"In the last year and a half, I can count in a hand how many days off I had," Fabio says. "I've been working every single day, up to 17, 18 hours a day. I'm not even going to the gym anymore."
Fabio, nee Fabio Lanzoni, is slouching in a chair in the bowels of Bullock's after his fragrance signing. He wears a blue shirt with gold studs, a leather belt with silver studs, torn jeans and cowboy boots. He looks across the table at Paul.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 24, 1993 Home Edition View Part E Page 3 Column 4 View Desk 1 inches; 16 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong title--Peter Paul of Beverly Hills is Fabio's manager. An article in Friday's View misstated his title.
"I told him, 'If you book me for one more thing, I'll kill you.' "
Paul would do well to buy a cemetery plot. There's talk of casting Fabio in a couple of $40-million action movies--with no gore and no nudity but, of course, love and romance!
"If I see a woman in lingerie, for me it's a hundred times more turn-on than to see a total naked woman because after she's total naked, I saw everything. There's no more fantasy."
And in an ironic reversal of his metamorphosis from romance novel fantasy cover boy to real-live hunk, he'll pose as a real-live Thor on the cover of the fantasy Marvel comic book.
"He looks like Thor. He looks exactly like Thor," Paul says. "He really is a live super-hero."
It's hard to figure where Fabio/Thor fits into Paul's eclectic client list. Trained as a lawyer and an erstwhile philosophy major at Dartmouth, he has over the years "packaged" Salvador Dali, Buzz Aldrin, Muhammad Ali and, now, Fabio.
"What have all these people shared in common?"
Yes, what \o7 have\f7 all these people shared in common?
"Muhammad Ali and Fabio had a presence about them, a spirituality that permeated their being," Paul says. "When we started working together, I suggested building (Fabio's) career around his philosophy. That really was appealing to me, which is why I dedicate myself to this activity."
"This activity," of course, is packaging projects and products. So now they're talking about packaging Fabio's romantic philosophy and fitness products and distributing them in a kind of Amway setup. After all, if you think Thor is some pop culture icon to live up to, try thinking really big--think Mary Kay.
"It would allow people to join Fabio in proliferating his philosophy and lifestyle," Paul says, "and it would empower women to generate funds for themselves."
And for Fabio too, of course, although Paul says he's too spiritual to be materialistic (OK, OK, so he has a Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Mercedes and Porsche).
"Money, power is beautiful if you take just as fun. OK? If you don't get attached," says Fabio, who keeps a Manhattan apartment and a Hollywood Hills house. "I have all the things I can desire in life, but if I don't have love from people, and if I don't be able to give love to people and receive love, I will not be happy even with all my success and all the money I make."
Which is no easy task when you're a phenomenon. He says he broke up nine months ago with his girlfriend of four years and hasn't managed to replace her.
"It's hard to find a person who accept you and love you for who you are, not for what you have, and I'm very careful of that because of course with my position. I prefer to find the Cinderella with the beautiful soul."
His female fans love hearing that sort of stuff, and Fabio loves to give it to them. "Fabio is conveniently safe sex," says Kathryn Falk, owner of Romantic Times magazine.
You could pay $1.99 a minute to hear his romantic \o7 frissons\f7 by dialing (900) 90-FABIO. But "the spokesperson for classic romance" is always happy to discuss relations between the sexes for free.
"Woman is very much more in contact with their feeling than a man. As a matter of fact, woman always teach to men how to love. But the tendency of the man is always to lie to bring them to bed.
"In every single thing I'm trying to tell the man, 'Be honest, OK? Tell the truth. Maybe you gonna get laid less, but tell the truth.' "
Paul: "He doesn't mean get laid."
Fabio: "I'm trying to tell men, 'Really show yourself. Do not be macho because the biggest turnoff for a woman is a macho guy because women, they're very sensitive. They know you're macho because you're insecure.' "
No wonder Hillary Rodham Clinton flirted with him on a recent White House visit. Some women find contact with the fitness-focused Fabio so salutary that merely meeting him is slimming.
"The man freaked me out so bad that in the first two weeks after I met him, I lost 30 pounds," says Tina Jakes of Atlanta, who edits his newsletter, the Gentle Conqueror. "I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I've lost 104 pounds in the year and a half since we met."
That's been the reaction since 1991, when Liz Perl suggested that "A Current Affair" do a story about the real live man on the illustrated covers of hundreds of Avon's romance novels.
"It was like the floodgates were loosed," she says. "No one knew the man on the cover was real, and all of a sudden I was getting truckloads of mail.