Because it's the end of the week, and this qualifies as the perfect Friday fluff piece, here's the entire series of "Girls, Girls, Girls" columns which have run throughout the course of this site. Feel free to either laud or ridicule my tastes (and keep in mind that some of this may seem slightly dated).
Part 1: Heaven's Cates
Although not as often associated with the supernatural these days as, say, San Francisco or New Orleans, New York City still manages to project its fair share of mythological allure -- it being, after all, America's one and only true "gotham," as well as the home of the Ghostbusters. Yet in spite of a past steeped in creepy mystery and a present littered with the East Village-Stygian, Anne Rice-a-Looney goofballs who find themselves drawn to such nonsense, my adopted home has never presented me with a paranormal experience worthy of note -- unless of course you count the tendency of my credit card to inexplicably disappear at some point every Saturday night.
No matter how much magic this city may hold, it's just never shown me any of "that old, black" variety.
That is until this past weekend.
Contrary to what you may have been led to believe by the aforementioned Ghostbusters, the true superconductive antenna for psychokinetic activity in New York City isn't a foreboding art deco-style apartment building on Central Park West -- even though it was directly in front of one such building that Yoko Ono incomprehensibly dodged five bullets taken by John Lennon; it is in fact a small and rather unassuming boutique, bas-relief etched into the face of one of the many tony, monolithic pre-wars along the Upper East Side. Inside this quaint little shop, the laws of time and space are nothing more than mercurial afterthoughts, infallible clairvoyance is commonplace, and grown men can be reduced to desperate, hyperventilative sobs in the face of the kind of religious experience that makes Saul's road-to-Damascus conversion look like a dizzy spell.
The shop is called Blue Tree.
It is owned and operated by Phoebe Cates.
As in that Phoebe Cates.
As in THAT Phoebe Cates.
For those of you who, A) aren't heterosexual males, and B) didn't come of age -- and given the subject matter, you'll forgive the pun -- in the early 1980s, the overwhelming magnitude of what I've just implied will no doubt escape you; the rest of you -- the straight men my age -- understand precisely of what I'm speaking and, as such, I'll give you the few moments necessary to properly collect yourselves.
A lot's been made over the years of the monumental impact that Phoebe Cates's seminal scene -- once again, you'll pardon the pun -- in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High had on an entire generation of men. I have nothing to add to the discussion, simply because I can't; the singular import of that thirty seconds of film -- its initial and continued effect -- cannot be overstated. I still look upon the act of Phoebe, as sex kitten Linda Barrett, unclasping her red bikini top in slow-motion to the hypnotic purr of the Cars' Moving in Stereo with more reverence than my first real sexual experience; they each lasted about the same amount of time, but the girl who unwittingly took part in the former was Phoebe Cates -- whereas the latter involved a slightly overweight fifteen-year-old who would, a month later, surprise me by running out of her house, suitcase in hand, as I pulled into her driveway -- then spend the next hour begging me to help her run away while her heavy metal brother threatened to destroy my car with an aluminum baseball bat.
Phoebe offered no such threat of bodily harm or imminent arrest though -- she was just the perfect girl exposing for me and the rest of my generation her perfect, perfect body. The fact that the overactive imagination of Judge Reinhold's character in Fast Times was the very reason for Phoebe's nudity in the first place created what to this day remains one of the greatest meta-reality moments in film history -- with poor, put-upon, Pirate Brad both standing-in for every male member of the audience at the time and creating the very masturbatory fantasy we'd all take with us to the grave.
To this day, I still fantasize about Phoebe Cates, and that one glorious scene. Like almost every single straight man my age, I long to watch her rise up out of the pool and say the words, "Hi (insert your name here), you know how cute I always thought you were."
I want her to stride toward me in the slow, fluid motion that resembles nothing less than one long, orgasmic sigh -- pull open her bikini top -- and kiss me passionately.
I've wanted this for twenty-five years.
And you know what? Phoebe Cates knows this.
