"I WANT GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS," NBC VICE PRESIDENT Annamarie Kostura declared last year when she began searching for an actor to play hot-blooded policeman Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald on the soap opera Passions
. "I was looking for someone who would be a matinee idol," explains Kostura, "someone I'd want to watch every day and fall in love with." When she saw an audition tape of Galen Gering, she knew she'd found her man. In February 500 screaming young women confirmed her choice by lining up at Manhattan's Rockefeller Center for a promotional appearance by Gering, much to the surprise of the L.A.-bred model turned actor. "It was shocking to be the object of their affections," says Gering, 29. One person not shocked was his mother, artist Michele de Oñate, 51, from whom the 6'2" actor claims his Franco-Spanish Basque heritage. "When he was 13 or 14, we decided he needed his own phone because the girls started calling and I became his secretary," says de Oñate, whose marriage to Galen's dad, Alan, 57, a metalsmith, ended when their son was 10. Gering started modeling at 17, working in New York City and Europe before landing at the University of Miami, where he finished his bachelor's degree—in filmmaking and creative writing—just last year. In April he married actress Jenna Hudlett, 28. "When I first met him, I thought he was too good-looking for his own good," says Hudlett. "But after our first date he left flowers and a note on my doorstep." Gering prefers hiking and beach volleyball to lifting weights in a gym, though he does that as well. "You could cut glass on his stomach," Hudlett says. After showering, the actor uses Kiehl's Silk Groom leave-in conditioner to keep his thick brown hair from looking like what he describes as "one of those brushes in the car wash." Not that he's knocking his hair. "My dad is almost bald," he says. "But so far my hairline isn't receding. You'll have to catch up with me in 20 years."