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Chapter 2b: The Strip Show Audience
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Chapter 2c: The Beauty Pageant Audience
  
 
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Chapter II: The Audience
 
Chapter II: The Audience
  
Part b: The Audience of the Strip show
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Part c: The Audience of the Beauty Pageant, andConclusions
  
An almost diametrically opposing audience attitude has brought about acompletely different performer image in strip shows. Strip shows, largely attended by amale audience, have progressively become more sex-oriented as the art form has developed.Applause and increased ticket sales, in effect, bribed performers to "take off alittle bit more" and so the strip tease developed into the shape it is known bytoday.
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The Miss America competition and other "beauty"contests, have obviously become less sexually-oriented as the years progress, due to thebasically conservative nature of the competition audience.
  
But who was this audience? Why was it shaped in that way? Who was outthere clapping their hands when strippers sang "Clap your hands and I'll take off alittle bit more"?
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Miss America, started in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, isconsidered the seminal modern beauty pageant, not because it was the first beauty contest(it wasn't), but because its format set the standard for virtually all other leadingbeauty competitions.
  
The burlesque audience, in contrast to the fashion show audience, wasalmost entirely composed of men. Descriptions of the audience are common in the 1930'swhen the striptease had finally become the main drawing feature of burlesque and assortedwriters became obsessed with explaining why such an openly pornographic form of theatreshould be both permitted and popular in the supposedly puritan United States.
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|82]] The first "Inter-City BeautyCompetition," as the Miss America Pageant was originally called, was a mediaevent created by the merchants of Atlantic City to encourage the middle-class vacationers,who formed the bulk of Atlantic City's tourist trade, to extend their stay in the citypast Labor Day.
  
The Irving Palace Theatre, the most "uptown" (and expensive)of the burlesque houses catered to the best economic class of audience, but their audiencebehavior, as described in H.M. Alexander's Striptease; The Vanished Art of Burlesque(1938) indicates shame at their own attendance:
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|83 ]]
  
There are many people in line. They avoid your eyes when you look at them. They are embarrassed at being there. You get the first whiff of something not exactly healthy which will later be easier to define. In spite of the prices which are top in burlesque, you see quite a few sweaters and caps. There is a salesman with his zipper notebook and a crowd of engineers from Steven's Tech in Hoboken. There are a few women. Not the forty percent that the boys would have you believe, but a few.
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The promoters at Atlantic City were very careful to do as muchas possible to assure the public of the respectability of their enterprise, and the moralpurity of their contestants. From the very first year, contestants were chaperoned duringtheir time in Atlantic City; respected magazine illustrators like James Montgomery Flagg,Cole Phillips and Norman Rockwell were used as judges,
  
The usher...points out your seat...People have to get up to let you by, and again you intercept a feeling of shame in the averted looks and elaborate indifference....You understand them, their embarrassment, the air of tension. Onanists come to refresh their store of erotic images. The heavy bosom is encored greedily so not a curve will go unremembered."
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|84]] andamateur beauties were judged separately from "professional" models andactresses. The image that the Atlantic City promoters wanted was of innocent respectablefamily fun, not sexy girls in swimsuits.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|40]]
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At the first contest in 1921 the contestants paraded on footdown the beach in swimsuits. Interestingly, at this time the modern feminist anti-pageantcriticism that contestants are made to parade in swimsuits before a fully-clothed audience(thus degrading them and turning them into sex objects) was not applicable, since in theearly years the audience on the beach, the marching bands, the crowd-control police, theMayor, and judges all wore only swimsuits during that part of the contest. There were alsoseven different bathing suit divisions in the contest, including family groups.
  
Morton Minsky in Minsky's Burlesque (1986), usually one to claim thathis burlesque audience was a "family" audience from the neighborhood of thetheatre despite considerable evidence to the contrary, reported a conversation in the1930's between Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister, June Havoc:
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|85]]
  
Have you ever heard of any other public who sit with a newspaper covering their lap? You see, the reason for that paper is simple--It's because they're masturbating...and I guess they'd rather not be seen by the other Johns. God! All the stuff they bring in with them---It's an education! Milk bottles and raw liver and---You don't believe me? Check the alley. See what they sweep out of here at night...let me tell you, June, my audience is no scabbier, no sicker than yours, but my audience is more useful. Oh, yes---While they sit out there jerking off, I'm the one using them. Because there's another audience coming to watch my audience watch me!
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The care which even early contests took to disassociate theperformance from any taint of sexuality has to be understood in terms of the middle classaudience values of the Atlantic City tourist. Beauty contests in newspapers were onlygradually gaining acceptance as a respectable activity for young women and Atlantic Cityhad a justifiable reputation as one of the more conservative and respectable resorts. In1913 a woman on the beach there was assaulted by an outraged crowd for wearing a shortbathing suit. Atlantic City had rather restrictive bathing suit decency laws whichdemanded much greater coverage than that of working-class beaches such as Coney Island.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|41]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|86]]
  
According to Bernard Sobel in Burleycue: An Underground History ofBurlesque Days (1931) the audience could get pretty rowdy once the show started:
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The conservative nature of the Atlantic City tourists wasdescribed a few weeks before the first contest by Helen Bullitt Lowry in The New YorkTimes. Her article, "Innocence at Atlantic City," contrasts therespectability of the tourists there, with the fallacious image of sin at summer resorts:
  
"Take that dame off," somebody shouts. "She can't sleep with me." And then everyone laughs sufficiently until the next wisecrack.
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When a girl wants to make acquaintances at Atlantic City...she makes a point of sitting up (sic) the old ladies. She gets them to teach her a new knitting stitch, and she listens intently. The young man who admires this girl selects the same old lady and tells her his family is Presbyterian or Methodist, all according to his luck in hitting on her denomination. Before a day has passed the old lady has introduced them. The first requisite for being a vamp on the boardwalk is to keep in with the old ladies.
  
"Shake 'em up! Shake 'em up!" comes from this place and that as one of the strip dancers comes down the runway and archly shakes her finger at the insubordinate ones. Somebody flings a coin from the gallery. There are cat calls and howls.
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|87]]
  
"Look at those 'tits'!" exclaims a young fellow transported away by the proportions of the chorus lady's breasts.
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Lowry also remarked on the respectably full old-fashionedtaffeta and sateen bathing suits worn on the beach: "In short, vice in the waves isstill expressed in terms of rubber daisy trimmings on your rubber cap, and in green silkstockings. Atlantic City isn't onto our [New York's] subtler forms of shocking the bathcensor."
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|42]]
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The Atlantic City tourists were middle-class vacationers fromthe South, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, "The Backbone of The Country," asLowry put it. "The Backbone of The Country has its special brand for doingeverything," she pointed out, even its own way of flirting with sin, whileeffectively chaperoning it into respectability:
  
Backstage the performers discuss the night's audience:
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They wander into the fashionable Chelsea-End cafes in high collars of transparent net, boned up with silk-covered, perpetually waved wires, and group themselves contentedly at the ringside tables.
  
"They're fresh tonight," complains one of the strip dancers, a buxom young woman with bare breast, [sic] a jeweled decoration across her hip and a flimsy yellow robe in her hand. "Wise guys in the gallery."
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"Just look at that woman smoking," murmurs the lady from Georgia, where "ladies" don't smoke, "Now you know she doesn't get any pleasure out of it, but is just trying to make herself look flashy?"
  
"There's an old guy out in the front row, a linotyper on some big paper. He's seen the show about six times. Can you imagine that? Grey- haired, old guy. Sends me presents of fruit, and sometimes a dirty picture---"
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Tiers of rocking chairs overlook each pay-as-you-enter dance floor where The Backbone of The Country amuses itself deciding which is the Camel walk, instead of getting up the Christmas bazaar, at which the Lord in His wisdom ordained that they should find their recreation. Wherever a couple in bathing suits lol (sic) on the sand together there are at least three good ladies leaning over the rail of the Boardwalk trying to hear what they say...Don Juan himself would have had to exert himself to feel wicked.
  
"Say," said the girl with black curls, "That fellow's out there again tonight--The one who shows you his 'sex'."
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|88]]
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|43]]
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The audience at Atlantic City could therefore be seen to beslightly indulgent to "nice" young people and their indiscretions, but largelyconservative, and ever watchful against genuine "vice". As envisioned by thisgroup the ideal Miss America was more likely to be an ideal daughter figure than a sexybathing beauty.
  
