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Heartthrobs & Headliners, Then & Now

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AGE: 52

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: As motorcycle cop Francis “Ponch” Poncherello on NBC’s CHiPs (1977-83), he packed a prime-time punch.

A CAREER FIRST: The youngest of three children of a divorced seamstress, Estrada says that he used acting to escape the streets of New York City’s Spanish Harlem—and to meet “this really cute girl” in his high school drama club.

THAT ’70S SHOW: Getting dates was easy for the 5’10” Estrada, whose CHiPs years were a blur of bicoastal partying. “I used to fly to New York on Friday with a girl,” he recalls. “We’d sleep all day, then disco until 4 a.m. at Studio 54.” But he says he longed to settle down and raise a brood: “I bought my dining room table 20 years ago because it can be lengthened to seat 18.”

THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM: After two marriages and two sons (Anthony, 15, and Brandon, 14), Estrada wed former production coordinator Nanette Mirkovich, 42, in 1997. She’s a woman, he says, who “can make a turkey pot pie that will make you suck your fingers.” Estrada dotes on their daughter Francesca, who will turn 2 in January, and spends his spare time fixing up the family’s hillside home in Studio City, Calif.

ADIOS, PONCH: These days he makes cameo appearances, as himself, on TV shows and in films and has a small role playing a father on CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful. As friend and former Laverne & Shirley star Cindy Williams says, “Erik has always been muy guapo [very handsome], but now he is muy guapo with a balance between his career and personal life.” And, adds Mirkovich, “he still has the best buns.”


AGE: 52

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: While playing the dreamy Dr. Noah Drake on ABC’s General Hospital (1981-83), the soap star turned rock star and won a Grammy for his 1981 hit “Jessie’s Girl.”

LONGTIME LOVE: Springfield, who has sold 18 million albums, currently stars in his own musical, EFX Alive, at Las Vegas’s MGM Grand. “Women come up and say, ‘I’ve loved you since I was 7!’ ” he says. “The teen-idol thing, it’s always there.”

A ROUGH PATCH: Last year the 6’2″ singer, who has been married since 1984 to former record studio receptionist Barbara Porter, 38, was arrested on charges—since dropped—of spousal abuse. The couple, who have two sons, Liam, 16, and Josh, 12, are now in counseling. The incident, says Springfield, “ultimately made us stronger.”

FAN CLUB: Springfield received an avalanche of get-well cards, flowers and e-mails after breaking his arm in July during a Vegas performance. Actress Linda Blair, 42, who dated Springfield during her teens and is still a friend, was not surprised. During his show, she says, “he makes each woman feel like he is acknowledging her personally.”


AGE: 45

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: At the 1976 Olympic Games he won a gold medal in boxing, then held five World Champion titles (in different weight classes) in the ’80s.

THE SWEET SECRET: “Ray had that smile way before anyone talked to him about promotion,” says his assistant of 23 years, Caren Kinder, 41. “It lights up the room.”

A WINNER NEVER QUITS: Acutally, he did—five times, finally retiring for keeps in 1997. “As you get older, you say, ‘Feel pretty good, let’s try it,’ ” he explains. “Then you realize the other guy is hitting you more than you’re hitting him, and it’s time to pack it in.”

RINGSIDE SEAT: He now runs Sugar Ray Leonard Boxing, Inc., which stages monthly fights on ESPN. Still in shape, the 5’10” Leonard lives in a Tuscan-style villa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., with his wife of eight years, Bernadette Robi, 43, a former model and the mother of 4-year-old Camille and 1-year-old Daniel Ray. (He has two sons, Ray Jr., 28, and Jarrel, 17, from a previous marriage, as well as 6-year-old grandchild Arielle.) Robi has no problem with her husband’s female fans. “It’s the men,” she says. “The men will just go on and on: ‘Remember this and remember that?’ I’m always like, ‘Honey, we gotta go.’ ”


AGE: 51

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: During his stint on Dallas (1987-88), he turned heads as Linda Gray’s dashing young lover Nicholas Pearce.

ALL OVER THE DIAL: Scalia has appeared in 10 series (including Berrenger’s and Tequila & Bonetti) and more than two dozen made-for-TV movies. “Jack’s very charismatic, and that comes across onscreen,” says Stepfanie Kramer, who costarred with him in 1994’s Beyond Suspicion.

A TEAM PLAYER: Getting a call last spring to join ABC’s All My Children as Susan Lucci’s paramour, FBI agent Chris Stamp, was “like being traded to the New York Yankees,” says the 6’1″ Scalia, a former pro baseball player who pitched for the Montreal Expos organization. “Susan Lucci is an icon. I love doing scenes with her, and I love the character she plays.”

WEST IS BEST: The twice-divorced actor keeps an apartment in Manhattan, where AMC is taped, but his heart belongs in L.A. with his daughters Olivia, 14, and Jacqueline, 11. “Home,” he says, “is where my children are.”


AGE: 51

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: Spitz broke seven world records as he won seven gold medals in swimming at the 1972 Olympics.