My wife and I had just spent the afternoon taking a leisurely stroll through Central Park -- literally, walking from the zoo at 60th street, all the way up to 91st and 5th Avenue -- when we stumbled upon Phoebe's little boutique. We were both tangentially aware of the shop, having read in one magazine or another a profile which mentioned Blue Tree and its noteworthy proprietor, and so, finally being in the neighborhood, we decided to stop in.
Of course I'm making this decision sound like a much more nonchalant affair than it actually was. The reality is that my heart was in my throat before my hand even touched the door; by the time the thing actually opened and I felt the rush of cool air from inside, I had devolved into a thirteen-year-old again; and when I glanced across the store and saw her -- well, you could've cleaned me off the floor with a bucket and a mop. As I stepped inside and heard the door whisper shut behind me, I suddenly felt as if I'd just downed three shots of Absinthe. Possessing both a preternatural forethought and an unparalleled concern for my well-being, my wife actually turned to me as I floated down the steps into the store, gave me an amused smile, and asked, "You gonna be okay?" I'm pretty sure that I attempted to answer but nothing translatable came out -- the words I'd put together in my head escaping my mouth in the form of two or three feeble, high-pitched squeaks.
As Phoebe walked out from behind the register stand and I finally saw her -- head to toe -- I almost collapsed. She looked, she looks, as if she hasn't aged a day since turning twenty-five. She's as beautiful and youthful now as she was in 1982 -- a fact which is more than a little spooky. She's gorgeous, she's thin -- she remains perfect.
Time indeed seemed to slow as she moved toward me, the music coming from the shop's overhead speakers not the Cars, but something even more narcotic: Fleetwood Mac's Gold Dust Woman. She wore a tight black sweater and matching black pants rather than the red bikini I'd dreamed of most of my life. Still, she flashed that flawless smile as she squeezed past me, en route to help a customer who'd gotten her attention -- and when we looked directly into each other's eyes, that's when it hit me.
I'm the naked one.
There are very few times in life that a person can literally read another's thoughts -- that someone can be reduced to the proverbial open book. In that moment, not only did I realize that Phoebe Cates knew exactly what I was thinking, I understood that she was capable of pulling the same trick day after day, hour after hour -- with almost every single man she meets.
She knows what they're all thinking -- every one of them, without fail. She knows they're all exactly like me, and in a twist worthy of a Hollywood ending, the guys who once ogled her nakedness are now the ones exposed.
The realization was enough to make me look away quickly -- feeling no small amount of embarrassment -- before finally turning back to face her again, smiling and nodding at the exquisite irony of it all.
Phoebe Cates read my mind.
Later that night, my wife and I were lying on the couch -- comfortably draped across each other -- watching Helen Mirren's flawless, Oscar-winning performance in The Queen, when that familiar feeling dawned on me again: something bordering on love. I remembered becoming enraptured with Helen Mirren the first time I saw The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.
I understood that Phoebe Cates was the first woman I fell for from afar, but she certainly wouldn't be the last.
Maybe it's time I paid a little respect to all those beautiful, brilliant, strong, funny, cool, sexy, remarkable women I still put up on a pedestal -- with good reason.
Part 2: Screen Savors
It's safe to say that if my taste in women ran toward the Jessica Simpsons and Carmen Electras of the world, not only would my wife hang her head in shame -- she probably wouldn't be my wife in the first place. Having lived in both L.A. and its retarded little brother Miami (the town that gives credence to Obi-Wan Kenobi's maxim, "Who's the more foolish -- the fool or the fool who follows him?") I know what it's like to be submerged in a sea of bleach-blond hair, incomprehensibly large fake breasts and literally three-quarters of an IQ point. Maybe that's the reason why the hot-but-stupid thing has never done it for me; kind of the way the guy working 35 hours a week at McDonald's would rather take a shotgun slug to the chest than even think about a Big Mac -- no matter how many millions and millions might line up for them daily.
