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'Sexiest Man Alive'? I Beg to Differ

The traits that make a man truly appealing aren't superficial — many come only with age and maturity

posted by Suzanne Gerber, November 15, 2012 More by this author

Actor and activist Richard Gere

Suzanne Gerber, former Living & Learning editor for Next Avenue, writes about inspirational topics including health, food, travel, relationships and spirituality. Follow Suzanne on Twitter @gerbersuzanne.


Actor and activist Richard Gere
Richard Gere
Getty Images
People magazine had its “big reveal” this morning at 8 Eastern time, sharing with the world its 2012 selection for Sexiest Man Alive, and displacing, for at least five minutes, the more-exciting-by-the-hour David Petraeus scandal.
 
Last night, the new ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B--- in Apartment 23 did a little run-up spoof in which James Van Der Beek connived to win that title. And for days leading up to the announcement, People.com waged a robust social media campaign to spread the word.
 
So it was with bated breath and slightly trembling fingers that I approached my computer this morning to see the result. I had my secret dark-horse favorites, but was eager to see just which hunky bod would this year occupy that coveted spot.
 
Hunks Past, Present and Future
 
Over the years, the venerable entertainment magazine has honored such timeless hotties as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Pierce Brosnan, JFK Jr. and Denzel Washington. And it’s hard to deny that photos of these stud muffins are irresistible eye candy.
 
So coffee mug in hand, I sat down at my desk, ready for the great unveiling. And there he was: Channing Tatum!
 
My first reaction was one that clearly dates me: Carol Channing and Tatum O’Neal had a baby? No, that can’t be. Then, as I started reading through, including Tatum’s star-studded biography, it quickly became a lesson in maybe it’s time to get a little with it.
 
As I scrolled through the rest of the issue’s honorees for a quick primer on Who’s Hot Now, I was pleased to be able to identify five of them (Ben Affleck, Richard Gere, Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper — but him only because he was last year’s winner).
 
But this got me thinking: What kind of list would I come up with if I were anointed editor of the Sexiest Man Alive franchise?

(MORE: James Bond at 50: The Spy Who Loves Us)
 
How to Decide What’s Sexy
 
The first thing I'd do is create some new rules. Now, I have no idea how People nominates its candidates, but as the editor of Sexiest Man Alive, I’d insist on doing firsthand research. It's not enough to go through photo archives or watch movie screeners: They only show a man in professional makeup, with perfect lighting, who worked out with the Hollywood trainer-to-the-stars-du-jour for the previous three months to whip his beer-swilling, Blimpie-eating body back into shape. And, more to the point, in the movies, he’s acting.

I would want to know the man, not his persona(s), and the only way to do that would be with an in-person meeting. Let's sit down to a meal and talk about things like love, passions, goals and the meaning of life.

Second, I would open the list up to more than just actors (and singers and elite athletes). Surely there are other categories and criteria for what makes someone sexy besides such superficial things as having won the DNA lottery or working out like a fiend. 
 
And so I humbly submit my own list, based on qualities that I don’t think I’m alone in valuing. Interesting, they seem to come with age. And while there are probably thousands of worthy contenders, I’ve managed to whittle it down to just five.
 
An Alternative Sexiest Man Alive List
  1. Robin Williams. Most people rank “sense of humor” as a top quality in a partner. Well, I saw Robin Williams just last week, and I have to tell you, clean and sober at age 61, the man is funnier than ever. It was a dialogue-style interview with another very witty guy, David Steinberg. Some of the bits were clearly part of his vast comedic repertoire, but it was obvious, especially during audience Q&A, that he was also riffing off the cuff. And he had us wiping away tears for the whole 90 minutes.
  2. Oliver Sacks. The “poet laureate of medicine,” as the The New York Times has dubbed him, is the most fascinating man alive. He’s a neurologist and professor of medicine, and author, and his tales of bizarre human states are riveting. His research inspired the film Awakenings, and at 79 he continues to explore little-known conditions, like Tourette’s syndrome, synesthesia and musical hallucinations. He has a beautiful mind, is an extraordinary raconteur, does research that changes people's lives — and that upper-class British accent only adds to his sexiness.
  3. Jeff Bridges. Oscar, schmoscar. We love Jeff because in addition to being a gifted actor, he is also a musician, producer, photographer, storyteller and, according to Wikipedia, an occasional cartoonist and vintner. He’ll turn 63 in two weeks, yet I’d be willing to bet he hasn’t had a stitch of “work” done on that gorgeous mug. But the single sexiest thing about him is the fact that he’s been happily married to his wife, Susan, since 1977, and they have three smart, sane children. Talent, devotion, loyalty: Now that’s hot.
  4. The Dalai Lama. The cutest 77-year-old on the planet (and possibly beyond), Tenzin Gyatso is a head of state, a spiritual leader, a polyglot, an inspirational speaker and best-selling author. His two driving passions in life are promoting peace and happiness for all sentient beings. And talk about a million-dollar smile! His Holiness has got it all.
  5. Johnny Depp. Here’s where People and I are actually in sync. They voted JD Sexiest Man Alive not once, but twice. This iconoclastic, intellectual, funny, award-winning actor, who turns 50 next year, belongs on my list simply because, well, he's the sexiest man ever.