We knew Southwest Florida was hot, but we didn't know how hot until we read Marty Ambrose's "You Sexy Thing" in this issue. Romance and mystery novelist Ambrose takes a light-hearted look at how women are redefining middle age, especially in our steamy, tropical region.
From vampy versions of Samantha in Sex and the City to happily married wives and mothers, they told Ambrose they were only getting better with the advancing years, thanks to confidence, exercise and-let's be honest-a little help from the plastic surgeons and other professionals who have followed the demographics to our coast. We added even more sizzle to her story by looking at the sexiest-ever movie scenes, restaurant specialties that feature ingredients said to boost the libido, and some red-hot Sarasota couples.
Ambrose's story made us wonder what else is sexy in Southwest Florida right now, so we asked some local experts.
Judi Gallagher, host of SNN's Gulfcoast Cooking, Channel 21's Suncoast Cuisine and a radio shows as well, highlighted several food trends. "Our parents used to wear Bohemian skirts and have fondue parties," she says. "Now they're both super-hot again." Hottest of all: chocolate fondue. "It drips, it's creamy, and it's sexier than sitting down to a chocolate truffle-it engages people and it's playful," she says. Ditto for the tapas trend, which brings people together to share small plates, exciting flavors and intimate conversation.
Remember Twiggy? The mod waif of the swinging '60s gave way to the California-surfer-girl appeal of Cheryl Tiegs a decade later, and today's "it" model has a definitive look, too, says Brigitte Heininger of Miami's Irene Marie Model Management. Heininger might scrutinize 100 portfolios to find one girl she wants to meet, and that one will be not only beautiful but "in great shape and look healthy." And like our culture, today's models often have a global face.
Her dream girl? "She'd have European height, Russian skin, and Latin skin tones and curves."
What would a midlife crisis be without a sexy new car? But what revs the motors of buyers today is not always the little red sports car of yesteryear, says Vance Dickinson, whose Sunset Automobile Group includes 10 dealerships selling such high-profile brands as Porsche, Audi, Infiniti and Cadillac. Instead, he says, "a really hot car with a lot of sex appeal" is an SUV-Cadillac's 2007 Escalade, preferably in black with a black leather (and ultra-luxurious) interior.
Didn't think of an oversize gas guzzler as a sex symbol? Think again, he says. Rappers and sports stars started driving Escalades several years ago,
"blinging them up" with mesh grilles and oversize novelty wheels, and "a huge subculture" grew up around the car. Now Southwest Florida buyers of every age are eagerly paying $60,000 for the new 2007. And no, he doesn't expect high gas prices to slow sales. Once you're accustomed to the high perspective and all the room of an SUV, "it's hard to go back," he says.
"Charisma is charisma," says Jody Kielbasa, executive director of next month's Sarasota Film Festival. "Actors either have it or they don't. But Hollywood does go in cycles." The stars audiences swooned for in the '30s were all about Hollywood glamour; by the '70s, the scruffy anti-hero-think Al Pacino-was hot; and now, says Kielbasa, the actors who sizzle tend to project the image of "the affable bad boy"-like Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe or George Clooney. They're sexy, exciting, maybe even a little dangerous, but they also manage to be charming and likeable, he says, unlike such famous "bad boys" as the rebellious James Dean or the seething young Marlon Brando.
We also favor actresses who are approachable as well as alluring-he calls it the "comfortability" factor. An example: Jennifer Aniston, who "is famous for wearing flip flops," and looks just as sexy in them and jeans as she does in full red-carpet regalia.
If there's one time a woman wants to look ravishing, it's at a gala event, and Zola Keller, which has stores on the west coast of Florida in Bonita Springs as well as in Fort Lauderdale, specializes in those sensational special-occasion gowns. Terri Eisenfeld, owner of the Bonita Springs store, says, "It's all about the fabrics." For those with great bodies, silk charmeuse "feels like butter" and clings to every curve. For the rest of us, she recommends silk taffetas, which come in gorgeous, shimmery colors and "make that swishy noise when you walk."
Today's older women "don't want to look like grandmothers," she says, and the new sheer "illusion" sleeves and tops help them look alluring while hiding aging skin. "I'm 55, and I feel young and sexy in our dresses," she says.
Most appealing of all, says Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, is "to be responsible while you're enjoying the wonderful gift of sexuality." Older people, too, she says, must have "those critical conversations about condoms, birth control-going through menopause doesn't always ensure you're off the hook-and HIV." Far from being a turn-off, she says, such conversations show you're "modern and in control of your own destiny"-and nothing is sexier than that.