As far as I'm concerned, "hot" is easy; it can be attained through any manner of makeup, airbrushing or fancy camerawork. True beauty, on the other hand, is an infinitely more fascinating and precious commodity; it really is more than skin deep -- the overall indefinable product created by mixing so many other exquisite qualities: intelligence, passion, wisdom, talent, humanity, strength, wit, vulnerability, grace, class, etc. It's ironically both pervasive and elusive, and although often impossible to describe, you always know it when you see it.
Every guy's first loves appear on the big screen, and he always carries a torch for those gorgeous women of the movies.
These are a few of my favorites.
Make no mistake, young women can be a lot of things -- "sexy" usually isn't one of them. Sexy is something that comes with age and confidence. Diane Lane has that locked.
The phrase "Lovely and Talented" was invented for her.
The woman is a daring force of nature on the screen, and I can't think of any movie star who looks balls-out sexier in leather pants. I want to go drinking with her.
All kinds of class, plus the ability to convey an astonishing combination of frailty and strength.
It's inexplicable how someone so warm and radiant can play flawed and insecure so well.
If her mischievous, pixie-like smile in Amelie didn't melt you into a puddle, you're Dick Cheney.
The only line Tom Cruise ever delivered convincingly: when he looked into her eyes in Mission Impossible II and said, "Damn you're beautiful."
She's got flawless skin, talent to burn, and Ryan Gosling -- the hands-down best actor of his generation and my admitted man-crush; what's not to love?
Part 3: Rock & Roll Queens
It should be obvious by now that I never outgrew my adolescent passion for music; quite the opposite, the importance of having that perfect soundtrack to everyday existence has increased exponentially with age. It goes without saying then that I've always had a weakness for female musicians. There's nothing hotter, cooler or sexier than a woman behind a mic, a guitar, a piano etc. (For the record, my wife sings -- and sings very well -- which melts me every time.)
The thoroughly self-indulgent list of the women I love continues with the ones who literally rock my world.
She gorgeous, she's an exhibitionist, she's Scottish, she fronts Garbage -- a band that still stands as one of my favorites, and she's just raw sex. Did I mention that she's also an exhibitionist?
My God does this woman have soul. If her monumental talent doesn't sway you, check out how stunning she looks in Smokin' Aces.
The hypnotic thumping heartbeat of her music is the sound of seduction. If you can't get laid to a Goldfrapp song, give it up.
The thinking man's musical goddess, she took a lifetime of pain and trauma and turned it into one of the most underrated albums of the last decade -- Haunted. Strength, vulnerability and a little insanity all wrapped up in one mesmerizing package.
Yup, got a serious thing for her. She's just damn hot.
I've had a crush on the keyboard player for the Dandy Warhols for as long as I can remember. Anyone who usually plays topless earns an immediate place in my heart.
Sometimes it's all about that indescribable feeling you get when a woman plays a song that you know came right from her heart -- and sings it in a way that makes you believe it's coming from somewhere slightly south of that.
Yes, I like Kelly Clarkson. Go fuck yourself.
I don't care how hard VH1 promotes it or how many idiots first heard it on Grey's Anatomy, her current hit The Story could very well be the best single of the past five years -- by anyone, in any genre. When her voice cracks during the final chorus -- sounding every bit as if it's going to give out completely -- you feel every heartbreak she's ever had, every mistake she's ever made, the weight of a lifetime of tragedy and the power of her desperate cry for help. She's pure and simple passion, and I stand in awe of her.
No one who grew up in the 80s and had semi-decent taste in music wasn't in love with Siouxsie. My undying devotion was cemented the night she wrapped a feather boa around my neck, pulled my face to within inches of hers and sang Slowdive -- a song about giving head -- to me at a concert in Miami. It took two weeks to get rid of my erection.
There aren't words to describe how much I love this woman. Liz, if you ever read this -- please for God's sake have sex with me. My wife says it's okay. I swear, if I ever get leukemia or something, that's gonna be my request to the Make-a-Wish foundation.