While obviously this exhibitionist was unusual enough an audience memberto be remarked upon by the performers, he was clearly not so unusual to warrant ejectionfrom the house. Forty years later, "Misty," another stripper, mentioned withannoyance the exhibitionists in the audiences of the early 1970's: "Some of the youngdancers, who had the brains of a radish, thought it was a form of flattery and that thepoor guy probably couldn't help himself."
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The conservative middle-class middle-aged vacationing familycontinued to be the staple audience of the Atlantic City beauty contest and others until1954 when ABC opened out the Pageant to the larger television audience and first broadcastthe Miss America pageant live into living rooms all over the U.S.. In the first year ofthe broadcast the Pageant had a 20.9 rating with a 39% share of viewing audience, andfigures climbed steadily to a 41.8 rating and a 75% share in 1961. In the 1960's theirfigures lowered down to 35.1 and 62% by 1969, but the anti-pageant demonstrations byfeminists of that year and the reforms that followed renewed public interest:
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|44]] Thepersistence of this form of audience behavior would indicate that what Geoffrey Gorer, in HotStrip Tease: And Other Notes on American Culture (1937) said about burlesque was (andis) true, that strip shows catered, fairly openly, to the sexual gratification of menunable to afford or acquire "more solid satisfaction."
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When Miss America fell out of touch with the times as the 1960's wore on, there was some erosion in its high ratings figures, but the pageant's slight subsequent concessions to reality appear to have been enough to have reversed the trend. In 1970, the show drew its largest audience ever, again taking a two-thirds share. By usual ratings standards, this translates into 22,360,000 homes...the 1970 version was the fifth most popular special in television history.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|45]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|89]]
  
I think it may be taken for granted that the greater number of men who go to burlesque theaters week after week, year after year--do not go there for purely aesthetic reasons, or for simple entertainment; The extra-ordinary [sic] monotony of the performances would exclude both possibilities. They almost certainly go there for sexual stimulation...this is their only dream, and they go by themselves, shut in, intent, determined to exclude the life they know; If they concentrate hard enough maybe they will get the physical illusion of reality.
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Miss Universe, Miss America's strongest rival pageant, also hasa firm grip on the American public's viewing taste. Despite the huge erosion in networkT.V.'s ratings in the 1980's caused by Cable, beauty pageants still pull in high ratingfigures (lower than figures in the 1960's and 70's but still higher than other kinds ofnetwork specials). For example, the promotional literature used by the Madison SquareGarden corporation to sell advertisers commercial time during pageants indicates that theMiss Universe pageant of 1988 had a 15.7 Nielsen rating, and its preliminary pageant, MissU.S.A., had a 16.2 rating. While these were smaller ratings than those of Miss America inthe 1960's they were ahead of the highly rated Julie Andrews Christmas Special (14.5), BobHope's Tribute to America (12.3), and the Tony (9.5) and Emmy (8.8) Awards ceremonies, aswell as many others. According to these statistics Miss USA alone has a viewership of50,117,000, composed of 50% women, 30% adult men, 10% young children, and 9% teenagers[The remaining 1% is not explained.]
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|46]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|90]] According to formerMiss USA Paula Peterson Burwell, Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants "attract morefemale viewers in the prime consumer age bracket of 18 to 49, which makes its advertisingslots more valuable. Miss America tends to attract relatively young and old viewers."
  
The furtive nature of the strip show audience had not changed when JohnElsome reported in Erotic Theatre (1974) that strip clubs in England before 1960 wereplaces that made ordinary normal men feel like sexual perverts:
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|91]]
  
This sleaziness mirrored social attitudes towards male sexual fantasies: That they were sordid, things to be kept to oneself, the product of dirty minds and dissatisfied bodies. The myth predominated that strip clubs were for lonely old men, who could not receive satisfaction any other way. The audiences in fact belonged to a wide cross-section of age and class groups, though nearly all men. But the legend was so forcibly maintained that people seemed almost physically to change as they sidled through the doorways. The young well-dressed man, full of self-confidence in Oxford Street, would hunch his shoulders, turn his collar up and seem physically smaller when he paid for his ticket to a strip club in Brewer Street.
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The live audiences at beauty pageants are neither commented uponin print nor surveyed for demographics any longer, since the huge television audience isso much larger. However, it is still the live audience which provides the performers withthe majority of their direct feedback.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|47]]
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For example The 1990 Miss Marin Scholarship Pageant (partof the Miss America organization) attracted an audience conforming to the national patternof two-thirds women, one-third men, and an assortment of ages. Since the audience wascomposed of people in a variety of ages, and (outside of the pageant), with very probablya wide variety of entertainment interests, their reaction to individual talentpresentations seemed to be determined not so much by which kind of "talent" wasperformed, or even how well it was done, but by the comprehensibility of the performance,and how good the contestant looked doing it. For instance, a performer who played"Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera on the flute, quite flat, but in astunning green evening gown with a stylish up-sweep hairdo received considerably moreapplause than a contestant who sang an obscure opera aria in Italian with perfect pitch.The audience apparently applauded poise, style, good looks and comprehensibility before itdemanded individual artistic talent, and this feedback affected the judging to the extentthat the flutist made first runner up.
  
Once in the theatre, however, with the house lights down, mob psychologykicks in and makes these embarrassed, frightened individuals into a group with somethingintimate in common, and the audience reacts to the performances with an enthusiasm thatmost performers would kill for:
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With beauty contest audiences coming from a broad cross-sectionof ages and, in the Nationals, a cross-section of income and ethnic groups, it isnecessarily generalized and compromising, showing neither a strong preference for male orfemale ideals of a woman's body type, young or old peoples' preferences in music, and highor low brow tastes in talent presentation. As with the judges, each individual in theaudience may be an expert in the nuances of modern dance or country western singing orcompetitive gymnastics, but taken as a whole, they cancel each other out, both inexpertise and preferences. As a result, performances in the talent area are not judgedunder the exacting standards of connoisseurship but under the generalized standards ofstage presence, onstage personality, showmanship, and costume.
  
She turns around and bumps...The pants come off and she takes her bow in a G-string. There is applause, mostly from the first four rows. The white lights go up and the tramp comic and his straight man are on the stage hollering. But the first four rows won't let them go on. They keep applauding for Sylvie. The band gives her the last few bars of her song, she takes another bow, there is a blackout, but the first four rows continue to applaud...This time she comes out in only her G-string and little red hat. She pulls the curtain across her middle with one hand, undoes her G-string with another, and just before the blackout, she whirls it round and round in the spot to show that (underneath the curtain) she really hasn't a thing on...still the audience applauds. The show is being delayed. Suddenly the house lights flash on and there is an instant and shocked silence...It's the tip-off on people who come to see a burlesque show. They were all frightened into quiet because no one wanted the others to see how excited he was."
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|92]]Swimsuit competition produces winners that are neither the de-sexed model figures whichwomen prefer, or the over-sexed, bosomy figures that are extolled by men's magazines, buta rather even, middle-of-the-road healthy figure on average. Evening gown winners neverwear conspicuously avant-garde fashion "statement" dresses, or old fashioned"dated" dresses; winning colors are typically black, white, red, or blue.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|48]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#83|93]] Even in color, individual "favorites" cancel eachother out and the popular "safe" choices rise to the top.
  
The sometimes pathetic nature of the men in the dark is further exploredby feminist writer Deirdre English in "The Politics of Porn: Can Feminists Walk theLine?" who asks the obvious question: Who exactly is really being exploited bypornography? On a tour of New York's pornography district in Times Square, she comes tothe conclusion that the consumer is more exploited than the performer:
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The overall effect of this audience plurality on the performanceis that of a compromised ideal--rather like the choice of a President, who is rarely oneof the candidates that inspires the most ardent devotion from a small group, but whom thelargest group is willing to grudgingly settle for. This usually means winners are acompromise choice: cute and sexy enough to arouse the prurient, but innocent and girlishenough to assuage the worries of the moralistic; intelligent and assertive enough tocreate an impression, but never aggressive or intellectually intimidating; talented enoughat presenting a song or dance to "carry it off," but rarely so good as tosucceed in that field against professionals. This is the natural result of trying toplease everyone in America simultaneously, and gives a conservative (in the proper meaningof the word) bent to the performance as a whole, rather than allowing it to be eitherradical or reactionary.
  
We proceeded upstairs, to a line of antiseptic-smelling booths, where men watched a nude woman dance and give little touches and tastes of herself through slots in the booth's glass fronts. It was like seeing people at the zoo feeding bits of junk food to the bears, only the other way around. It was truly sad.
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Those periods when the judges, organization, and contestants ofthe Miss America Pageant swayed noticeably from the general American mood of the time,either by being too reactionary or radical, hurt the Pageant by alienating its audience.For example, during the 1960's, when social liberalism was pervading American thought, theMiss America Pageant underwent a reactionary phase and was seen as pro-Vietnam, racist,sexist, and hopelessly out of fashion in matters of both ideas and clothes, eroding TVratings. A contestant in 1969 recalled trying to buy clothing for the Pageant in thatyear:
  
I felt overcome by the presence of so many layers of exploitation. The men are here to exploit the women; The women, too, are here to exploit the men. Actually since there are so few women (but hundreds of thousands of pictures of them), the overwhelming feeling is one of the commercial exploitation of male sexual desire. There it is, embarrassingly desperate, tormented, demeaning itself, begging for relief, taking any substitute, and paying for it. Men who live for this are suckers, and their uncomfortable demeanor shows they know it. If, as a woman, you can detach yourself...you see how totally tragic they appear.
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The clothing styles had to reach within two inches of the knee, and they just weren't selling any dresses like that. We knew that all we could do was lengthen dresses that we bought, but the problem was that we couldn't even find dresses long enough so that when we let them down they were long enough for the pageant.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#37|49 ]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|94]]
  
While English is talking about all sorts of pornography consumersbesides those that attend strip shows, her conclusions could just as accurately describethe figures depicted by Reginald Marsh in his famous paintings and drawings of burlesqueshows in the 1930's and 1940's. While his strippers look lively, sensuous, andaggressively healthy and plump, his spectators, for the most part are hollow-cheeked,frowning, slumped over, with collars turned up, looking sour and depressed.
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In matters of politics, too, Miss America had fallen behind thetimes, joining "the Vietnam bandwagon just as everyone else was scurrying off"by travelling to Vietnam for USO tours after 1967 when Miss World refused to go. Also,despite the civil rights advances made during the 1960's, and the growing acceptance ofblack fashion models and film stars by the public, there were no black contestants in theNational contest until 1970. This was a full ten years after the first black state queen(Corrine Huff, Miss Ohio) made the nationals of the Miss USA Pageant. Even compared toother beauty pageants Miss America had become reactionary.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|50]] Some are even wearing dark glasses indoors.
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|95]]Feminists also picketed the Miss America Pageant in 1968 and 1969 for choosing "blandapolitical" contestants and promptly received more news coverage than the Pageantitself.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|51 ]]Most seem to look at their shoes. Not only did the audienceshow self-contempt when they slunk into a burlesque show alone, with collar turned up andhead bowed down, but the performers frequently expressed contempt for their audience. H.M.Alexander asked a stripper in 1938:
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Even Middle America was seeing the Pageant as being tooreactionary. This caused T.V. ratings to decline in the 1960's, going from a high point in1961 with a 41.8 rating and a 75% share to a 35.1 rating and a 62% share in 1969. Ratingsjumped up again in 1970 to 37.2 and 66% when Miss America made minor token cosmeticchanges to appease the audience, among them their first black contestant, and the firstwinner without a beehive hairdo since 1961.
  
