It was the glorious summer of 1995. OJ was on the stand, Bill Gates officially became the richest man in the world, and my friend and I were moments away from having our pictures taken with Pamela Anderson for Loaded magazine. Giggling like two six year-olds who’d discovered how to write ‘boobies’ on a calculator, our moment of glory was cut short when the guy in front of us tried a little grab-ass with the talent. Pam stormed off in her ridiculous boots, yelling that she refused to be treated as a sexual object, despite the fact that I swear I saw an inflation nozzle on the back of her neck. The Loaded photographer was even more depressed, wearing an expression like life had just served him a shit sandwich, and forgot to hold the pickles.
Of course, the whole thing was just a jape for me. Aged 19 and still fresh out of the closet, I loved the idea of getting to pose with the world’s biggest sex symbol, and making all my straight friends jealous. As we sat in the bar with the journalists that evening (we were on a week-long PR jaunt, courtesy of Pepsi), one of them asked me for my opinion on the whole Baywatch phenomenon: “As a gay man, do you understand the appeal of Pammy?”
It was the first time I’d ever been asked that kind of question. But over the intervening years, the issue of my alternative perspective has come up time and time again. Usually though, it’s not someone asking my opinion – instead, they’re usually dismissing it out-of-hand, as if I’m unqualified to comment on a someone’s attractiveness unless they look like they’re smuggling a brisket down the front of their Levi’s. The implication here, is that my sexuality invalidates my opinion on the attractiveness of women, presumably because the only time I undress them with my eyes is if I'm trying to picture them in something far more flattering.
I'd like to set the record straight *coughs* once and for all, so that I'll be able to join in a round of hot-or-not without having my opinion rejected with a "What would you know?"
Here's what passes for sexy in my eyes, even if they're more platonic tonics than trouser-arousers.
When it comes to over-filling an itsy-bitsy bikini, Kelly's done more spilling than a barmaid with Parkinsons. She's come a long way from those awkward early days on the Big Breakfast, when the camera crews used to cut-away to Zig and Zag for an injection of slick professionalism. We all figured that she'd disappear into a world of low-rent PR appearances and fleeting relationships with low ranking Hollywood beefcakes, and we were half right.
But Kelly surprised all of us by branching out into acting and not being entirely awful at it. In fact, she's more convincing as other people than she ever was as herself. Even more impressively, she mastered the tricky art of nude underwater ballet in Piranha 3D’s now legendary soft-core lesbian scene, prior to being eaten by a school of angry prehistoric fish. Now there's a sentence you only write once in a lifetime.
Dancer, actress, singer, talent show judge, model, parfumier and serial divorcee, Jennifer Lopez has tried her hand in so many different professions, she had to print her business cards with a concertina fold. And although we may scoff at some of her professional endeavours, there's no denying that she usually looks spectacular, whatever she's doing. Her breakthrough role came in Out of Sight, when she was famously tied to George Clooney in the boot of her car. Although Clooney never really did much for me, I couldn’t help thinking how much I’d like to be squeezed in there with all the junk in Jen's trunk.
Boasting the most famous pair of cheeks since Louis Armstrong, Jennifer's arse is a triumph of modern engineering, so monumental that she can't walk backwards without emitting a beeping sound. Best of all, Lopez has built a career out of keeping it real, and reminding us all that she's still Jenny From The Block. Even now, on occasion, her neutral speaking tone slips and those Bronx origins become apparent. And that’s why I love J-Lo. She looks a millions dollars, but sounds more like a twenty.
The nineties will always be remembered as the era of the supermodel. There was Linda Evangelista, who looked like a refugee from Thundera, and Claudia Schiffer who always seemed like a lazy Brigitte Bardot impersonator. And then there was Cindy Crawford, a woman so breathtaking that Prince even wrote a song about her, and I don't mean Sexy MF. On that same holiday where I narrowly missed out on meeting Pamela Anderson, I was lucky enough to observe Cindy Crawford up-close and impersonal. Even though Cindy was dressed as though she’d come straight from buying bulk quantities of kitchen roll at Costco, in black leggings and a flimsy white vest, she was a vision of almost supernatural beauty.
