Sexiest Pop Sensation

updated 12/02/2002 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/02/2002 01:00AM

John Corbett
SEXIEST NICE GUY

With the runaway success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, John Corbett has cemented his reputation as the perfect boyfriend. For two seasons he played the sensitive Aidan to Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie on Sex and the City. Now, as Wedding's infinitely patient fiancé, he's the object of many a big fat crush. "Women will elbow me in the throat to get to him when we appear together," says the film's driving force, Nia Vardalos. "They're like, 'Move it!' " Sarah Jessica Parker can see why. "He's one of the most dear, loving people," she says. "He walks around singing and engaging everyone." Corbett, 41, hasn't changed much since his boyhood in West Virginia, where he was raised as an only child. "I still fit into my prom suit." he says. "It's a blue three-piece, and it's a little tight, but if I suck it in I can still get into it." After high school he moved to California, where he worked in a steel factory for six years and then as a hairdresser before turning to acting. "I really don't do the Hollywood thing well," he says. "I don't even have a housekeeper." What he does have, he admits, is "a little vampire blood. I come to life when the sun goes down. I'll hear some music, have some beers and sleep as late as I like." Though the 6'5" actor (who'll next appear as a compulsive gambler in the spring FX series Lucky) has been seen squiring actress Bo Derek, he remains a free agent—and excellent boyfriend material. "I helped build my mom's house," he says. "I am really good with my hands."

Enrique Iglesias
SEXIEST POP STAR

Setting hearts afire in sold-out venues around the globe, Madrid-born rocker Enrique Iglesias, 27, has seen some brazen come-ons: panties offered up to be autographed, women ripping off their shirts in the crowd ("The band goes crazy when that happens," he says). But want to know what really turns him on? "I always look at a woman's feet," the 6'2" bachelor admits. "I like clean, nice feet. My mother always said that feet tell a lot about a person." So much for the image of a gyrating playboy whose erotic video exploits with "good friend" tennis pro Anna Kournikova made MTV viewers blush. Underneath his signature knit cap, the son of Latin crooner Julio Iglesias is actually a guy who hates to shop, loves Jackass the Movie and listens to John Mayer's Room for Squares. "I'm no walking Romeo," he demurs. The triple-platinum recording artist prefers to channel his poetic side into songs, like his upbeat "Don't Turn Off the Lights" and the aching ballad "Hero." "Enrique writes from his heart," says boyhood friend Andres Restrepo. "His lyrics tell exactly what he's been going through." Singer Paulina Rubio, his opening act for this year's concert tour, admires the man she has observed in action. "When Enrique takes the stage," she says, "there's lots of energy—like a great lightning storm."

Tom Cruise
SEXIEST DAD

Tireless perfectionist Tom Cruise likes to throw himself into his roles. He spent six months in Japan mastering sword fighting for his latest project, The Last Samurai. But when he walks in his front door to greet his two biggest fans, Isabella, 9, and Connor, 7, the gung ho actor works even harder. "Tom has more energy than six people combined," says Samurai producer Marshall Herskovitz, "And he devotes that to his children. His face lights up when he sees them." Sharing custody with ex-wife Nicole Kidman, Cruise, 40, is "amazingly hands-on," says longtime producing partner Paula Wagner. "He even bakes cookies with them." And when Connor has a gymnastics event, count on Dad to be there cheering him on. "Tom doesn't just ask him how it went at dinner," says Cruise's cousin, actor William Mapother. "He works with him in the backyard on his flips and jumps." The 5'9" star is equally supportive of Isabella, a budding artist, and decorates his office with her latest drawings. "The kids are central," says Samurai director Ed Zwick. "He is utterly focused, except when they call. Then he's just gone like a rocket."

