It was approaching midnight inside a throbbing Studio 54, New York City’s nightclub extraordinaire and nocturnal epicenter of excess in the 1980s. As bartenders naked to the waist filled goblets of champagne, club cofounder Steve Rubell, famous for plucking favored guests from the surging crowd outside, was showing off his latest “pick.”
His name was Scott Brown. But Rubell, who recognized the 22-year-old Massachusetts man, who had recently won Cosmopolitan magazine’s 1982 “America’s Sexiest Man” contest and posed nude for its centerfold, promptly dubbed him “the Cosmo boy.” When Rubell spotted R. Couri Hay, The National Enquirer celebrity columnist and stringer for People magazine, he led Brown toward him, hoping his guest’s sudden renown might garner the club a mention.
“Rubell introduced me to Brown,” recalled Hay. “He said, ‘Here’s the Cosmo boy . . . How cute is he!’ At the time Brown had a little pizazz because of the Cosmo thing, but not enough pizazz to make the column. He was just another tall, good looking guy in a place where there were endless numbers of tall, good-looking guys.”
The Cosmo thing did, however, give a valuable career boost to the man now better known as US Senator Scott Brown. The magazine spread, which described Brown as a “not-so-shy show-off,” launched him into a several year stint of modeling in New York and Boston that not only paid for his law school education, but for a brief time hoisted him to a certain kind of celebrity.
Brown was awarded a $20,000 contract by Jordache jeans, and his muscled body was splayed on a billboard overlooking Times Square in New York. For one of many sweater shoots, he stared moodily at the breaking surf on a Fire Island beach curled up in the lap of model Julianne Phillips, later the wife of Bruce Springsteen.
And when Boston columnist Norma Nathan dubbed him one of “Boston’s Most Eligible Bachelors” in 1982, Brown did not hold back. “ ‘I’ve always felt that I’ve done well with older women,” says Scott, who scores sex as ‘very important,’ ” according to the accompanying write-up. “ ‘I have the appetites of a 22-year-old man. It’s very important to me to satisfy a woman I am with.’ ”
The women voters Brown is wooing in this bitterly fought Congressional race might find that statement off-putting or perhaps intriguing. Or they might make nothing of it at all. It is, after all, the self-satisfied voice of a young man from a long time ago.
But in a contest in which personal biography has figured large, Brown’s roughly seven years of work as a model, a rare resume item for a politician, have received scant attention from the Democratic women he has squared off with, Elizabeth Warren and Attorney General Martha Coakley, whom he defeated in 2010.
It was a substantial chapter in his early life, one that garnered some attention during and after his first Senate campaign, but one that Brown himself now rarely speaks of. The senator, who has said he never considered modeling to be a potential career, declined to comment for this article.
Just how Brown’s successful, if abbreviated, run as a model plays among voters, if it affects them at all, probably depends on how they regard the candidate overall, analysts say. Paul Watanabe, chairman of the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says Brown’s detractors will point to this phase of his life as “evidence of his vanity and superficiality.”
His supporters, Watanabe added, will say, “It shows he’s a regular guy, a struggling guy who took advantage of one of his assets to pay for school.”
Watanabe said that he has been surprised that this aspect of Brown’s professional rise has not been more scrutinized. At this year’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast in Boston, Warren made one of few allusions to Brown’s years on the runway when she displayed a mock centerfold of her fully clothed self lying next to a calculator in Consumer Reports magazine, saying it was “the only magazine that would have me.”
When his modeling career flowered, Brown was a first-year student at Boston College Law School. It was his sister, Leeann, as he describes it in his memoir, who decided to send his photos to Cosmopolitan magazine. When the phone rang several months later and a woman named Helen Gurley Brown invited him to New York, he thought it was a joke and hung up. The next day, a ticket to New York arrived at his door. The winner of the contest would get $1,000.
Chosen from among 7,000 entries, Brown ultimately struck a horizontal pose for the centerfold, his hand discreetly lying across his thighs. In an interview that ran with his photos, Brown told Cosmo he appreciates women who are “tall, athletic, and have longish hair and beautiful legs . . . Hmmm, I’m getting excited.” As the Cosmo guy, he was launched on a 32-state tour and was featured on a host of prime-time talk shows, according to his memoir.Continued...