With only the lightest dusting of powder, her skin was flawless, except for the tiny beads of sweat which gathered on her upper lip. Every couple of minutes, and seemingly oblivious to the hundreds of cameras trained on her every movement, she ran an index finger across her lip, then flicked it away, all in one breathlessly elegant movement. Half an hour later, when she and Luke Perry (I'm not even joking) set off across the Everglades on a tandem jet-ski, I wandered onto the freshly whitewashed bandstand where the Goddess had been sitting just moments before. And there it was, an unmistakable spattering of blotches on the sun-bleached wood - an abstract, orange Shroud of Turin.
It’s a rite of passage as universal as drinking your first pint, or discovering your first pube - the Neighbours crush. My golden years were in the late eighties, but whereas my schoolmates either lusted after Kylie’s diamond-in-the-rough Charlene, or the original 'extreme makeover' Plain Jane Superbrain, I only had eyes for Bronwyn. Maybe it’s because she seemed more accessible, and less showy than her more glamorous co-stars.
It’s a rite of passage as universal as drinking your first pint, or discovering your first pube - the Neighbours crush.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a less threatening sex symbol. Wearing so much knitwear than even her underwear came from Edinburgh Woollen Mills, Bronwyn was a pearl in an ocean of bad perms. Seldom seen in anything but a sensible pony-tail, she even looked fantastic chasing a runaway pram through a supermarket car-park. Bronwyn’s sister Sharon, on the other hand, is probably 70% responsible for me turning gay in the first place.
Attractiveness is one thing, but when it comes to raw sexuality, Sherilyn Fenn will always be the reigning champ. With her perfectly sculpted eyebrows hinting at a young Elizabeth Taylor, and her ability to tie a knot in a cherry stalk with her tongue, the character of Audrey Horne more than lived up to her name. So powerful was her magnetism that, stuck in a wooden box playing a quadruple amputee, Sherilyn still managed to give the old ‘come hither’, even if she followed it up with '...and change my dressing’.
Brainy and beautiful in equal measure, Natalie Portman has been bewitching audiences for almost twenty years since her phenomenal debut in Leon. Like many other men my age, I was entranced by this beautiful ingénue, although at least I didn’t have to scrub myself down with steel wool for thinking impure thoughts, once I was reminded that she was only twelve at the time. Over the years, she’s grown into an extraordinary talent, as evidenced by her Oscar-winning, bean-flicking turn in Black Swan. Hell, she was even stunning in the Star Wars prequels, despite being styled like a kabuki table lamp.
Combining the porcelain beauty of Juliette Binoche, with the refined elegance of Kristin Scott Thomas, Julia regularly portrayed beautiful women torn between two lovers, spending more time stuck in a thankless triangle than Kate O’Mara. There was Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear in Sabrina. Sean Connery and Richard Gere in First Knight. By the time she appeared in Legends of the Fall, she'd got a whole family coming to blows over her. In fact, if I remember correctly, even the horses looked worried at one point. Although much less prolific than in the nineties, Julia does still pop up from time to time, most recently in season five of Mad Men as Don Draper’s new mother in law. Thankfully, she’s resisted the urge to stretch her face like Meg Ryan on a rollercoaster, and looks as stunning as ever.
Polish actress Joanna Pacula first found fame in the 1980s when she starred in Gorky Park, which she followed up with the TV Holocaust drama Escape From Sobibor. Since her career peaked during the height of the Cold War, she was usually cast in fairly dour roles, rarely appearing in anything more flattering than a moth-eaten grey cardigan. But even in the drabbest of outfits, those piercing eyes and cheekbones that could double as a set square, still marked her out as a remarkable beauty.
No, I’m just fucking with you.