Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau
Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 | 2:28 p.m.
The first 20 minutes of tonight’s two-hour 2013 Miss America Pageant on ABC airing from PH Live in Planet Hollywood will be packed with surprises and amazing, first-ever onscreen visuals. It will take a mind-blowing crew of 300, 16 cameras, a mobile studio production truck and satellite and backup electronic trucks, plus, enough miles of cable to stretch to L.A. In all, a $2 million-plus spectacular.
Co-hosts Chris Harrison of “The Bachelor,” Brooke Burke-Charvet from “Dancing With the Stars” and Executive Producer Tony Eaton told me that the first elimination will be a surprise, too. “How we handle the eliminations as we go through the show will be a real wrinkle not attempted before,” Tony said. “Obviously, we have rules to follow within the set format, but how we do them will be different this time.”
Brooke, who is back at her first TV assignment since undergoing thyroid cancer surgery last month, will go into a “cone of silence,” which will only be seen by viewers and nobody else -- especially the contestants and audience at PH Live. “We will be sharing things with the home audience that neither the contestant nor the people in the theater will be aware of,” Brooke said.
The excitement kicks off with the opening that Tony and 2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler pulled off Monday. Four USAF Thunderbird jets roared across The Strip for the first time in diamond formation as she delivered the opening welcome. The pilots came in at the wrong camera angle but had agreed to a second pass. A news helicopter nearby had to be cleared from the airspace, and McCarran Airport was shut down temporarily and very quickly for the two flights at 4 and 4:15 p.m. They got the difficult shot on the second pass, and that opens tonight’s show.
Fairly fast, the 53 contestants will be cut to 15, then 12, then 10 before reaching the Final Five, who will face the dreaded onstage question after the rigors of evening gown, lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit) and talent.
“When you see tonight’s show, you will realize it’s very original and a 21st century look at pageant production,” Chris said. “We just drive the bus, but what’s also so unique with the Miss America show is that the stories from the contestants are all so different and compelling. Every year, it’s different with 53 stories, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
“This is a reality show competition,” said Brooke, who will have three wardrobe changes. “We have a lot more behind-the-scenes this year. Viewers want to see more of that. We have to be fast on our feet not knowing what might happen so quickly in such a short period of time.”
Said Tony: “I couldn’t pull this off without these two stars. They are masters of live television and can cover up any mistake, wrong camera position or whatever is thrown at them. They do it so well, nobody sees it, but they laugh hysterically afterward when they think about it.
“Miss America was the original competition show in American culture on television. So we literally went back to the Roman circus days when the arena was designed; we have today’s version.”
Tony told me that on future Miss America telecasts, there would be a greater use of Twitter. “It’s a great way to watch television and be interactive with us in the theater and their friends watching around the country. Next year and going forward, there will be a lot of Twitter.”
As of Friday, there were 200,000 online votes for the public’s contestant to go forward from the first elimination, and there were 200,000 viewings of the contestants’ video profiles. Brooke talked candidly about her surgery and proudly showed the tiny scar on her neck that remains.
“We have an opportunity to make a positive out of whatever happens in our life. I speak openly about the challenges in my life because I do believe we can learn from each other. I was really surprised at the statistics of just how many other women, and men, were going through it. It’s one of the fastest-growing cancers, and I’m one of the lucky ones. So I am happy to raise awareness now about it.
“It came from having a regular physical and being responsible. I had surgery the first week of December right after ‘Dancing With the Stars finished.’ I am blessed and fortunate. I feel great now that it’s over. … It is a miracle.”
The newest of the TV surprises this year is the one-hour special “20/20” broadcast lead-in that we reported this week anchored by “Good Morning America’s” Lara Spencer, who was chief judge last year. “Pageant Confidential: The Road to the Crown” is a candid look behind-the-scenes with 14 of the contestants.
Good Morning America
We are now hours from the start of the excitement, and Steve Wynn’s director of race and sports book operations has for entertainment purposes only posted his odds. Johnny Avello has been amazingly accurate with his odds for the Academy Awards, “DWTS” and other reality TV shows. Here’s his postings for tonight: Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers is the favorite at 8-to-1, followed by Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton, 10-1; Miss Wyoming Lexie Madden, 12-1; Miss Kentucky Jessica Casebolt, 13-1; Miss Minnesota Siri Freeh, 15-1; Miss Missouri Tippe Emmott, 16-1; Miss Kansas Sloane Lewis, 18-1; Miss Maryland Joanna Guy, 20-1; Miss Florida Laura McKeeman, 22-1; and Miss Arkansas Sloane Roberts, 24-1. We’ll see tonight at the conclusion of Senior Editor Don Chareunsy’s live blog just how on or off target he is.
I’m tipping Miss Alabama Anna Laura Bryan to make the Top Five. She was embroiled in this week’s controversy when ESPN sports announcer Brent Musburger confused her Miss Alabama USA rival Katherine Webb as the Miss America contestant here, and his remarks about good-looking women and college quarterbacks landed him in hot water, prompting an apology from ESPN and him.
Miss America board Chairman Sam Haskell summed it all up as the pageant ticked down to curtain up: “Being Miss America doesn’t begin with a crown; it belongs with a dream. Miss America contestants become doctors, lawyers, teachers and media stars. Miss America is a dream machine. All any young woman has to do is get onboard and take it to the stars.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
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