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Bo Derek: Actress

updated 05/08/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/08/2000 01:00AM

IN LITTLE MORE THAN 10 MINUTES IN THE MOVIE 10, she changed the style of American beauty. When Bo Derek, then 22, came loping out of the Pacific surf in the 1979 romantic comedy, men spilled their popcorn and women made hair appointments. Rippling with athletic health in a flesh-toned swimsuit, her sun-streaked blonde hair braided in cornrows, she was the essence of California dreamin'. In November of that year, 500,000 of her 10 posters flew out of stores, and beauticians across the country were washing out the Farrah Fawcett blow-dry and knotting Bo-like tresses. "It was like the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night," recalls Derek, now 43, of her instant fame. "Someone would spot me and start running down the street, and by the time they got to me it was a huge mob. I get recognized now, but the hysteria isn't there." Also gone is John Derek, her mentor, manager and husband, who died in 1998. He was 30 years her senior and her companion since 1973. She has weathered her loss gracefully and is now considering new movie and TV projects. "She was a 10 then and she's a 10 now," says actress and close pal Ursula Andress, 64, John Derek's second wife. (Bo was his fourth, after Linda Evans, 57, with whom she is also friends.) "She's very comfortable with herself," says sister Kerry Perez, 37, who is Bo's assistant and housemate on her ranch near Santa Barbara. "She's not looking for youth in a bottle." If she looks for it anywhere, it's in a box. "I scrub my face with baking soda every day to exfoliate it," says Derek. "It's the only thing I do regularly." Her only regret is having spent too much unprotected time in the sun. "My nose was always peeling," says the 5'4" Long Beach, Calif., native. "I'm paying for it now." An avid horseback rider, Derek admits that she's not in the shape iron-pumping younger stars achieve these days: "Personally, I think there's a little lack of femininity when it goes to such extremes." The worst thing about getting older, though, isn't the tone, it's the tendons. "My neck bothers me, my back bothers me, and it's just the beginning." The famous cornrows are long gone, and even the golden girl has her off days. "Bo has bad hair days," she says with a laugh. "And Bo wears hats."

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