a 36-inch bustline. The consensus among the contestants is that nothing greater than 37 inches is acceptable for Miss America. Even pageeant hostesses say some contestants routinely lie about height and bust.

Almost all the contestants look older than their ages. Older, and harder.

Whoever has the lipstick consession here must be a millionaire. The contestants smear it on so it looks like they just French-kissed a vat of jam. c

Ron Ely went over big with the contestants. Many asked him to pose with them for souvenir pictures. After posing with Ely on Friday, Miss South Carolina, Donna Jewell -- herself the most photogenic of all the contestants -- said, "I want it blown up, 30 by 60, so I can cover a wall with it. That man is gorgeous." On Saturday night the feeling in the hall at Atlantic City was that -- as clumsily as the torch had been passed -- Ely held it well. Some television viewers, though, thought the camera angles were less than flattering for Ely.

You're in bad trouble in swimsuit without a tan.

You're in bad trouble in swimsuit with big thighs.

Some contestants are in bad trouble in swimsuit period.

You can't interview the losers. As soon as the winner is announced, a caravan of pageant people come and herd the losers like sheep and lock them away somewhere.

Following Bert Parks singing "There She Is" is not exactly like following Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas."

Very dressy here on pageant night. If a robber made a heist of all the furs (yes, furs in 80 degrees) and jewelry, he'd make off with the gross national product of Belgium.

All the contestants are college students or graduates. But so many of them seem to have taken the extension course. Not Penn State, but Penn State at Altoona.

Cheryl Prewitt is still smiling.