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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
September 23, 2002

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.

The Miss America Pageant, Travel Tips, and Lamisil Cream

Please don't imagine for a moment that I actually believe the Miss America Pageant matters. I think of it as a weird and vaguely appalling exhibition, sort of like watching Michael Jackson try to appear human or watching me dance.

And yet it is a family tradition.

Years ago, we used to rent a friend's beach house for ten days every September, so each year my wife and kids and I were there during the Miss America festivities. We watched it so we could laugh at the "talents" and mock the contestants' poor little speeches.

And I admit to having a bit of nostalgia for the ancient days when I was a mere lad and they always had Toni Home Permanent and Clairol commercials during Miss America. My older brother would offer really funny snide answers to the "Does she or doesn't she?" slogan.

I lived in Arizona when Vonda Kay Van Dyke -- the only Miss America whose name I actually remember, unless Vanessa Williams counts -- won the contest and her talent was ventriloquism. The joke was, of course, that it was the first year that two dummies won. But in Arizona, we didn't think it was funny. At least not in public.

The talents are usually pretty sad, though, you have to admit. That's because if you actually put in the time required to become excellent at a talent, you wouldn't have time to enter pageants. Besides, if you cared enough about an art to try to perfect it, you'd think a beauty -- er, pardon me, scholarship -- pageant was a waste of time.

So Miss America talents are about on the level of Boy Scout merit badges in artistic areas. If you get the lifesaving merit badge in Boy Scouts, you really are qualified to save drowning swimmers. You could get a job at a swimming pool and do it well. But you can get the drama merit badge without having a speck of actual ability, and imagine the laughter if you put it on your resume.

Miss America talents are just like that. Take this year. They apparently realized how embarrassing the talents tend to be -- kind of like the big musical numbers in the Oscar show -- and so they cut them down to half, showing the talents of only the five finalists instead of the ten semifinalists.

But in a way it made it even sadder. Because Miss Oklahoma -- the last one -- was the only one who actually achieved anything like competence.

The others ranged from not embarrassing (the fiddler) to embarrassing to please change the channel, I'm ashamed to watch this woman humiliate herself.

I'm afraid the contestant who did a dramatic monologue had that last category all to herself. I just couldn't watch it. It was actually preferable to switch away to the L.A. Law reunion show on NBC, and that's saying a lot, since L.A. Law has not aged well, and neither has its cast ... which, come to think of it, seems to be full of former Miss America contestants, especially Arnie Becker.

If anybody tells you television has not improved in the past ten years, you have only to look at reruns of L.A. Law and remember that once upon a time, it was considered cutting-edge.

As to Miss Illinois, I hear newspeople saying she sang opera. Well ... she sang a song, and the song came from an opera, but it was so hopelessly ill-suited for her voice and she so rarely managed to remain in the vicinity of the pitch that if she hadn't kept moving her hips back and forth to such comic effect, the whole spectacle might have been unwatchable.

This year, the pageant officials were honest enough to have the show hosted by a comedian -- Wayne Brady, one of the brilliant improvisers from Whose Line Is It Anyway? The irony is that he actually sings better than any of the contestants or previous hosts.

But the highlight of the show these days has got to be the quiz section. In the spirit of Celebrity Jeopardy, the questions were so dumbed down that my eight-year-old answered every one of them. The contestants, of course, struggled. Despite the ban on nudity, never has the Miss America Pageant shown so much naked truth.

Speaking of nudity and the controversy surrounding Miss North Carolina, it was fun to hear a CNN "journalist" the next morning refer twice to how ironic it was the "neither of the two Miss South Carolina contestants made it into the semifinals."

For once, it was actually a plus that nobody in the rest of the country knows that North Carolina and South Carolina are not the same state. Let 'em give South Carolina all the credit for that one.

We'll stick with being First In Flight.


Having spent almost every week since the first of June going from hotel to hotel, let me pass along a little tip. Hotel soap is lousy. Those little bars feel wrong in your hand. Yet we put up with them. Why?

For me, it was because there's simply no good way to carry wet soap in my luggage from hotel to hotel. So how could I use real soap while traveling?

Until it finally dawned on me that soap is cheap.

I mean, a bar of my favorite brand of soap costs less than a tip to a valet or bellman or chambermaid. So why should I even try to carry the soap from one hotel to another? I just buy a couple of three-packs of Dial Aloe Vera-flavored soap and when I leave a hotel room, the soap stays behind.

Wasteful? Sure.

But if my worst sin is wasting a few bars of soap, I think I'm a lock on getting into heaven.

And in exchange for wasting soap, I get the comfort of being able to close my eyes and pretend that I'm home. No way you can do that with a little matchbook-sized bar of non-dissolving, non-lathering hotel soap.

And as an added bonus, if you put the as-yet-unopened bars of soap into the same part of your luggage where you carry your dirty clothes, it makes it all smell laundry-day fresh.


Another travel tip, this time about toothbrushes. (No, I don't throw them away every night -- come on, I'm not that wasteful. My parents grew up in the Depression, for pete's sake, no way could I live with myself if I blew off a toothbrush a day while traveling.)

But long ago I realized that no matter what container you use, when you transport a damp toothbrush from one place to another, the container will get moldy and then it's just too disgusting to put the toothbrush in your mouth.

So here's my really cheap solution. Kleenex! They have free tissues in every hotel bathroom (and if they don't, toilet paper will do). So first I use one tissue to press as much moisture out of the bristles as I can, and then I wrap the head of the toothbrush in a bone-dry tissue and stick it in my bathroom kit.

At the next stop, there's my toothbrush, dry and clean as can be -- and since I throw the tissue away, the "container" never has a chance to get moldy.


Speaking of mold, a couple of months ago Men's Health recommended Lamisil Cream as the only athlete's foot/jock itch medication that really works, and you know what? They're right.

By the way, it's one of those weird marketing things, but the medications for athlete's foot and for jock itch (or, as we called it when I lived in Brazil, "crotch rot") are the same. Only the words on the package are different.

That's because the fungal infections being treated are identical. But somehow guys apparently feel too weird putting foot medicine in their nethermost squattenzone, or vice versa, and so the manufacturers have to provide the same goop in different packaging.

And such funguses don't just stay in those two limited areas -- especially in a warm, humid climate like ours tends to be. Any body part that remains moist is liable to get a fungal infection. It's just part of life in Dixie.

So unless you're somehow immune, or you've learned to live with fungus and like it, I heartily recommend Lamisil Cream. Not really a cure, though. Because no matter how dead you kill a fungus, around here it's bound to come back.

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