updated 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 05/09/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
After growing up in the svelte suburbs north of New York City and attending Ohio University, Lauer was a TV reporter and talk show host in half a dozen eastern cities before landing his Today job just five months ago. He is baffled by his sudden status as, in the words of The New York Times, an "on-air heartthrob." "I get letters from women, and they say, 'I love your Roman nose,' " he says. "If I weren't on TV and I walked past that same woman, she'd go, 'Did you see the beak on that guy?' " The divorced Lauer has been dating journalism-school grad Kristen Gesswein, 25, for the past four years. Like him, she is a 6-foot-tall brunette; unlike him, she wears neither foundation nor powder. "When I first started doing it, I was kind of uneasy," says Lauer of his on-air makeup. "It was like wearing a sweater that you didn't like." Sans makeup, he takes thrice weekly step classes at the NBC gym. Appraises fellow stepper Gumbel: "Mart's a klutz, but no more so than any other guy there, including me."