Q: You've told someone that they literally plucked you off the street for these (Soloflex) ads. You were waiting tables. Can you tell me about that?

A: Right. I was a gymnast for 10 years and I was at the University of Wisconsin full ride.

Q: Full ride being a scholarship?

A: Yeah, all-expense-paid vacation is what they call it. I was waiting tables at a restaurant. There was this ad in our paper and it said "Male Model with a gymnast build, $50 an hour." Well, I'm a gymnast, I must have the build and 50 bucks sounds a lot better than what I'm making at the restaurant so I sent in some pictures. I heard back, (from) Soloflex and they were right in my back yard. I went in, worked on the machine a little bit and they said let's do a test shoot and I obtained the first ad.

Q: What about your body made that ad such an enormous success?

A: I think it was how symmetric everything was, the legs in proportion to the chest and the arms. It wasn't like an overdone bodybuilder. There are so many different things people don't realize. I mean, you're shooting and the photographer will tell you he wants to look at a certain muscle a little bit more. You've got to come up with it or find a position that they want. All the flexibility that I had in gymnastics I could incorporate into this. You'll see that in all the pictures. Some are elegant. There's nothing that's the wrong stuff. Everything has just a little hint of dance or motion. It makes it a little bit more artistic.

Q: You've said you have that natural look.

A: That lost, farmboy-all-American-apple pie-Hi Mom look. The look that is innocent and naive and sincere, I think, and just typical midwestern, if not West Coast American.

Q: You don't look as if you've spent every waking hour at Nautilus.

A: I spend the least amount of time possible.

Q: Do you work out?

A: Sure. Three times a week for about 45 minutes.

Q: Your body doesn't look rock- hard or overbuilt. It has a certain believability about it.

A: That's perfect. You do shower ads and you'll see Dial soap people. You don't see Arnold Schwarzenegger in there. You don't see Christie Brinkley. You see regular Joe meat man-down-the-street taking a shower. People want to buy something that's real or realistic. For them that body is obtainable, it isn't like "my God." It's not offending or intimidating.

Q: And yet the photographers that work with you have told interviewers and reporters that you have "a genetically perfect body."

A: Photographers said that?

Q: Yeah.

A: Umm, thanks.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It means that I had the right set of parents, and the right training. You start gymnastics when you're 9, six events that just thrash on every part of your body, that's got to make a big difference.

Q: When you look in the mirror what do you see?

A: If I'm looking in the mirror, I'm usually doing my hair or I'm seeing if I need a shave. I don't look at myself.

Q: What were you paid for the first ads?

A: The very first shooting was $50 (an hour).

Q: What's your modeling fee now?

A: Oh, boy, it depends. It's about $5,000 for a day.

Q: Soloflex has made millions off your ads.

A: That's right. That posture of the shirt coming off is a poster now that has sold 67,000 in 17 weeks.

Q: Tell me about your desire to become an actor? You went to Hollywood to test for the Hardy boys?

A: That was just a screen test and you never know. It was like, "Don't call us, we'll call you."

When you're modeling you're acting all the time. It's just like one or two characters. But in acting there's so much more. You can talk. You don't have to just sit there and shut up.

Q: You're very popular in the gay community. How do you explain that?

A: I think (my) big following, my audience that sees the ads, is mature. There is a girl following. I just did an interview for Seventeen magazine and they wrote in letters. But I'm never in Seventeen. I'm in Omni and Penthouse and Town and Country and Esquire and Readers Digest and People.

The big reason for (the attraction of the gay community) is that theyre very artistic and they enjoy things that are done with a little ingenuity.

Q: But also gay men are much more conscious of their bodies.

A: They probably buy more machines or have more health club memberships or more subscriptions to GQ than any other (part of the) populace.

Q: Are you gay?

A: No.

Q: Do they think you are?

A: I don't know. It's not the issue. They enjoy what I do. I'm never even asked. They're not interested. There's more to it than that. I'm a sort of icon. The fitness book is the number-one best seller in every gay bookstore in America. That was the market Simon and Schuster intended it to go to. I was at this book signing and oooh, it was a lot of people. It was hours and hours.

Q: Do you get propositioned often?

A: Occasionally. Probably two out of hundreds which is pretty good. One was a real light thing and one guy -- there might have been trouble. It was an obsession. It was sad.

Q: Does that worry you being out there in this kind of an ad where youre so exposed and seem almost vulnerable?

A: I think that's why it works. It's like something that is unspoiled and everyone wants to see it.

Q: You're so young.

A: Young. Naive. Sincere. All that good stuff that everyone is not in awe (of), but it's so rare and curious I think that that's why they really flock. I mean they'll just sit there and stare. There's this line that goes around and out the door. Every person that I meet or talk to that comes up for a signing I want them to go away and think that I came just to see them. So I spend some time with each of them. I'll ask them a couple of questions. Or I'll say something and they have ideas for me to write, like to lovers. I give them their little thrill. Because I figure they probably have it pretty hard as it is. They're pretty oppressed and they're human beings and I think if I can just make three minutes, two minutes, one minute enjoyable . . .

