BECAUSE THE eyes of the universe annually train on this highly competitive international event, we turn today to a story that is big news in Biloxi, Miss. -- all about someone who tried too hard to get along with less. It seems that Miss New York has been disqualified from the annual Miss U.S.A. Pageant for -- would you believe -- "conduct not in keeping with the spirit and intent" of the event. That may sound serious, but it turns out to be no more earthshaking than the parent of this event, the Miss Universe contest.
Involved is an organizational truth-in-packaging regulation: Harold L. Glasser, president of Miss Universe, Inc., reports that Miss New York, known to many as Deborah Ann Fountain, violated a pageant rule: not only did she put padding in her swim wear during pageant competition, but she made public an official pageant decision to keep the whole thing quiet. The dimensions of this discovery are not entirely clear, but the controversy apparently came to light after other contestants complained before the preliminary judging on Sunday night in Biloxi's Mississippi Coast Coliseum.
A spokesman for the event reported that "pageant officials investigated the charges, which were substantiated by Miss Fountain." While her lawyer examines the legalities of all this, Miss Fountain says she will abide by the decision and, in an unfortunately worded but nonetheless gracious offer, adds that she will "give my support to my friends, especially the girl from my sister state, New Jersey. . . ."
Big deal. Or is it? Critics of beauty contests have been arguing for years that such events are outmoded, sexist, chauvinist and generally without redeeming qualities. Perhaps -- but so long as these events continue to be popular diversions, those who run the shows will make the rules, and those who enter will be obliged to stand behind their claims.