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Miss America concedes; No more measurements

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It may make feminists happy, but statistically minded girl watchers are going to be very upset with the changes in this year's Miss America Pageant.

Officials are taking the contestants' measurements out of the pageant program.

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Pageant watchers who want to spend the coming week debating the merits of the curves from Miss Alabama to Miss Wyoming will no longer have mathematical data to back up their point of view.

Longtime Miss America chairman Albert Marks said the elimination of the tale of the tape is a concession to feminist criticism of the pageant.

'We apparently have two Achilles' heels as far as women's organizations are concerned,' Marks said. 'Their points of attack are those figures and the swimsuits. They say we're exploiting women. Now we've eliminated half of the problem.'

The other half -- the promenade down the runway in Convention Hall in swimsuits that come ever closer to being stylish -- will remain in the contest.

'That's a visual thing,' Marks says.

Girl watchers are not the only ones who will be upset with the elimination of the measurements. Also out of luck is the retired college professor who plugged those vital statistics into his computer and was frequently able to predict the winner.

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George Miller's predictions elevated him to arch enemy in the eyes of the pageant's producers.

Miller, a retired professor from Northern Illinois University now living in Bellevue, Wash., has picked four of the past seven winners.

He used a computer program that takes into account hair and eye color, talent category, state of residence and other factors in addition to measurements and made most of his forecasts after the preliminaries.

Last year, he picked Miss Mississippi, Susan Akin, to claim the rhinestone-studded tiara several days before preliminaries even began. Akin went on to win the title and Miller's popularity with pageant officials dropped.

'Last year was real upsetting to them,' Miller says. 'Now they dropped the measurements, so that about axes it. I guess that's one way to stop the forecast. I sort of look at this as a capitulation by the pageant.'

Marks denies the change was made to thwart Miller.

'I assure you it had nothing to do with Mr. Miller,' he said. 'The measurements ... were superfluous to our operation and, although they've been in there for many years, I don't think anyone is interested in how a contestant is constructed.'

Also absent so far from this week's pageant are major controversies.

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Miss America has been plagued in recent years by scandals of varying magnitude, most notably the publication of sexually explicit photographs of Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams.

Williams, the first black woman to win the contest, was stripped of her crown when the photos were discovered.

It is adverse publicity like the Williams fiasco that Marks says each year causes 'my stomach to wrap into a knot and stay that way for about 10 days.'

This year's 51 Miss America hopefuls began arriving in Atlantic City over the weekend and will participate in the traditional Boardwalk parade Tuesday.

Preliminary competition will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the finals and the crowing of Miss America 1987 on national television Saturday.

Marks says the scoring system for this year's contest will be changed to give each contestant an equal opportunity during the three preliminary rounds.

'The scoring is an adaptation of the so-called Olympic system,' he says. 'We try to judge the girls individually and not against one another.'

In the preliminaries, talent will be worth 50 percent, the swimsuit competition will be worth 25 percent and the evening gown-interview will count for the final 25 percent.

During the finals Saturday, each category will count for one-third of the final award.

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The entertainment between phases of competition will be provided this year by former Miss Americas Dorothy Benham (1977), Susan Perkins (1978), Susan Powell (1981) and Akin.

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