"Does the audience ever embarrass you?"
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A much stronger audience protest against the Pageant reached ahead in 1928 and actually closed down the pageant from 1928 through 1933. Back then it wasconservatives who were charging that pageants sexually exploited young women, and theywere even more vociferous than the feminists of 1969. The Y.W.C.A. of Trenton, N.J. issueda statement reported in The New York Times in 1924 "charging that the Atlantic Citybathing beauty parades exposed the young women participants to serious perils":
  
"Them?" asks the stripper incredulously. "I should say not! I make more money, twice as much, as any of them. I'm better than they are."
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The shocking costumes which such contests encourage certainly call for protests from organizations interested in girl welfare...It was noticed by competent observers that the outlook on life of girls who participated was completely changed. Before the competition they were splendid examples of innocent and pure womanhood. Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas.
  
"How was today's audience?" you ask. "Cheap or decent?"
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|96]]
  
"I never give much of a damn," says the stripper. "I just do anything to get them to applaud. If they give me a good hand, they're O.K.. If they don't, they're nothing but a bunch of bums."
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The New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, also made aresolution condemning beauty pageants at their convention held in Atlantic City in 1924,calling such contests "detrimental to the morality and modesty of our youngwomen."
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|52]]
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|97]] And the Ocean City Camp Meeting Association in1923 adopted a resolution, specifically condemning the Atlantic City Pageant for itscommercial exploitation of young women:
  
The advent of the sexual revolution in the late Twentieth Century hascaused some strippers to have a more benevolent attitude towards their audience. Forinstance a stripper speaking in the 1986 documentary Stripper, about the 1983 FirstAnnual Strippers's Convention, saw her job as fulfilling a useful function in the sexlives of the audience outside the theatre:
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The danger lies in taking girls of tender years and robing them in attire that transgresses the limit of morality. The effect on them and the publication of their photographs in the newspapers are to be highly deplored.
  
I think it must be difficult for men to--to maintain a decent amount of erections in a lifetime--I mean, you just don't get it, that just doesn't happen--You have to be stimulated and they like to be. They like to be places where other men are, they like to talk, and they like to have drinks and they like to watch women (pause) take their clothes off, and then I think it could be really healthy for a man to get stimulated by a dancer and then to go home and give his energy to someone he loves. (Pause) Procreate.
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|98]]
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|53]]
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As each year followed, more organizations made declarationsagainst beauty pageants but this kind of protest sounded merely stuffy in the first fewyears of the Pageant when innocent non-professional brunette winners with Mary Pickfordcurls and no makeup were being lauded by respected leaders like Samuel Gompers of theA.F.L. as "the type of womanhood America needs--strong, red-blooded, able to shoulderthe responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of thecountry rests."
  
Strippers often justify the ethics of their work in terms of providingsexual therapy for the exhibitionists in the audience and sexual education for the others.According to Miller in "Entertainment as Deviant Work":
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|99]]
  
Based in part on their experiences with the men who can be seen from the stage, many strippers claim that such shows are necessary in order to protect the society from the sexual assaults that would undoubtably occur if these men had no place to act out their sexual desires. Some strippers claim to provide an educational service for... adolescents and young men who are ignorant of the female body and sexuality.
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However, a change in the kind of contestants who entered thepageant in the Mid-Twenties offended conservative people who began to see that theobjections of some moralists to the Pageant might be valid. The 1925 winner Fay Lanphierwas the first with bobbed, bleached hair. When she won in 1925 she was immediately"whisked to New York" for a special salute arranged by a film studio offeringher a contract. Will Rogers and Rudolph Valentino were among those to toast her and it wasreported that she took $50,000 out of a sixteen-week personal appearance tour thatfollowed. She then went to Hollywood to act in a Laurel and Hardy film, get married andshortly thereafter, get divorced. None of this could be expected to please theconservative "Backbone of the Country" that flocked to Atlantic City to seeexamples of "the type of womanhood America needs," or the even more conservativeHotelmen's Association that catered to their vacation needs.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|54 ]]
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Norma Smallwood, Lanphier's successor, not only milked her titlefor $100,000 in personal appearances, but also wore makeup (conspicuously pencilled eyebrows and dark red cupid-bow lips shine clearly through the old small full-length photosof her). Her successor Lois Delander was a sweet school girl, 16 years old, who had amedal for knowing Biblical verses, and wore an American flag bathing suit, but by then itwas too late--the image of the Miss America contest as a girly show that attractedpublicity seeking starlets and loose women had taken hold.
  
While many of the audience members shown in the film Stripperseemed to behave in the traditional manner of the old burlesque audience, i.e. ashamed tobe seen but excited in the dark, the sexual revolution would seem to have also had animpact on the self image of certain audience groups.
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This image was not all the work of the hapless Lanphier andSmallwood. The Atlantic City Hotelmen'sAssociation president, Julian Hillman, pointed out that "There has been an epidemicrecently of women who seek personal aggrandizement and publicity by participating invarious stunts around the world, and the hotelmen feel that in recent years that type ofwomen (sic) has been attracted to the Pageant in ever-increasing numbers."
  
For example, the audience in the tiny Western cowboy town of Nanton,Alberta, stood up, howled and hollered in the full glare of the neon lights of the town'scoffee shop, where the normally dressed coffee shop waitresses disapprovingly served thembeer and little boys on the street pressed their noses to the large plate glass cafewindows watching. One cowboy went so far as to join one of the strippers on stage andstripped himself down to his underwear, all the while being encouraged by the other men inthe audience. This is doubly intriguing behavior in a town so small, that everyone mostlikely knows everyone else.
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|100]] These women were not the sort of contestants that thehotelmen's customers approved of: Charlotte Nash, Miss St. Louis 1923, promoted herself inthe contest by insuring her dimples for $100,000 and having her face printed onadvertising fans with the caption "Popular Favorite" like a sports star. Also in1923, the first Miss Alaska's publicity said that "Her startling beauty was untouchedby the rigors of over 5000 miles that required dog-sled, aeroplane, train and motorcar." But it was soon discovered that she was in fact the wife of a physical cultureexpert who was looking for publicity and had never even been to Alaska. Miss Boston 1924also turned out to be married.
  
Also, audiences accustomed to the more graphic sexual images ofpornographic films are sometimes seemingly shocked at not being shocked. A Los Angelesstrip club is also shown in Stripper, where the men are transformed, not into ahowling mob, but into a group of rapt worshippers as a nude dancer does an ethereal"Loie Fuller"-style dance with a chiffon cape. They sit, silent, motionless andserene with expressions of astonishment and joy, at the cleanness and beauty of theperformance.
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In 1925 The New York Graphic hurled scores of charges atthe Pageant in a series of articles which it syndicated to eighty-six other papers, amongthem that the vote for Lanphier had been fixed, that the Coney Island preliminary selecteda professional showgirl (not permitted at the time) in judging done by her own boss, andthat another professional, Miss Knapp, was put in as a replacement for the true MissManhattan. While the claim that the 1925 contest was fixed was later refuted in court, theretraction did not come until 1928 when the contest had been suspended---partly due to theprotracted "scandal" the Graphic had invented.
  
However, most of the audiences depicted in Stripper conform, atleast in part, to the traditional type. The shame is less and the lusty noise is more thanthat seen in theaters earlier, but the two main ingredients evidently are still importantparts of audience behavior in most modern strip clubs. And as the "positive feedback'of the audience response increases, so does the competition between performers to createthe most sexually exciting performance. As a result, strip performances becomeincreasingly graphic and aggressive depictions of stylized sex, and the strip which"started with dropping a shoulder strap...and ended up in a G-string" becomes amore openly sexual performance with each passing year.
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The dubious results of the preliminary contests, as well as thepublicity-seeking tactics of some of the contestants tarnished the image of Miss Americato the point that by 1928 the conservative Atlantic City audience wanted nothing more todo with her. While there was one small contest in 1933 which was not given any localsupport, the City Fathers would not sponsor a return of the contest until 1935, in theheart of the Depression, when would-be Hollywood starlets were thought to be more thestuff of Andy Hardy movies than of sin.
  
