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Our Readers Sound Off!

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It was such fun we’ve done it again. The editors asked a nationwide sample of PEOPLE readers to cry fave and foul about entertainers and pols—and to bare their feelings about American life. This year’s cross section has a median age of 31.1, is 58 percent female and was, as usual, outspoken. The results begin with a surprising triple-crown winner: Alan Alda.

What has this man got? PEOPLE readers have voted M*A*S*H’s Hawkeye their favorite male TV star for the third year in a row, an unprecedented feat in this famously fickle medium. But wait—Alda is also the celeb you would most like to ask home to dinner. He is followed, in the bread-breaking department, by Ronald Reagan, who needs no introduction, and Johnny Carson, who would undoubtedly only stay an hour. Pope John Paul II winds up in a tie for eighth along with the highest-ranked women, who include Jackie Onassis and Barbara Walters.

As if two awards aren’t enough, the survey also picks Alda, 45, as the next showbiz professional who should enter politics—although he’s an active feminist and well to the left of the reigning neoconservatism. Second place is a dead heat between Ed Asner, Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, but a full 29 percent declare that no more entertainers should run for office.

Getting back to Alda, the men polled are as crazy about him as women, and kids like him almost as much as grandparents. So what is it? If one had to guess, it’s a combination of talent, just imperfect enough (and hence non-threatening) good looks and provocative underexposure, even after nine seasons in prime time. Most of all, Alda seems to give the lie to the axiom Leo Durocher used to grind: Nice guys do finish first.

A salute to beauty…And some beastly disrespect for the Prince

Who is the best-looking woman in America?

Forget the hoary joke that asks, “What goes 10, 9, 8, 7, 6…?” and answers, “An aging Bo Derek.” Even at 24, put her in a baggy old sweatsuit, muss up her hair—and you readers still go for Bo, the best looker for the second year in a row. A close second is Jaclyn Smith, who won in 1979, and in hot pursuit of both is Dallas’ Victoria Principal, who didn’t figure at all before. Men—who vote blond year after year—put Derek over the top. Women in the sample prefer Jaclyn, Elizabeth Taylor and Victoria to Bo. The over-55ers are still loyal to Liz, and a large contingent of Nancy Reagan admirers among them have made the First Lady their second choice. And romance is not dead: Eight percent of the men this year name their own wives—about twice as many as cast votes for Cheryl Tiegs.

Who is the best-looking man in America?

Tabbed most gorgeous for the third straight year, Robert Redford ages like a vintage port—at 43 he wins by an even higher margin than last year. Burt Reynolds is always a bridesmaid—he’s No. 2 for the third time (except with 12-to-17s, with whom he’s tops). Hang tough, Burt, it could be worse. Paul Newman, previously No. 3, is bumped into fifth. Tying for third are Clint Eastwood and hunky newcomer Tom Selleck. Tom Who? The 6’4″ Selleck, a veteran of 50 commercials who made his movie debut in 1970’s Myra Brecken-ridge, spent the rest of the decade trapped in dreadful made-for-TV flicks; now he’s finally the star of a creeping hit series, Magnum P.I. The other fresh face in the Top 15 is Billy Dee Williams. In the sic transit department, Bruce Jenner plummets into oblivion after being named sexiest jock last year, and there is not one single vote for Warren Beatty.

Would you like to marry Prince Charles?

Get out, Lady Di, while you can, advise 88 percent of the women polled—or at least they say they wouldn’t do it. For half (admittedly, PEOPLE canvassed only Americans), the high-profile royal lifestyle just seems too confining. “Hate those cold castles,” carps one. (Doesn’t anyone read Cinderella anymore?) Another can’t handle “the idea of calling my husband ‘Your Highness.’ ” (Actually, the correct salutation is “Sir.”) Though some discreetly hint that the hangup might be the difference in backgrounds (“I prefer someone from my own country”), other women—stop reading right here, Sir—got very personal. “Spoiled,” “stuffy” and “goony-looking,” they sniff. “A nerd.” “He has the personality of a bowl of cold oatmeal.” A solid 15 percent don’t like his looks.

