But seriously, folks, this is an era when the nation's fitness queen is 57-year-old Jane Fonda, when 43-year-old Isabella Rossellini has gazed with cool confidence from glossy Lancôme ads, when actress Kim Basinger is having her first baby at 41, and when 46-year-old Meryl Streep burned up the big screen with 65-year-old Clint Eastwood in the summer hit The Bridges of Madison County. "Maybe things are changing," actress Michelle Pfeiffer, 38, said recently. "Maybe I have a few years out there that I didn't think I had."
Indeed, today's stars of a certain age—like their less celebrated counterparts—are more fit, more youthful and sexier than ever. And with their toned bodies and vibrant lives, they're transforming our whole notion of 40 and beyond. "You can't put the number to the face anymore," says Gail Sheehy, the 57-year-old author of New Passages. "You have Susan Sarandon in her 40s and Barbra Streisand looking absolutely wonderful in her 50s."
A generation ago it seemed perfectly acceptable for the decades-older Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart to romance the much younger Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly in the movies, while actresses over 35 were relegated to sunset roles in the Norma Desmond vein (see sidebar, p. 76). But as supermodel and standard-bearer Lauren Hutton, 51, says, "That fantasy won't work with my generation. Women are just beginning at 40. At 50 you hit your power."
So Michelle Phillips, 51, with her slim figure and sensual style, turned the Mother of the Bride stereotype on its dowdy head when her daughter Chynna married Billy Baldwin last month. Her secret? "I touch my toes in the morning," she says. "I eat a lot of greens. I get eight hours sleep each night, and I'm run ragged by two teenage boys. I also have a very active sex life. I think that's the healthiest thing you can do."
Diana Ross, who passed the half-century milestone almost two years ago, notes that turning 50 "used to be gray hair and an old person sneaking into your body." No longer. Tina Turner, 55, remarked not long ago that "I can't say I feel 50, because the way my mother and grandmother looked when I was growing up is not happening anymore."
Back when TV dinners were haute, smoking was cool, Jack LaLanne all alone at the gym and Gloria Swanson the only vegetarian in town, the very idea of a Natural Look would have horrified the average woman, let alone a femme fatale. "You used to set your hair every night, and women never wore slacks to work, only dresses and gloves," recalls model agency founder Eileen Ford, 73, wincing at the memory. "We all wore yellow Max Factor foundation. They didn't even have good eyeliner back then."
With the dizzying array of beauty products now on the market, today's women are only too happy to haul out their advanced-formula cosmetics, wrinkle-fighting sun-blocks, Retin-A and alpha-hydroxy acids. In fact, there's hardly any problem that can't be fixed—for a price. When 56-year-old Ali MacGraw's skin needs toning, she simply smooths on a $30 green papaya enzyme mask. If Morgan Fairchild, 45, needs a lift while filming overseas, L.A. stylist Mauro Spina will express mail $70 worth of shampoo and botanical detangler to any locale. And when Barbra Streisand feels stressed out, she heads to the Japanese meditation garden at the $4,250-per-week Golden Door spa. Celebs have even found a remedy for bad hair days. "When women in their 40s have colored their hair a lot, it starts to get thin," says Beverly Hills stylist Joseph Kendall, whose Joseph-Martin salon caters to the likes of Teri Garr and Barbara Eden. For $400, he says, "we put in as many as eight little hair extensions where they need color and texture."
Of course, there comes a time when even the best hair and makeup job in the world is no longer enough. "You can make someone look 10 years younger with makeup if they have had good facials and plenty of rest," says Beverly Hills salon owner Valerie Sarnelle. "But you can't take the clock back farther than that without plastic surgery." Today's cheek implants and collagen injections are far more subtle than the artificial-looking face-lifts of yesteryear, says Sarnelle, which means that nowadays, "everyone has everything done."
And not all of them are reluctant to talk about it. "I just wanted to take away the uglies," says Angela Lansbury, 69, of her 1987 face-and neck-lift. "It's sad that a woman has to go to these lengths, but I know it made a great difference to me. And I don't blame women in our business who do it." Goldie Hawn, 49, couldn't agree more. "Of course I'd have a face-lift," she told PEOPLE in 1991. "Absolutely. It's keeping yourself afloat in this business." Even stars who have resisted the idea are learning never to say never. "I'm not going to look younger if I have everything surgically corrected," Cybill Shepherd, 45, admitted to Good Housekeeping this year. "But that still doesn't mean that I won't do it 10 years from now."
Stars know that beauty also comes from within—which is why so many of them are on low-fat, high-fiber, no-sugar diets. "There must be more salads sold now than in the whole history of the world," calculates veteran designer Nolan Miller, 59, who costumed everyone from Bette Davis and Jane Wyman in the 1950s to the seductive stars of Dynasty—Linda Evans and Joan Collins—in the '80s. "In the old days, everybody drank hard liquor. Now you go to a cocktail party, and everybody's got a little glass of white wine or mineral water."
So who said being beautiful is easy? Vegetarian Lindsay Wagner, 46, swears it has been 25 years since she has eaten meat. Diahann Carroll, 60, lives on a diet of leafy greens, fish, skinless chicken and salad. "Feed your body what it needs," she advises. "If you listen, it will tell you." What Morgan Fairchild hears from hers is this: "When I order pasta, I eat what's on top, but not the pasta. Or with a piece of cake, I eat the icing. And I never order sandwiches in public because I have to take them apart to get the part I want."
Still, no diet worth its low salt really counts unless it's paired with exercise. "The body is a machine," says Tina Turner, who boasts that she is as fit now as she was at 30. "You train it to do what you want it to do."
Jane Seymour, 44 and pregnant with twins, plays golf. Candice Bergen, 49, hikes fire trails in the Santa Monica Mountains with a personal trainer. Cybill Shepherd pumps iron and runs in the water, wearing a weight belt around her waist. Ali MacGraw is a serious student of yoga. "I want something I can do in an hour and a half," she says. "And the more I do yoga, the more I realize I can do it everywhere."
Jaclyn Smith, 47, does pliés while she brushes her teeth. "Her buttocks," says her trainer Mari Windsor, "are really tight." But the tight derriere award goes to Suzanne Somers, 48, who now peddles the. V-shaped ButtMaster (her companion to the ThighMaster) on TV. "The first thing to go is the thighs, and the next is the butt," she explains. "And mine was right there too, starting to hang down."
For celebrities who can't afford to slack off and thereby jeopardize the looks that get them hired, the ability to exercise anywhere is all-important. When Linda Evans, 52, vacationing last summer on a yacht in the Greek islands, encountered Oprah Winfrey, 41, did the two women discuss the scenery? No, says Evans proudly. "I showed her my treadmill, and she showed me hers."
Vanity? But of course. "You just don't go out of the house with your hair a mess," says Raquel Welch, who learned that lesson from her 85-year-old mother, Josephine, who—out of sheer stubborn pride—Refuses to carry, a cane. "Most women make a choice. Maybe they're not going to spend a lot of time on their hair and makeup. Well, then, don't go getting mad at somebody else because she chose it."
Point taken—and seconded by no less an authority on beauty than veteran fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, 65. "If you're not lazy and you have a little bit of discipline," he says, "I think anybody can hold onto the sweet bird of youth."—Susan Schindehette, from bureau reports