MISS AMERICA: DREAM GIRLS

AT 75, THE MISS AMERICA PAGEANT SELLS AN IMAGE OF YOUNG WOMANHOOD THAT IS RETRO AND MODERN, HOPELESSLY UNCOOL--AND FOR ALL THAT, WE LOVE IT

That title always had grandeur to it. "Miss America." Ah, the simple, arrogant brilliance! It suggests a prom queen who wants to become the Statue of Liberty. Now she's 75, and darned if she isn't as fresh as a Hard Copy headline.

When the Atlantic City pageant, with hosts Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, airs this Saturday on NBC, some ambitious young woman--one of the 50,000 who try out each year--will realize the gossamer dream that last year enveloped Heather Whitestone, the first deaf Miss America. But in the months leading to that night, the pageant has been slapped with...

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