By John Silveira

August 10, 2001

Who are the 50 most beautiful women in the world? recently came up with a readers’ list.

At the bottom and rounding out the list is Sandra Bullock (50th). They gave her nice comments on her smile, among other things.

At the top of the list is Laetitia Casta. I never heard of her. But there’s a picture of her on the site and she’s gorgeous.

In fact, there were several in the top 10 I had never heard of including Heidi Klum (4th), Elso Benitez (6th), Angie Everhart (7th), and Maria Cucinotta (8th). That’s half of the women thousands of men had voted into the top ten who I didn’t even know existed. But who am I? I don’t watch television, I rarely go to movies, and I currently live in an Oregon town of 4,000 people where there is hardly a cross-section of the world’s most beautiful women.

Also on the list were teen favorites like Britney Spears (46th) for whom the advent of puberty is really a recent memory. And there are also women like Pamela Anderson (2nd) and Cindy Crawford (10th) who have been around forever along with the woman who’s currently the most popular actress in the world, Julia Roberts (23rd).

There were some things about the list that stood right out. There were virtually no women from China where one sixth of the world’s women live. And none from India, the nation with the second most women. There was only one from the whole continent of Africa but she’s white, and though there were some African-American women, that’s not the same.

Another thing: as far as I could tell, all of the women were movie stars, models, or rock singers. Obviously they had to be in the public eye for the tens of thousands of men who voted to have known who they were. There were none whose only claim to fame was that they’d won a beauty contest. Beauty contest winners are here today and gone tomorrow. Unless they stay in the public eye by becoming actresses or singers (like Vanessa Williams, though she’s not on the list) they fade from memory and are forgotten.

All, however, are fairly young or young looking. Youth is one of the hallmarks of a woman’s beauty. But a similar list of the 50 most handsome men, voted on by women, would probably include both Brad Pitt and Sean Connery. Women perceive beauty differently than men and youth carries less weight.

Obviously, none of the women on the list came from small towns like, Brookings, Oregon, where I live, and where a beautiful woman would spend her life forever out of the limelight. And there are some pretty good looking women here, trust me. But if the world’s truly most beautiful woman lives in Brookings, only a handful of us are going to know it and our votes wouldn’t give her a large enough tally to push even Bullock off the list.

In fact, what’s interesting is that, when I started to compile my list, of the 10 most beautiful women I have ever seen, not even one was on’s list of 50. Also, none are movie stars and none are models, though one graced the pages of Playboy some 40 years ago.

I personally knew a few on my list. The others I didn’t. I saw all but the Playboy centerfold in the flesh. One I dated.

So, here’s my list of “The Top 10 Most Beautiful Women.”

At the top of the list is a woman I saw only once in my life. It was in July of 1965 in a department store in Denver, Colorado. She was a sales clerk. She was about my age and I was then 21. I made a fool of myself that day, though I’m sure she didn’t notice. The circumstances were that I was hitchhiking around North America. I had less than $50 on me. And I had stopped in Denver. I can’t remember why I was in the store. But I saw her. Then I lingered. I wanted to walk up to her and talk with her. But I couldn’t. Finally, I took a greeting card from a card rack and brought it up to her cash register. It was the only way I could think of to legitimately get close to her. She asked, “Can I help you?” I handed her the card. Then she said, “That will be 35 cents.” I remember, as I gave her the quarter and dime, our fingers touched. It was one of the 10 most electrifying experiences of my life. (That’s fodder for another list.) She followed that with, “Would you like a bag for that?” I shook my head no. Finally, she said, “Thank you.” I never said a word to her. I got outside and looked at the card. It had a drawing of an elephant wearing a party hat and read, “Happy birthday to an eight-year-old boy.” I didn’t know any eight-year-old boys then. So I threw the card away. I never saw her again. I sometimes wonder what she must look like now. She’d be in her mid-50s.

Though she’s number one on my list, I’m sure she doesn’t remember me at all.

Number two was a Japanese-American woman in her early 20s. It was 1974. I was 30. We met in the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. We hit it right off. We joked, made small talk, and made eye contact that should have gotten us both thrown in jail for moral turpitude. I never hit it off with a woman so fast, before or since. And she obviously found me charming, too. The only trouble was, she was with her boyfriend.

He stood there watching us very uncomfortably. He knew what was going on. Finally, we realized we had to break it off. If there is any such thing as a soul mate, she may have been it for me. But I’ll never know. If I had it to do all over again (another list: things I’d do differently), I’d ask her out right then and there, in spite of her boyfriend. That evening, at home, I realized I had no name for her, no phone number, no chance of ever seeing her again. The following day, I went back to the museum, just in case…but I never saw her again, either. There are days I wonder if she ever remembers me.

