Kevin Costner

updated 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/26/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The full force of Kevin Costner's particular magnetism hit one reporter on Oscar night this year. Costner was a palpable presence at the Governors Ball, the traditional party held after the awards—the only guy in the ballroom who had taken off his tux jacket. The reporter, feeling her adrenaline rushing, tried to maneuver into better gazing position, but a man in front of her was obstructing the view. Craning her neck, she suddenly realized she was staring over Mel Gibson's shoulder to get a better look at Costner. It was at that moment, she says, that she knew "what mouth-watering looks really are."

Now all of America knows. Costner, 33, had been a sex-symbol contender with 1987's The Untouchables and No Way Out, but this year's Bull Durham truly established him as an heir to Gary Cooper and Clark Gable. Bull was supposed to be about baseball (Costner played a veteran end-of-the-line catcher). But the movie's best pitch was the love scene between Costner and Susan Sarandon in which, after a candle-lit romp in the tub, he paints her toenails siren red. Costner's line "I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last for three days" became the most repeated movie quote of the year.

His status as a leading man should last considerably longer than a kiss. His qualifications: His gray-blue eyes are soft and disarming, even when he's wearing contacts, and his smile is positively heart-stopping, even with those slightly crooked teeth. He drives a Bronco, hates country clubs and builds his own canoes. He wears no jewelry, except his wedding ring. He loves his family. (He and Cindy Silva, his wife of a decade, have three children.) His lanky 6'1" runner's build is especially appreciated by those who can't stomach the steroid Stallone look. Appealing to women, admired by men and praised by critics, Costner has pulled off the triple play of the year.

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