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Want to take the joy out of girl watching? Then judge a pageant
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I have never been a fan of beauty pageants.

I became less so after agreeing to serve as one of five judges for the Miss Placer County pageant 23 years ago.

It was an interesting experience to say the least.

There were five judges - Roseville physician Dr. Paul Dugan, a relatively famous retired boxer at the time who will remain nameless, a pageant director from San Jose, a former Miss Placer and myself.

Dr. Dugan and I were the novices. We’d never judged a beauty pageant.

The day prior to the actual pageant competition there were personal interviews. Each judge was supposed to come up with a question to ask all eight contestants that provided you an insight into their personality. Like idiots, Dr. Dugan and I apparently took the responsibility a bit too seriously.

The good doctor decided to ask each contestant “to describe the boundaries of Placer County” on the assumption it would be wise they know something about the county they want to represent. I took a slightly different route. I asked if “you had to give up one of your five senses which one would it be and why.”

Only one of the seven got Dr. Dugan’s question right. The worst said the county stretched from Sacramento to Reno and from Oregon to El Dorado County. Neither Dr. Dugan nor I ended up voting for her. She won the pageant.

We were told afterwards by the judge that was a pageant director that the key was to select someone who had a chance of winning at the Miss California contest and not someone who was knowledgeable of Placer County even though promoting the county was the entire reason for the fair.  In this case, it was the blonde, blue-eyed girl who thought Placer County was bigger than 38 states.

My question came back to haunt me several months later. I had a mother walk up to me at the Roseville Bel Air market and read me the riot act about asking such a “difficult question.” She was convinced it had cost her daughter the pageant title. She let me know in no uncertain terms that I was a moron and how no 18-year-old is expected to know anything about senses. Silly me, I should have gone with the stereotype question that the former Miss Placer did in asking “what is the greatest thrill about being in a pageant.”

Sorry, but I believed then - and still do today - that all women are intelligent regardless whether they have beauty queen looks.

The real shocker for me came during the actual pageant.

Before it started, they handed us the judging criteria. Included were 20 things to look for and judge each contestant on when it came to their legs.

I mention this because women’s legs tend to attract my attention. But some of the things on the list were incredible. It was as if you were judging a heifer at a livestock competition.

When the Catalina swimsuit competition started and the contestants lined up in front of us in their high heels with catcalls providing the background sound, I started turning red.

It didn’t help that the two women judges were leaning over and whispering to each other just to my right talking about “the cellulite on the upper part of the right thigh of contestant No. 6.”

I remember turning to Dr. Dugan who also heard the exchange and telling him I didn’t see anything wrong. He just shrugged his shoulders and said he saw legs all day at his practice so as long as they looked healthy it didn’t really matter to him.

One of the 20 things to look for included the shape of the calves. To me, cycling calves - an inverted heart shape - on a woman are incredible.  I could barely glance at the eight sets of calves in front of me without turning beet red.

With each quarter turn of the contestants, I was becoming more and more self-conscious.

One grading criteria addressed the muscles around the knee. It was brutal.

As I mentioned before, both Dr. Dugan and I voted for the contestant who we thought was the most intelligent and wholesome which obviously wasn’t what they were looking for since the two women judges voted for the blonde hair, blue-eyed contestant who was challenged on geography.

As for the retired boxer, he hadn’t marked down anything on the grading sheets. But right before we were to vote he asked the former pageant director who she was voting for. She told him and that’s who he picked.

In this particular case I learned that women can be downright vicious - catty if you prefer - in judging the physical appearance of other women. Some people are along for the ride such as the retired boxer. And there is no room in pageant judging for people who rate intelligence over looks.

 It took me months, by the way, before I could look at women’s legs without feeling embarrassed.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.