Number three was a woman I saw on trolley back in Boston in 1966. We rode from Park Street Station to Lechmere Station during rush hour. Rush hour was people mashed together, elbow-to-elbow or worse. Most days, if one more person got on the trolley, someone at the other end of the trolley popped out of a window. But not the day she got on. The trolley, which was usually noisy with people talking, was silent except for the grating and screeching of the wheels as the trolley tore along the tracks. And while the rest of us were mashed almost obscenely against one another, there formed around her a buffer zone of two or three feet into which no one dared trespass. If she was aware of us at all, she maintained her regal poise and never let on.

At Lechmere, the end of the line, we stepped back and let her off, first. I hoped she would be catching the Arlington bus with me. I was bent and determined to approach her. But she walked across the station and got into a cab. My commuting days were darkened after that because I never saw her on a trolley, train, or bus again.

Number four is a woman I dated for several years. She is, quite simply, the love of my life. I met her my second day on a new job. I stood in the doorway of her office and did a double take. I thought she was beautiful the very first time I saw her. First, we became friends. Several months later, we were dating. She was bright, funny, sexy, and a fantastic cook. The more I came to love her, the more beautiful she became. Sometimes she moved to the top of my list, ahead of the girl in the store in Denver. (Men are like that and a woman’s looks can rise and fall on how we feel about them.) But she’s gone, now. It took me a year and a half to get over her. But she’ll always be on several of my lists. (See “electrifying moments” and “things I’d do differently.”) The less said about her, now, the better.

Number five is my Mom. She’s now 84. I’ve always thought she was one of the most beautiful women in the world and I still do. If your Mom isn’t somewhere on your top-ten list, I have no respect for you.

Number six is a centerfold from Playboy Magazine that I saw in 1962. She was blonde, beautiful and naked. She’s the only woman on this list I never saw in person, though her photo hung on my bedroom wall for years after. When my sister’s house burned down, on the coldest night of the year, in December 1962, that issue of Playboy was one of the only two things of mine I took as we ran from the flames. I left without even wearing a shirt.

Until I met the girl at the department store in Denver, in 1965, the woman in the Playboy centerfold was at the top of my list. Since then, she’s fallen behind my mother. But I also wonder what she looks like today.

Number seven is my daughter. She’s 17. I call her “Monster.” There are people in this small town who have never heard me call her anything else and it’s not uncommon to hear store clerks refer to her as Monster. She responds. She knows to whom they are talking.

I know what you’re thinking: everyone thinks his or her daughters are beautiful. My youngest truly is. She’s gotten stares from men and women alike since she was 11. A friend once told me, “Your daughter’s so beautiful, she’d look good sitting in a chair wrapped in a burlap bag.” He’s right. I’m getting a burlap bag today and taking a picture of her. It will be worth seeing.

How does she feel about her beauty? She doesn’t like her hair. She’s sure there’s something wrong with her ankles. And she jogs because she thinks she’s fat. She’s five-foot seven and weighs 120 pounds.

Number eight is a woman named Nancy. I worked with her about 15 years ago. She was a legitimate beauty queen at county fairs and such, back in Minnesota. She’s an example of the “local phenom” whom most men in the never saw, but would find beautiful if they had. But she didn’t become a movie star, model, or singer and therefore will forever remain obscure and off the lists.

In the Oxnard plain, where Nancy and I worked, she got the reputation as “icy” from men she ignored, and that was most of them. My guess is she’d spent most of her life fending off men who hoped even an accidental glance at them was some kind of a come-on.

She liked me because I never acted like I wanted “a chance” with her. I treated her like any of the other women I worked with and liked. But there were days I found her so beautiful it hurt. I just didn’t let on.

Number nine is the girl, Norma, who sat in front of me in trig and calculus when I went to Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire. She became my best friend back then. I would have liked to date her, but she already had a boyfriend and having her as a best friend was the next best thing. I’ve seen her several times over the years and, though she makes self-referencing comments about her age and weight, I still think she’s beautiful, though maybe not top-ten now. But she sure was back then.

Number ten is a girl I met some years ago at a party in Massachusetts. We were drinking and she was the prettiest, wittiest girl there that night. And there were plenty of them there. I remember how we hit it off and, one thing leading to another, pretty soon we left. I was thinking I must have been the envy of the other guys as I was leaving with her. Next thing we were out in her car making out. Then she drove me home with her. She was probably violating several laws as I think we were both legally drunk. But I just wanted a woman and I felt like the luckiest guy in the world.

But here’s where things get kind of hairy. I remember waking up the next morning and she didn’t look so hot anymore. She wasn’t so funny, either. She was kind of crude. And I remember her looking at me and she seemed uncomfortable, too. Conversation was strained and she made no offer of breakfast, nor did I offer to take her out for brunch.

For all I know, someone had switched girls on me in the middle of the night.

So, why is she on my list? Because of the way she looked the night before through the bottom of a glass.

And there’s my list. No one of the women on the list is on mine. None of the respondents to the survey probably know any of the women on my list at all. And maybe they wouldn’t put any of the women on my list on their lists. Except for my Mom, of course. She’d go on anyone’s list.


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