“Our children would look like horses,” reckons a would-be geneticist. Other neigh-sayers are confused over the real Charles—one woman calls him “a stuffed shirt” while another finds him “a little kinky.” Nine percent—you can come back now, Sir—think Lady Di said yes to the right guy. One yea-sayer, referring to the glut of Lady Di paraphernalia on the British market, says, “I would do it so I’d have a T-shirt with my picture on it.” A more serious hopeful sighs, “I’d never have to scrub floors again.” Hasn’t anyone got a kind word for Charles himself? “He’s fun, open-minded, adventurous and open to new things.” There.

Would you like to be Prince Charles?

The American Revolution ended 197 years ago, but American men still have no truck with royalty. A whopping 77 percent say they would not want to be Prince Charles, even though the 32-year-old future king does have power, money, charm and craggy good looks, not to mention a buxom blond fiancée with bluish blood in her veins and a roguish look in her eye. Most men say they couldn’t hack life in a fishbowl and prefer to fall off their horses in privacy. “I can ride better,” brags one. Another self-satisfied reader preens: “I’m the Prince Charming of my house.” There appears to be some disagreement about what the Prince does all day. “He has no function in life,” says one man. “His job is a grind, too much commitment,” contends another. Men are surprisingly ungenerous toward the Prince, even catty. “He’s arrogant, hides behind his title and is never penalized for his mistakes,” is the way one puts it. “A drip,” “looks like a jerk” and “uppity,” articulate others. The 19 percent who wouldn’t mind being Prince Charles would do it for the dough, mainly. But one royal pretender justifies his fantasy on grounds one hopes are outdated: “He’s got all the ladies.”

Who is your favorite TV actress?

She’s Victoria Principal, 31, Dallas’ beleaguered Pamela—but by a mere tad. Ranking just .04 behind is her troubled Ewing sister-in-law Linda Gray, who’s the first choice of women readers. In third place is (who, moi?) the decidedly flirtatious Miss Piggy. That’s down from No. 2 a year ago, but her new flick, due this summer, just might pull the bacon out of the fire. Men, unsurprisingly, letch for cheesecake, propelling Catherine (Dukes of Hazzard) Bach, Valerie (One Day at a Bertinelli and Loni (WKRP)) Anderson into the top seven, but fourth place (overall) goes to a no-nonsense actress, Isabel (The Jeffersons) Sanford.

Who is your favorite TV actor?

For the third straight year (as indicated) it’s Alan Alda, but the surprise is a televeteran who’s taken for Granted no more. Not having made even dishonorable mention last year, Ed Asner, 51, has barreled into second place; men rate him a shade higher than women, but his biggest boost comes from those wise heads over 55, who prefer him even to Alda. Little House’s Michael Landon always also-runs somewhere, and this year it’s into third place. He’s trailed by Johnny Carson and Tom (Magnum P.I.) Selleck. Moving up four notches to sixth is Larry Hagman.

What is the most boring show on the tube?

Paradoxically, it’s top-rated Dallas, which proves that our readers have a mind of their own. Not that they say they don’t watch it, so CBS shouldn’t dunk the series into the swimming pool yet. The second most soporific is Three’s Company, up a rung since last year and possibly boring its way into extinction. Happy Days, voted most numbing last year, is only No. 3 today; if this reversal continues, Henry Winkler, 35, will have to cut his Brylcreem with Grecian Formula 16.

Who is TV’s most boring woman?

Would you believe Suzanne Somers? True, she’s been written out of Three’s Company, but lack of exposure’s not the problem—remember Playboy? All of which must come as bad news to CBS, which has a multi-year deal with Suzanne, 33, that kicks off with a series due in early ’82. But ABC hasn’t unloaded all its snooze-worthy stars. After winning in the most-boring category last year, Barbara Walters can still claim second place, thanks mostly to the limited attention span of the 12-to-17 set. They are even more tired of her than of Somers.

Who is TV’s most boring man?

Howard Cosell and Chuck Barris took the last train to Yawnsville the two previous polls; this year you’ve had it with Carroll O’Connor, 56, after 10 seasons on the air with All in the Family and now Archie Bunker’s Place. It also sounds like time to say goodbye Mr. CHiPs; Erik Estrada is the second dullest (those old enough to have school-age kids are very firm about this). A close third is Robin Williams, whose nano-nanos leave you shut-eyed rather than Popeyed (the above group is extremely firm about this). Which is not to say that PEOPLE families are as hardheaded as the Nielsens and the networks. Our survey still shows a relative fondness for Dick Van Patten even after ABC decided that Eight was enough.

