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February 2: There He Is

February 2, 2015

6274927_108999082750Bert Parks (Jacobson), who hosted the Miss America Pageant for twenty-two years, from 1955 to 1979, died at 77 on this date in 1992. Parks was born to immigrant parents in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a radio personality, product hawker, and television game show host throughout his career, but it was his presence as an insipid male host amid the ever-changing flock of smiling, floating women that made him a fixture of American culture. A bronze statue of Parks extending the Miss America tiara stands outside the Sheraton Hotel in Atlantic City, where the pageant was consistently held. Bess Myerson, who won the pageant in 1945, was the only Jewish Miss America in history so far; non-white women were not allowed to compete at all until 1970. When 400 women showed up in Atlantic City to protest the pageant in 1968, Parks promised to “grab her by the throat and keep right on singing” if any of them tried to take the stage. No doubt he said it with a smile. To see Parks singing the song for the last time before he was fired by the pageant for being too old, look below.

“There she is, walking on air, she is, fairest of the fair, she is...” —Bert Parks