Donald Trump is threatening to strip Miss USA of her tiara within days to punish the 20-year-old beauty after it was revealed she has thumbed her nose at the legal drinking age to carouse in Chelsea nightclubs.
Tara Conner has been drinking, partying and staying out late with a string of nightlife boyfriends, then skipping some of the events that come with her title, worried friends told the Daily News.

"She's working her way through New York's nightlife promoters and club owners," said one ex-boyfriend. "The problems are . . . the going out late at night, not caring about the title and not being a role model, not showing up for things."

The pageant said yesterday Conner was keeping her crown for now - but that it "will be evaluating her behavioral and personal issues to see what we can do to work with her, and what we will do about her reign going forward."

Real estate mogul Trump, who owns the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, will decide Conner's fate within a week. He told CNN she was "going through some personal problems and difficulties right now."

Conner turns 21 next week, but since winning the pageant title in April she has been a regular at nightclubs in Chelsea - a district notorious for underage drinking.

Nightlife scenesters told The News she parties at Guest House, Ultra and Stereo, and spent the summer carousing with Stereo staffers at their Hamptons party house.

And she regularly hits the clubs with an even younger friend - her 18-year-old roommate Katie Blair, Miss Teen USA.

Conner was called to account this week when officials from the pageant and NBC, which televises it, huddled to discuss her hard-partying ways in New York City bars, reported.

Conner grew up in tiny Russell Springs, Ky., where the town fathers threw a parade down Main Street this summer to celebrate her win.

"If I can survive in New York for a year, I can survive anything," she said when she won. "It's a crash course in living on my own and being strong. . . . I'm going to miss my family and friends, but this is good for me."

Tucked into the Bible Belt in south central Kentucky, Russell Springs is in a dry county surrounded by other dry counties.

"She was just like any other teen," said friend Crystal Hammond, who waitressed with her at a local steakhouse.

"I've never known her to be wild. I wouldn't expect that she would do everything that they say she's done."

Her best friend Valerie Terry, 22, said Conner told her by phone yesterday not to believe what she heard on the news.

"People have nothing better to do than to talk about you and the rumors just get bigger as they get told," Terry said Conner told her.

Since coming to New York, Conner broke off her engagement to her high school sweetheart and has been linked to Stereo owner Mike Satsky, his partner Barry Mullineaux, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, MTV veejay Damien Fahey and DJ AM assistant Steve Waldstein.

The News reported in June that Satsky and Waldstein got in a shoving match over Conner at Stereo. All that partying would seem to violate the Miss USA pageant's code of ethics and guidelines for titleholders, but the pageant steadfastly refused to comment on her behavior.

"To my knowledge, nothing is going on," Conner's mother, Brenda Johnson, told The News yesterday. "I love my daughter and stand beside her. I appreciate the support from everyone who believes in her."

And father John Blair said he had no idea what sort of personal issues his daughter might be having, but that he was sure she'd keep her crown.

"That's not Tara," aunt Carol Anderson said. "I don't think she would jeopardize such an honor. To me it's all hearsay."

As of last night, Conner was still scheduled to appear at a charity event in Miami on Saturday - and to celebrate her 21st birthday Tuesday at a Caesar's Palace nightclub in Las Vegas.

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