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King Of Romance Fabio Knows How To Please His Fans At Book Signing

Cheryl Lavin Chicago Tribune

The woman is trembling. Her face is flushed, her eyes are glazed, her heart is racing.

“It’s him,” she says, pointing to the eighth wonder of the world. “It’s his, his presence.” She’s barely coherent. “How can I put it into words? It’s his aura. It’s his smell. The smile. The stature. Look at his body.”

Kim Graffeo is floating on a testosterone high. Her friend leads her away by a twitching arm. They stop and watch while Fabio signs calendars, T-shirts, boxes of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and his new Pinnacle paperback romance, “Dangerous.”

“He swept into Lexi’s life to steal her heart with a passion that took her breath away.”

The two watch hungrily as Fabio looks deeply into the eyes of the Kmart shoppers, smiles widely with his many white teeth, laughs his manly roar. As he kisses, touches, hugs, flirts, offers his mighty chest to be touched, raises his suede jacket to show his butt. (But only at the request of a panting mama with her three children in tow.)

Their eyes consume him as he poses for pictures with mothers and babies, making bizarre family photos. Mama, who is this man? As he lifts women in his massive arms as though he were a lust-crazed pagan and they were blushing virgins. (Attention: Bob Dole. Under the Rose Law Firm billing records, there are pictures of Fabio lifting Hillary. Get them.)

As he, in short, gives the wives of suburbia something to think about while they fix dinner tonight.

“It doesn’t take much to make these women happy,” says Fabio. “A kiss, a hug, I lift them up. It’s just the human contact.” Most book-signing authors put a table between them and their fans. Not Fabio. “Most of the time, celebrities, no shake hands, nothing. If you want a picture, you lean over. I don’t think that’s right. I’m a deep person. I’m not a superficial person at all. Any time you can do something to make a person happy, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s what we’re here for.”

He’s the ultimate safe sex. Lourdes for the lonely. Sneer not. Even if he’s not your type, he’s your type. Trust me.

Things you should know about Fabio. His full name is Fabio Lanzoni, and he was born in Milan on March 15, 1961. And to show you how unfair life is, he has an older brother who’s short, bald and named Walter. Fabio walked into the Ford Modeling Agency when he was 21 and walked out with a Gap contract. Now he has homes in L.A. and New York, a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley, two Porsches, a Mercedes and a Hummer, and enough stereo equipment to wire the moon.

This is what he looks like: better than his pictures, though the hair is an acquired taste. The eyes are nice, the nose is interesting, the lips a little thin, but the smile is dazzling with flashing dimples.

And then there’s the body.

Huge, with a chest the size of the Italian Alps. Mount Fabio. Beautiful. Pumped, primed, with rippling muscles and a cappuccino-colored tan. La Dolce Favio. Awesome.

Grandmothers and their granddaughters walk away dazed. Some say their lives have been forever changed. Weight losses have been attributed to him. Mama mia!

Fabio is at a crossroads. He no longer models, or poses for the covers of romance novels (except his own), or puts out a calendar. He’s through with the 900 number.

He’s going to continue “writing” his novels (his ideas, someone else’s words), and he’s thinking about a fragrance for women and a line of workout clothes. His margarine endorsement is a success, and he’s doing commercials for Cheerios.

But the time has come to launch himself as an actor.

His first attempts were not so bella. In his modeling days, he auditioned for the soaps, but since he couldn’t read English, that didn’t work. He had a stint on the brief “Acapulco H.E.A.T.,” but that didn’t please him.

He has done cameos in “Spy Hard” and “Eddie,” and voiceovers, and now he’s ready for a major part - an action film, but not in the Jean-Claude Van Damme mode.

“We’re looking at something more in the Errol Flynn style,” says Fabio’s manager, Eric Ashenberg, “something romantic.”

He’s taking acting lessons, but he’s not really worried about challenging De Niro or Pacino.

“You know, Van Damme and Schwarzenegger, they make a lot of money,” he says, “but they’re not great actors. It’s the persona that comes across.”

He’s also producing a TV show, “Hollywood Showcase,” a kind of celebrity Tupperware party.

“You two look like sisters.”

“So, what do you do, Emily?” “You want me to write, ‘Thank you for last night’?” “It is my pleasure, Sylvia.”

Helen Seaman of the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, Ill., was a size 18 when she first saw Fabio several years ago. She is now a size 4.

“The whole time I was losing weight, he was my inspiration.” Seeing him, she says, “is my reward.”

Not just a pretty face, Fabio has far-reaching opinions.

On why he loves America: “I came to this country and stayed with a friend. I looked at the refrigerator and said, ‘We don’t have milk for tomorrow morning.’ And the guy goes, ‘First we go to the clubs and have some fun and on the way home we’ll get milk.’ And I’m like, ‘It’ll be 2, 3 in the morning. Where we gonna get milk?’

“I didn’t know about 7-Eleven. This is the only country where you can eat when you want to eat.”

On how the universe works: “God gives you a mind, a body and a soul, and you’re on your own. Your mind is very powerful and your soul knows what’s best for you. So the more in contact you are with your soul, the more you know your path.

“I was always sure about my path, and I always know that the difference between the dream and reality is a very fine line. If you really believe something, it’s not a dream.

“If you look around, everything - a glass, a cup, a car - everything was at one time a dream. But one person got that thought into something concrete. And that’s how the universe works.”

On his goals: “I can do so much more. I’m so far from where I want to be. People say, ‘Oh, Fabio, you’re established,’ and I say, ‘No, you don’t understand. I’m so far away, but I’m going to get there.’ I always felt this way.

“Sometimes people would say to me, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I was like, ‘I can do it. Why don’t you do it, too?”’

On a day in the life of a sex symbol: “In the morning, I spend time with my four great Danes. I eat breakfast at a restaurant. I spend time with friends, go over business, go back in the house. I do some video-editing.

In the afternoon, I go to the gym, come back home, relax, feed the dogs, go out again for dinner, come back home and watch a movie.”

On what turns him on: “I look into the soul of the person. I don’t choose women for their celebrity or status. To me, people are people.

“If a woman has a beautiful soul and she’s a celebrity, that’s great. But she can be a secretary or a person working at Kmart. I don’t care.”

On Arnold Schwarzenegger: “He’s the best Arnold he can be and I’m the best Fabio. I will do things in my way and he will do things in his. We’re two different people, but we both have great business sense.”

On discovering his magnetism: “It was in kindergarten. After lunch, you would go for a little nap. All the little girls wanted to sleep next to me.”

On his most romantic date: “One time I took a woman on a deserted island and we lived like Mother Nature for 10 days.”

And Fabio wrote. …

“Yale came up behind Lexi and reached past her into the cupboard. For a moment there was only silence, and the faint sound of the wind moving through the trees outside. Then Yale heard a voice. It was, he realized with a start, his own. Words were spilling from his lips … impulsive words.

“‘Lexi, I’ve got to go but before I do, I’ve got to ask you something.’

“‘What is it?” Her tone was hushed as though she knew.

“‘I’ve got to kiss you. Just once, Please, Lexi … it’s been so damned long and I know nothing can come of it, but I have to kiss you.’

“Lexi turned slowly and when she looked up, her gaze collided with his. And then she smiled a faraway smile. ‘One kiss for old times’ sake.’

“He swept her into his arms and his mouth swooped over hers. Her lips parted beneath his and she let out a soft whimper. …

“She wanted him the way he wanted her; he could feel her hunger as she pressed into him.”

- From “Dangerous” by Fabio

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