Q: Did your life change overnight when you answered that Soloflex ad?

A: No. I still worked at the restaurant for probably another year after I did the first ad. It changed because I learned an awful lot in a big, fast way.

Q: How do you mean?

A: You want to believe people, trust people. There's no reason nt to.

Q: Were you taken advantage of?

A: Sure, phone calls all the time and letters. You have people from Texas that say they're film companies and you suspect it's just porn type stuff. People send you down to a party and if you're really stupid you could be really in big trouble.

Q: You must know what it feels like for a beautiful young woman.

A: You're absolutely right. Now I know what a woman feels like to be pawed at, chased right out of the room.

Q: You once said, "I'm no physical fitness expert."

A: That's right. I don't have a PhD in three body types like ectomorph, endomorph or mesomorph. I know what exercise is. I know what works. I know what it feels like. I know how I make myself do it.

You read these other fitness books and it's like either, "Hup, two, three, four," or, "I'd like to thank my mommy and my daddy," or "Oh, I love it to death, and I wake up and run down to the gym at 5:30 a.m. every morning after I've had my tomato juice." My God, I'd like to meet these people that do that.

Q: Tell me about your career as a model.

A: It's unorthodox. I watch TV just like everybody else and I get this idea of models under lights, wearing all these clothes. It's not like that for me, folks. I sit in positions for hours on end and we shoot it until we get it right. We may take hundreds of pictures -- not wham, wham, wham, wham. There are probably five minutes between each picture, sometimes 10, 20 minutes. It's like . . .

Q: Is it boring?

A: Yeah. You're just playing one character for like two weeks. That's why I'm so interested in acting because I do like to play a character. Modeling is like brick walls. You can go into this and that but really you see the end.

For an acting career, you've got to know your trade. I don't want to do any junk. I don't want to do a movie because it's handed to me. I want to do a movie because I'm ready and because I'm good and I don't want to always have to peel off my shirt. I want to be able to be a real serious dramatic role some day because I'm good, not because "he might look good running around half naked."

Q: You want to be taken seriously?

A: I just want to be respected -- respected for having more than just a body. I mean, a mind. I ended up going to a talk show the other day and this woman asked me if I'd take off my shirt. It's always, "Take off your shirt, take off your shirt." It's like you're a piece of meat! I should have said to her, "You take off your shirt, I'll take off mine."

Q: Has anyone ever asked you to take off your pants?

A: No. If you can't get my shirt off, you can't get my pants off. I'm not a beefcake. I don't pull my shirt off when every ying-yang on the street says, "Take it off." If that's what I have to do to make money, forget it. I don't need money that bad. I can be a bum and play golf all my life and be perfectly happy.

I was brought up in modest surroundings on a farm where we had what we wanted but didn't have too much. You wished you had some things but if you didn't have them, big deal, you can do without. Some people never have that. It's like they must have such-and-such. I'm not that way.

I can make money doing anything I want. I don't think there's anything I couldn't do that I wouldn't be successful at. I'm real competitive when it comes time to be competitive. Like my car. I race it. It's never lost. Wrestling. I was beat but I was never pinned. I wouldn't want to compete against me. It's not ruthless, but I don't want to lose.

Q: Are you more mature?

A: Yeah, more seasoned.

Q: What were some of the things that you learned?

A: If things go bad or if things aren't what you want, it's sort of like an eclipse. You've got your big sun and the moon moves in front of it and you've got to get it out of there to find out what's really there. The little small thing is blocking out all that bright stuff.

I want to be known for having imagination and being intelligent and witty. I have so much more to offer than just a body. That's like the icing on the cake. I just want people to realize that. They can enjoy the other but don't throw away what's better.

Q: Are you vain?

A: I hope not. Do I sound vain? Maybe I'm just a product of what was happening. You can't be modest when you're listed as the perfect "10" or a genetically perfect body. It's too late to be modest now. People are gonna say this guy's full of you-know-what.

Q: What does your girlfriend think of you?

A: She hates it, because right now she's home and she feels left out and she's jealous and I feel sorry for her. I'd be the same way. Your best friend is gone and he's out there being wined and dined and getting so much attention and here you are all alone. It's got to be really hard.

Q: Is it hard to be in love with a man who's so genetically perfect?

A: I think it is. Genetically perfect, you can get off that kick. I don't know about that. So sought after, I think would be a better word.

Q: Do you ever worry that your body will lose its youthfulness?

A: No. I look at my dad. He's 53, 54. It's like he's 25. Someone asked me once, "How old do you feel?" And I said, 18. And they said, "How long will you feel 18?" I said, until I die.

Q: But what you want is eternal youth?

A: Mental, not physical. You can't expect your body to put up with the expectation. I just want to stay mentally young and fresh and sincere.