Fabio stretches out in his silver limo and sighs. For hours, fans have been hungry for his affection, and he has been their servant. He's tenderly embraced them, caressed their cheeks, swept them up in his strong arms. Now he needs to relax.
And how does the "Prince of Passion" unwind after a hard day at work?
He talks about lingerie.
"I laaaahv lingerie," he says with a husky laugh. "Nothing is more exciting. Oooh, I lahv black. I lahv peach . . . red . . . pink. I like all zee gears, all zee garters. I have a collection from fans in zee closet."
Fans have given Fabio more than bras and panties, though. They've made him:
A) The Sexiest Man in the World.
B) The King of Love.
C) One of the 15 Greatest Men on Earth.
D) All of the Above.
If you picked D, you've obviously read People, Forbes, Vanity Fair or one of gizillioons of other publications that America's Man-of-the-Moment has appeared in lately. Or perhaps you've simply seen a romance novel cover (he adorns 1,000 different titles), bought his calendar, heard his CD or rented his video.
Yesterday, though, Fabio had his new fragrance on his mind as he spent hours at Hecht's in Washington, signing autographs with a gold marker while the heavy scent of Mediterraneum . . . The Fragrance for Men Created for the Pleasure of Women hung in the air. (He'll be at the White Marsh Hecht's doing the same today.)
During the Fabio fest, he even answered questions, which ranged from the highly personal to the painful.
Had Fabio really never been circumcised, as a recent article suggested?
"I'm like zee Mother Nature made me," he says. "I'm au naturel."
Does he highlight his hair?
"Once every two or three months."
Did he have any advice for consoling a friend whose boyfriend had recently died?
"Try to cheer her up. Talk to her. Just be zeeere for her."
He only balked at one request: to take off his sweater and show off his size 48 chest, which, incidentally, he admitted to shaving once a week.
Even fully clothed, Fabio's appearance -- all 6 foot 3 inches and 220 pounds -- didn't disappoint. Those sea-blue eyes. That golden blond hair. Those sculpted biceps and triceps and deltoids and pectorals and . . .
It was enough to make Tracy DeHaven weak in the knees.
"I'm a newlywed. I'm not supposed to need this," says Ms. DeHaven, 25, whose hands trembled after meeting the star.
"He kissed my cheek, and I said 'Oh, baby. Oh, baby.' Then he asked me where I worked, and I couldn't remember," she says.
Her friend Teresa Brunot was equally breathless.
"I can't wash my armpit," says Ms. Brunot, 30, who lives in Columbia. "He touched it."
Although the signing was supposed to last an hour, Fabio stayed for nearly two to accommodate the line of nearly 200 female (and a few male) fans that snaked through cosmetics into the lobby and outside the building.
"Zeese are ze people who made me. I have to give zem my career . . . I'm zees fantasy for zem," says Fabio, 32.
Being the object of lust doesn't bother him, although he doesn't see himself that way.
"I don't see myself as a hunk of meat. I'm a person, and like any person I have feelings. Since I was a little kid, everybody was paying so much attention to what I looked like, not what I was feeling. You start feeling tired. It's like eating soup every day. You eat the same soup and you get bored, so I developed my inner self," he says.
It was that inner self that appealed to Lena Redman, who had endured ridicule from colleagues for taking a vacation day to meet the Milan-born model.
She arrived four hours early, gaining the first spot in line. And in a tote, she packed every Fabio item she owns -- a calendar, tape, poster and many books. She was so nervous she said she'd only gotten three hours sleep the night before.
"In person, he's better than any romance cover," says Ms. Redman, 28, a systems engineer who lives in Gaithersburg. "Fabio pays more attention to women than most men do. Most guys come home and just turn on the TV. If you were married to Fabio, I bet he couldn't do that."
Near her in line was 11-year-old Heather Brown, who had to fight with her father to miss school to meet Fabio.
For this youngster, Fabio's appeal was decidedly physical.
"He hugged me. His hair is so silky . . . his body's so firm, and he's got a nice butt," says Heather, who lives in Silver Spring.
But not every woman in the crowd considered Fabio the man of her dreams.
Beth Sheffner's verdict on Fabio: "He's a complete cheeseball."
Her roommate Alicia Pulsifer didn't care much for his taste in cologne. "It smells so bad. It's a test of your manliness to see if people will still talk to you when you wear it," says Ms. Pulsifer, 23.
As yet another woman stepped up to the altar of Fabio, Ms. Sheffner, 22, wrinkled her nose and motioned to her friend to walk away.
"We're going to do something practical," says Ms. Pulsifer, "like look for jog bras."
Fabio isn't the first. Many before him have tried to parlay sex appeal into superstardom and learned it takes more than a pretty face or mega-toned body to capture our hearts.
* Suzanne Somers: The Thighmaster worked for her, but when's she gonna find a Careermaster?
* Charo: Coochi-coochi? Si. Stardom? No.
* Morganna: This bouncy bandit has been able to steal only kisses.
* Jean-Claude Van Damme: We get no kick from his movies.
* Claudia Schiffer: Blond, built and boring.
* Vanna White: Give her an N, give her an O, a B, R, A, I, N, E, R. What does it spell? A one-trick pony.
* Sylvester Stallone: It's tough to get respect when your best line is "Yo, Adrian."
* Kim Basinger: Not just another pretty face; she's also broke.
* Don Johnson: It's been a cold, cold world since his hot "Miami Vice" days.