SANTA ANA, Calif. Most Saturday mornings, Chris Tinkham and John Dourisboure would still be sleeping.
But last week was far from typical. The two young men drove more than 40 miles and, at 8:30 a.m., were standing outside Robinson's at MainPlace mall in Santa Ana. They wanted to be first in line to meet Claudia Schiffer, 20, the German blond model dubbed by GQ as "the most beautiful girl in the world."
Schiffer was in Orange County to sign autographs and promote the new Guess fragrance by Revlon. Her 11 a.m. appearance drew close to 500 people; about 500 bottles of the Guess fragrance were sold during the two-hour promotional event.
Schiffer's fame came from the sexy image she projects in black-and-white print ads for Guess products such as jeans and swimsuits. In the steamy red-and-black fragrance ad, she wears a sheer black bustier and jeans, puckers her lips ever so slightly and stares invitingly into the camera.
But there have been other images. In Chanel ads, she appears as a sophisticated young woman. In various published profiles, she has been likened to the young Brigitte Bardot.
But in person, Schiffer conveyed little come-hither sensuality or sophistication. On the contrary, she looked fresh, young, almost innocent and slightly shy in a pristine white pantsuit and pink ankle-length boots.
Schiffer was quick to dispel any notion that her real personality is like her Guess or Chanel images.
"I'm just myself," she said. "That's (the Guess and Chanel images) actually not me. I'm neither one of them." As for the comparisons to Bardot, she said, "It's just normal that people are compared with people that are famous. It doesn't bother me."
The real Claudia Schiffer, she said, wears baggy clothes, no makeup and old jeans and has never aspired to be a model. She dislikes the long hours spent traveling alone and runway modeling.
Her true fans only had praise to heap during her visit. Holding cameras, her Vogue and Mademoiselle covers or the fragrance promotional cards with her picture, Schiffer's admirers came in all ages, shapes, sizes and from all walks of life.
Tony Tarantino, who had waited in line since 10 a.m., asked Schiffer if his friend could photograph them together. The model obliged.
"We're madly in love with her," Tarantino said. "She's beautiful."