Male Order

updated 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/06/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

AS GUYS GO, MICHAEL AND BOBBY, JOSEPH and Omar aren't perfect—at least not in a '90s sort of way. They can be a little intimidating, they don't talk about their emotions, and—this is the real downer—they are not anatomically correct. Still, Barbara LesStrang thinks that they could be the answer for a woman on her own, especially if she drives a lot. Plus, at $99 each ($149 with the optional remote-control alarm), the more-or-less lifelike dummies, whose job is to scare away would-be carjackers, are certainly cheaper than a bodyguard.

LesStrang, 58, a book publisher in Summerland, Calif., came up with the idea for her strong, silent types—called Safe-T-Men—last March, after a carjacking in nearby Santa Barbara. "It's a very frightening thing for a woman," says LesStrang. "Filling your car with a bunch of hunks seemed like the obvious thing to do." But where to find such men?

LesStrang shared her idea with Chia Lee Yeh, 36, an artist friend. Yeh made a man's face out of molded plastic, painted the features and made a body from poly-filled cotton. "I was surprised how easy it was," says LesStrang. "It's really not that hard to do, to make a man."

But it took lime to create a Safe-T-Man who was Mr. Right. "Originally we thought of doing half a guy," says LesStrang. "But we found that people like the look of a real guy that they can dress up." Eventually, using LesStrang's bodybuilding son, Christian, 23, as a model, they came up with the final version. "He's long-waisted and beefy in the chest," says LesStrang. "He doesn't look like a gang member or anything disreputable—just a regular guy."

There are several versions of this regular guy. Customers—who have bought more than 10,000 Safe-T-Men—can order a young guy or a more mature, over-35 model. There's a Caucasian Safe-T-Man and an African-American, both of whom arc shipped wearing just a long T-shirt. "We have a lot of people ordering two," says LesStrang, "but so far nobody has ordered two light-skinned or two dark-skinned. They mix and match."

But can Safe-T-Man actually deter carjackers? Mark Stowell, an official at the National Insurance Crime Bureau, is cautious. "More than anything else," he says, "people need to remember to drive with their windows up and their doors locked."

Even LesStrang, who stands by her men when she's not sitting by them, is modest in her claims. "This just gives you a little advantage," she says, "so that when you're alone, no-body will know it."

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