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Miss’d America Stalks the Boardwalk
Atlantic City, New Jersey
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
January 31, 2010   photo-album Bookmark and Share
As with awards' telecasts, beauty pageants can be a long slog through stage patter, swimsuit malfunctions, broken heels, and fire baton twirling—and yet, if an audience is lucky, there is sometimes one talent number that galvanizes the crowd into a spontaneous eruption of wild cheers and fanatical applause. Such was the case on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City as Miss'd America pageant contestant Michelle Dupree took the stage and delivered a knock-em-dead, eleven o'clock number channeling the spirits of Ethel, Ella, Judy, and Josephine that had the audience immediately on its feet with near-universal consensus of the night's most electrifying performance and ultimate winner.

For nearly fifteen years, Miss’d America was a much-loved, AIDS fundraiser at local gay nightclub Studio Six that lovingly lampooned Atlantic City’s nationally-televised pageant—but when Miss America took off for Vegas in 2004 (after 84 years on the Boardwalk!), Miss’d America was left bereft on the beach. That is, until the recently-formed Greater Atlantic City GLBT Alliance joined forces with both Trump Entertainment Resorts and Harrah’s Entertainment to bring back the glamour, chutzpah, and cajones that have long been the hallmarks of the Miss’d America pageant.

Stepping up its game, this year’s glamazon parade dumped the outdoor deck of Studio Six for the legendary, 1929-dedicated Boardwalk Hall—and, in the process, snared the very same 42-foot long runway trod by Vanessa Williams and her stilletto’d sisterhood. With acerbic wit Carson Kressley as M.C. (resplendent in a sequined, satin tux) and celebrity judges such as gossip god Michael Musto of New York’s Village Voice and a former (though still amply-endowed) Playboy bunny, and more than 1,200 attendees decked out in sequins, boas, fur, and glitter, the Miss’d America pageant of 2010, with its cast of Divines and Mink Stoles, had the same larger-than-suburban-life feel of a film shot by John Waters.

With competitions in both evening gown and talent, as well as a non-judged swimsuit promenade, seven chicks with dicks stalked and strolled and booty-shook while caterwauling to an audience that cheered and hollered for local favorites. And yet, when Michelle Dupree (aka Scott Cooper, registered nurse, single father/mother of adopted son—as well as potential poster material for the new all-American gay family) took the stage in a full-length, white-feathered cape coat that she’d obviously stolen from Dame Shirley Bassey, the entire Miss’d America pageant got kicked up a notch into serious glam. Shedding to a blue-feathered, flapper dress, Ms. Dupree, a former winner of Miss Continental in Chicago, then proceeded to scat along the runway with Ella while shimmying her tailfeathers like Tina Turner caught in a Cat 5 hurricane. This was a performance—and the audience caught the fever, stomping and whistling—and rising in a standing ovation that raised the rafters of Boardwalk Hall. Take that, Miss America; this is how we do it in Atlantic City.

The entire weekend of pre-parties and cocktail receptions, press conferences and post-parties, was a labor of love (and a ton of work) from a dedicated and civic-proud bunch of Atlantic City cheerleaders, including the Greater AC GLBT Alliance, and the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority, with the support of corporate sponsors such as Trump, Harrah’s—and Grey Goose (for what’s a gay beauty pageant without a truckload of vodka?).

Perhaps best of all, proceeds from the pageant benefited five LGBT non-profits, such as Broadway Cares-EFA, the William Way Center of Philadelphia, and Miss’d America’s original beneficiary, the South Jersey AIDS Alliance. And at weekend’s end, after dinners at nationally-acclaimed restaurants such as Buddakan and Mia, and shopping at the high-end retail establishments of Pier Shops at Caesars, one thing was perfectly clear: Miss’d America was ready for her national close-up.

Asked what Miss’d America meant to her, the newly-crowned Miss’d America Michelle Dupree replied, “America”—explaining that as a parent, it’s her duty to make the country a better place, and that the Miss’d America pageant represents what our nation has the capacity to become. Articulate—and beautiful: how about that for LGBT beauty queen progress?

Start stockpiling those wigs right now, girls—for Miss’d America 2011. For this is one pageant that’s going nowhere but up—to the next level.
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