Tonight’s “Miss Hollywood 1985" is a talent contest, not a beauty pageant.

Or so its organizers insist. Sort of.

“Well,” hedged Jay Harvey, the show’s executive producer, “we don’t want a 400-pound woman, because she’s not representative of the glamour of Hollywood.”

In other words, “Miss Hollywood” is a beauty pageant: If pre-broadcast evidence is to be trusted, the spectacle (9 p.m., ABC-TV) will be Atlantic City West.


But the asserted aim of “Miss Hollywood” is different from that of most other pageants: The goal here, they’re saying, is to discover a talented woman with the potential to become a star.

What kind of star? A Bo Derek? Or a Meryl Streep?

That question was probably answered at the pageant’s second audition on April 4. There, the would-be Streeps were abandoned on the sidewalk when it became clear that attributes other than timing and diction were being measured.

In fact, before any of the 216 semifinalists were given a chance to demonstrate their acting, singing or dancing ability, they were thinned by more than 50% through a bathing suit promenade.


Harvey is quick to point out that there won’t be a bathing suit competition in the show. That has been replaced with an aerobic workout.

As Harvey put it, “We want them to show their talents.”

Still, Harvey insisted that the aerobics competition is not exploitative. “It’s not like the girls are pieces of meat,” he said.

Although they come from different backgrounds, the “Miss Hollywood” contestants share a common hope: steady work. For the majority of the group, their careers in the performing arts have been marked by struggle, disappointment and--occasionally--a small success.

It’s that elusive big success they’re all after, and what they said attracted them to the pageant. Job security for a year is guaranteed to the winner. She will receive a one-year contract with a major Hollywood studio and a TV contract as well. Forget the car, the cash and the fur. For this group, it’s the roles that count.

“It’s an impossible business,” said Julie Simone, 25. “You put so much of yourself in and get so little back. It’s hard to get into acting if you don’t know anyone, and the exposure from the pageant can get doors opened.”

“This is my big break,” said Therese Kablan, 18, a veteran of a number of local beauty pageants. “This is national exposure.”

“It’s the missing link to my puzzle,” said Veronica Davis, 22. “The exposure will be great and I’m looking for an agent.”


According to contest producer Harvey, many of the contestants have already been offered work or been approached by agents.

Those offers, though, arrived before any public demonstration of talent, reinforcing for some of the contestants that the emphasis in “Miss Hollywood"--so far, at least--is beauty.

“The girls like to think it’s really a talent competition,” said one contestant, who asked that her name not be used. “But I’m sure the people running the contest want a look that appeals to an audience. Sometimes people with talent never get to show their talent.”

“I don’t know if they’re looking for an actress,” wondered another contestant, “or someone they can shape and mold into a total Procter & Gamble girl.” (Procter & Gamble sponsors the pageant.)

Talk among the quarterfinalists has been split, the contestants said, between analyzing their competition’s talent and good looks. One contestant, in judging a rival, said, “She may be prettier than I am but her talent stinks.”

For the show’s opening number, Harvey had wanted the 25 quarterfinalists to appear in fancy, Hollywoodesque gowns.

The network, Harvey said, didn’t like the idea. They wanted, he said, “more glamour.”

Asked if “more glamour” meant “more skin,” Harvey conceded, “Well, it’s just a question of semantics.”


Semantics indeed. The contestants will now appear--but not compete, of course--in bathing suits, not gowns.