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As the 2012 Miss USA Pageant contestants were officially welcomed to Las Vegas on Wednesday afternoon for their fifth consecutive year at Planet Hollywood, officials confirmed that negotiations have begun to keep the pageant here on the Strip. Paula Shugart, president of Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Organization, told me exclusively:
“This ends the current contract, but you know I love Las Vegas. We all do. I am very hopeful we can return. Between the giant fan voting online and the growing press coverage, we’d like it to work out to stay in Vegas. It’s been a wonderful relationship for both of us.”
Cathy Tull of our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority added: “We’d love to have them back, and the longer the contract for them to stay is the better it is. Miss USA has been great for the city, and we are in talks to wrap that up successfully in the weeks after the broadcast.”
Planet Hollywood President David Hoenemeyer reinforced: “Negotiations are going forward. We’re all in a good place. It’s a great event for us and the city. Everybody wants to keep it here, and now we’re all trying hard to make the numbers work out right.”
This morning, several pageant judges were added alongside “Celebrity Apprentice” winner Arsenio Hall. Expect to see pop idol Joe Jonas, Rob Kardashian (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”), Ali Fedotowsky (“The Bachelor”) and George Kotsiopoulos (E!’s “Fashion Police”) on the panel for the Sunday, June 3, broadcast on NBC.
Talk-show host Jerry Springer hosted the official welcome ceremony on the steps of Planet Hollywood with reigning Miss USA Alyssa Campanella of California.
Jerry told me: “This is not my first involvement with beautiful pageant contestants. I hosted the live 2008 Miss Universe broadcast from Vietnam at 7 in the morning to hit primetime New York. I didn’t get a crown then, and I’m not getting a crown today. But to be on a stage finally with so many gorgeous women who have teeth makes this the happiest day of my life.”
Alyssa told me: “My life changed a year ago when I arrived at Planet Hollywood. This has been an amazing experience for me. However tired, exhausted I got from the travel schedule, it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life. I’m going to miss it and all the friends I’ve made. I wouldn’t dare risk getting arrested by trying to run off with the crown and keeping it!
“My immediate plan is to go celebrate my birthday with my boyfriend in Hawaii, rest, relax and return back to a normal life. I have to pick up my car though, first. If you remember, I drove to Las Vegas last year and left it here when I went straight to New York. My dad had to come get it, so I have to drive it back to L.A. from his garage in San Francisco -- then heaven in Hawaii!”
Day 3 began with a Kooey swimwear fashion show poolside at The Donald’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue and videographer Richard Corey. Alyssa hosted with Sir Pearce as DJ Ikon ruled the beats at the wheels of steel.
It was the first time I noticed that this year’s pageant has no less than eight contestants all 5’11” and taller. The contestants from Alabama, Texas and West Virginia check in at 5’11”; California, Missouri and Maryland at 6’; and Oregon is 6’3” and captain of her college volleyball team, naturally! Our Miss Nevada USA Jade Kelsall is 5’11,” as is Miss Georgia USA Jasmyn Wilkins, daughter of retired NBA star Gerald Wilkins and niece of onetime Atlanta Hawks superstar Dominique Wilkins. Her brother Damien currently plays for the Detroit Pistons.
Paula observed: “It’s a first we have so many tall girls. It’s almost like a Miss Universe Pageant -- quite amazing. We have two volleyball players, another with a lot of basketball family. Lot of great genes in here! There’s no set look we go for -- it could be as American as apple pie or exotic, so quite a few of this year’s entries could easily go on to Miss Universe. It’s a very tough field.
“Alyssa has been a great Miss USA. Nobody photographs better. She is the quintessential American classic beauty. I love the fact we had a redhead because she always stands out.”
The swimsuits worn by each contestant were by Kooey, an Australian-owned and -operated swimwear label breaking into the U.S. The designs are inspired by the Australian landscape and feature bold styles and striking colors. The word Kooey itself is Australian, a well-known call to attract attention over long distances. Mission accomplished! BMX rider and MTV personality Ricardo Laguna was at Trump pool with his mother and chatted with the glamour girls.
On Wednesday night, Planet Hollywood International owner Robert Earl, who brought the pageant to the Strip when he owned the hotel (now part of Caesars Entertainment), hosted the contestants at one of his three Las Vegas Buca di Beppo Italian restaurants. The girls got messy in spaghetti sauce for a handprint ceremony at the Flamingo location just east of the Strip, and roommates Jade and Miss Montana USA Autumn Muller learned how to throw pizza dough, as this YouTube video of Bill Cody @VegasBill on Twitter shows.
After a lot of time and hard work, we also re-created the famous Italian publicity photograph launching Sophia Loren’s movie career (the one with the spaghetti running from mouth to plate!). Our thanks to hard-working Tom again for his incredible photo gallery at the restaurant.
Tonight, the contestants will see selected acts from “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace starring The Gazillionaire and Penny Pibbets, who were interviewed recently by Bill about their holidays and 500th show. I defy Gaz to keep his mouth silenced when the contestants get up on his stage to show off some of their own talents.
Check back Friday with our Day 4 report, and then after the Memorial Day Weekend, we’ll resume our daily coverage of the 2012 Miss USA activities.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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