Donald Rumsfeld
SEXIEST CABINET MEMBER

CNN called him a "virtual rock star." FOX dubbed him a beltway "babe magnet." And The Wall Street Journal hailed "the new hunk of home-front airtime." No, it's not the next Brad Pitt. The guy causing the commotion is 70-year old grandfather of five, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "Rumstud," as President Bush refers to his frontman in the war on terror, with his worn brown shoes and rumpled gray suits, has put a new spin on Henry Kissinger's maxim "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac." With blunt talk and wry humor, Mr. Secretary has become the Pentagon's very own must-see TV. "More than any other man in Washington," says Barbara Starr, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, "Don Rumsfeld exercises absolute raw, ruthless power and enjoys it." On the flip side, she adds, Rummy can be "a big flirty pussycat." Happily married to his high school sweetheart, Joyce, 70, the 5'10" bespectacled father of three has proven his mettle under pressure. On 9/ 11, while most senior officers were running for cover, Rumsfeld was outside the Pentagon carrying stretchers until security forced him back inside. The ex-Navy pilot is "an old-fashioned, ail-American he-man, plain and simple," says Jennifer Harper, media columnist for The Washington Times. "He's got that steady gaze, that strong jaw—a man you could trust if all hell were breaking loose. That's pretty sexy stuff."

John Leguizamo
SEXIEST FUNNYMAN

He used to use comedy to pick up women. "You tease them, make them laugh, then ask them to the movies," he says. But these days John Leguizamo, 42, prefers cracking up his kids. "He sings silly songs, makes up funny words," says Justine Maurer, 34, his partner of six years and the mother of 3-year-old daughter Allegra and son Ryder, who turns 2 this month. "He's basically my 4-year-old." The 5'8" Colombian-born actor, who played Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge and just finished directing next year's boxing drama Infamous, can still get the girls, though. After his one-man shows (last winter his Sexaholix...A Love Story played on Broadway after a 23-city tour), "I'm always getting hotel keys," he says. Confirms pal Wesley Snipes: "Women lose their balance around him. They fall in ditches, bump into each other." None of it bothers Maurer, who shares a Manhattan apartment with him. "I'm glad everyone sees what I see in John," she says, Leguizamo says that the two plan to marry soon. "We don't have date yet," he admits. "But I do have a deadline."

George Clooney
SEXIEST DIRECTOR

How irresistible is George Clooney? Let's put it this way. For his directorial debut next month, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a low-budget film about Gong Show creator Chuck Barris, Clooney had no trouble reeling in Julia Roberts. Nor did he have to twist Drew Barrymore's arm. "George Clooney rules my universe," she says. "He is my grand leader." Friends have long suspected that Clooney, 41, would be exceptional behind the camera. "He's smart and he has enormous energy," says CSI's Marg Helgenberger, who knows the 5'11" Clooney from his ER days. "He's incredibly supportive of actors. And the crews love him." Director Mimi Leder, who directed Clooney in The Peacemaker, seconds that opinion. "As a director you have to be a mother, father, psychiatrist," she says. "You need to be a people person, and he is." Although he's currently starring in Solaris, Clooney claims he won't always be ready for his close-up. "There will be a period of time in the not too distant future when people will be sick of seeing you," he told The Times Magazine in London. "I'm sick of me already." We'll take him any way we can get him.

Mehmet Oz
SEXIEST DOCTOR

What's not to love about a guy who's committed to healing, heart and soul? "There's more to treating my patients than fixing their hearts," says cardiothoracic surgeon Mehmet Oz, 42. "That's only the first step in making them whole again." Raised in Delaware by Turkish parents, the 6'1" director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Manhattan's Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center practices the lifestyle he prescribes for the 400 patients on whom he operates each year: yoga, walking, red wine, no fast food, and "regular sex, lasting about half an hour, four times a week." His camera-ready looks have helped make him a fixture on talk shows like Oprah and won him a modeling gig for Barneys New York. But his wife, Lisa, 39, mother of his four children, likes him best in his work clothes. "He's very sexy in scrubs," she says. "I love his hairy chest!"

