Reigning Miss America grumbles about life as a beauty queen; latest trouble for pageant

Wednesday, February 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ She's not getting enough bookings, she hates the idea of a Miss America slot machine, and her parents say they have been treated rudely by pageant officials.

Five months into her reign as Miss America 2002, the shine is coming off the crown for Katie Harman.

In an eight-page letter to Miss America Organization directors, Harman's parents said the 21-year-old collegian has been slammed with unexpected fees _ including $750 for clothing alterations and $2,248 for a post-crowning party at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

``Katie is your Miss America, and I can't tell you how many times she is in trouble for things that are not her fault,'' they wrote.

It was the latest in a series of lumps for the Miss America Organization. Citing high production costs, pageant officials are threatening to move the show from Atlantic City after next year if they don't get more money from the state. And state pageant directors are grumbling about how the 80-year-old national contest is run.

In the Feb. 3 letter _ a copy of which was provided by Miss America CEO Robert Renneisen Jr. in response to a request _ Glen and Darla Harman of Gresham, Ore., complained about rude treatment and said pageant officials failed to follow up on Katie Harman's requests for lucrative bookings.

Pageant officials said Tuesday that Harman was unavailable for comment.

Renneisen said her bookings had picked up after a post-Sept. 11 slump and that she is on pace to earn $250,000 or more in appearance fees during her reign. He said the alteration bills for 26 items were sent to Harman by mistake after she used up her $1,500 alteration allowance. The pageant has since paid the bills, he said.

In a separate letter, Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant director Dana Phillips said Harman objected to the idea of a Miss America-themed slot machine.

To date, no such machine exists. Until recently, the Miss America Pageant banned contestants from even entering casinos because of fears it could sully the pageant's image.

``She felt this concept was demeaning to the image of Miss America and that she would not endorse nor promote it if it came to fruition,'' Phillips said.

Renneisen, a former casino executive who took over the pageant two years ago, would not say if there were plans for a Miss America-themed slot machine but said the organization would not rule out such a venture.

Renneisen said Harman was being used as a tool in an ``internal political squabble'' in which the executive directors of the Oregon, California, Illinois and South Carolina state pageants are seeking to oust Renneisen and his management team.

Those four directors asked the Miss America board of directors to let the National Association of Miss America State Pageants take over administration of the pageant, according to Renneisen. An attorney for the state association said the state pageant directors weren't trying to take over, just to improve communication with state pageants.