Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009

Turn in Your Microphone

Bert Parks, the longtime M.C. of the Miss America pageant, offered a simple explanation when asked about his appeal: "I'm utterly charming." Audiences agreed, and Parks, who sang the event's signature theme ("There She Is"), presided over the pageant for a quarter-century, from 1955 — its second televised year — until 1979. By that time, pageant organizers fretted that Parks was no longer a suitable public face for an event eager to attract younger viewers. The aging host was jettisoned. After his years of service, the unceremonious dismissal — Parks learned of it through a newspaper — spurred television host Johnny Carson to organize a letter-writing campaign pressing for his reinstatement. The pageant's organizers were unmoved, and though Parks returned to the program for a cameo in 1990, it was his last appearance on the show he helped popularize.