It was the day the Academy Award nominations were announced, and a bunch of us were talking about "Reds." I revealed that Jane and I had walked out at intermission.
"Give Hollywood a serious story, and they'll still turn it into romanticized Velveeta," I said. "Besides," I added, "I don't think Warren Beatty is handsome."
Three of my co-conversationalists were women of the 35-and-under variety. I thought they were going to bust a gut.
"Are you kidding?"
"If he isn't handsome, who is?"
I stood my ground, arguing for Buddy Hackett and Tiny Tim, just to be difficult. But on the bus home that night, I got to wondering what a good-sized sample of women would say to the question: who is the handsomest man in the world?
The obvious move was to call Linda Josephson.
Linda is a senior at The Catholic University of America, and an old pal. She lives in Gibbons Hall, which contains 62 women, most of them seniors.
You can try to convince yourself that the most frequent topic of conversation at Gibbons is physics. I figured it just might be physiques. As in hunks. As in centerfold material. As in who would you choose as a roommate for 47 years on a desert island?
Linda agreed that, yup, the subject of men had come up at Gibbons -- about once every five minutes. She also agreed to pound on doors one evening to see what the troops had to say.
Fifty-eight women cast ballots. The results are both cheering and horrifying.
First (justice!), only one woman voted for Beatty. But only one voted for Al Pacino. Ditto Kris Kristofferson. Ditto Sylvester Stallone and Robert Wagner and Roger Moore. Even "the guy who does the Windsong perfume ad" got a vote. Obviously, being a Famous Face isn't enough for the younger generation.
An astonishing number of Famous Faces got no votes at all. The shut-out list includes Burt Reynolds, Omar Sharif, Ronald Reagan, Tyrone Power, Gregory Peck and Phil Donahue, just to name a few. Ask any 40-plus woman who the handsomest man in the world is, and I'll bet 80 percent of them would vote for one of these six.
OK, then. Who did get votes at Gibbons?
Two votes each went to James Caan, Dustin Hoffman, Clark Gable, Richard Chamberlain, Sam Curtis of TV's "Flamingo Road" and a character on "General Hospital" named Alan Quartermain. Revealingly, another two-vote getter was: "I haven't met him yet."
Three-vote getters included Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Clint Eastwood and a TV actor named Tom Selleck. All understandable, all predictable.
Same goes for one of the cowinners. He is Christopher Reeve, alias Superman. He got five votes.
I wouldn't have guessed the other cowinner in a million years. But I'll bet the psychiatrists in our midst wouldn't have had a bit of trouble. With five votes, too, the other cowinner was: