1 9 7 8 – 1 9 8 0 (USA)
This spoof of beauty pageants (created by the production company of Chuck Barris and aired on NBC) saw six female contestants compete in categories of poise and personality, talent and a bathing suit competition for the title of “The $1.98 Beauty of the Week”, a cheap spangled cardboard crown, a bouquet of wilted vegetables, and the top prize – $1.98 in cash.
Comedian Rip Taylor hosted the series, assisted by Larry, the annoying page who brought Rip the winner’s name at the end of each broadcast.
Announcer Johnny Jacobs opened the show: “From Hollywood, the glamour capital of the world, join us in a make-believe search for the most beautiful girl on earth. Yes, it’s The $1.98 Beauty Show, an entertainment spectacular if there ever was one, where beauty is not only in the eyes of the beholder but also on this very stage. Tonight, The $1.98 Beauty Show will continue its relentless spoof of all those other so-called beauty contests. And, although this is not a real contest, we will bring you our version of the all–American beauty. That one-of-a-kind girl who not only has personality and poise but beauty and talent as well. Yes, sir, The $1.98 Beauty Show will be bringing you tons of talented and beautiful women every single week. Happy women, terrified women, women singing and dancing and parading about in the latest bathing suits. And now, here’s the host and star of the show, Mr Beautiful himself, Rip Taylor.”
Some of the women were ugly, some were fat, and some were even attractive. But the humour was cruel at the expense of the contestants and the show received much criticism for demeaning and humiliating women. Newsweek magazine even demanded that it be taken off the air.
As one severely overweight woman stepped in front of the camera in her bathing suit, the announcer said, “a firm believer in self-improvement, Mary couldn’t afford to join a health club a few years ago, so she joined the auto club instead. Unfortunately, she didn’t lose any weight, but she made a few dollars working the night shift as a tow truck”.
But the popularity of the show – and the line up of American women who were prepared to endure it (approximately 150 women applied each week for the six positions in the show) – proved that people wanted to be on television and would go to any extent to do so. Each woman was paid $200 to appear.
Comedian Sandra Bernhard and Russ Meyer actress Kitten Natividad were both contestants on the show.