The Miss USA pageant, with its rich history of scantily clad women and more recent reputation for steamy scandal, may return to a locale that is known for embracing both. Representatives with Miss Universe, the pageant’s parent company, are entertaining moving the event and its 51 contestants — along with their evening gowns, swimsuits and tear-proof mascara and all — from Las Vegas to South Beach.
“We hope it happens,” said Lacey Abbott, director of ACT Productions, a South Florida promoter that approached both Miss Universe and local and regional government officials this month about hosting the pageant in 2012 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. “I think we’re close.” For now, however, money may be a sticking point. Despite being co-owned by Donald Trump and NBC, pageant representatives have apparently asked that South Florida pony up $1 million in cash and services to help host Miss USA, which would include not only the televised final but film shoots of contestants cavorting around South Beach for three weeks.
That number, according to the city, was lowered from an initial request of $3 million, and could be paid from a number of sources, including private sponsors. The city is negotiating through ACT and the local Green modeling agency, said Max Sklar, Miami Beach’s director of tourism and cultural development. Sklar said a deadline imposed by Miss Universe is looming within the next few weeks.
A Miss Universe spokeswoman described the talks as “preliminary” and said she could not discuss specifics of any negotiations Miami Beach officials met Tuesday and agreed to continue negotiating with the goal of lowering Miss Universe’s cash request to $500,000, which they said would allow the city to seek grants, film reimbursements from the state, and perhaps pay down as much as $250,000 in public money. “If it’s $1 million, I don’t think we’re in the game,” said City Manager Jorge Gonzalez. “But half a million…..”
In return, the city says it would receive money from ticket sales, valued as highly as $300,000, and eight minutes of Miami Beach airtime during the June 3, primetime NBC program. Sklar said conservative estimates show the event would also fill about 2,000 hotel rooms.Bruce Orosz, owner of ACT Productions, said luring the pageant to Miami Beach would be a score for the hotel industry. “This will put a lot of heads in beds,” he said. “They get thousands of people who want to come and watch the show.” He also said the pageant would mean crucial domestic and international publicity for Miami Beach and South Florida.
Nielsen rating show that about 7.4 million American viewers watched this year’s Miss USA. “It would be great to get it back,” said Orosz. “They’re trying to reshape and reimage what is a pageant. They’re trying to make it a little more, let’s call it South Beach.”
In recent years, the pageant has been rife with high-profile controversies: 2006 winner Tara Elizabeth Conner was allowed to keep her title after a public promise to complete rehab; 2009’s Miss California caused a furor when she responded to a question about gay marriage that the union should not apply to same-sex couples – and complained that she lost the national title because of it. (She also drew attention after a sexy video she sent to a boyfriend went public after the pageant.) And 2010 Miss USA Rima Fakih recently got in hot water after revelations she had won a radio station’s pole dancing contest, and this month was arrested for drunk driving in Michigan.