The real fucking deal. More punk than most punks. I want her to fuck me, then kill me and drink my blood.
Part 4: Funny Girls
For sheer sex appeal, it's tough to beat a woman who's genuinely funny; The admittedly subjective and thoroughly self-indulgent list of my favorite women continues with the ones who prove that.
Some are full-fledged comediennes, some are brilliantly sharp comedic writers, some have just proven that they have flawless comic timing -- whether going over-the-top, flashing a subtle glance at the right time, or playing it perfectly straight.
These are the girls who make me giggle like a little kid, while simultaneously doing that unfortunate thing where I squeeze my legs together tightly and make a kind of guttural moaning sound through a post-orgasmic smile.
There might not be anyone on this list who's consistently and simultaneously funnier and hotter than Parker Posey. To witness her in all her comedic glory, see Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman. To see her in all her, well, glory -- see The Anniversary Party.
Tina Fey is not on this list -- not because I don't like her or think she's unattractive, just because the choice is a little too obvious. But if you like 30 Rock, which is a funny-as-hell show, then do yourself a favor and check out IFC's original series The Business sometime, and simultaneously laugh at and ogle Kathleen Robertson. She's just gorgeous beyond words, and she plays straight-man better than anyone else on television -- male or female.
Stacey Grenrock Woods
If you were paying attention, you might remember her as the best-looking correspondent The Daily Show ever had (not counting Colbert). Since leaving Stewartville, Stacey Grenrock Woods has gone on to success as Esquire magazine's sex advice columnist and has even written a recently-published memoir, I, California. But this sharp-as-a-tack wit would earn a place in my heart for no other reason than the above picture and the story behind it: Back in 1989, Stacey posed for Playboy, only to have the pictures shelved -- that is, until her book came out.
Where to even begin: Possibly the funniest women in the history of film. Easily the sexiest woman ever to wear taffeta (darling). If you're a heterosexual man and you didn't want to fall at her feet like Hedy Lamarr* when she put on her black lingerie and feather boa to become Lily Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles, there's something wrong with you.
For someone as ridiculously beautiful as Téa Leoni, she sure knows how to play confused, frazzled and uncomfortable. That's probably what makes her so damn spectacular. She first made it big in a comedic role -- on the better-than-it-probably-should-have-been sitcom Flying Blind -- and went on to hone her comic skills in movies like Flirting with Disaster and this year's brilliant indie You Kill Me. (She can be forgiven for Fun with Dick and Jane.) Plus, she's married to one of the most naturally funny guys on the planet, David Duchovny, making her one half of the couple my wife and I would most like to hang out with sometime -- you know, if they happen to be listening.
Before there was The Daily Show, there was HBO's Not Necessarily the News -- and Annabelle Gurwitch was a major part of it. That alone would put her on this list, but when you factor in her gig on NPR and the fact that she was once personally fired by Woody Allen -- plus her cute-as-a-button demeanor -- you've got pure gold.
Like her counterpart on The Office, John Krasinski, she has the ability to get huge laughs by doing little more than glancing into the camera for a split-second. Surrounded on all sides by insanity, Jenna Fischer's portrayal of the adorable, approachable receptionist Pam has made her the unlikely lust of every guy in America with more than two brain cells to rub together. What's more, her personal MySpace site -- which she uses to legitimately interact with fans -- proves that she's as sweet as the character she plays. And if all that doesn't do it for you -- look at the picture above.
I grew up on SCTV, which means that I fell in love with Catherine O'Hara at a young age. Whether playing Vegas seductress Lola Heatherton, freaked-out, drugged-up urban expatriate Delia Deitz, or any of the wonderful weirdos in the Christopher Guest pantheon, Catherine has always been one of my secret crushes.
Forget what I said earlier about not going with the obvious choice. Silverman rules.
An unusual choice, I realize, and one many will say is based more on beauty than ability to elicit laughter. Those people obviously haven't seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Plus, Michelle Monaghan managed to play straight-man while working with the unintentionally hilarious Tom Cruise in MI:3; That's gotta be worth something.
