May 09, 1994 12:00 PM

The TV commercial, for those just back from Mars, shows three yuppettes steaming up a window ogling a shirtless construction worker on his diet Coke break. Though much ink has been spilled about the reverse sexism of women leering, even more has been devoted to asking: Who is this guy?

The pop-top phenom is Lucky Vanous, 33, a part-time political science student whose towel-dried, square-jawed cragginess makes him modeling’s Man of the Moment. He was picked from a field of 35 applicants, says casting director Karen Kayser, because he’s “not aloof. Approachable is the key.” Says actress Susan O’Neill (the ad’s bespectacled admirer): He’s “almost in denial about how good-looking he is. I don’t think he gets it.” If he doesn’t, it will get him. Already, says Lucky who earned the basic $415 day rate for the ad, “it’s been completely crazy. Every network and studio has called. I haven’t had time to take it all in.”

The Nebraska-raised model, who was named Lucky by his flamboyant nightclub-owner father, served in the Army from 1979-82, where he became one of 700 elite antiterrorist Black Beret Rangers. “I went in an undisciplined kid,” he says of the experience. “When I got out, I had learned so much about myself.” He wandered into modeling a decade ago when he accompanied a friend to an audition and was signed himself. Married to model Kristen Noel, 28, and living in a Manhattan apartment, the 6’2″, 190-lb. Vanous is wary of cashing in on his success by doing calendars or posters (“junk stuff”), but does do a turn May 5 on NBC’s Wings (as a hunk, natch). Ironically, Coke has no sequel currently planned for the ad that started it all. Marvels Vanous: “Everyone in America is sitting on their couches waiting for the next one.” Come on, Coke, the country’s working up a thirst.

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