Sunday, July 4, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sun Screening: It's The Little Miss Coppertone

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

She's trying to escape.

Up until now, 3-year-old Devan Scott of Castle Rock, Colo., has been on an all-expense-paid trip to Disney World courtesy of Coppertone. She's one of 20 finalists in the Little Miss and Little Mister Coppertone contest. The trips to the Magic Kingdom have been wonderful, her bed at the Polynesian Resort is big and comfortable, there's been ice cream aplenty.

But now they want her to say something, do something, reveal her personality.

Regis Philbin, who wears his pants just a little higher than he does on television, is the master of ceremonies, standing on a stage of sand outside the Polynesian. Up to this point the contestants have only been photographs. "Now, I'm supposed to expose them for who they really are," Regis laughs. He's doing the Q&A beauty-pageant style. Only world peace never comes up.

"Barney," he says, trying to get the child's attention. She's squirming, her mother's got her around the waist. "Kitty," Regis tries. "You have a kitty?" She's wriggling. She's made out of that small-child substance that even a mother can't hold down.

"Let her go!" Regis yells. "She doesn't want to be interrogated by me. Let her go!"

Devan goes flying off toward some piles of sand. "That's it!" Regis yells. "Go, go, like a free American child."

Then Regis looks as if he's going to flee as he jumps out toward the crowd. "I wanna know the name of the guy who thought it would be great for me to interview 2-year-olds." He heads toward the judges' booth. "You judges are sitting there in the shade while I'm dyin' out here."

The next contestant comes up.

Regis: "Mom, does Kyle know what's going on here?"

Mom: "No."

But it doesn't matter at this point. Coppertone is celebrating the 40th birthday of the famous baby getting her pants pulled down by a dog and, no matter what, they're going to pick two winners who will go on to star in ad promotions next summer. "You're gonna be on the bottle, your picture is gonna be on the bottle. This is your big chance, don't blow it," Regis keeps laughing.

"I'm glad I never had to go through this," says Cheri Brand, one of the judges and a model for the original Coppertone ads. Her mother was an artist working on the ad campaign in the late '50s. "So I just had to go out in the back yard and play with the dog."

One of the fathers is dragging his daughter toward the concession area: "We've got to get some water." It seems some of the parents think if their kids drink something, they'll be able to talk to Regis. Maybe their throats are just parched. "I don't want water!" the girl screams. "You want water!" the father yells. "I don't want . . ."

Then the mother grabs the child's other arm. "This is her day. She doesn't have to have water," she says.

"Oh, OK," the father says. "It's her day."

Leslie Fray from San Diego must have had a tall drink of water because she's opening right up to Regis. "And you were born in France?" Regis asks.

"Yes, yes," Leslie says.

"And you speak French?"

"Yes, yes."

"Say something in French, honey."

"Uno, dos, tres."

Maybe it wasn't water. Anyway, that's everybody, and Regis wants the judges to tally up quickly. "We're sweating, we're hot, we're hungry. We came here to have fun, not watch you add." He's relentless. "Have you people ever heard of calculators? You spend a fortune putting everybody up in this beautiful resort, and you can't afford a calculator. People are fainting here, the . . ."

"The new Little Miss Coppertone is Alexis Paige Durgee from Boca Raton, Fla., and Little Mister Coppertone is Dalton Orband from Garden Grove, Calif."

They throw black stuffed dogs in the winners' arms, and cameras start clicking - here, stand in front of this beach towel, here, get one by this banner and one with the judge who was the original Miss Coppertone and one with Regis, where's Regis?

Regis is off in the corner barking, claiming he's the 40-year-old dog from the original ads.

A representative of the "Sally Jessy Raphael" show is making arrangements to ship everyone to New York on the next flight out. "Tonight?" Dalton's mother asks. It's not that they're not used to the limelight. "Dalton was on `China Beach' when he was 6 weeks old," she says.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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