The burlesque strip show grew out of the American version of theclassical burlesque tradition. Burlesques were originally staged parodies of famousclassical and popular literary works. Ancient history (Greek and Roman), Shakespeare andboth popular plays and novels were all parodied in Nineteenth Century burlesques inEngland and America. Typically, the productions of these burlesques included not onlyliterary parody but "low" comedy, topical comedy, cross-dressing, and lavishsets and costumes.
+
Iron Magnolia Lenora Slaughter also joined the Miss Americapageant in 1935--the first woman to take substantial part in the management of thePageant--and instituted a reform campaign designed to turn Miss America into a respectableAmerican institution. By making changes that brought Miss America more into line with whatthe "The Backbone of the Country" saw as the ideal of American girlhood, shechipped away year by year at the old image of a brainless cheesecake contest fostered bythe bad publicity of the mid-Twenties. She introduced "Talent" presentations in1935, and made them a regular category for judging in 1938 in answer to the perennialcriticism that Miss America was nothing but a talentless bathing beauty. She raised theage limit to 18, got rid of male chaperonage, instituted monastic-styled controls on thegirls at the pageants (no liquor, smoking, or talking to men--even fathers), moved thePageant indoors, introduced college scholarships, took preliminary contests away fromnewspapers and shady amusement parks and gave them to the Jaycees to run, and finally gotMiss America's official newspaper picture to feature her in an evening gown and not aswimsuit. Her actions brought Miss America more and more in line with the respectablemiddle class tastes of the Atlantic City tourists and, as a result, Miss America becamemore and more of a respected American institution with the audience.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|55]] The most popular cross-dressing in theVictorian Era naturally was the portrayal of "boy" roles by women, since itafforded a "legitimate" excuse for putting Victorian actresses in short tunicsand tights, without arousing the outrage of censors.
+
In a recent poll American women (who comprise approximatelytwo-thirds of beauty pageant audiences) approved of the Miss America Pageant by 91%despite the fact that more women than ever claim to be feminists.
  
In burlesque, however, the public taste pushed the censor's tolerancesto their limits. Tunics were shorter, tights were often flesh-toned and the comic"bits" within the show occasionally skated towards ribald humor and doubleentendre. According to Irving Zeidman in The American Burlesque Show (1967)"Burlesque has always featured soubrettes and chorines who uncovered themselves tothe limit the law would permit." Zeidman then cites several proto-strip performers ofthe early 20th Century to back his claim, among them Truly Shattuck who did an"instantaneous change from full costume to tights," "Dainty Marie" whomade a hit in 1912 by distributing her cast-off clothing to the audience, Millie De Leonwhose 1915 act in St. Louis included stripping the ruffles off her gown one at a time, andEdna Maze who in the 1919 "Patriotic Revue" Cheer Up America sang "I TakeOff A Little Bit," and suiting the action to the words, "discarded her outergarments until she finally stood revealed in black lace trunks."
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|101]]A quick look at the recent pageants, however, explains this trend. The Miss AmericaPageant has once again fallen into line with the taste of Middle America. Now that averageAmericans think of themselves as anti-racist and mildly pro-feminist, winning contestantscome in all colors and declare themselves to be liberated women. Even the rules of thecompetition have been changed in order to ensure that winners are assertive, articulateand intelligent, as well as pretty. The 1990 Miss America Judges Committee Manualinstructs judges to look for contestants who are "the best composite of the followingattributes: Intelligence, Talent, Leadership, Courage, Communication and InterpersonalSkills, Poise, Attractiveness." The areas of competition which help judges find this"composite" are weighed as follows: Talent 40%, Interview 30%,Evening Gown 15%,Swimsuit 15%.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|56]]
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|102]]
  
According to Zeidman no single person "invented" the striptease although many different people have been credited with being the sole inventor invarious theatrical myths about the "birth" of striptease.
+
Not surprisingly, recent winners have reflected these changes bybeing more assertive and ambitious. In an article in Cosmopolitan September 1989, the newAmerican ideal of womanhood, the success-oriented feminist is featured as the ideal modern"beauty" pageant contestant:
  
However literal truth is not the substantive truth to be found in anymythology. The myths (about the origin of striptease) show, not the literal, individualtruth (of who started stripping where and when), but the larger, generalised truth of howstripping developed over time. Comparing the common elements of these myths reveals theessential role that the burlesque audience played in encouraging, through the force ofapplause and improved ticket sales, the development of strip-tease from early proto-stripnumbers to full stripping.
+
Each woman...is subjected to a grilling before a panel of preliminary judges that would bring beads of sweat to the brow of Dan Quayle. Contestants are...asked to converse intelligently on such topics as National Defense, the budget deficit, abortion, and the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency. This interrogation is a major part of the search for the so-called Woman of the Eighties.
  
For instance, H.M. Alexander interviewed people backstage at the IrvingPalace Theatre just before the 1938 closing of New York burlesque houses and asked thequestion, "What started all this?"
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|103]]
  
"An accident"...Miss Vivian tells you that someone in the show was...in the chorus when her shoulder strap broke. The audience riotously approved. The girl liked the applause. At the next performance she broke the strap herself."
+
The way most Miss Americas have succesfully reflected theaudience taste of their times can be seen by comparing polls taken of the Americanpublic's opinions and comparing them to the winners that followed. For instance, in thethroes of desire to return to "traditional" male and female roles at the end ofWorld War II, Americans were polled and asked, "Do you approve of a married womanearning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supportingher?" In late 1945, only 18% approved, 62% disapproved, and 20% had either no opinionor approved only under special circumstances. People were also asked in 1945 "If theparty whose candidate you most often support nominated a woman for President of the U.S.,would you vote for her if she seemed best qualified for the job?" The public said"No" 55% to 33% with 12% abstaining.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|57]]
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#94|104]] Two yearslater Barbara Jo Walker, Miss America 1947, pleased audiences with the statement,"I'm only interested in one contract--the marriage contract," and came to theAtlantic City competition with her engagement ring on.
  
Later Alexander confronted the stage manager in the same theatre withthe producer's story and asked:
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#105|105]]
  
"How did the strip get so naked? Did the bosses give more money to the girls who took off more clothes?"
+
More recently the viewing public has wanted women with careerambitions, as evidenced by the changes in the results of polls taken about women aspoliticians, and wives who work. Gallup stopped bothering to survey whether peopleapproved of married women working after 1976, when the public approved 68% to 29%, thevery same question that had been asked in the 1940's.
  
"The girls who drew the most customers got the most dough...The girls knew the crowds came to see flesh. Little by little they showed more."
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#105|106 ]]WhenGallup asked in 1984, whether Americans would vote for a woman for President if she werequalified, people said 78% to 17% that they would.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|58]]
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#105|107 ]]Itfollows then, that the expectations the audience has had for "ideal" young womenlately are more career-oriented and politically active than they were formerly. The nextchapter will review how this alteration in the audience's opinions has effected the choiceof performers and the way they present themselves in order to appear to live up to theideal.
  
Ann Corio, a stripper who some quite inaccurately claim originated thestrip, related one of the most popular "origin" myths in her 1968 book ThisWas Burlesque: This was another reported "accident" at the State-CongressTheatre in 1928 where Hinda Wassau was wearing one costume on top of another.
+
Conclusions about the Audience
  
Under the frantic vibrations of her anatomy, the outer costume started to come loose...The audience howled...At the climax of her number the costume came completely loose and she removed it. The applause at the end of her number was thunderous.
+
In summation, fashion shows, burlesque strip shows and beautypageants emerged during the first third of the Twentieth Century as outgrowths ofwholesale trade shows, classical burlesque, and newspaper beauty contests. Whileoriginally these new forms were not rigidly defined, and sometimes even"borrowed" techniques from one another, eventually audience pressure andexpectation forced them further apart into the forms we recognize today.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#50|59]]
+
The typical audience of fashion shows was inclusive of allclasses of American women, who watched fashion shows in order to imagine themselveslooking as fashionable (and attractive) as the models. This audience which has shown aconstant fear of fatness and admiration for the tall, thin, "boyish" figure eversince the early part of the Century, has continuously pressured the performers intomasculine thinness in order to measure up to this ideal. This has caused the progressivenarrowing of model figures from substantial "38's" to minimal size "5's,"
  
Morton Minsky in Minsky's Burlesque (1986) claimed that stripteaseoriginated in 1917 at the Minsky Theatre, The National Winter Garden, also due to an"accident" that thrilled the audience: "They wouldn't let her go. Theyclapped like crazy...Between the heat and the applause, Mae lost her head, and unbuttonedher bodice as she left the stage again."
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#108|108]] which reflects a female audience's ideal imagein a society where men are seen as the superior social group which must be emulated.
  
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|60]]
+
The burlesque audience consisted largely of men, who behaved asthough they came to watch a voyeuristic spectacle: they were ashamed to be seen at thetheatre, but while watching the strip acts became unusually aroused and noisy. Byapplauding and attending performances which were the most bare they influenced theperformers and producers to create shows that grew progressively more naked, until mostperformers completed their acts wearing only G-strings. The audience also graduallyimposed its ideal image of female sexuality onto the performance, encouraging performerswho displayed aggressive rather than passive sexuality in performance, and who bestgratified the breast fixation inherent in most males. This audience influence has causedstrip performances to become barer and more openly sexual in nature as time goes on.
  
