Power Romance

updated 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

By now everyone knows—thanks to screaming tabloid headlines—that Lee Iacocca's now-estranged wife of eight months, Peggy, wants him back. What everyone doesn't know is why.

Could it be Lee's wealth (estimated at more than $50 million)? His four homes, including a 15-room Bloomfield Hills estate? Or his cooking (said to include a mean rib roast)? Maybe it's none of those. Maybe it's just that Lee Iacocca is sexy.

Lee Iacocca—that Ed McMahon-look-alike with the fullish physique? Sexy? Well, yes, according to a lot of women.

A 40-year-old friend of Iacocca's first wife, Mary, who died in 1983:
"He has an earthiness that is pure sex. It's those eyes. Ooh, they're the best. You can tell that he feels when he looks at you, and I don't mean a look that strips you of your clothes. And it's those hands, the way he uses them in con versation, expressively and creatively. He is the most absolute, bona fide earthy-sexy guy I know."

The 48-year-old wife of a rival auto executive:
"Women say they want a poet, but what they really want is a caveman. Lee Iacocca is a modern-day caveman. He is the kind of guy who can protect and take care of you. Maybe he won't club somebody over the head, but he has wealth enough to buy any kind of protection you might need. You'd never be afraid of anything with Lee Iacocca around."

A glamorous 51-year-old Detroit career woman:
"I would definitely rather spend a weekend with Lee than, say, Don Johnson. Lee's tall, he dresses beautifully and he's a good dancer. And I think his need to succeed would make him want to satisfy a women in bed. True, his nose is unattractive, and it bothers me that you never see his teeth when he smiles. But I forgive him all his faults, even his cigars. Lee is one of the few men who could light up at my bedside table anytime."

Power, it seems, can be as effective an aphrodisiac as mere beard stubble or a washboard torso. And by that standard Lido "Lee" Iacocca, 62, may be the new Italian Stallion—a sex symbol for the Corporate Age (some runners-up for the coveted title appear on the preceding page). Just look at the guy's vital statistics. He may be America's best-paid exec ($11.5 million in 1985); his autobiography, Iacocca, topped best-seller lists for months (2.6 million copies in print); he has overseen the refurbishing of a great lady (the Statue of Liberty) and a dinosaur (Chrysler); and some people want him to run for President (he has joked about sharing the ticket with Dr. Ruth: "I'll tell everybody what to do, and she'll tell everybody how to do it"). Says Keith Crain, publisher of Automotive News: "When Lee Iacocca walks into a room lately, it's like the President or Robert Redford coming in. Heads turn. You can't help but go, 'Wow.' " Asked to name the person they most admired for a 1985 Gallup Poll, Americans ranked Iacocca third—behind President Reagan and the Pope.

Auto builder Carroll Shelby, who has known Iacocca for almost 30 years, says, "When Lee first meets someone, he finds something the person is interested in, and within 10 minutes that person is spellbound." Karen Clark, the wife of advertising executive Tom Clark, one of Lee's best friends, also knows what the estranged Peggy Johnson Iacocca saw in Lee. "He's very old-fashioned. I know his language is bad, but not in front of women. He's extremely courtly, opening doors, standing up when women leave the table—a first-class gentleman. And," she adds, "Lee is an immaculate dresser with exquisite taste: suits always pressed, stunning cuff links. He takes care of himself." Concludes Clark: "You know he is a man on the move. A lot of women are attracted to movers and shakers. They send him notes in restaurants, or they mail him pictures of themselves in bikinis. Men come up to him to talk, but women fall all over him."

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