Ah, there she is, Miss Kitty Hiccups, your Miss'd America 2011, in her rightful place at the foot of the legendary runway in historic Boardwalk Hall. Authentic, baby, that's what we are in this town, even if our pageant tradition is now being carried on _ in most elegant and entertaining style _ by men in drag. As excellent host/lesbian in residence actress Suzanne Westenhoefer said, "Everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but everything that happens in Atlantic City matters." There was an impressive crowd of more than 1,200 people inside the ballroom at Boardwalk Hall Sunday night, at least as many as last year, the triumphant return of the drag pageant after a five year hiatus following the move that still stings, Miss America to Las Vegas. Or, as Rich Helfant, president of the Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance referred to that event, "the two-hour infomercial for DSW shoes." That event continues to insult its historic origins, this year featuring a pathetic "show me your shoes parade" on some concrete plaza in Vegas _ yes, sponsored by DSW _ and even Mr. Peanut was dragged out to Vegas. Et tu, Mr. Peanut? Miss'd America, meanwhile, traditionally held the day after Miss A, continues its unlikely rise to the mainstream. This year's theme was "Boardwalk Empress" and the highlight of the whole night _ other than the dominatrix Cinderella routine performed by Miss Dallas Dubois and the awesomely lipsynched yodeling from Miss Gusty Winds _ might have been the opening film, a pitch-perfect parody of the opening to the HBO Series, complete with red rollers (which audience members initially mistook as, sorry, used tampons) washing up on the feet of Sandy Beach, the genius behind the whole endeavor, aka Robert Hitchens.
What I also found interesting last night was the year in review montage from last year's winner, Michelle Dupree, aka, Scott Cooper, a nurse and single father from Bergen County. Cooper showed photos of himself in various gay pride parades, meeting with Matthew Shepherd's parents and, most touchingly, himself (not in drag) with his children and family. Dupree/Cooper seems to have embraced both sides of the Miss'd America phenomenon, both the campy satire and outrageousness of it, and its serious underpinnings as an AIDS fundraiser. He clearly saw himself as a positive gay role model and his appearances throughout the year as Miss'd A were as purpose minded as any Miss A platform. Congrats Scott/Michelle, you were truly a deserving Miss'd A. Not sure how Kitty Hiccups will interpret her role, but she certainly makes a beautiful and svelte beauty. And she was prepared: pulled those bobby pins right out of her cleavage when it came time to be crowned. Boardwalk Hall lacks a little of the chaotic craziness of the pageant's prior home, Studio Six, but a few more cocktail servers working the tables would take care of that nicely. Long may she reign.