Yes, I too masturbated to Leia in the gold bikini at one point in my life. But did you know that while shooting the first Star Wars, George Lucas forced Carrie Fisher to tape down her breasts because he said they were too distracting -- which led Carrie to write about her attempt at holding a daily contest to see who among the cast and crew would get to rip the tape off at the end of the day? Now that's funny. Make no mistake, Carrie Fisher is one of the funniest women alive.
I laugh every time Sarah Chalke says "FRICK!" -- but the true XX-chromoed comedic genius of Scrubs is Christa Miller as the irascible Dr. Cox's equally irascible other-half, Jordan. I loved Christa when she was on The Drew Carey Show (in spite of the fact that I was expected to believe that at one point her character was actually on Drew Carey himself); I love her even more now.
I'll just get this over with: I LOVE Drew Barrymore. Love her. I still have the 1995 Playboy with her layout (and admittedly, she's never looked better). I drooled with bitter envy when she stood up on Letterman's desk and flashed him. I even paused the DVD of Charlie's Angels to see if she really was naked in the scene where she tumbled down the hill after being "shot" (she wasn't). She's smart, she's funny as hell -- making me fall even harder for her every time she does that goofy thing where she sticks her tongue between her teeth and crosses her eyes while smiling -- and she's become more comfortable in her own skin as she's aged, and that makes her even sexier. She doesn't take herself too seriously and she's single-handedly managed to save about a half-dozen romantic comedies from being completely worthless. There's no one on this list I'd more love to just go have a beer with, and I have no doubt that it'd be a thorougly wonderful experience. Did I mention how much I love her?
I rest my case.
Next: The Journalists
Part 5: The Journalists
Having worked in television news for far too long and consequently having known more than my fair share of female journalists, I think I'm tolerably qualified to say that -- as with their male counterparts these days -- they tend to fall into one of two categories: the smart and dedicated who are truly interested in telling a good story and aspiring to the highest standards of excellence (in other words, the ones who take their job and their responsibilities seriously), and the ones who enjoy seeing themselves on TV or on paper and are in it pretty much for their own personal gain. Unfortunately, the attractive journalist who has to prove that she falls into the former category rather than the latter is practically an archetype by this point; I've met plenty of very smart women who also happen to be great looking and who've spent a good portion of their careers frustrated over their inability to be recognized for their talent and intelligence in a position where such consideration is paramount. There are a whole lot of gorgeous TV news anchors and reporters out there -- and quite a few of them are dumb as a box of rocks. But whereas an attractive man's lack of two brain cells to rub together tends to reflect only on himself and go no further, a beautiful woman's dopiness is seen as an indictment of female journalists in general (as well as, one would hope, the lecherous, pudgy white dipshits in upper management who keep hiring her ilk). I realize that the same can be said for most businesses these days, but in the world of journalism there exists a positively monumental chasm between the indispensible and the worthless, and yet the dregs are often the ones raking in a fortune, while the truly gifted are working impossible hours, sometimes in dangerous situations, and are generally being paid crap for their trouble. Imagine being faced with that latter situation and having to work against the stereotype perpetuated by the other half of the equation. In all facets of journalism, there are women who manage to be both beautiful and brilliant at the same time. Quite a few in fact are astonishingly sexy because they're brilliant.
Here are just a few, from a cross-section of media.
Anyone whose bio reads that she currently lives "at an undisclosed location in Baghdad" is damn serious about her job. As a bureau chief for NPR, Jamie Tarabay has spent the past several years traveling from one war zone to another, covering some of the most important news events of this generation. She's Australian by birth, Lebanese by heritage, and only 32 years old -- which makes me feel very, very lazy.
I've been a fan of this self-proclaimed "Jersey Girl" for quite awhile. Jancee Dunn started out as the only bright spot in the MTV2 VJ lineup, then went on to write for Rolling Stone, where she's now a contributing editor. She was also a special correspondent to Good Morning America for a few years and is the author of But Enough About Me... How much do I like Jancee? I'm willing to overlook the fact that she occasionally writes for Oprah's magazine.