Alejandro Sanz
SEXIEST LATIN SINGER

Spanish superstar Alejandro Sanz, 33, wasn't well-known in the U.S. until last November's release of his seventh album, MTV Unplugged. Right on cue, women became unglued over the seven-time Latin Grammy winner and what the Miami Herald calls his "extravagantly imaginative love letters"—intimate songs delivered with flamenco flair. "Women view him as a young poet," says Manolo Diaz, chairman of the Latin Recording Academy. "No one can compete with him." Certainly not on his home turf—art-filled retreats in Madrid and Miami, where the 5'9" singer lives up to his reputation. Four years after he and Mexican model Jaydy Michel, 24, were married on a Balinese cliff, "we write each other little cards and notes, even when we're in the same house," says the father of 16-month-old Manuela. "We keep romance alive with small gestures."

James Blake
SEXEST ATHLETE

James Blake's spectacular performance at the U.S. Open last year made for a couple of memorable photo ops. First came the pictures of the unseeded tennis player in action against top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt, published in sports pages across the country. Then came the pictures of a dehydrated Blake throwing up on court, circulated via e-mail by his pals. "It is good to have friends like that," says the 22-year-old. "I appreciate them keeping me down-to-earth!" Since his debut, the 6'1" Blake, who left Harvard in 1999 after two years to turn pro, has soared from 219th to 28th in the rankings—and signed with a modeling agency. "Everybody makes fun of him for that," says brother Thomas, 25, who's also on the pro tour and lives with James in Tampa. "People are calling him GQ." All the hubbub aside, Blake remains close to dad Thomas, 55, a salesman, and mom Betty, 67, a tennis-club administrator. He's currently without a girlfriend, which Harvard pal Camila McLean, 23, attributes to shyness. "He never wants to be the "Hel-LO, I'm James Blake' kind of guy," she says. "But he needs to figure out how to work that into his mojo!"

Rick Yune
SEXIEST VILLAIN

The release of the latest Bond movie, Die Another Day, can only mean one thing: Another Bond nemesis is on the loose. Played by Rick Yune, the translucent-skinned Zao "is going to be one of the most memorable," says no less an expert than the reigning 007, Pierce Brosnan. "He's got a very strong cinematic presence." The role wasn't easy, says Yune, 31. "There were bangs and bruises, and I'm still getting over them." The 6'1" actor, who was born in Korea but grew up in Washington, D.C., is a tae kwon do black belt and a former Golden Gloves boxer. He's also one of the few graduates of the prestigious Wharton business school to model for Versace and Ralph Lauren. "I had to take a year off from school to pay bills," he says. After a brief stint on Wall Street, he auditioned for and won a part in 1999's Snow Falling on Cedars. Now living in L.A., Yune says he tries "not to take myself too seriously. My friends call me immature!" That's not all they call him. "Rick is one of the tardiest people on the planet," says former girlfriend Lisa Ling of The View, still a close pal. "He'll say, 'I'll be there at 3,' and we'll go, 'Rick Yune Time or our time?' If it's RYT, we expect him there at 4 at the earliest."

Kenny Chesney
SEXIEST COUNTRY SINGER

Welcome to Kenny Chesney country, where the order of the day is No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. It's also the title of the Tennessee-bred singer's latest CD, reflecting his fondness for the laid-back Caribbean. "The islands are the best way for me to exhale," says Chesney, 34, who spent a restorative vacation there earlier this fall after a 10-month national tour. He keeps his 5'6" form beach-worthy with daily workouts, even while on the road. "To put on the kind of show I want to put on, really intense for a long time, I have to be in shape," he says. Singer pal Deana Carter, for one, is wild about "his sexy arms and nice tush." Single since a broken engagement to health care administrator Mandy Weals three years ago, Chesney is looking forward to meeting Ms. Right. "She has to be outgoing," he says. "And she has to love the beach."

