Pageant Queens

Article excerpt

I KNOW--JONBENET," Robin Browne sighs, applying final cosmetic touches to her 5-year-old daughter, Swan Brooner, who is competing in something called America's Gorgeous Girls in Spartanburg, S.C. "I wish I had a dollar for every time someone says that," she snorts, clearly over the whole slain Boulder tot thing.

If you thought the gang on Oz was tough, wait till you see Browne in action in the horrifying and hypnotic HBO documentary Living Dolls, debuting May 13. Gasp as she browbeats and psychologically torments a sweet little girl! Cringe as she ignores her other three kids! Gape as you realize Browne considers this behavior appropriate to exhibit in front of a camera crew!

Just when it all starts to get a bit too grim, things take a surreal Best in Show turn as we are introduced to Shane King and Michael Butler, a flaming male couple who are so successful at coaching and making over prepubescent beauty hopefuls that they now own the most lavish tract mansion in all Alabama. Among their clients: an 18-month-old with hair extensions; a tiny mullet-sporting boy whose mother faces a tough budgetary decision--whether to give him pageants or human growth hormone; and Butler's daughter, Leslie, a horsey 7-year-old diva whose legendary success on the tiara circuit is the ultimate testament to her daddy's expertise. …


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