Without even a wiggle of the butt on the way out, the Fairest of the Fair pageant is gone, dead and buried, another San Diego institution smacked down by that fickle concept known as “progress.”
At this very moment, young girls throughout the county are undoubtedly weeping into their tutus, knowing they will never get to wear the glittery sash and represent their community at the annual fair pageant. After years of practicing how to walk straight and look sincere, they will have to find another route to fame and fortune and a career as a local TV anchor gal or public-relations professional.
In many ways, the Del Mar Fair Board's decision to axe the 57-year-old competition was shocking news. On one level, it seemed to ignore the vast group of fun-lovin' fairgoers who believe the beauty pageant is one of the bastions of sophisticated society, a chance to get young girls dressed up in frilly costumes and vote on which one might possess the best child-rearing skills. Along with gymnastics and cheerleading, in their eyes there is no finer pursuit for young ladies, who may be tempted by more lustful pursuits, like academics or poetry.
To many, beauty pageants are as American as apple pie and widespread obesity. What more glorious honor could be bestowed on a future homemaker than to represent her community in a cleavage-accenting evening gown? They are judged on their makeup ability and “poise,” which apparently means the ability to look glamorous while guys look at your butt.
For yuks, pageants usually throw in a talent contest, allowing girls to display their hard-earned skills, on the off chance that there are openings at IBM for baton twirlers. To the faithful, the talent competition seemed a small sacrifice to pay before heading into the swimsuit competition, where the women battle it out for real, using the latest in breast augmentation techniques.
Earlier this year, the Miss America contest announced it was going to drop the televised talent competition, a stunning acknowledgement that maybe the show wasn't really about talent, at least as far as the television audience was concerned. This sparked howls of outrage from the Baptist belt, where displaying women like cattle and getting them to perform gymnastic stunts is considered a good and pure activity. Dumping the talent competition was sacrilege, and the Miss America pageant soon caved, reinstalling the talent competition to the relief of accordion teachers everywhere.
The Fairest of the Fair was a local version of the grand beauty pageants, like Miss America, Miss World and Miss Universe, which is a very big honor, even though the snotty elders of Saturn still refuse to recognize Miss Universe's crown.
The Fairest of the Fair was sort of the minor-league pageant, a staging contest for local girls with big dreams, pitting the winners of community contests against each other in one wacky teen-babe throw down. Before she became known worldwide as “the girl with great tits,” Raquel Welch was the Fairest of the Fair, a constant reminder that a career in B movies and Playboy pictorials might await the local girl lucky enough to win Fairest of the Fair.
In its own way, the contest provided an important social function, weeding out those not pretty enough and creating a definite social strata. If you were the third runner-up in the Miss Ramona contest, for example, it might be time to give up the dream of some day becoming a Chargerette and start filling out that Taco Bell employment application.
The brutal Darwinism of the pageants, the paring out of the not-so-cute, often draws outrage from feminists and unsuccessful pageant entrants, who note the dynamics and ambiance of a typical pageant are remarkably similar to an audition for a porn movie.
In the old days, the FOF's main responsibility was wheeling around the fairgrounds in a golf cart with the lecherous-looking Don Diego. When avoiding the advances of the drunk truckers at the corn dog stands, the FOF was called on to appear at events throughout the county, where she could display her talents using oversized scissors and pose for pictures next to Rotary Club members with their hands on her ass.
Observers might conclude that the Fair Board's decision to drop the Fairest of the Fair competition represents a sage attempt to recognize advances made over the last two centuries in female dignity. But they'd be wrong. In fact, the fair board decided to drop the pageant primarily because they screwed it up.
Without going into the gory details of accusations and controversy, the 2003 contest disintegrated in a much-covered voting scandal, which resulted in a girl who placed 10th in 2003 being crowned, without a contest, to serve in 2004.
The controversy was clearly too much for the weak-hearted Fair Board members, who felt the competition was distracting from their main responsibility, which is to figure out new ways to build parking lots on wetlands. The board is still hoping that some Sugar Daddy organization may move in to save the pageant, similar to the way the Chargers slipped $50,000 to the city to support the annual holiday bash on the Prado.
Until then, the board will focus resources on developing “marketing and public relations interns,” who will assume many of the weighty responsibilities once handled by the Fairest of the Fair. It is unclear whether or not the application process for these new interns will include a swimsuit competition.
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SD citybeat.com.