Anderson Cooper
SEXIEST NEWSMAN

Among numerous Web sites devoted to Anderson Cooper, CNN's quirky roving anchor and former host of ABC's The Mole, the best known is Yahoo's "Gunmetal Grey," honoring his prematurely silver hair. There, Anderfans, as devotees call themselves, gush about "Super Cooper." The attention is befuddling to the 5' 10", 35-year-old journalist who wishes he weren't so "pale, skinny and gray." But Cooper's charm lies in his rascally irreverence; he noted, for instance, that Anna Nicole Smith "could fill out a blouse, but not a half hour of TV." Says Alison Stewart, Cooper's cohost during a stint at ABC's World News Now: "The sexiest thing about him is the look in his eye when he's about to say something really devilish." The son of heiress Gloria Vanderbilt lost his father, writer Wyatt Cooper, to a series of heart attacks in 1978, and his older brother Carter to a suicide plunge from their mother's penthouse 10 years later. Says Vanderbilt: "Anderson is wonderful at talking to people who have been through tragedies, because he understands."

Hugh Grant
SEXIEST IMPORT

Despite his reign as the king of romantic comedy, Hugh Grant isn't above playing court jester. "Give me any three disparate objects and I can juggle them," he says. The 5'11½" London native also has been juggling a critically hailed film career, a "middle-aged" passion for golf and a not-very-private personal life. "Girls like a juggler," he notes. Whether he's playing an unabashed cad in this year's About a Boy or a self-involved millionaire in Two Weeks Notice (out this month), women fall for his act. "It is an appeal born out of sophistication, wit, compassion and a little bit of normalcy," says Two Weeks director Marc Lawrence. "He is the dream version of the guy next door." Just ask former love Elizabeth Hurley (now his London neighbor), who named Grant, 42, godfather of her son. "He didn't make fun of me when I was pregnant and fat," she says. "He's the best friend a girl can have." Surprisingly, Grant seems willing to be more than that to someone someday. "I have no objection to the idea of getting married," he says.

Scott Morrison
SEXIEST BUSINESSMAN

While playing golf for the University of Washington some 10 years back, Scott Morrison vowed to design clothes that would make the sport "a bit hipper." Instead he took a job with a jeans company and in 1999 launched Paper Denim & Cloth, a line of hand-finished jeans that sell for as much as $185 a pair. "I like denim because it's low maintenance and versatile," says Morrison, 30, whose following includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Heath Ledger. But ask the 6'4" bachelor for a style tip, and he demurs: "I'm a very typical guy. I just say, 'You look great in anything!' " The youthful Morrison tools around his New York City showroom on a skateboard and had his 30th-birthday party catered by McDonald's last July. Says girlfriend Tarajia Morrell, 22: "Scott even slouches like a little kid, which is cute."

Kirk Franklin
SEXIEST GOSPEL SINGER

To spread the word of the Lord, Kirk Franklin works overtime. His "Hopeville" show, now on tour nationally, relies on his gifts as a singer, dancer and speaker to pack in as many as 10,000 fans each night. "I try to share my mistakes with people so they can learn," says Franklin, 32. Abandoned by his parents at 4, he was raised in Fort Worth by an elderly aunt. The two gathered recyclable cans and papers to pay for Franklin's music lessons, and by age 11, he led the choir at his aunt's church. But he admits he strayed, fathering his first child at 17: "I was sexually active too young. I ran with the wrong crowds." Today, Franklin, who lives in Arlington, Texas, with wife Tammy, 33, and their four children (ages 14 to 2), often brings his brood on tour. "People tell me, 'I wish my child's father was more like that' or 'I wish my husband talked about me the way you talk about your wife,' " he says. The 5'5" entertainer knows how to keep romance alive. He once sent Tammy a pair of his dirty socks from the road with a note reading, "This is how I feel without you." She told him, "I don't want your dirty socks, I want you."

