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Glass prepares for new role as pageant interviewer

September 12, 1997

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Former ``American Journal″ TV show host Nancy Glass, who once interviewed serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, says it won’t be any easier doing the onstage interviews of finalists in Saturday’s 77th annual Miss America Pageant.

``In some ways, it’s harder. I had unlimited tape and I could ask followup questions. Here I can’t,″ said Glass.

Frustrated by canned responses in years past, pageant officials this year enlisted Glass to quiz the five finalists in onstage interviews during the live telecast.

``The questions are designed to find out who they are and what they’re made of, not what they’ve been able to memorize,″ said Glass, who will compose them once the semifinalists are announced, using the contestants’ biographies for background.

Pageant chief Leonard Horn had said Glass would have free rein in composing the questions and that neither pageant officials nor the television show producers would learn the content.

But Horn and ABC entertainment vice president Alan Sternfeld said Friday the network’s broadcast standards and practices division would review the questions before they are asked to ensure that one contestant’s is not more difficult than another’s.

ABC, which took over this year from longtime pageant network NBC, replaced host Regis Philbin with ``All My Children″ co-stars John Callahan and Eva LaRue Callahan, a married couple who play husband and wife on the daytime drama.

``It’s like being asked to sing the national anthem at a Yankees game. You just say yes,″ Callahan said Friday.

Among the other changes: Viewers will see home video of each of the semifinalists, and their talent performances will be spaced out through the telecast instead of playing one after another.

Also, Miss America 1997 Tara Dawn Holland will serenade Miss America 1998 with the traditional ``There She Is″ after crowning her at the end of the telecast. It’s another break with tradition: Usually, the host sings it.

The most hotly anticipated change has been the decision to allow two-piece suits. But there is a chance viewers will never see one.

Only the 10 semifinalists will compete in swimsuits Saturday. In the preliminary competition earlier in the week, only 13 of the 51 contestants wore two-piece suits.

The more revealing suits let audiences in Convention Hall get a glimpse of Miss Vermont Jill Cummings’ pierced belly button, adorned with a ring.

If no two-piece wearers make the top 10, viewers will see all one-pieces.

That would be fine with Miss America 1939 Patricia Donnelly.

``The one-piece is much more flattering,″ said Donnelly, 77, of Natick, Mass. ``One piece outlines the figure better,″ she said after getting a look at the new style during preliminaries.

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