Ooh-la-la! France in a Tizzy Over Beauty Queen

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In 1789 France trashed its monarchy; 210 years later it appears that le peuple want democracy to choose the only royalty they have left -- beauty queens. A riveting national scandal was brought to a close Tuesday when a court ruled in favor of the organizers of the Miss France competition. At issue: The crowning as Miss France last December of Miss Tahiti, Mareva Galenter, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of voters in a phone-in poll conducted during the pageant voted for Miss Berry, Amelie Rudler. (Berry is a region of France; Tahiti, an Overseas Department of France, has the same status.) Fetching though Ms. Galenter may be, a body calling itself the National Association for Transparency in the National Election of Miss France brought a court case demanding that the will of the phone-in voters be respected, because Miss France pageant organizers weight the balloting so that their jury's vote counts for two thirds, while the public's vote counts for only one third. Sacre bleu!

As "La Guerre des Miss" took over the nation’s headlines for weeks, the protesters claimed that Miss Tahiti had two unfair advantages -– she was a distant relative, by marriage, of the Miss France jury president, singer Sasha Distel; and her grandmother makes the hats worn by competition organizer Genevieve de Fontenay. Mon dieu! The court was unmoved by such claims of scandalous corruption. However, Miss Tahiti had one undisputed advantage: "While contestants in the show were restricted to one-piece bathing suits, she appeared at the time in a TV magazine sporting a bikini," says TIME Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley. Quelle horreur!So while it may be unfair to accuse the Miss France jury of influence-peddling, they certainly appear guilty of navel-gazing.