21 July 2013

I read the headline "Parade organizers say event bigger, honors city spirit' and nearly spit my coffee across the table since, just a few days prior, I was informed that the float we were planning was rejected by the Miss America Parade committee because we were deemed a 'mockery'. They evidently thought the former winners of the Miss'd America Pageant were not respectable enough to be included in the parade this year. The theme of the float, sponsored by a local seafood restaurant, was going to be Under the Sea and we were planning to dress as glamourous mermaids with light-up tails. That constituted a 'mockery' and we were denied entry.
I would like to let them know exactly what Miss'd America represents and detail our city spirit.
In September of 1993, after a horrific decade of losing our friends and families to A.I.D.S., a small group of drag performers in a local gay bar put together a good-natured spoof of the venerable Miss America Pageant, calling it the Miss'd America since we 'missed' being in the actual pageant (get it?). It was a fundraiser to help our friends in the local community. What started that year as a small spoof quickly blossomed into a smashing success, year after year, bringing more and more people to the show and raising much needed money and awareness of A.I.D.S. All the proceeds raised went to the South Jersey A.I.D.S. Alliance (S.J.A.A.) and was distributed through them to people of all races, creeds, orientations, and sexes who were in the South Jersey community and living with the disease.
This is how we show city spirit.
In addition, the producers, writers, actors, musicians, technicians, venue owners, waitstaff, choreographers, set builders, back-stage hands, costumers, and anyone else involved in the production of the Miss'd America Pageant have never taken ONE THIN DIME for their services. Every Miss'd America since 1993-2006 has been done FREE OF CHARGE by everyone involved. The chairs and tables were donated by the casinos, lighting and sound and video were also donated, no one expected payment nor would they have accepted it if offered. We all realized that by taking one dollar, that was one less dollar that could help the members of our city, of our family, of our community who were battling the effects of A.I.D.S.
This is how we show city spirit.
The old adage, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, could never be more appropriate than in this situation. We, as a community, have ALWAYS enjoyed the Miss America Pageant and parade. Most credible accounts give credit to the gay community for the whole 'show us your shoes' phenomenon. Everyone knows to go to New York Ave. and the boardwalk during the parade, long known as the gay street in Atlantic City, for the most enjoyable time. And any look backstage at Miss America will find many gay men and women working behind-the-scenes. We have honored and supported our Miss America for decades upon decades and took great pride in Atlantic City's grande dame of pageants.
This is how we show city spirit.
Now, Miss America left the city, rather abruptly, for the west coast and we were devoid of our beloved pageant. Many non-casino businesses relied on the revenue generated by Miss America week, since most of the support staff have been coming back for decades and knew the city well and frequented it's many hidden gems year after year. The city suffered, but we endured. And Miss'd America continued on. We got bigger and better, and even performed the production twice in Boardwalk Hall, which was the pinnacle of our little 'mockery' of a pageant. We continued the tradition of the pageant, in our own little way, and brought fun and excitement back to the city whilst Miss America was gone.
This is how we show city spirit.
And now that Miss America is back, they have the unmitigated gall to deny us a float in their parade and declare us a 'mockery'. We, who have selflessly put on our little pageant to raise money for the community, is being called a mockery by an institution that only raises money for itself. We, who were born out of the very community we live in, are denied entry in a parade by the same organization that wants to promote city spirit. Although I am angry with their decision, I am more hurt than anything else. Our mockery was always done with love. Our mockery was always done with admiration. Our mockery was always done in honor.
And I consider it a slap in the face that I can not show my city spirit in the parade that was born in this city.

Miss'd America 1995