Skip to main content

There She Was

The Miss America Pageant has survived many generations of viewers. Growing up, we all had our own experience watching Bert Parks, who hosted the annual Miss America telecast from 1955 to 1979, serenade the newly crowned Miss America with “There She Is, Miss America.”

“I watched it like everyone did,” author Amy Argetsinger told Hollywood on the Potomac of her childhood experience with The Miss America Pageant. “I don’t think I started watching it though until I was in middle school. This was probably, in hindsight, a fatal error on the part of the producers because back then it came on TV so late. It would start at about nine or 10 o’clock at night which was really off limits for a lot of children. They probably would have done better if it was earlier to hook a really young generation of kids on it by airing it at seven o’clock or eight o’clock at night. I don’t remember being aware of it for many years before I was old enough to stay up that late. Once I started watching it was fascinating to me. I did not watch it through college because it was always on a weekend night when I had, you know, something more mature to do, but I started watching it in a big way after I got out of college.”

“Part of what hooked me,” she added, “was the fact that I was living and working in Iowa. In Iowa, pageant royalty was everywhere. My first two years there, there was a local woman who was in the top five of Miss America. And then one of my colleagues at the newspaper, one of our interns, competed at the local pageant and it suddenly was a little bit fascinating, but also demystifying. I started watching with a little more interest then. After I moved back to Washington in the mid nineties, my friend from Iowa who had competed was also in Washington. I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we drive to Atlantic City and see the thing in real life?’ I don’t know if you’ve been but if you go there all of a sudden it opens your eyes to this big, crazy subculture that’s just devoted to the pageant and so much of it you never see on TV. It’s kind of an enchanting, charming, crazy culture of volunteers and coaches and hairstylists and little girls and princess dresses and sashes.”