WARNING: This issue of PEOPLE may be hazardous to your health. Ever hear of a psychological disorder called the Stendhal syndrome? We kid you not. It’s a kind of psychic overload that occurs when someone is exposed too quickly to a surplus of—that’s right—beauty! It was first diagnosed among tourists who swooned in the picture galleries of Italy. As we prepared our fifth annual survey of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, those travelers were never far from our minds. How they would have suffered if they got so much as a glimpse of Four Weddings and a Funeral‘s dashing Hugh Grant! To be sure, the syndrome is hardly likely to strike a dedicated magazine reader. But since we don’t want to cause you even the slightest discomfort, we’re offering a few basic precautions so you’ll be able to plunge into this feast of fabulous faces with complete peace of mind:
•Always operate this issue in a safe, responsible manner.
Magazines don’t come equipped with air bags, so do not skid at high speeds across singer Toni Braxton’s lips, which could lead to a nasty collision with actor Antonio Banderas, pictured nearby. Do not career rapidly from Heather Locklear to teen idol Joey Lawrence. which could overstimulate delicate nerve endings. And do not speed skate to gold medalist Dan Jansen from the icy perfection of The House of Eliott’s Louise Lombard. Turn pages at a moderate pace.
•Don’t try this at home.
Being one of the nifty 50 is not something that everyone can achieve—at least not on short notice. A mysterious chemistry is at work in the model looks of Stephanie Seymour and reigning Miss America Kimberly Aiken. Superman Dean Cain is from another planet, and Daniel Day-Lewis is otherworldly. So, earthlings, do not go at your love handles with a power sander. Do not sit at the mirror twisting your lips into a sensuous snarl. Do not overdo the ThighMaster.
•Store in a cool, dry place.
File these hotshots in the part of your brain most likely to understand that inner beauty, kindness and community spirit are every bit as significant as being cute. Still, you must resist the urge to dive into the depths of country singer John Michael Montgomery’s dimples and Madeleine Stowe’s brown eyes.
Remember these safety tips, and you can come serenely face-to-face with Paul Newman or Winona Ryder and calmly confront some surprises, too, such as Capitol Hill hunk Al Gore Jr. and supermodel Naomi Campbell‘s mother, Valerie, who could set off Stendhal’s syndrome all by herself. In fact, we’re so sure that you will have a safe and enjoyable journey through the following pages, we’re going to make one further recommendation:
•Take two before bedtime.