Let the Judging Begin!

Dear Viewers,

Hot off the GretaWire: One Miss America contestant -- I can't tell you who -- said she got flowers three nights ago from one of the Democratic candidates for president! This candidate is obviously "covering all bases!"

The first night of preliminary competition began Tuesday. It started with Miss America (search) 1987 singing the national anthem in the Atlantic City convention center on the boardwalk. Miss America 1987 is Kelly Cash -- niece of Johnny Cash -- and she had just arrived at the pageant after singing at her uncle's funeral the day before. I am sure there is much sadness for her but she is a real pro and got up on stage and sang.

Cash was joined at the pageant by Miss Americas from 1948, 1954 -- the year I was born -- 1955, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1987, 1989, 1994, 2002 and 2003.

The emcee Tuesday was Miss America 1989, Debbie Turner who is very funny and a vet -- yes, an animal doc. She is also a correspondent for CBS Morning Show. If you met her, you would be charmed. I confessed to her after the show that I had always wanted to be a vet but could not get through chemistry. She asked, “You could not get through organic chemistry?” I replied, “No, not organic chemistry... high school chemistry.”

The first night’s competitions included talent, evening gown and swimsuit. It was hard to score the talent since every contestant can do something that I can't. How do I know how to score these if I can't even do the talent? I can't tap, sing, play the piano, or dance. Yet I had to score them in the competition. Plus, since I don't have these talents, I was immensely impressed with each of them. I did my best to be fair, but feared I suffered from "grade inflation" -- they all got high scores from me -- but with some difference.  Fortunately there are seven judges so in the end we collectively do a good job.

Incidentally for years when I taught at Georgetown Law Center I had the same problem. I like success and like to grade it high and find it hard to distinguish among the very talented. How do you distinguish an A from an A-?

The big winner in the talent prelim was Miss Hawaii who sang a Carole King song and earned $4000.

The swimsuit contest was also not easy to score. These are all young women in great physical condition.  Miss California won the swimsuit prelim. When you see her, you will know why she won. She looks perfectly physically fit. I suspect she is a runner -- while I prefer Chinese food at my desk. I am now at that stage where I am getting flab under my arm. After tonight I am inspired to get in better condition, starting Sunday when I get home.

Here are some interesting statistics: Each year 12,000 women compete in the Miss America pageant. We are now down to 51, representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. If you add all the scholarships together on the local, state and national level, the total is $45 million.

On the Record has aired two shows from Atlantic City and stay tuned tonight we have Madeline Albright and Tammy Faye Bakker Mesner – it’s going to be a great show and you don't want to miss it!


Read Part II of Greta' Miss America diary and watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET