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Ha, made you click. No one can resist the power of Fabio....

I interviewed Fabio my senior year of college in 1994 (I'm the one with the short hair). He was probably at the peak of his popularity then, with a new book deal, TV show, etc. I had been brainstorming ideas with the editor of TGIF, the Friday entertainment supplement to The Daily Northwestern, and somehow he loved the idea of a tongue-in-cheek feature on Fabio. I called Fabio's management company and lucked out—the golden-haired Adonis was coming to Chicago to promote his new fragrance. I got my 20-minute slot to interview the big guy and witness the crowd of romance novel fans go crazy over him.

I was happy enough with the story to submit it to Rolling Stone magazine's college journalism competition. To be honest, I'd forgotten about it later that summer when my mom called to tell me that she had a message on their answering machine from Rolling Stone. I'd moved at least twice since graduation (in the days before cell phones and e-mail), and they were trying to track me down. She thought they were trying to sell me a subscription, so she almost deleted it. But since they used my name, she passed it on. Good thing, too. I'd won first place for entertainment writing—and $2,500. I was able to buy a new computer, which prompted me to start freelancing and eventually led to my job at Windy City Sports. So I like to say that I owe my career to Fabio. 

While it's probably lame to still have a story from college on your website, I have to admit it still makes me smile. And it's definitely the closest I've gotten to entering the world of B-list celebrity journalism. At least until I convinced Danny Bonaduce to pose naked on a Schwinn bicycle. But that's another story....


What a Piece of Work is This Man?


By Jeff Banowetz


They were waiting for a god. One of the Greek variety; perhaps Apollo, complete with toga and golden chariot. Hundreds of women packed like sardines in the trendy lobby of Carson Pirie Scott on State Street, hoped to catch a glimpse of the Adonis. Others—the lucky ones, those with the recently purchased fragrance tucked under their arms—hoped to touch him. And be touched by him. 

They were waiting for a gallant, bare-chested hero. A kinder, gentler Schwarzenegger who made love not war. The one in their dreams. The one who cared only for them. 

They were waiting for their Italian prince to rescue them from the monotony of modern life. To fulfill every secret desire. To make them complete. 

They were waiting for Fabio. 

The wooden stool on the small stage was empty, and the women were left to stare at the huge color photo of him sprawled on the beach, his muscular frame caressed by the surf. His long, wet hair clung to his chiseled face and shoulders. Very sexy. A glass of cranberry juice and a bottle of Evian (the beverage of choice for this supermodel) sat on a table in front of the stool, next to a vase of white lilies. He was late, but that just made the women more eager. Some had waited five hours to meet their favorite hunk. 

“We are lucky today to have with us the sexiest man in the world,” said a spokesman above the roar of the high-pitched moans. No one would have been surprised if he had arrived on a white stallion, but Fabio entered as a mere mortal, surrounded by a half dozen security officers and managers. His 6-foot-3-inch, 225-pound figure came into sight from behind the stage, and the crowd erupted into a chorus of “Oh my Gods,” punctuated by several ear-piercing screams. From out of nowhere came the booming voice of Tina Turner, singing what most women, and perhaps even a few men, must have surely been thinking to themselves—Simply the Best. 

A blond nymph dressed in black with a salon-perfect tan followed Fabio on stage. Her job was part crowd control—helping the elated women who had been touched down from the stage—part cheerleader, breaking out with a “Let’s hear it for Fabio!” ever three minutes or so. The women were more than willing to oblige with screams of ecstasy. 

This group of very thirtyish women had come to see the man of their fantasies in real life. And they couldn’t get enough of it. 

. . . 

Advertisers have become more comfortable using men—particularly those of the half-naked variety—in an attempt to find just what women find desirable. Just flip through any magazine, or walk through Times Square, and you’ll see how hard they’re trying. 

Shirtless men with women. Shirtless men without women. Wet, shirtless men with small animals. You get the picture. 

But these models have tended to be nameless in the arena of pop culture. Marky Mark gained notoriety for his Calvin Klein ads, but he was well-known (and an admitted crotch-grabber) before be realized he could make money posing in his skivvies. 

But Fabio has become a figure of cult status. He has expanded from simply modeling to writing (he has a three book contract with Avon books), acting and endorsing products. He’s tried his hand in journalism (on Entertainment Tonight) and is a spokesman for the National Cancer Society. (“When I first look at a woman, I look into her eyes, unless she has a cigarette between her lips.”) 

He pushes a fitness video, a 1-900 number, a CD (Fabio After Dark, where he says romantic things between other people’s music), calendars, watches, posters, and a life-sized cardboard figure. For those still not satisfied, there’s the Fabio fanzine, published quarterly, called The Gentle Conqueror. And if that wasn’t enough, he also plans to join the Clinton administration. He expects to head the President’s Council on Physical Fitness in the near future, a position held by Arnold Schwarzenegger under President Bush. 

“It is something I really always believe in, physical fitness,” said Fabio, in an interview before his appearance at Carson’s. He speaks quietly for such a large man, and responds slowly in his thick, Italian accent, after carefully considering each question. 

“I think you should always take care of yourself.” 

Words he obviously lives by. His bulging frame and long blond hair have become the Fabio trademarks. With these tools, he built a media empire based solely on fantasy. But oh what a fantasy. 

... 

From calling 1-900-90-FABIO 

FABIO: Welcome back to my language of love line, where we can share our dreams toward a more fulfilling understanding of love and romance. 

VOICE: Press 2 to leave a voice mail message for Fabio, describing what you would do if he were yours for 24 hours. 


... 

His image developed from the ultimate source of female fantasies: romance novels. The covers of these erotic tomes always feature a scantily clad, brawny man embracing a buxom women, usually dressed as an 18th Century wench. There the Fabio phenomenon began in 1987, when his image first appeared on the cover of Hearts Aflame. Seven years and a thousand covers later, Fabio has penetrated the market with a novel of his own (although admittedly with the help of a ghost writer), Pirate. 

Avon books reportedly paid more than $100,000 for Fabio’s first three novels (Rogue is due in May and Viking in November), the highest advance ever paid for a first-time romance novelist. He’s the first male author to break into the female dominated market under his own name. 

“Almost all of our novels are written for women by women” said Ellen Edwards, a senior editor at Avon. “But (Fabio) has such great name recognition, he was able to do quite well. Pirate is doing quite well, partly because of all the attention it’s received.” 

The romance novel industry is one of the most profitable branches of publishing, accounting for more than 40 percent of all paperback sales. According to Forbes magazine, more than half the readers of Harlequin Romance books buy an average of 30 novels each month. With such a devoted following, Fabio quickly developed as a major figure in the industry. 

“Women have always liked Fabio,” Edwards said. “He’s got an intensity that really paints up well. His long hair made him distinctive. He’s a very muscular, sexy looking guy.” 

Quite a compliment, and one that Fabio returns to his fans. 

“I never get tired of women,” said Fabio, with a sharp grin on his face. “Women are more, you know, classier than men. They know how to handle situations better than men.” 

Maybe that’s how he developed such a reputation. Cosmo called him the sexiest man in the world. McCall’s named him one of the 15 greatest men on earth, a list of which includes King Juan Carlos of Spain and Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine. 

... 

“The moonlight gleamed on his smooth, powerful shoulders and arms, the silvery light glinting off his single gold earring and deadly cutlass he held in his hand…. With his blackened face, long blond hair, and blue eyes that seemed to burn out at her in the night, he appeared to Christina’s childish imagination as the most glorious barbarian she had ever seen.” 

—Fabio, from Pirate 

... 

Fabio Lanzoni was born on March 15, 1961, in Milan, Italy. He began his modeling career at age 15, when a photographer offered him a job after seeing him exercising at a health club. After shattering his leg in a ski accident at age 16, Fabio took up weight lifting as a form of rehabilitation. It turned out to be the biggest break of his career. 

He began winning bodybuilding contests, but his larger body had trouble fitting into Italian clothing. So after graduating high school, he came to New York and quickly signed a contract with the Ford Models agency. 

From there he began his climb to supermodel status. And now he’s looking for a path away from it. It seems Fabio, not content with posing is branching off into, what else, acting. 

“Modeling was a great job, but I never believed in myself as a model,” Fabio explained. “I always liked to express myself. And unfortunately with models, you have to look pretty and stand in front of the camera. 

“I never liked that; I liked expressing myself and having bigger challenges than just modeling.” 

And people are buying it. He’s already starred in Acapulco H.E.A.T. (Hemispheric Emergency Action Team), where he plays a rich hotel owner known only as Claudio. Quite a stretch. He’s signed a contract for 13 television movies and is working on another TV series. 

“I’ll be the star-host of the show,” he said describing the concept. “It’ll probably be shot in Hawaii and kind of be like Fantasy Island.” 

The Fabio fantasy still governs his appeal, and he seems to recognize it. He fervently opposes violence in movies and television. He won’t appear in any scenes involving guns, even in Acapulco H.E.A.T., which chronicles a counterterrorism group. 

“You turn your TV on in the morning and everything is so negative, you know, with the war, violence and graphic sex,” he said. “I think the entertainment industry was created to give us some fantasy, some escape, some beauty to people. 

“Look at movies, they never show the future as something you can look up to. They always show atomic destruction, people killing each other for gasoline or food or whatever. There’s no future, no plants, no vegetation. They always show the future in some really bad way.” 

... 

“I don’t feel like a (sex symbol) because I feel myself as a real person. I have strong roots so I know who I am.” 

—Fabio on Fabio

... 

But right now, the women gathered at Carson’s couldn’t care less about violence on television. They’re not thinking about the mission of the entertainment industry. And very few are actually concerned about the men’s fragrance, Mediterraneum, that Fabio has come here to hawk. They are here to see broad shoulders, an intense, sexy stare, and most of all, a cute butt. They are here to witness Fabio in all his corporeal splendor. 

“What a hunk,” said Janice Bankhead of Chicago, who arrived at 7:45 a.m. to secure her spot first in line. “I definitely love the muscles, but it’s the accent that really gets me.” 

The soft, Italian voice impresses many in the crowd of women, very few of which are under 25. Fabio’s appeal doesn’t seem to reach much past the younger strata of the baby boomers. Maybe there’s hope for us yet. Most of the women had books, posters or T-shirts for the gentle hand of Fabio to sign. Some, like Ellen Politis of Chicago had taken the day off to meet the perfect man. She put her T-shirt on before reaching the supermodel to have him sign it over her left breast. 

“Oh, it was wonderful,” she screamed as she exited the stage. “He’s on all my romance novels, and he’s just so wonderful. I just love him.” 

Those who didn’t want to shell out $25.50 for Mediterranuem (“The fragrance for men created for the pleasure of women”) had to settle for the simple image of Fabio, seated at his stool, devoutly attentive to each woman as she made her way to the table. He wore a white, collarless long-sleeve top, open to mid-chest. His cleavage provoked envious stares. Scores of sales clerks circled the floor like gnats, quick to spray the fragrance on an unsuspecting wrist. 

“Would you like to try some?” offered a clerk. “It’s just wonderful. It’s woodsy, with just a touch of floral.” 

But they went largely ignored. All eyes were on the perfect specimen of masculinity seated in front. After all, they had come to see the object of a thousand dreams, their painted champion come to life before their eyes. Another group of women captured by the Fabio fantasy. 

Now, if they’d only buy some perfume.