The element most common in these origin myths, apart from the supposedly"accidental" nature of the dancers's participation, is the contention thatoverwhelming audience approval led to the continuance and further development of thestrip. In other words, the audience reaction to the "accidents" was sooverwhelming, that the audience, in effect was to blame for the origin ofstripping.
+
Finally, the beauty pageant audience was composed of both menand women of assorted classes, opinions and ages. In the case of the Miss America Pageantthese were middle-class vacationers from the South, Mid-West, and East, during the first33 years of the Pageant, who were succeeded by a television audience of nearly the wholeU.S., for the last 36 years. This audience is essentially conservative and compromising asa group, since any extreme opinion which is held by one part of the group is usuallybalanced by its opposite in another part of the group. This audience has pressuredpageants to follow the conservative values in which the solid American majority believesin at any point in time, or suffer the consequences. The Miss America Pageant, as the mostobvious example, has flourished under audience support when the Pageant expressed thebeliefs of the audience, and has languished (as for example in the late 1920's and 1960's)when it travelled away from audience expectations too far to the left or right.
  
While the particulars of the origin myths of stripping cannot be takentoo literally, it is verifiable that the audience support of burlesque was strongest whenand where stripping formed a large part of the show. Burlesque's ticket sales increased inthe period between the two world wars in direct proportion to the rise of the strip act.As Variety put it:
+
All three forms of theatre: fashion shows, strip shows andbeauty pageants show evidence of being shaped by audience images of "ideal"women, and all three have shaped the images of their performers to best express theseideals, each of which are particular to the context of each form.
 
+
With stripping still the basis of all burlesque layouts, business was best when conditions... permitted more stripping. When there was no stripping, there was no business, and usually no burlesque. A few stout-hearted gents attempted to buck the dry spots anyway with "clean" shows, but they didn't last.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|61]]
+
 
+
And if audience disfavor of "clean" burlesque wasn't enough ofan inducement for producers to encourage stripping, the self-sabotaging efforts of censorsto harass "dirty" shows were. Every time a theatre was raided for publicindecency, ticket sales went up. Billy Minsky even used out oftown censors to boost his New York ticket sales by deliberately hiring strippers whoseacts were closed by the censor in other towns, and then billing them as "the act thatwas too hot for name of town ." Much of Georgia Sothern's advance publicity in NewYork was about her "escort by police" out of Philadelphia.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|62]] It was this open advertisement of the supposed indecency ofher performance which led to a huge advance ticket sale. In short, the audience wanted an"indecent" performance and was eager to pay for it, which in essence is whatcaused the progressive nudity of the strip even if it didn't actually originate the stripitself.
+
 
+
Nancy Friday observed in Men in Love, Men's Sexual Fantasies: TheTriumph of Love Over Rage that men respond to the stimulation of seeing an actualnaked woman in person or in photographs in the same way that women respond to thedeliberately vague images of men conjured up by romantic literature--with potent eroticfantasies. This is why men generally turn to "picture-books" like Playboy andHustler, for masturbatory images, while their wives resort to "women'sliterature" ranging from Wuthering Heights to The Story of O. Whilewomen like to imagine fantasy men, men like to fantasize about real women:
+
 
+
In women's fantasies the men do not seem real, but actors sent from M-G-M. They are usually not friends or lovers from her present or past, but amorous strangers...Depriving the fantasy partner of a familiar face, making him wear a mask, or having everything happen in the dark are some of the most popular methods women use to handle guilt in fantasy. The definition of the demon lover for women is that he is never seen with photographic clarity.
+
 
+
Men react in just the opposite way---hence the great popularity of the nude in girlie magazines. The more a man can see, the closer the dream is to reality, the more specific, the more real the woman---the more exciting. Most of the fantasies in this book are built upon memories of real women. It is the boyhood neighbor next door who lights up man's imagination, the first woman with whom he ever had oral sex...The faceless stranger may be the prime feminine sex object, but a man likes to identify whom he is in bed with.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|63]]
+
 
+
And he likes to see her in as much physical detail as possible, whichhas encouraged strippers in recent years even to display their genital area during thefloor show in response to the male interest in visual erotic stimulation. Female eroticfiction in its sex scenes tends to gloss over or omit entirely a description of the malemember. (Anne Rice prides herself on being one of the "leading femalepornographers" in America under an assumed name; but in her most famous works underher own name, The Vampire Chronicles, she has made the most erotic, sexuallycharged male figures in her fiction, vampires, completely sexually impotent.)In contrast, many men, Friday notes, love to dwell on the sight and smell of femalegenitalia, and in fantasies like this one, offer a worshipful admiration of the femalesexual organs:
+
 
+
If I had been a child of more primitive times, I would have been---literally (as I am now figuratively)---a worshiper of the Glorious Female Cunt. If a painter or sculptor, I am sure I would be spending all my time painting or sculpting heroic-sized copies of that most beautiful and most awe-inspiring creation of a benevolent deity.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|64]]
+
 
+
However, Friday observes that among those men who fantasize about womenoffering up their sexual organs for view "how often they happen to have chosen tomarry women who will not permit oral sex."
+
 
+
This sexual double standard has also had a profound influence on stripshow audience expectations. Male audience members who would be horrified and disgusted tofind their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives behaving in an overtly sexual manner inpublic, nonetheless enjoy watching comparatively anonymous women doing so, as part of afantasy sexual ideal. That is to say that the average American male enjoys looking atcenterfolds, but probably would be shocked and dismayed at his daughter showing up as"Miss April" in all her airbrushed glory. As Warren Jamison put it in a letterto Dear Abby on March 12, 1990:
+
 
+
Men like to look. Some enjoy looking at horses, paintings, football and cars. But they are all genetically programmed to enjoy looking at women.
+
 
+
It's in our hormones; It hits us when they heat up about age 14 and stays with us for the rest of our lives.
+
 
+
You feel threatened because your man isn't content to confine his looking only at you. Lighten up. All this looking doesn't mean a thing--except that he's human. Your man doesn't compare you to the topless bar girls, because he loves you. He loves you for a thousand reasons, one of which is because you don't get up on a stage and prance around bare-bosomed, where anyone with the price of a cup of coffee can look at you.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|65]]
+
 
+
This kind of Madonna/whore conflict in the expectations of male audiencemembers leads to a kind of exaggerated image of sexuality in strip performances (whichhave openly avowed their sexual content since the 1920's) because they are seen as thetheatrical equivalent of whorishness.
+
 
+
"Misty" a middle-aged housewife and mother, forced to stripfor a living after divorcing an abusive husband, found nearly everyone, including heraudience, automatically assumed she was a "not nice" because she stripped:
+
 
+
Why do men come to watch the strippers since it is not nice? Is it because they want to be titillated, and then be able to shift their guilt feelings to the dancer by blaming her for the way she makes them feel? I think so. I think strippers are considered not nice because they reflect emotions that other people, mainly men, do not like to admit.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|66]]
+
 
+
Given this general attitude that stripping placed women in a special"not nice" category, the ideal image of strippers has generally not been that ofman's ideal of womanhood in the sense of mother, wife or daughter, but man's ideal ofpurely sexualized womanhood, the "Seductress." Obviously, every individual manhas his own personal fantasy in this direction, but there are several points upon whichmost men seem to concur, one being the importance of breasts as part of an eroticizedfemale. Susan Brownmiller in her book Femininity describes this fixation.
+
 
+
It is [men] who invent and refine the myths, who discuss breasts publicly, who criticize their failings as they extol their wonders, and who claim to have more need and intimate knowledge of them than a woman herself. Without doubt it was men who created the fetish of size and shape, for the ability to breast-feed has nothing to do with external dimensions, and pleasurable sensation resides in the erectile tissue of the nipples, not in the bulk. But the otherness of breasts, their service in the scheme of male erotic satisfaction, long ago promoted the myth that a flat chested woman is non-sexual or ungiving. At the other extreme, a woman with large breasts is usually assumed to be flaunting her sex or inviting attention.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|67]]
+
 
+
Frequently successful strippers indicate that their careers were"made" by an ample set of breasts. "Susan" a topless dancerinterviewed in Breasts: Women Speak About Their Breasts and Their Lives (1979), claimedthat large breasts were an advantage in stripping: "The size of your breasts alwaysdetermined how many bookings you got."
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|68]] And Fanny BelleFleming, better known as the stripper Blaze Starr popular in the 1950's and 1960's,attributed her success with audiences to "big boobs."
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#60|69 ]]TempestStorm, her contemporary from Georgia, also claimed she was encouraged to become a stripperbecause she was told her abnormally large bosom would ensure audience approval.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|70]]
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+
Large breasts also were a plus in the life of Carol Doda in the 1960'sand 70's, who transformed a lackluster job as a minor stripper into an acclaimed career asthe queen of the San Francisco strip scene by getting one of the first silicone implantoperations to augment her from an A cup to a double D.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|71]]
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+
Perhaps the most famous set of breasts in the strip trade was that of avery early stripper, Carrie Finnell. Finnell, while having a frankly fat figure(occasionally described as bovine) in the lean 1920's, as well as being fairly old for astripper, had such extraordinary control over her mammary muscles that she could do"tricks" with her bosom including pointing them in any direction and tasseltwirling, male audience fascination with breasts having encouraged these rather baroqueperformances into further marvels of muscle control. (The particulars of Finnell'sperformances will receive further attention in Chapter III part b.)
+
 