Rating First Ladies…Berating pols in general

Who’s your favorite living First Lady?

It’s Betty Ford—divorcée, mother of four, recovered alcoholic, vulnerable but unembarrassed, coping, open. At 63, she is the choice particularly of 18-to-34s, the Me Generation. A close second is the self-contained Jackie Kennedy Onassis, blessed with everything but peace and a husband. JFK’s widow is the favorite of the 35-to-44 group who remember Camelot poignantly; she also rates No. 1 among male readers. Rosalynn Carter (beloved by 45-to-54s) and Nancy Reagan (an inexplicable hit with teens) are tied for third. The senior citizens still remember favorably the solid, steadfast helpmate Bess Truman. Tied for last—and probably not enjoying each other’s company a bit—are Lady Bird Johnson and Pat Nixon.

Is Nancy Reagan too fancy?

Balderdash, say two-thirds of the PEOPLE sample. Despite an Inaugural wardrobe estimated at $25,000 and all those decorators and hairdressers dancing attendance, the canvass admires the First Lady just the way she is. And the under-24s are right in there with the rest, apparently appreciating these finer things in life, at least from afar.

What’s your current feeling about Joan Kennedy?

“She’s nuts to have stayed with Teddy as long as she did,” harrumphs one (male) reader, but that is about as strong as the condemnations get. Joan, 44, who left her husband in 1978 to conquer her drinking problem and to live alone as a music student in Boston, is seen mostly as “long-suffering,” even “admirable.” The prevailing view is overwhelmingly positive—the readers tend to be sympathetic and nonjudgmental. “A nice girl,” concludes one, “who has a difficult guy for a husband.”

It’s bedtime for Bunker, but what about J.R. and Rather?

With Walter Cronkite gone, are you watching The CBS Evening News more, less or about the same?

Old habits die hard; about eight out of 10 say they watch top-rated CBS News as frequently as before Cronkite folded his tent. Three percent tune in even more, but 12 percent—mainly the 12-to-17s—have switched away. What does that say about the more youthful image of the 49-year-old Rather?

Which anchorman do you prefer today?

Two years ago Cronkite proved so overwhelmingly popular that in 1980 we didn’t even bother to ask. But now the question gains fresh meaning. The answer? CBS’ Dan Rather is the favorite, by an almost 2-to-1 margin. But ABC’s Frank Reynolds ranks second (with 26 percent), ahead of NBC’s John Chancellor (23 percent), and there are interesting ripples. Among the 12-to-24 crowd, the ground swell is toward the silver-haired Reynolds, 57. Could this mean that young folks are turning to him for the same tribal-elder reassurance their parents used to get from Walter?

Which political figure do you trust the most?

The honeymoon continues. Ronald Reagan, 70, is the choice of 36 percent of the survey as America’s most trusted pol. But not all that popularity is due to his good humor and amazing grace under fire. In both of the last two polls, predecessor Jimmy Carter was the most trusted, which suggests that people want to believe in the Oval Office, no matter who occupies it. This year Carter ties Vice-President George Bush for third place. In between them, in second place—far behind the President, but way ahead of the No. 3s—is a nominee named “None.” That is to say, sadly, that 18 percent of those polled no longer feel that they can trust politicians, period.

Whom do you trust least?

Another way of phrasing this question is, “Who is Richard Nixon’s competition this year?” In 1979 he won by a landslide. Last year Ted Kennedy, whose bid for the Presidency at the time refocused attention on the Chappaquiddick incident, pushed the pardoned ex-Prez, 68, into second place. This year Nixon finishes in a tie for first with 56-year-old Secretary of State Alexander Haig. Clearly, respondents have misgivings about Haig’s military background, his tour as President Nixon’s last chief of staff and what some refer to as his “scary” or “power-hungry” first months at State. Since our readers also include many contrary thinkers and diehard Democrats, the third-least-trusted man is Ronald Reagan. Fourth place is a tie between Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy. And in what could be a meaningful shift from last year, women now suspect Ted less than men do. Perhaps Kennedy’s credibility has gone up since he and wife Joan have openly and officially declared that a divorce is in the works.

In recent years, has the government tended to pamper the poor?

Yes, say 58 percent, with disproportionately taxed married folk agreeing more vehemently than singles.

Do you think the Reagan administration will pamper the rich?

Fifty-four percent of our readers, led by women, think this will be the case.

Must America be the strongest nation in the world?