Harry Connick Jr.
SEXIEST CROSSOVER

With a recurring role on Will & Grace as Debra Messing's new bean, jazz piano master Harry Connick Jr. can acid "sitcom sweetie" to his repertoire of talents. "I'm having a blast," says the three-time Grammy winner, who also has 12 films to his credit. So is Messing, who calls Connick, 35, "a devastatingly handsome goofball—an incredibly kind, generous, playful southern gentleman.' " These days the 6'2" New Orleans native lives in New York City but still enjoys whipping up down-home specialties like gumbo and red beans. To work it off, he boxes regularly and plays with his three young daughters and wife Jill Goodacre, 38. "The cool thing about my job," says Connick, "is that when I'm home, I'm really home all day. I'm with my family and I love that." And how does he express his joy? One way is by singing. Says Goodacre: "He does a killer Judy Garland imitation."

Rocco DiSpirito
SEXIEST CHEF

Don't show up at Rocco DiSpirito's apartment expecting a meal. The owner of the three-star Manhattan restaurant Union Pacific rarely cooks at home, although he does make sure his fridge is always stocked with two staples. "I always have caviar," he says. "And I always have champagne." A better culinary bet is his Zenlike restaurant, where he dazzles diners by combining Asian flavors and French technique. "I'll see an herb, and ideas start to come to my head," says the three-time James Beard Foundation best chef award nominee. Though the 6'1" DiSpirito graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at 19, he traces his fondness for food to his Italian childhood in Queens, where he would help his immigrant mother make meatballs for school fund-raisers. Now, thanks to appearances on Live with Regis and Kelly and the Food Network's Melting Pot, the divorced DiSpirito, 36, is marinating in newfound acclaim. "All a woman wants is a man to cook her a good meal," says Live's Kelly Ripa. "If he happens to look like Rocco, that's a bonus."

Fabien Cousteau
SEXIEST EXPLORER

At 7, Fabien Cousteau began going on dives with his famous grandfather, undersea pioneer Jacques. "Until I was in my teens, I always felt if people went on vacation, they went on expeditions," says Cousteau. Growing up in the U.S. and France, the 6-ft. Boston University graduate is now a correspondent for MSNBC's National Geographic Explorer. "I hope to continue where my grandfather left off," says Cousteau, whose Geographic documentary "Attacks of the Mystery Shark" aired in August. After moving 22 times in his 35 years, he now shares a Manhattan apartment with his shepherd-pit-bull mix Heidi and dates a woman he'll only describe as "a very special person." Cousteau is a rare catch himself. Says college pal Christina Romano, 32: "He seems a lot older than his years. Sometimes I want to call him O Wise One."

Jesse James
SEXIEST (AUTO) BODY BUILDER

Now here's a guy to get your motor running. As host of the Discovery Channel's Monster Garage, Jesse James amazes viewers by transforming cars into lawn mowers and garbage trucks. But it's his baby blues sending women into overdrive. "I'm covered in tattoos, I'm 6'3", my clothes are soaked in oil, and they notice my eyes," says James, 33. Raised in Long Beach, Calif., where he still lives, James "was in a lot of trouble as a kid," lie admits. But unlike his 19th-century outlaw relative, this Jesse tarried his life around after stints in juvenile facilities for stealing cars. At 23, he started his own custom-motorcycle business, West Coast Choppers, and has since built bikes for Keanu Reeves and Shaquille O'Neal. But around Long Beach, "I'm still the weirdo with the motorcycle shop on the corner," says James, who has two children from a first marriage and is raising a stepson with new wife Janine, 34. "At the grocery store, they look at me like I'm going to rob the place!" The only thing James has stolen lately, says Janine, is her heart. "He's giving, nurturing and real old-fashioned," she says. "He just makes me melt."