+
Another basic male fantasy about the ideal "Seductress" orsexualized female is that she is always "ready for action." Esquire magazine, inits first year of publication, pointed out why Mae West was so popular with men while notnecessarily being as beautiful or glamorous or talented as other female film stars:
+
 
+
"Miss West breaks down the law...That women must take no pleasure in sex and must only with reluctance and distaste, gratify the rude desires of men...exposing the awful secret that women may desire men as much, or nearly as much as men desire women."
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|72 ]]
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+
Later when Playboy had taken Esquire's place as theleading magazine devoted to men's sex interests, letters to "The Playboy Forum"by readers indicate that men are still pleased with and attracted to sexually aggressivewomen: In one issue a male reader was outraged at an article in which Adrienne Burnettedeplored "dominant women" and liked a man to make all the moves so she could"lie back and enjoy it." The male reader countered that "I and my friendshate that routine and would love nothing better than to see more women take the lead, paytheir fair share and make their share of the moves. I don't feel the least bit threatenedby aggressive women."
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|73]] In the same issue another manreported with delight on the action of a female co-worker in aggressively initiating a sexact in his car.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|74]]
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+
In addition, while passive females are the staple of women's"bodice ripper" pornography, the longtime staple of men's literary porn is thesexually aggressive female (the exception being certain Sadomasochistic literature). NancyFriday noted that contrary to the stereotypical "macho" image of men as sexualaggressors, men are more likely to fantasize themselves as the seduced than the seducers:
+
 
+
At the heart of even the most shocking S&M fantasy we find...men...turn their fury not against women but against themselves. Any call girl will tell you that more clients pay to play the victim at a woman's hands than the other way around.
+
 
+
In my books on women's sexual fantasies [My Secret Garden, Forbidden Flowers] the single greatest theme that emerged was that of "weak" women being sexually dominated, "forced" by male strength to do this deliciously awful thing... guiltlessly "raped" again and again.
+
 
+
Rape or force may be the most popular theme in female fantasy (though I've yet to meet a woman who wouldn't run a mile from a real rapist), but men's fantasies of overpowering women against their will are the exception. A closer reading will usually reveal that the woman is a volunteer or has given her consent first...pain or humiliation of the woman is usually not the goal. They are means toward an end: forcing her to admit the transports of sexual joy she has never known before.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|75]]
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+
The majority of male sexual fantasies described in Friday's work, incontrast, go even further, and feature women who either take the lead, or respond easilyand willingly to a tentative sexual advance.
+
 
+
This desire for an idealized seductress figure who would seem to becheerfully sexually aggressive did much to separate the most successful strip performersfrom the lesser ones. Strippers at the very bottom of the stripping profession, weredescribed by Gorer as showing clearly that they did not enjoy performing:
+
 
+
Her face is frozen into a smile, a smile without gaiety, without amusement, without friendliness, a hieratic distortion; A parody so empty that one wonders that one can ever have thought that a smile could have either charm or significance.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|76]]
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+
Gorer goes on to point out that strippers who convey enjoyment in theiract are better paid:
+
 
+
The one or two women who can convey some feeling of humanity to this act are well known and receive large salaries; Gypsy Rose Lee, who acts as though she enjoyed it, is said to earn a thousand dollars a week.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|77]]
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+
Morton Minsky pointed out that Lee, despite a thin flatchested figure,enchanted the audience with a lewd flirtatious patter in double entendre and"suggestive and seductive" costuming: "She used black silk stockings, lacepanties, red garters, and mesh netting."
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|78]]
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+
Margie Hart, the next most famous stripper of the l930's and 40's alsoconveyed the impression of relaxed sexuality by performing without a discernable G-string.
+
 
+
[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|79]] Hinda Wassau, the leading star of the 1920's, and one of thefirst girls to be arrested for stripping (1927), made an act of "running the handsover her body slowly and lingeringly," panting, and otherwise imitating aself-induced orgasm.
+
 
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|80]]
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Each of these performers was at the top of her profession makinghundreds of dollars a week in the midst of the Depression because they were able to givethe audience the impression of an aggressive rather than a passive sexuality. Thisnon-passive sexuality was still preferred when "Misty" in the 1970's asked themen at her day job in an office what they thought was most desirable in a strip performer:"The consensus seemed to be that girl who smiles and seems to enjoy what she is doingmakes the biggest hit."
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[[Tara1pagesNotes2#70|81]] By degrees this ability to seemto enjoy the sexual nature of the strip act went from the most-prized talent in strippingto becoming the minimum qualification, and now even mediocre strippers are expected toconvey an image of aggressive sexuality.
+
 
+
The audience by rewarding those performers who most closely imitated themasculine notions of an eroticized woman encouraged the performers to develop theironstage personas in line with male audience fantasies. This has fostered the image offemale burlesque performers as aggressively sexual women with abnormally large breasts whoenjoy exhibitionism in its sexual sense. This has also encouraged the development of striproutines which best display these apparent attributes.
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[[1pagesDissertationDissabst| Dissertation Index]]/Continueon to
  
[[1pagesDissertationDissch2c| Chapter II part c.]]
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[[1pagesDissertationChap3a| Chapter III part a.]]
  
[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6304005008/thecostumersmani|Amazon.com: buying info: Video: In the Flesh : The New York Strip Scene]
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==Product Links==
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[http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6305374848/thecostumersmani|Amazon.com: buying info: Video: The Secret World of Beauty Pageants]

Revision as of 01:36, 23 January 2014

Chapter 2c: The Beauty Pageant Audience

File:H.t

Fashion Shows, Strip Shows and BeautyPageants: The Theatre of The Feminine Ideal

by

TARA MAGINNIS

Chapter II: The Audience

Part c: The Audience of the Beauty Pageant, andConclusions

The Miss America competition and other "beauty"contests, have obviously become less sexually-oriented as the years progress, due to thebasically conservative nature of the competition audience.

Miss America, started in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, isconsidered the seminal modern beauty pageant, not because it was the first beauty contest(it wasn't), but because its format set the standard for virtually all other leadingbeauty competitions.

82 The first "Inter-City BeautyCompetition," as the Miss America Pageant was originally called, was a mediaevent created by the merchants of Atlantic City to encourage the middle-class vacationers,who formed the bulk of Atlantic City's tourist trade, to extend their stay in the citypast Labor Day.

83

The promoters at Atlantic City were very careful to do as muchas possible to assure the public of the respectability of their enterprise, and the moralpurity of their contestants. From the very first year, contestants were chaperoned duringtheir time in Atlantic City; respected magazine illustrators like James Montgomery Flagg,Cole Phillips and Norman Rockwell were used as judges,

84 andamateur beauties were judged separately from "professional" models andactresses. The image that the Atlantic City promoters wanted was of innocent respectablefamily fun, not sexy girls in swimsuits.

At the first contest in 1921 the contestants paraded on footdown the beach in swimsuits. Interestingly, at this time the modern feminist anti-pageantcriticism that contestants are made to parade in swimsuits before a fully-clothed audience(thus degrading them and turning them into sex objects) was not applicable, since in theearly years the audience on the beach, the marching bands, the crowd-control police, theMayor, and judges all wore only swimsuits during that part of the contest. There were alsoseven different bathing suit divisions in the contest, including family groups.

85

The care which even early contests took to disassociate theperformance from any taint of sexuality has to be understood in terms of the middle classaudience values of the Atlantic City tourist. Beauty contests in newspapers were onlygradually gaining acceptance as a respectable activity for young women and Atlantic Cityhad a justifiable reputation as one of the more conservative and respectable resorts. In1913 a woman on the beach there was assaulted by an outraged crowd for wearing a shortbathing suit. Atlantic City had rather restrictive bathing suit decency laws whichdemanded much greater coverage than that of working-class beaches such as Coney Island.

86

The conservative nature of the Atlantic City tourists wasdescribed a few weeks before the first contest by Helen Bullitt Lowry in The New YorkTimes. Her article, "Innocence at Atlantic City," contrasts therespectability of the tourists there, with the fallacious image of sin at summer resorts:

When a girl wants to make acquaintances at Atlantic City...she makes a point of sitting up (sic) the old ladies. She gets them to teach her a new knitting stitch, and she listens intently. The young man who admires this girl selects the same old lady and tells her his family is Presbyterian or Methodist, all according to his luck in hitting on her denomination. Before a day has passed the old lady has introduced them. The first requisite for being a vamp on the boardwalk is to keep in with the old ladies.

87

Lowry also remarked on the respectably full old-fashionedtaffeta and sateen bathing suits worn on the beach: "In short, vice in the waves isstill expressed in terms of rubber daisy trimmings on your rubber cap, and in green silkstockings. Atlantic City isn't onto our [New York's] subtler forms of shocking the bathcensor."

The Atlantic City tourists were middle-class vacationers fromthe South, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states, "The Backbone of The Country," asLowry put it. "The Backbone of The Country has its special brand for doingeverything," she pointed out, even its own way of flirting with sin, whileeffectively chaperoning it into respectability:

They wander into the fashionable Chelsea-End cafes in high collars of transparent net, boned up with silk-covered, perpetually waved wires, and group themselves contentedly at the ringside tables.

"Just look at that woman smoking," murmurs the lady from Georgia, where "ladies" don't smoke, "Now you know she doesn't get any pleasure out of it, but is just trying to make herself look flashy?"

