Beauty pageants used to be just escapist fantasies before the real world--or at least the crazed world of celebrity journalism--intruded. Now, no pageant is complete without a backstory. So here are the program notes for tonight's Miss Universe pageant, airing at 9 p.m.:

Your co-host, along with the lovely George Hamilton, is the lovely Marla Maples Trump. She and husband Donald, one of the owners of the pageant, recently announced their intention to divorce after three and one-half years of marriage. Bet you, he'll be thinking during the show about how much she'll cost him. The reigning Miss Universe, Alicia Machado from Venezuela, was pilloried all year by the fashion police after she got plump. She slimmed down after pageant officials threatened to take away her crown. Bet you she'll be thinking about pigging out after the ceremony. Miss Italy, a model named Denis Mendez, is black and was born in the Dominican Republic. She complained that many Italians told her she didn't deserve to represent their country because of her skin tone. Bet she'll be thinking about representing the Dominican Republic next year. Miss Colombia, Claudia Elena Vasquez of Medellín, said that she wants to win to help dispel the image of her country as a violence-prone, drug-tainted place. Bet she'll be thinking of going into hiding if she loses.

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