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Mrs. America and 'The Naked Lady'

Mrs. Arizona 2007
Mrs. Arizona 2007

So there she was, a naked lady with a very attractive painted body dancing in the park. And there she is, Mrs. America. Talk about two different ends of the spectrum! But then again, maybe not.

There was a large, free, concert in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Sunday commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Country Joe and the Fish, Grace Slick---'One two three what are we fighting for ?, I don't know and I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam..' --it was a 'mind blower' to use the vernacular of the times. It made you reflect on peace, love and activism. And in a weird way it made me think of Mrs. America.

Maybe it's not so weird considering I'd spent the better part of a day at the rehearsals for the 2007 pageant just a few days before. The final judging is on Wednesday of this week, you'll get to see the show later this month. So what do the Summer of Love and Mrs. America have to do with one another? Perspective.

In 1967 every beauty pageant was seen as an exploitation of women, and every winner had to make sure her personal appearances were kept pretty much to cities in Kansas. It was the beginning of the end of pageants on television. No card carrying member of NOW would ever enter one. Pageants took another blow as the once sacrosanct personal lives of each of the winners was suddenly free to be explored by the press. Vanessa Williams ring a bell?

So apart from Donald Trump using his Miss Universe franchise as a sort of personal dating service, who knew beauty pageants were even still around? They are and they're doing very well thank you. Nobody knows that better than David Malmar, the man who owns the Mrs. America and Mrs. World franchises. 'In 1976 they were talking allot about our Founding Fathers, but no one was talking about the 'founding mothers'. Malmar has a way with words.

He also has a way with business. The Mrs. America pageanthas been broadcast on television in some way shape or form for 31 years, making it one of the longest running shows on TV. It's current form is as a two hour, prepackaged show to be broadcast on We, the Women's Entertainment Network. Its first airing is on Friday September 21, the second airing is six days later, and then the show will air 7 or 8 more times over the next year. Eventually an estimated 58 million people will have a chance to see it. Advertisers love it, and who needs broadcast TV?

It's the same business model that in one modified form or another has kept beauty pageants of all kinds on television around the world. Collectively, including the kid's pageants, the estimated 'take' is close to a billion dollars.

Of course there would be no pageants without contestants. A lawyer, dentist, management consultant, news anchor, broker, these are just some of the professions of the 51 women entered in this year's pageant. Yes there are bathing suits and evening gowns, and even some very funky state 'costumes'.

But there's also a very targeted mindset on the part of the participants. "I tell each of these women, that this is where you plant the seeds. It may not pay off after the first year, but it does for sure down the road." So says Marney Duckworth, the reigning Mrs. America. She's a management consultant from Colorado, a tri-athlete, and a women who looked at the pageant world as a place to compete, and to make contacts for future business ventures.

"I can tell you this, it'll make one huge impression on your resume!", says Kimberly Schmitz of the Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau. Likely not what you would have heard in 1967 in Golden Gate Park. But I can tell you this, the music was a helluva lot better back then.

MOA is in the Northeast all week. Peace.

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com