Tiers of rocking chairs overlook each pay-as-you-enter dance floor where The Backbone of The Country amuses itself deciding which is the Camel walk, instead of getting up the Christmas bazaar, at which the Lord in His wisdom ordained that they should find their recreation. Wherever a couple in bathing suits lol (sic) on the sand together there are at least three good ladies leaning over the rail of the Boardwalk trying to hear what they say...Don Juan himself would have had to exert himself to feel wicked.

88

The audience at Atlantic City could therefore be seen to beslightly indulgent to "nice" young people and their indiscretions, but largelyconservative, and ever watchful against genuine "vice". As envisioned by thisgroup the ideal Miss America was more likely to be an ideal daughter figure than a sexybathing beauty.

The conservative middle-class middle-aged vacationing familycontinued to be the staple audience of the Atlantic City beauty contest and others until1954 when ABC opened out the Pageant to the larger television audience and first broadcastthe Miss America pageant live into living rooms all over the U.S.. In the first year ofthe broadcast the Pageant had a 20.9 rating with a 39% share of viewing audience, andfigures climbed steadily to a 41.8 rating and a 75% share in 1961. In the 1960's theirfigures lowered down to 35.1 and 62% by 1969, but the anti-pageant demonstrations byfeminists of that year and the reforms that followed renewed public interest:

When Miss America fell out of touch with the times as the 1960's wore on, there was some erosion in its high ratings figures, but the pageant's slight subsequent concessions to reality appear to have been enough to have reversed the trend. In 1970, the show drew its largest audience ever, again taking a two-thirds share. By usual ratings standards, this translates into 22,360,000 homes...the 1970 version was the fifth most popular special in television history.

89

Miss Universe, Miss America's strongest rival pageant, also hasa firm grip on the American public's viewing taste. Despite the huge erosion in networkT.V.'s ratings in the 1980's caused by Cable, beauty pageants still pull in high ratingfigures (lower than figures in the 1960's and 70's but still higher than other kinds ofnetwork specials). For example, the promotional literature used by the Madison SquareGarden corporation to sell advertisers commercial time during pageants indicates that theMiss Universe pageant of 1988 had a 15.7 Nielsen rating, and its preliminary pageant, MissU.S.A., had a 16.2 rating. While these were smaller ratings than those of Miss America inthe 1960's they were ahead of the highly rated Julie Andrews Christmas Special (14.5), BobHope's Tribute to America (12.3), and the Tony (9.5) and Emmy (8.8) Awards ceremonies, aswell as many others. According to these statistics Miss USA alone has a viewership of50,117,000, composed of 50% women, 30% adult men, 10% young children, and 9% teenagers[The remaining 1% is not explained.]

90 According to formerMiss USA Paula Peterson Burwell, Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants "attract morefemale viewers in the prime consumer age bracket of 18 to 49, which makes its advertisingslots more valuable. Miss America tends to attract relatively young and old viewers."

91

The live audiences at beauty pageants are neither commented uponin print nor surveyed for demographics any longer, since the huge television audience isso much larger. However, it is still the live audience which provides the performers withthe majority of their direct feedback.

For example The 1990 Miss Marin Scholarship Pageant (partof the Miss America organization) attracted an audience conforming to the national patternof two-thirds women, one-third men, and an assortment of ages. Since the audience wascomposed of people in a variety of ages, and (outside of the pageant), with very probablya wide variety of entertainment interests, their reaction to individual talentpresentations seemed to be determined not so much by which kind of "talent" wasperformed, or even how well it was done, but by the comprehensibility of the performance,and how good the contestant looked doing it. For instance, a performer who played"Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera on the flute, quite flat, but in astunning green evening gown with a stylish up-sweep hairdo received considerably moreapplause than a contestant who sang an obscure opera aria in Italian with perfect pitch.The audience apparently applauded poise, style, good looks and comprehensibility before itdemanded individual artistic talent, and this feedback affected the judging to the extentthat the flutist made first runner up.

With beauty contest audiences coming from a broad cross-sectionof ages and, in the Nationals, a cross-section of income and ethnic groups, it isnecessarily generalized and compromising, showing neither a strong preference for male orfemale ideals of a woman's body type, young or old peoples' preferences in music, and highor low brow tastes in talent presentation. As with the judges, each individual in theaudience may be an expert in the nuances of modern dance or country western singing orcompetitive gymnastics, but taken as a whole, they cancel each other out, both inexpertise and preferences. As a result, performances in the talent area are not judgedunder the exacting standards of connoisseurship but under the generalized standards ofstage presence, onstage personality, showmanship, and costume.

92Swimsuit competition produces winners that are neither the de-sexed model figures whichwomen prefer, or the over-sexed, bosomy figures that are extolled by men's magazines, buta rather even, middle-of-the-road healthy figure on average. Evening gown winners neverwear conspicuously avant-garde fashion "statement" dresses, or old fashioned"dated" dresses; winning colors are typically black, white, red, or blue.

93 Even in color, individual "favorites" cancel eachother out and the popular "safe" choices rise to the top.

The overall effect of this audience plurality on the performanceis that of a compromised ideal--rather like the choice of a President, who is rarely oneof the candidates that inspires the most ardent devotion from a small group, but whom thelargest group is willing to grudgingly settle for. This usually means winners are acompromise choice: cute and sexy enough to arouse the prurient, but innocent and girlishenough to assuage the worries of the moralistic; intelligent and assertive enough tocreate an impression, but never aggressive or intellectually intimidating; talented enoughat presenting a song or dance to "carry it off," but rarely so good as tosucceed in that field against professionals. This is the natural result of trying toplease everyone in America simultaneously, and gives a conservative (in the proper meaningof the word) bent to the performance as a whole, rather than allowing it to be eitherradical or reactionary.

Those periods when the judges, organization, and contestants ofthe Miss America Pageant swayed noticeably from the general American mood of the time,either by being too reactionary or radical, hurt the Pageant by alienating its audience.For example, during the 1960's, when social liberalism was pervading American thought, theMiss America Pageant underwent a reactionary phase and was seen as pro-Vietnam, racist,sexist, and hopelessly out of fashion in matters of both ideas and clothes, eroding TVratings. A contestant in 1969 recalled trying to buy clothing for the Pageant in thatyear:

The clothing styles had to reach within two inches of the knee, and they just weren't selling any dresses like that. We knew that all we could do was lengthen dresses that we bought, but the problem was that we couldn't even find dresses long enough so that when we let them down they were long enough for the pageant.

94

In matters of politics, too, Miss America had fallen behind thetimes, joining "the Vietnam bandwagon just as everyone else was scurrying off"by travelling to Vietnam for USO tours after 1967 when Miss World refused to go. Also,despite the civil rights advances made during the 1960's, and the growing acceptance ofblack fashion models and film stars by the public, there were no black contestants in theNational contest until 1970. This was a full ten years after the first black state queen(Corrine Huff, Miss Ohio) made the nationals of the Miss USA Pageant. Even compared toother beauty pageants Miss America had become reactionary.

95Feminists also picketed the Miss America Pageant in 1968 and 1969 for choosing "blandapolitical" contestants and promptly received more news coverage than the Pageantitself.

Even Middle America was seeing the Pageant as being tooreactionary. This caused T.V. ratings to decline in the 1960's, going from a high point in1961 with a 41.8 rating and a 75% share to a 35.1 rating and a 62% share in 1969. Ratingsjumped up again in 1970 to 37.2 and 66% when Miss America made minor token cosmeticchanges to appease the audience, among them their first black contestant, and the firstwinner without a beehive hairdo since 1961.

A much stronger audience protest against the Pageant reached ahead in 1928 and actually closed down the pageant from 1928 through 1933. Back then it wasconservatives who were charging that pageants sexually exploited young women, and theywere even more vociferous than the feminists of 1969. The Y.W.C.A. of Trenton, N.J. issueda statement reported in The New York Times in 1924 "charging that the Atlantic Citybathing beauty parades exposed the young women participants to serious perils":

The shocking costumes which such contests encourage certainly call for protests from organizations interested in girl welfare...It was noticed by competent observers that the outlook on life of girls who participated was completely changed. Before the competition they were splendid examples of innocent and pure womanhood. Afterward their heads were filled with vicious ideas.

96

The New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs, also made aresolution condemning beauty pageants at their convention held in Atlantic City in 1924,calling such contests "detrimental to the morality and modesty of our youngwomen."

97 And the Ocean City Camp Meeting Association in1923 adopted a resolution, specifically condemning the Atlantic City Pageant for itscommercial exploitation of young women:

The danger lies in taking girls of tender years and robing them in attire that transgresses the limit of morality. The effect on them and the publication of their photographs in the newspapers are to be highly deplored.

98

As each year followed, more organizations made declarationsagainst beauty pageants but this kind of protest sounded merely stuffy in the first fewyears of the Pageant when innocent non-professional brunette winners with Mary Pickfordcurls and no makeup were being lauded by respected leaders like Samuel Gompers of theA.F.L. as "the type of womanhood America needs--strong, red-blooded, able to shoulderthe responsibilities of homemaking and motherhood. It is in her type that the hope of thecountry rests."