Absolutely, insist 77 percent. Only the 12-to-17s differ, being unable to remember when it was a matter of fact, not dogma.

Are you now more, or less, afraid of a nuclear war than you were a few years ago?

Some 55 percent are more fearful, and only 19 percent are less, with women considerably more concerned than men.

Who should be the next Democratic presidential candidate?

Former Veep Walter Mondale, 52, agree 32 percent of our readers. Ted Kennedy, up from last year’s blacklist with a big boost from the 12-to-34 group, is the choice of 26 percent. And third—what’s this?

—Jerry Brown. Could he be shedding that flaky image? California’s guv, with 15 percent, rates three points ahead of Jimmy Carter.

On the big screen, the image lingers. On the jukebox, oldies are golden

Who is your favorite movie actress?

Although her new flick, Back Roads, has drawn pans from critics and few bucks from moviegoers, Sally Field, 34, is No. 1 for the second year in a row. Her biggest boosters are in the 18-to-24 bracket—too young to remember her in The Flying Nun but not in Norma Rae, her 1979 Oscar vehicle. Runner-up Mary Tyler Moore missed the Best Actress Oscar this year for Ordinary People, but our Mary proves she can handle the crossover from TV as well as that from comedienne to tragedienne. Barbra Streisand and Goldie Hawn are neck and neck behind MTM, the latter having knocked out the nation in Private Benjamin, which she also produced. Next come Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep and Sissy Spacek, this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner for Coal Miner’s Daughter. Not yet in contention but obviously an actress with a future is Dolly Parton, who, volunteers one reader, is “vellumptious.”

Who is your favorite movie actor?

It’s Robert Redford, though he won the Oscar he’s clutching on the PEOPLE cover as director of Ordinary People. Dustin Hoffman is second to Redford—a flip-flop from last year. Clint Eastwood places third. Burt Reynolds is fourth, put there by teens despite his recent progress in being taken seriously by grownups. Robert De Niro is in nearly the same boat as Sissy Spacek. Although he won the Best Actor Oscar for Raging Bull, his is the third-least-recognized name. It’s a tribute, we surmise, to his passion for privacy, his talent as an actor, and all that avoirdupois he packed on to play the Bull. This year everyone thinks he’s Jake LaMotta. Lowest rated of any performer, male or female, is John Travolta. He came in dead last, thus nudging up 1980’s grand loser, Woody Allen.

Who is your favorite male singer?

Women, who love him, and teenagers, who worship him, have put Kenny Rogers up top for the second year in a row. Culture vultures everywhere will thrill to hear that beefy, personable opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti scores the second highest (but then, only the rankings of those who have heard of him are averaged in). Just behind him in popularity are Neil Diamond, Billy Joel (who won the whole shebang in 1979), Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. Michael Jackson comes in last.

Who is your favorite female singer?

Her name is Barbra, just as in 1980. Long-playing Streisand, 39, keeps on cranking out those hits and doesn’t give anybody a chance to forget her. This year’s biggie is Guilty, with Barry Gibb—it sold 8 million-plus worldwide and won the Grammy for best performance by a duo. Diana Ross comes in second and 1979 winner Linda Ronstadt is third—proof of her unbiodegradable popularity, since she’s spent the year doing The Pirates of Penzance live in New York. Dionne Warwick is fourth again, this time with a big push from the over-55 crowd. (Who says those folks aren’t hip?) Senior citizens are also partial to Olivia Newton-John, Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Anne Murray and Barbara Mandrell. Last year’s runner-up, Donna Summer, sinks to 11th place. Does this mean the plug has been pulled on disco?

What’s your favorite pop group?

It’s the Eagles for the second straight year. (Have we printed this page before?) Though they’ve busted no charts of late, their music wears well, which means that parents can bear more repetitions before hitting the roof. (Actually, the youngest parents—between 18 and 34—are the biggest Eagles fans.) The Doobie Brothers are proof that touring doesn’t hurt—they climbed to No. 2. Fleetwood Mac is third, as last year. Put a bullet beside REO Speedwagon—who rose from nowhere to No. 4 in the poll on the strength of their big album Hi Infidelity. Worried about the Bee Gees? They were on top two polls ago, now they’re in fifth. (Worry more about the Rolling Stones, in ninth.) After them, the deluge of New Wave. Worry most about the group called Devo. They’re last, and the way they dress, it’ll be mighty tough to switch careers.