POSTER BOY: Clad only in a stars-and-stripes Speedo, his medals splayed across his chest, the 6’1″ Spitz flashed his million-watt smile on a bestselling poster. “I was running around in my itty-bitty bathing suit and I was asked to pose,” he says. “I still make money from that poster.”

GROUPIE-FREE: “He had his admirers—and still does,” says friend and computer designer Mark Wallace, 54, manager of Spitz’s Indiana University swim team. “But it wasn’t like screaming girls following the Beatles around.”

POOLING HIS ASSETS: Numerous endorsements earned the onetime pre-dental student a comfortable post-Olympics income. Now living in Southern California with his wife, Suzy, 49, a former model, and sons Matthew, 20, and Justin, 10, he sells luxury homes and designs pools. In 1991, at age 40, he set his sights on the 1992 Olympics but failed to make the U.S. team.

SOCCER DAD: Spitz is known more as dad and coach of Justin’s soccer team than sports hero, he says. “The most common reaction I get is something like, ‘Oh, I don’t even recognize you. You don’t have your mustache.’ ”


AGE: 40

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: His bare-chested swigging of Diet Coke in a 1994 commercial did wonders for the soft drink’s image—and his.

TURNING TABLES: Auditioning to play a construction worker subjected to the leers of female office workers, Vanous was surprised when asked to bare his pecs. “I thought, ‘This is cheesy,” ‘ he says. “But it was just a commercial.”

NOT JUST A COMMERCIAL: After moving from Lincoln, Neb., to New York City in 1984, the 6’2″ Vanous was making a nice living as an Elite model. But after Diet Coke came along, he was offered guest spots on NBC’s Wings and Will & Grace as well as last year’s lead role on the short-lived TNN series 18 Wheels of Justice, where he proved he still has a dizzying effect on females. “He looks good in those jeans, let’s just put it that way,” says Heidi Grotsky, a makeup artist on the show.

MANE SQUEEZE: Divorced from model Kristen Noel, 38, since 1996, Vanous says he is “looking for love.” Meanwhile there’s Gypsy, his 4-year-old Clydesdale, stabled near the actor’s two-bedroom L.A. apartment. “I’ve raised her since she was 10 months old,” he says. “She’s 1,800 lbs. and not done growing yet.”


AGE: 46

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: He tickled our urban-cowboy fantasies as mustachioed, Stetson-wearing private eye Matt Houston on the ABC show of the same name (1982-85) and as bearded gunslinger Ethan Allen Cord on CBS’s Paradise (1988-91)

SAMSON COMPLEX: The 6’3″ Muleshoe, Texas, native is currently without his signature mustache. Horsley remembers the first time he shaved it 19 years ago: “I think I stopped breathing for about 10 or 12 minutes.”

LOVE LESSONS: Married 21 years to Stephanie, 56, a homemaker, the L.A. resident admits temptations are ever present. “We had kids right off the bat [daughter Amber, 20, and son Logan, 18], and that’s a good glue to keep a marriage together,” he says. “But you have to work on a relationship.”

BAIT FISH: Horsley jokes about the ravages of age: “I’m older and wider now.” But his best friend, makeup man Kevin Westmore, says, “Women always approach him. When we go fishing, we meet at a market in Marina del Rey. I’ve seen women primping for him as we line up to buy sandwiches.”

RODEO DREAMS: Although pleased with a guest spot on CBS’s Touched by an Angel last season, he hopes meatier roles are yet to come. Otherwise, Horsley is happy with manly pursuits. “I’m a fishing fool, and I love horses and rodeo,” he says. “If I could just make a living from those, I’d be set.”


AGE: 36

SEXY CLAIM TO FAME: Gyrating bare-chested in the video for his macho 1991 hit “Rico Suave,” the 5’9″ Gerardo boasted, “There’s not a woman that can handle/A man like me/That’s why I juggle two or three.”

WANTED MAN: At the height of Gerardo’s popularity, former tour manager Nick Light says he would walk his client “into the bathroom and stand by the stall to make sure women wouldn’t climb under.”

SIGNS OF MATURITY: A last name (Mejia); no more hair extensions; a five-bedroom home in Rowland Heights, Calif.; and a family to fill it up. He met model Kathy Eicher, now 30, at a benefit in 1992. They wed two years later and have three children (from left, Bianca, 8, Jaden, 5 months, and Nadia, 6). “He’s grown up,” says Kathy. “One of the things keeping him back was that he was so focused on making a comeback. I guess it’s unimaginable what that must be like, one day being on top of the charts and the next day Arsenio making fun of you. When he put that to rest, he turned the right way.”

LATEST SMOOTH MOVES: Mejia has been an executive at Inter-scope records since 1997 and counts Enrique Iglesias among the artists he has signed. He released another CD last summer—Sigo Siendo Rico (Still Rico)—but the man who was so enamored of his muscles that he got married wearing only trousers and a vest no longer thinks he’s too sexy for his shirt. “I’m all right, but I probably just have three abs working now,” he says. “Three left out of the six-pack.”