99

However, a change in the kind of contestants who entered thepageant in the Mid-Twenties offended conservative people who began to see that theobjections of some moralists to the Pageant might be valid. The 1925 winner Fay Lanphierwas the first with bobbed, bleached hair. When she won in 1925 she was immediately"whisked to New York" for a special salute arranged by a film studio offeringher a contract. Will Rogers and Rudolph Valentino were among those to toast her and it wasreported that she took $50,000 out of a sixteen-week personal appearance tour thatfollowed. She then went to Hollywood to act in a Laurel and Hardy film, get married andshortly thereafter, get divorced. None of this could be expected to please theconservative "Backbone of the Country" that flocked to Atlantic City to seeexamples of "the type of womanhood America needs," or the even more conservativeHotelmen's Association that catered to their vacation needs.

Norma Smallwood, Lanphier's successor, not only milked her titlefor $100,000 in personal appearances, but also wore makeup (conspicuously pencilled eyebrows and dark red cupid-bow lips shine clearly through the old small full-length photosof her). Her successor Lois Delander was a sweet school girl, 16 years old, who had amedal for knowing Biblical verses, and wore an American flag bathing suit, but by then itwas too late--the image of the Miss America contest as a girly show that attractedpublicity seeking starlets and loose women had taken hold.

This image was not all the work of the hapless Lanphier andSmallwood. The Atlantic City Hotelmen'sAssociation president, Julian Hillman, pointed out that "There has been an epidemicrecently of women who seek personal aggrandizement and publicity by participating invarious stunts around the world, and the hotelmen feel that in recent years that type ofwomen (sic) has been attracted to the Pageant in ever-increasing numbers."

100 These women were not the sort of contestants that thehotelmen's customers approved of: Charlotte Nash, Miss St. Louis 1923, promoted herself inthe contest by insuring her dimples for $100,000 and having her face printed onadvertising fans with the caption "Popular Favorite" like a sports star. Also in1923, the first Miss Alaska's publicity said that "Her startling beauty was untouchedby the rigors of over 5000 miles that required dog-sled, aeroplane, train and motorcar." But it was soon discovered that she was in fact the wife of a physical cultureexpert who was looking for publicity and had never even been to Alaska. Miss Boston 1924also turned out to be married.

In 1925 The New York Graphic hurled scores of charges atthe Pageant in a series of articles which it syndicated to eighty-six other papers, amongthem that the vote for Lanphier had been fixed, that the Coney Island preliminary selecteda professional showgirl (not permitted at the time) in judging done by her own boss, andthat another professional, Miss Knapp, was put in as a replacement for the true MissManhattan. While the claim that the 1925 contest was fixed was later refuted in court, theretraction did not come until 1928 when the contest had been suspended---partly due to theprotracted "scandal" the Graphic had invented.

The dubious results of the preliminary contests, as well as thepublicity-seeking tactics of some of the contestants tarnished the image of Miss Americato the point that by 1928 the conservative Atlantic City audience wanted nothing more todo with her. While there was one small contest in 1933 which was not given any localsupport, the City Fathers would not sponsor a return of the contest until 1935, in theheart of the Depression, when would-be Hollywood starlets were thought to be more thestuff of Andy Hardy movies than of sin.

Iron Magnolia Lenora Slaughter also joined the Miss Americapageant in 1935--the first woman to take substantial part in the management of thePageant--and instituted a reform campaign designed to turn Miss America into a respectableAmerican institution. By making changes that brought Miss America more into line with whatthe "The Backbone of the Country" saw as the ideal of American girlhood, shechipped away year by year at the old image of a brainless cheesecake contest fostered bythe bad publicity of the mid-Twenties. She introduced "Talent" presentations in1935, and made them a regular category for judging in 1938 in answer to the perennialcriticism that Miss America was nothing but a talentless bathing beauty. She raised theage limit to 18, got rid of male chaperonage, instituted monastic-styled controls on thegirls at the pageants (no liquor, smoking, or talking to men--even fathers), moved thePageant indoors, introduced college scholarships, took preliminary contests away fromnewspapers and shady amusement parks and gave them to the Jaycees to run, and finally gotMiss America's official newspaper picture to feature her in an evening gown and not aswimsuit. Her actions brought Miss America more and more in line with the respectablemiddle class tastes of the Atlantic City tourists and, as a result, Miss America becamemore and more of a respected American institution with the audience.

In a recent poll American women (who comprise approximatelytwo-thirds of beauty pageant audiences) approved of the Miss America Pageant by 91%despite the fact that more women than ever claim to be feminists.

101A quick look at the recent pageants, however, explains this trend. The Miss AmericaPageant has once again fallen into line with the taste of Middle America. Now that averageAmericans think of themselves as anti-racist and mildly pro-feminist, winning contestantscome in all colors and declare themselves to be liberated women. Even the rules of thecompetition have been changed in order to ensure that winners are assertive, articulateand intelligent, as well as pretty. The 1990 Miss America Judges Committee Manualinstructs judges to look for contestants who are "the best composite of the followingattributes: Intelligence, Talent, Leadership, Courage, Communication and InterpersonalSkills, Poise, Attractiveness." The areas of competition which help judges find this"composite" are weighed as follows: Talent 40%, Interview 30%,Evening Gown 15%,Swimsuit 15%.

102

Not surprisingly, recent winners have reflected these changes bybeing more assertive and ambitious. In an article in Cosmopolitan September 1989, the newAmerican ideal of womanhood, the success-oriented feminist is featured as the ideal modern"beauty" pageant contestant:

Each woman...is subjected to a grilling before a panel of preliminary judges that would bring beads of sweat to the brow of Dan Quayle. Contestants are...asked to converse intelligently on such topics as National Defense, the budget deficit, abortion, and the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency. This interrogation is a major part of the search for the so-called Woman of the Eighties.

103

The way most Miss Americas have succesfully reflected theaudience taste of their times can be seen by comparing polls taken of the Americanpublic's opinions and comparing them to the winners that followed. For instance, in thethroes of desire to return to "traditional" male and female roles at the end ofWorld War II, Americans were polled and asked, "Do you approve of a married womanearning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supportingher?" In late 1945, only 18% approved, 62% disapproved, and 20% had either no opinionor approved only under special circumstances. People were also asked in 1945 "If theparty whose candidate you most often support nominated a woman for President of the U.S.,would you vote for her if she seemed best qualified for the job?" The public said"No" 55% to 33% with 12% abstaining.

104 Two yearslater Barbara Jo Walker, Miss America 1947, pleased audiences with the statement,"I'm only interested in one contract--the marriage contract," and came to theAtlantic City competition with her engagement ring on.

105

More recently the viewing public has wanted women with careerambitions, as evidenced by the changes in the results of polls taken about women aspoliticians, and wives who work. Gallup stopped bothering to survey whether peopleapproved of married women working after 1976, when the public approved 68% to 29%, thevery same question that had been asked in the 1940's.

106 WhenGallup asked in 1984, whether Americans would vote for a woman for President if she werequalified, people said 78% to 17% that they would.

107 Itfollows then, that the expectations the audience has had for "ideal" young womenlately are more career-oriented and politically active than they were formerly. The nextchapter will review how this alteration in the audience's opinions has effected the choiceof performers and the way they present themselves in order to appear to live up to theideal.

Conclusions about the Audience

In summation, fashion shows, burlesque strip shows and beautypageants emerged during the first third of the Twentieth Century as outgrowths ofwholesale trade shows, classical burlesque, and newspaper beauty contests. Whileoriginally these new forms were not rigidly defined, and sometimes even"borrowed" techniques from one another, eventually audience pressure andexpectation forced them further apart into the forms we recognize today.

The typical audience of fashion shows was inclusive of allclasses of American women, who watched fashion shows in order to imagine themselveslooking as fashionable (and attractive) as the models. This audience which has shown aconstant fear of fatness and admiration for the tall, thin, "boyish" figure eversince the early part of the Century, has continuously pressured the performers intomasculine thinness in order to measure up to this ideal. This has caused the progressivenarrowing of model figures from substantial "38's" to minimal size "5's,"

108 which reflects a female audience's ideal imagein a society where men are seen as the superior social group which must be emulated.

The burlesque audience consisted largely of men, who behaved asthough they came to watch a voyeuristic spectacle: they were ashamed to be seen at thetheatre, but while watching the strip acts became unusually aroused and noisy. Byapplauding and attending performances which were the most bare they influenced theperformers and producers to create shows that grew progressively more naked, until mostperformers completed their acts wearing only G-strings. The audience also graduallyimposed its ideal image of female sexuality onto the performance, encouraging performerswho displayed aggressive rather than passive sexuality in performance, and who bestgratified the breast fixation inherent in most males. This audience influence has causedstrip performances to become barer and more openly sexual in nature as time goes on.

Finally, the beauty pageant audience was composed of both menand women of assorted classes, opinions and ages. In the case of the Miss America Pageantthese were middle-class vacationers from the South, Mid-West, and East, during the first33 years of the Pageant, who were succeeded by a television audience of nearly the wholeU.S., for the last 36 years. This audience is essentially conservative and compromising asa group, since any extreme opinion which is held by one part of the group is usuallybalanced by its opposite in another part of the group. This audience has pressuredpageants to follow the conservative values in which the solid American majority believesin at any point in time, or suffer the consequences. The Miss America Pageant, as the mostobvious example, has flourished under audience support when the Pageant expressed thebeliefs of the audience, and has languished (as for example in the late 1920's and 1960's)when it travelled away from audience expectations too far to the left or right.

All three forms of theatre: fashion shows, strip shows andbeauty pageants show evidence of being shaped by audience images of "ideal"women, and all three have shaped the images of their performers to best express theseideals, each of which are particular to the context of each form.

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