I love Arianna Huffington. There, I said it. Not so much a field journalist as a columnist and commentator, Arianna somehow pulled off what was seemingly one of the most absolute about-faces in political affiliation history. Over the course of a few years, she reinvented herself -- in a way which was astonishingly believable, her motives never really coming into question -- turning her back on the Republican party she once counted herself a member of, and emerging as an outspoken critic of the Bush Administration. Her online newspaper and blog, The Huffington Post, is required daily reading and she can often be seen on Real Time with Bill Maher, as she and Maher are close friends (she was a regular contributor to his previous show, Politically Incorrect). She's also the author of On Becoming Fearless.... in Love, Work and Life. On top of all that, she's just really, really sexy.
There are fansites aplenty devoted to Jennifer Eccleston, and a few of them even recognize the brain behind her admittedly gorgeous face. Jennifer's been to every hell-hole on Earth during her career, reporting for Fox News, NBC and now CNN. At the risk of sounding patronizing, she's put herself in the line of fire time and time again when she quite frankly didn't have to. This is not in any way an obscene claim that unattractive journalists have no choice but to take the tough jobs; that's not the case at all. My point is that there's an entire vat full of myopic news directors growing somewhere that would be more than happy to make her an anchor and pay her a fortune to read a teleprompter in the comfort of an air-conditioned studio for the rest of her career. Maybe it's stupid of me to credit someone for simply doing something she loves -- something she considers rewarding -- but I've watched big money and a luxurious lifestyle occasionally tempt even the strongest journalist toward ruin. Jennifer is still out there, and news audiences are better for it.
See above. The crap Jennifer Eccleston has sometimes had to deal with? CBS's Lara Logan has had it worse. Yes she's stunning -- she's also a good journalist. Enough said.
I interviewed Ariel Levy a while back and was impressed with quite a bit about her: She's smart, spirited in the best possible way, she's not afraid to joust at some pretty big cultural windmills and yes, she's very attractive. This last quality might not matter one way or the other were it not for the fact that the Goliaths she frequently takes on include Girls Gone Wild, the porn industry, and so on. These are the kinds of entities that usually pull the frat boyish argument that a jealous desire for inclusion -- and the lack of such -- is the true motive behind the venom of any female detractor. Admittedly, Ariel may have had her conclusions all laid out before she even researched her very good book Female Chauvanist Pigs, but to put it bluntly, somebody had to say it. Ariel makes no attempt to hide her loathe for women who feel that stripping or screwing in front of a camera somehow qualifies as empowerment. Her stance: You're free to do whatever the hell you want with your life girls, but don't you dare think that the power that comes from having tits and being willing to show them off makes you some kind of latter-day Betty Friedan.
If there's a flavor-of-the-week among the "Hot TV Newswoman" set, it's Erin Burnett. The host of CNBC's Street Signs is known as much for her looks as her knowledge of the markets. Her background with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup ensures that she knows what the hell she's talking about, but I'm mentioning her here not because of her journalistic abilities, nor even because of her looks per se. She's worth talking about because of the reaction she consistently elicits from her supposedly professional male co-workers; all in all it's pretty fucking sickening. Over a period of just a few weeks, MSNBC's resident loudmouth Chris Matthews and his populist knucklehead colleague Joe Scarborough both behaved like horny schoolboys during separate live interviews with Burnett; this all happened on the air mind you. While Erin was attempting to talk about the subprime mortgage crisis -- a topic of tremendous importance -- Tweety Bird Matthews essentially ignored the words coming out of her mouth in favor of drooling over her mouth itself. He even admitted to being distracted by her beauty, thus proving both my initial assertion about the difficulties many women face in this business and the fact that Matthews is kind of a dingbat.
A couple of weeks ago I called New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd the sexiest brain in journalism. That just about says it all.