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One they'll never forget

A self-described elephant collector was crowned Miss America 2004 on Sept. 20, 2003, in Atlantic City, N.J. Ericka Dunlap of Florida was the winner, and the elephants are of the decorative kind. Ms. Dunlap, who made history in summer 2003 by becoming the first black Miss Florida, also won the evening gown and talent awards at Miss America.

Kanoelani Gibson of Hawaii was the first runner-up, and Tina Sauerhammer of Wisconsin was the second runner-up. Marina Harrison of Maryland was the third runner-up, and Nicole Lamarche of California was the fourth runner-up. Ms. Harrison was the casual wear winner (a new category), and Ms. Lamarche was the swimsuit winner.

The remaining members of the Top 10 were Kelley Scott of Oklahoma, Candace Glickman of New Hampshire, Nancy Amanda Redd of Virginia, Laurie Beth Gray of Rhode Island and Bryn Chapman of Indiana. The remaining members of the Top 15 were Jennifer Farrell of New Jersey, Andrea Bailey of Georgia, Catherine Crosby of Alabama, Amber Etheridge of Missouri and Madonna Emond of Michigan.

Your cheat sheet for Miss America 2004

Maybe you never watch pageants. ("They're stupid.") Maybe you watch some pageants, but find Miss America not to your taste. ("If they would just keep 'em in the swimsuits and get rid of the talent and the gowns . . .") Maybe you meant to watch Miss America, but took too many drugs and forgot all about it. ("I've never taken drugs in my life!")

Whatever. We respect your choices.

But there may be a Miss America fan in your happy little circle, and that person will want to talk all about it, especially about the gowns. Or you may have a friend who thinks anyone who enjoys pageants is just crazy about Miss America, and that friend is trying to be a pal by chatting with you about it.

Below are all the facts you need to satisfy the gown lover and fool the friend. Or vice versa.

Like a fox

Greta Van Susteren anchored her "On The Record" program on the Fox News Channel from Atlantic City, N.J., the week before she was to judge at the 2003 Miss America Pageant. This was clearly a bow by the pageant to the growing clout of Fox News. On the Sept. 16 program, guest George Bauer, president and chairman of the Miss America Organization, spoke of contingency plans for the pageant and Friday's annual parade in the event of severe weather caused by Hurricane Isabel. (Such problems did not materialize.) Also appearing on the program was the current Miss America, Erika Natalie Louise Harold, who told of her plans to resume studies at Harvard University. Ms. Van Susteren said on her Web site that the judging process is harder than she imagined and that one contestant told her of receiving flowers from one of the 10 Democratic candidates for U.S. president. Ms. Van Susteren declined to identify the candidate.

Who says there are no gay Republicans?

In the week before Miss America, pageant boosters wanted to talk about the fact that there are Ivy League students and a doctor in this year's contest. This is supposed to be remarkable. But at a time when women constitute the majority of American college students, and are making especially big gains in medical and law schools, this shouldn't be a shock

After PNB's discussion of gays in pageants over the summer, more people are being quoted in the media about the issue. Former Miss America (and PNB cover girl) Kate Shindle talked to a newspaper about the appeal this particular pageant has for gay men, and how that can clash subtly with the pageant's socially conservative image.

A storm to the east

Hurricane Isabel threatened the pageant as it bore down on America's East Coast from the Atlantic. New Jersey was spared the brunt of the storm, and the contest was unaffected.

A storm to the west

Unrelated to the Miss America Pageant, but of interest to every beauty fan, a girl from Alabama was crowned Miss Pageant.com. It was an unusual development, to say the least.

Tie-ins

Trying to reverse the slide in Miss America's ratings, ABC used every opportunity to place women with Miss America connections on its talk shows in the days before the pageant. ABC was having something of a crisis week with the unexpected death of John Ritter, one of its biggest stars.

