GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND — I returned from England a little while ago with a serious shoulder injury. While chewing on my nails waiting for the doctor's report, an unexpected phone call took my mind off this potential disaster. "The Phil Donahue Show" wanted to check out my hunk factor.
Donahue's staff is all women, it seems, and all bright. They wanted to do a show on "the look of the '80s."
"We think you would be perfect for it," Marlaine Selip, a Donahue staff member, said cheerily when she called.
The look of the '80s. Well, that sounded pretty good to me. The phrase wasn't quite as strong as "hunk," but if Phil Donahue himself said it, I could put it on my business cards, like a title.
"Who else are you going to have on?" I asked, masking my excitement.
"The editor of Gentlemen's Quarterly. We even want him to dress you in a tuxedo from Saks, if that's OK."
Marlaine then mentioned that they would get me an expensive human hairpiece to wear just for the end of the show, if I didn't mind trying it on for the audience.
I arrived in New York several nights later with great hope and confidence. The next morning Lilian Smith from the Donahue Show picked me up in a car for my toupee fitting.
We then headed to Saks Fifth Avenue, and it was there my dream begin to fall apart a little. Some of the most handsome, manly men I had ever seen (my age and half my age), literally off the covers of magazines, were already trying on tuxedos in the changing room.
I casually asked Lilian who these people were.
"Oh, that's Rich Popejoy, the winner of Gentlemen's Quarterly's 'The Face of the '80s' contest, and that's Kevin Luke, runner-up, and over there is David Belafonte, Harry's son. They're on the show with you."
For a moment I tried to convince myself these guys wouldn't detract from my own hour of glory. Maybe they were going to be my honor guard or something. I (casually, of course) asked Lilian their function.
"Oh, they open the show. And close it. And Rich Popejoy is on the panel with you along with the plastic surgeon and the man who had his face lifted and the lady who gives facials and the two men we picked from yesterday's audience to redo, and Bob Beauchamp from Gentlemen's Quarterly, of course."
The next morning at the studio my spirits picked up a lot. If you have any ham in you, and I do, a live television appearance in front of hundreds of laughing and clapping people is a thrill.
The audience seemed to appreciate my physical progress (Donahue showed them "before" and "after" pictures) and then laughed at my request for a brain transplant with Rich Popejoy, and then clapped even harder when a person in the audience said they admired my determination.
At the very end of the show, Donahue brought me back out. Most of the audience hadn't noticed my momentary absence from the stage, but they all noticed the mop on my head when I returned.
I marched up and down the runway just like the pros. For good measure, I even struck a weight lifter's pose in my new hair and tux.
When I asked the audience for their opinion on my borrowed mop, and they voted for bald, I felt quite muscular.
And do you know who impressed me the most in all of this? After the television cameras were off, there was Donahue, asking his audience to stay seated until he could make it back to the exit. He shook hands and chatted with all 250 of them.
Hunkiness isn't in the dictionary yet, but that quality exemplified by Phil Donahue should be part of the definition.
Beginning 21st Week Waist: 43 inches 35 inches Right biceps: 12 3/4 inches 12 1/2 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13inches Weight: 201 pounds 174 pounds Height: 6' 1" Blood pressure: 128/68 120/66 Pulse: 64 66 Bench press: 55 125 Hunk factor: .00 .33