The Search for Ultimate '90s Hunk Fabio

Jason Sheeler, the co-host of our PEOPLE in the '90s podcast, had one dream: To secure ultimate '90s icon Fabio as a guest for the show. Did he succeed?

Fabio
Photo: Maureen Donaldson/Getty

When Andrea Lavinthal and I started our PEOPLE in the '90s podcast, she asked me a simple question. Who is your dream guest?

For Andrea — because my co-host likes asking me questions she has a genius answer for — the answer was Daria Morgendorffer. And given the fact that Daria (to my knowledge) is still an animated character, Ms. Morgendorffer proved unavailable. My answer, thrown out for a laugh, was Fabio.

"The romance novel guy?" Andrea asked. "I wonder if he still has the good hair."

"We should try and get him," our producer Kim Rittberg suggested.

And so it began.

LISTEN TO OUR QUEST TO BOOK FABIO ON PEOPLE IN THE '90s HERE:

First, I had to explain to Andrea who the guy really is — and was. Like a lot of people, she knew in a baseline, prefrontal cortex, Oh, right! way. Mr. Fabio Lanzoni: the '80s model (those Gap ads!) turned 90s romance cover model turned spokesman (I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Nationwide insurance, Old Spice) turned novelist, recording artist (1993's Fabio After Dark), actor (The Bold and the Beautiful, Zoolander) and general pop culture curiosity.

His early '90s fame actually resulted in the 6-ft.-3-in., 225 lb. capital-H hunk on the cover of PEOPLE. The cover, Andrea and I were delighted to read, promised an interview filled with sex and pasta. (To be sure, that coverline undersells that sizzling story…)

"Let's get Fabio!" I said after booking Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Paula Abdul. "How hard can it be to get him?"

Pretty hard, as it turns out.

First, I found his PR rep, who turned out to be the president of his fan club. She promised to pass my info along to his manager. The manager turned out to also be his attorney. Following 67 emails, phone calls, and text messages and a full-on interview with the president of the fan club — who once paid $16,000 at a bachelor auction to have dinner with him — we still had nothing. (Meanwhile, we'd booked Rosie O'Donnell and Darius Rucker!) Fabio was, I was told many times by Eric the attorney, "busy and happy and just can't do it."

"Regards," I was told, with the polite thud of finality.

As I tried harder and harder — detailed over what became 11 "Chasing Fabio" segments —I began to understand more about what the meant at the time, to both me and to his fans. For me, I kind of thought he was just a hood ornament of '90s masculinity. Heroic and leonine, ripped like He-Man but draped in finely tailored Italian linen. There always seemed to be a wind machine plugged in somewhere just out of his frame. And he stayed pretty quiet. Except for his spoken word CD and commercials for butter substitutes, we didn't hear much from him. So just like the romance novels he fronted, we were able to make him into anything we wanted.

LISTEN TO PREVIOUS EPISODES OF PEOPLE IN THE '90s HERE:

Even Andrea got into it. She began to worry what would happen if we do get Fabio. She suggested I get out of the '90s and use modern methods to reach him. I asked for help on Instagram. As it turns out, a former colleague has an uncle who was in business with Fabio when he had a clothing line. (Also: Fabio had a clothing line?) She passed my information on to someone who works with Fabio today. That person, of course, is Eric the lawyer.

My phone rang last month. "Jason, you just don't give up," Eric said. "So, what is this? A podcast about the '90s?"

Tune in to the season 1 finale of PEOPLE in the '90s on Thursday, Aug. 19, to see if we finally spoke to the man, the myth, the hair himself.

And listen to all of the episodes of PEOPLE in the '90s, with new episodes dropping Thursday mornings on iHeartMedia, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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