What they don't show on TV

Two women from Pacific states won the first preliminary competitions of the 2003 Miss America Pageant. Miss Hawaii 2003, Kanoelani Gibson, 22, of Kapolei won the first of three preliminary talent competitions on Sept. 16, 2003, after singing the Carole King hit standard "You Make Me Feel . . . Like A Natural Woman." Ms. Gibson, who graduated from high school in Jefferson City, Mo., is on leave from her job from Hawaiian Airlines. Winning the first swimsuit award was Miss California, Nicole Lamarche, 24, of Berkeley. The former Miss Arizona first runner-up, who won in a white two-piece suit, is a divinity student who aspires to be a parish minister. Miss America 1987, Kellye Michelle Cash, who sang at her great-uncle Johnny Cash's funeral the day before, sang the national anthem prior to the start of the show. She later told stories about Johnny Cash, who died Sept. 12. (Editor's note: They were good stories.)

Extra points if you can pronounce cello

On Wednesday night, Miss Wisconsin, Tina Marie Sauerhammer, 22, of Green Bay captured the second round of talent competitions with a classical cello performance. Ms. Sauerhammer, only the fourth cellist ever to compete in the 83-year history of the pageant, played "The Swan" from Camille Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals." In May 2003, the former Miss Madison became the youngest graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Medical School. She plans to become a pediatric surgeon. Miss Virginia, Nancy Amanda Redd, 22, of Martinsville, who became the first black woman to win the Miss Virginia title, was named the Wednesday preliminary swimsuit winner. Ms. Redd, a graduate of Harvard University, wore a two-piece yellow swimsuit.

New England Indian Summer (that's a literary reference)

On the final night of Miss America preliminary competitions, two women from the Northeast won awards. For the first time since 1966, a Miss New Hampshire won a preliminary swimsuit award. Wearing a dark purple one-piece swimsuit, Candace K. Glickman, 21, of Manchester, smiled with delight upon hearing her name announced as the winner. Thirty-seven years ago, Nancy Anne Naylor won the award and later placed fourth runner-up to Miss America 1967, Jayne Anne Jayroe. On May 3, 2003, Ms. Glickman bested 15 contestants, including her younger sister, Randi-Lee Glickman, to win the 2003 Miss New Hampshire title. Winning the third and final round of preliminary talent awards at Miss America was Miss Rhode Island, Laurie Beth Gray, 22, of Warwick. The classical violinist, who was Rhode Island's Junior Miss 1999, performed "Violin Concerto in E Minor" on the string instrument. The former fourth runner-up to Miss Massachusetts is a biology graduate of Harvard University. She and Miss Virginia, Nancy Amanda Redd, appeared together in August on ABC's "Good Morning America."

Well-meaning, if not controversial

The winner of the 2003 Miss America Quality of Life award was Miss Alabama, Catherine Crosby, 23, of Brewton. Her winning platform is "First Vote: America's Freedom to Choose." Miss North Carolina, Dana Lynette Reasons, 24, of Raleigh, was named first runner-up for the award thanks to her cancer outreach program. Miss Kentucky, MacKenzie Mays, 23, of Lexington came in third with a platform of literacy. Ms. Mayes, a law student and vocalist, was Miss National Sweetheart in 2000 and Kentucky's Junior Miss in 1998.

Not more questions!

Here are some you missed. For three days on the game show "Pyramid," hosted by former Miss America co-host Donny Osmond, six past Miss America winners and six current Miss America contestants were featured on three episodes of the quiz show. Osmond, who started his second season with the show on Sept. 15, 2003, helped the women earn $23,900.00 for the Miss America Scholarship Fund during the three shows, which were taped Aug. 24, 2003 in Culver City, Calif. On the Sept. 17 episode, Miss America 1981, Susan Powell, and the current Miss America, Erika Natali Louise Harold, competed along with Miss Pennsylvania, Candace Mari Otto, and Miss Rhode Island, Laurie Beth Gray. On Sept. 18, Miss Mississippi, Allison J. Kellogg, and Miss Vermont, Drell LaTasha Hunter, battled against Miss America 200, Heather Renee French Henry, and Angela Perez Baraquio, Miss America 2001. The final show aired on Sept. 19 and featured Miss America 1989, Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson Close, and Miss America 2002, Katie Marie Harmon Ebner. They competed against Miss Florida, Ericka Yolanda Dunlap, and Miss Kentucky, MacKenzie Mayes. Check local listings for time and stations should this be re-aired.

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