Celebrity Crushes For Smart Women: The Lust List

Do teen crushes ever really go away? Or does our judgment get better?
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NPR revisited their story on Alison Pearson's "I Think I Love You" when it came out in paperback recently, which spurred me to revisit the Swoon List for Smart Women I compiled at the onset of summer.

Pearson's novel, inspired by her passionate childhood crush on David Cassidy (I blushingly admit I had one too), sparked the realization that these teen crushes never really go away, they just morph into more mature crushes -- if that isn't some sort of hybrid of rationalization and oxymoron.

I was caught red-handed (hearted?), as it were, by a visiting friend, with pictures (not posters I hasten to insist) posted around my desk. She then, I have to say somewhat proudly, organized a late summer gathering of midlife girlfriends to revisit their girlhood crushes, and determine who made their hearts go thump in the night now.

Having sampled winter's chill a bit early, I thought a fantasy update might be in order to stoke those internal fires -- not that I don't wholly support and stand by my original list!

The first Lust List for Smart Women was compiled to underscore that our tastes and reasons change regarding who ignites our inner flame. Suzanne McGee, author of "Chasing Goldman Sachs," articulated it perfectly with her position: "Jeremy Irons -- Every thinking woman's ideal man."

Generally, we care less about celebrities and more about 'content,' so I included the following on my Swoon List for really good reasons:

1. Historian Simon Schama
2. Economist/MIT professor Simon Johnson
3. Author of "Thursday Next" series, Jasper Fforde
4. Actor Mark Rylance
5. Actor /Ireland's Cultural Ambassador, Gabriel Byrne

Yes, all British Isles blokes (this is harder than you think) and then ...

6. Stage & screen writer Aaron Sorkin
7. Actor/science enthusiast Alan Alda
8. Expert on the impacts of life science Juan Enriquez
9. Actor/activist Denzel Washington
10(11). Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert -- I know it's unfair to lump them together, but I invoked the Spinal Tap "Mine goes to 11" rule (which I pretty much live by).

I also offered a junior list: Savion Glover, James Franco (see Colbert's reason), Mos Def, Jesse Eisenberg (especially now with his play, Asuncion), among others.

I suggested Jimmy Kimmel's Handsome Men's Club video as a venue for further research.

But though I was trying to avoid the obvious, Johnny Depp, Colin Firth and George Clooney fans chimed in often and loudly. And I realized others I'd missed, so determined to begin a new list, incorporating suggestions from Melissa's girl gathering:

1. George Clooney -- OK! I gave in, but mainly because, aside from his acting/directing talents, he's genuinely committed to the causes he supports, such as Darfur and Sudan. He was awarded the Summit Peace Award in 2007 along with Don Cheadle (oop, there's another one).

2. Alan Cumming - yes, debonair & intriguing on The Good Wife, but also a huge supporter of the arts, as witness by his recent attendance at the Creative Coalition's launch of Art & Soul to support arts funding in America.

3. Neil deGrasse Tyson - I'll let Melissa pipe in here about the director of the Hayden Planetarium: "He speaks beautifully -- lovely voice, strong presence. He's a hip intellectual, super smart. Handsome and star-glow, but comes across as someone you could chat with for hours about astrophysics. What's better than that?" (Take this Scientist Quiz; now you'll get at least one right.)

4. Paul Krugman - The NYT columnist hits this list as economist and also for the sort of Teddy Bear slot (akin to a Miss Congeniality, perhaps) that was #8 in the previous list.

5. Brian Williams - Manages to straddle mainstream and offbeat with aplomb, and will get to show that off even more at Rock Center.
6. Todd Rosenberg - aka Odd Todd, turned his unemployment around and into a successful cartoon / animation business, explaining science and economics with humor, insight and accessibility.

7. Dashing duo director Roland Emmerich & screenwriter John Orloff - Not a couple, but bound together in making the film Anonymous, they've found themselves at the center of an academic imbroglio that cries havoc and is letting loose the dogs of war. But they're holding strong with the kind of steadfastness you'd want at your back -- very chivalrous, very Baldassare Castiglione.

8. Paul Zak - Professor of Economics and Neurology aka molecular morality researcher. His TED talk says it all, but short version, his Rx: 8 hugs per day. OK!

OK, there's room for two more, or three, if you adhere to the "Spinal Tap" rule, as I do. Who's on your Lust List?

But hang on a minute. I was also sent a fascinating article on French feminist writer Elisabeth Badinter, which includes the observation: "In France, intellectuals have rock-star status."

In light of the terrific film, "Miss Representation,"* I can't help but wonder -- would men compile a female Smart Swoon List?

Who would be on it?

*"Miss Representation" will re-air November 12th at 11 AM ET on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Gerit Quealy writes on Style & Substance at NBC's StyleGoesStrong.com.

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