Who’s in the fast lane? Your views on preppies, sex, brats, Brooke, God and family

Which of the famous diets have you tried—and, more important, which worked?

The skinny is that 28 percent of PEOPLE readers have suffered through at least one of them. Of the six most cited, Weight Watchers is both the most popular and most successful. Among those attempting it, 67 percent report favorable results. Second in effectiveness—though an anemic last in popularity—is the high-veggie, low-protein Pritikin program. The late Dr. Tarnower’s Scarsdale diet ranks second in number of users but only third in performance, tied with Dr. Linn’s liquid-protein regimen. Next comes the high-fat, high-protein diet touted by Dr. Atkins. And the high-water Stillman? In your estimation, it’s all wet.

Do you live in fear of crime?

Eleven percent do, all or most of the time, inching up from last year’s 10 percent. Women make the difference—they’re now more afraid than men. A secure 53 percent of the survey say they seldom or never give it a thought.

What’s the ideal number of children in a family?

Stop at two, urges nearly half our survey. But here’s the surprise that kayos the concept of ZPG (zero population growth): The next-most-ideal family size is three children, and the third choice is four kids or more. Only 11 percent favor just one, or no, offspring. Big-family feeling runs highest among teens and grandparents—could all this signal the return of the tribe?

Are American kids getting out of control?

And how, sigh seven out of 10 readers, most of them weary parents and grandparents. But they aren’t alone—more than half the teenagers think so too.

Do you consider yourself a member of the Moral Majority? Are you more or less religious than you were five years ago?

Most—54 percent—feel they belong to at least a lower-case moral majority, and 44 percent of our readers regard themselves as more spiritually involved than five years ago. The largest leap in faith is among the 12-to-17s, more than half of whom feel more religious.

Do you get mad when Americans buy foreign-made cars? Do you, ahem, own a foreign car?

Sixty-two percent think it okay to buy a snappy, fuel-efficient foreign number. Twenty-three percent have actually succumbed. Only the senior citizens wax chauvinistic over their wheels—53 percent of over-55ers fume at the sight of non-Detroit cars, and only eight percent own one.

Do you agree with President Reagan that the 55-mph speed limit should be left up to the states to decide ?

And how, say 69 percent of those polled, with men particularly revving their engines. Thank you, Dukes of Hazzard.

Are those Brooke Shields-Calvin Klein jeans commercials on TV too blue?

Much ado about nothing, thinks half the sample. But another 39 percent—mostly female—are offended (and 12-to-17s almost as much so as over-55s). From 18 to 34, nobody much cares to get between Brooke and her Calvins.

Compared with a few years ago, are Americans having more extramarital affairs?

They certainly are, chorus 80 percent, with either a leer or a scowl. That percentage dips among the 25-to-44-year-olds. So who’s having these affairs, anyway? (We discreetly omitted the follow-up question: “Is your answer based on firsthand experience?”)

Is it frivolous for people to spend money on cosmetic surgery just to look younger?

Half think so, and women and men are about equally disapproving. Interestingly, those eyelifts and tummy tucks are most popular among respondents from 35 to 44, and the seniors seem reconciled to reality.

Will you be glad when the “preppy look” is passé?

About half say yes, more from weariness than disapproval. The preppy look is the first fashion fad PEOPLE ever polled that doesn’t drive parents up the wall, however. The folks who like it best are between 35 and 44. Young swingers (18 to 24) are more likely to be chafed by it. Bye-bye, Shetland sweaters?

Your current hometown aside, which U.S. city would you prefer to live in? Which would you like the least?

The national drift may be toward the Sun Belt, but Americans’ second dream home is where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars. Second behind San Francisco is that freeway called L.A. Tied for third with Denver is New York—the city that also inspires the most fear and loathing. Three out of 10 would never live east of the Hudson. Next to be avoided at all costs? Sorry, Jane Byrne, it’s Chicago.

Do you wish you had a different career or job?

Sixty percent of respondents whistle while they work, the happiest being those over 55. There is a small ripple of discontent between the ages of 18 and 24. But then, first jobs are never easy.

If space travel becomes commercially feasible, would you book a trip to the moon?

Half would, half wouldn’t. But 60 percent of the men and 67 percent of the 12-to-17 Star Wars set are already packed. After age 45 most people think there’s no place like home.