Greg Vaughan
SEXIEST SOAP STAR

Ask Greg Vaughan and he'll tell you he's a conversationalist. Ask his girlfriend Danielle Robb, 27, and she'll tell you something different. He can be "long-winded," she says with a laugh. "He doesn't get to the point." The mind may wander during one of his stories, but eyes stay riveted on the 6-ft. Dallas native, better known as blue-collar good guy Diego Guittierez on CBS's The Young and the Restless. The son of Barbara, a real estate agent, and Bruce, a carpenter, Vaughan, 29, modeled in Europe before settling in L.A. in 1994. Hikes with his lab Daisy (plus a regimen of sports and gym time) effectively balance frequent trips to "Dairy Queen, In-N-Out Burger and Jack in the Box," he says. His career does seem secure: "They keep making me take my shirt off." Confirms Heather Tom, Vaughan's Y&R love interest: "Sometimes I go, 'Wow, this is how I make my living!' "

Kiefer Sutherland
SEXIEST TV STAR

Oh, to spend 24 hours with Kiefer Sutherland. The more than 14 million viewers who've made that commitment have nothing on actress Leslie Hope, who spent seven months playing his doomed wife. on FOX's groundbreaking spy hit. While fans may turn to Jell-O from his penetrating gaze and quick reflexes, she attests that he also "is gracious and generous, has the patience of a saint, is a good listener—and his butt looks awesome in his Wrangles!" Before his TV triumph, the 5' 10" Sutherland spent time roping calves on a 2000-acre ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif. "When I got the show I sold the farm and came back to Los Angeles," he says. When not pulling an all-nighter to save the world on 24's second season, the 35-year-old son of actor Donald Sutherland and actress Shirley Douglas mellows out by playing the guitar (he has 37) and cooking ("I'm not a very complicated chef, but 1 find it incredibly relaxing"). After two marriages, he relishes time with his 15-year-old daughter Sarah Jude. "She's a pretty cool musician, and we play chess a lot too," he says. "If I can hang out with her and her friends, then I'm lucky life's kind of moving on."

Simon Cowell
SEXIEST KNOW-IT-ALL

After hearing his harsh words on American Idol last summer, would you want to date Simon Cowell? Plenty of women do. Although he reduces Mariah Carey wannabes to tears, legions of fans adore his tight black T-shirts and buff biceps. "Women are just desperate to get near him," says model pal Terri Seymour, 28. As it turns out, Mr. Nasty can also be Mr. Softy. Cowell, 43, who will be back for AI 2 early next year, does volunteer work at an animal shelter near his London house, relaxes by taking hot baths and keeps a lunch date with Mum every Sunday. And, he insists, "I think I'm a very good boyfriend. I'm a good kisser and I like to be spontaneous." While Cowell, who runs a record label for music giant BMG, may not send roses ("Obvious things like flowers and chocolates, I find fake," he says), he has been known to spoil girlfriends with surprises like a new Mercedes-Benz. But more important, "if you're feeling down, he will always try to cheer you up," says pal Nichola Martin, 50, a former record producer. One of two children raised near London by a dancer mother and a music executive father (who died in 1999), the 5'9" impresario may be tough to pin down. "I'm a great chaser, but then I sort of get bored," he says. "To me, the not knowing is what's fun and exciting."

Mel Gibson
SEXIEST CLASSIC

While filming Signs outside Philadelphia last year, notorious prankster Mel Gibson enjoyed taunting director M. Night Shyamalan. To spice up their after-work pool games, the actor dubbed his cue the Night Stalker (a play on M. Night's name). "It did nothing to help him win," recalls Shyamalan. "But he actually carved the name into the damn stick." Fortunately, when Signs was released last summer, the original blue-eyed Aussie heartthrob, 46, proved equally tenacious at the box office. As the crop-circle thriller raked in $225-million-plus, Gibson proved that the old Mel magic was still potent. Actress Cherry Jones, who plays the film's Officer Paski, attests to the enduring charms of: the long-married father of seven. "I can hardly go to a grocery store now without women coming up to me asking, 'What's Mel like?' " she says. The verdict? "Fun and gorgeous" with "strong, real-guy's arms." But the 5'10" star's greatest appeal, Jones adds, is that "he's great to hang with. He makes everyone feel comfortable and included."

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