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Miss California Story Has More Twists Than a Soap Opera

I’m baffled by all the surprise over Donald Trump’s announcement that Silicon Barbie — I mean Carrie Prejean — will keep her Miss California USA crown. Trump is all about the publicity. And this was a flat-out move to score some for an anachronism. His decision gave the wheezy Miss USA pageant a perky set […]

I’m baffled by all the surprise over Donald Trump’s announcement that Silicon Barbie — I mean Carrie Prejean — will keep her Miss California USA crown.

Trump is all about the publicity. And this was a flat-out move to score some for an anachronism.

His decision gave the wheezy Miss USA pageant a perky set of PR implants. Just when the story would’ve wound down, Trump added several news cycles of visibility. Plus, he gave needed attention for the subsequent Miss Universe pageant, airing during the dead TV month of August.

This story has more twists than a bad soap opera.

Prejean wins runner-up in the Miss USA pageant, possibly losing the top title because of her anti-same sex marriage response to judge Perez Hilton’s question. Post-pageant, a series of semi-nude photos of Prejean — violating the state pageant’s policies — appear. First denying their existence, she then introduces the “windy day” excuse into pop culture.

We learn she had breast implants paid for by the California organization — the same group whose calls she’s now ignoring so she can focus on higher-profile opportunities. Including appearing on behalf of the leading anti-gay marriage group.

California all but hands the title to Prejean’s runner-up, Tami Farrell, who makes Eve Harrington look like an amateur. But the final decision remains with the pageant owners: the Trump Organization and NBC Universal.

At the May 12 press conference, Trump announced Prejean will remain. He defended his decision with a rambling explanation about how it’s OK that we saw Prejean’s boobs and that she doesn’t want gay people to have equal rights because she’s so pretty and so beautiful.

Then, in that weepy, barely-grammatical style now required of tainted Miss USA hopefuls, Prejean deflected her boobs and rambled even longer about her oppression and her right to free speech. Sadly, she didn’t rip open her blouse to show off a star spangled bra.

Why was the Trump/NBC decision so obvious?

Because it made millions who’d never watch a pageant — including most of you — aware of it. Since Prejean stands a chance of becoming Miss USA if its current title owner ascends to Miss Universe, it pumps a little buzz behind that tired broadcast. If Trump had simply acceded to the California organization’s wishes, the attention would’ve ended right then.

Because nude photos of famous people have become routine. And, in turn, boring. I don’t necessarily agree that the No on 8 supporters finessed the photo outing. Everyone from ex-boyfriends with grudges to photographers looking to make a buck offer up such shots these days.

But what cost Vanessa Williams the Miss America crown in 1984 is less than what’s now seen on primetime television. These days, there’s a little apology extended and then back to business.

Because the Miss Universe pageant doesn’t have the tradition and restrictions of its Miss America competitor. As hokey as it sounds, the latter revolves around scholarship money and talent competitions — Miss Universe was created by a swimsuit manufacturer, with the goal to put the most amount of makeup, and least amount of clothing, on contestants.

And, ultimately, because of the players involved. It would be impossible to concoct a more perfect storm of people with overactive PR agendas.

There’s Trump; enough said. The Christian Sex Kitten persona that Prejean has crafted plays perfectly to the right-wing conservative NASCAR audience that is the pageant’s key demographic. Perez Hilton, who cleverly instigated this drama, knows how to keep a story — particularly one involving himself — going. Shanna Moakler, the California organization’s co-executive director who’s been its spokesperson, is a former Miss USA and Playboy Playmate and an inveterate publicity-seeker.

Finally, there’s NBC, which has inserted Miss USA contestants into such shows as "Fear Factor" and "Deal or No Deal." The chance for them to make Prejean a guest star somewhere soon in their lackluster schedule is probably appealing.

So what’s next?

The Californians are welcoming back the wayward Prejean and giving her her just punishment: the standard contractual series of autograph-signings at car dealerships and malls. NBC Marketing will figure out a way to work this into its promotion for the August broadcast; watch for cutaway shots of Prejean in the audience. Expect neither Moakler nor Farrell to disappear so fast.

And as for Trump, his pageant and his publicity jones? The Miss Universe rules prohibit transsexual contestants. So next year, we expect to see a Trump press conference where he allows his first winner revealed as transsexual to compete.

We hope it’ll be because she’s so pretty and beautiful.

Flackback will explore the art and artifice of entertainment PR.  The author has 25 years' corporate experience and has finessed everything from a celebrity's drunken surprise marriage to his best friend's 16-year-old daughter to a 20-minute advance warning that her company's president was being fired. And she sees little difference between these scenarios.  She's chosen candor over a byline.