I'm thinking of the coolest guy in sports. Three hints:
1. He's had the SI cover more than anybody--233 times.
2. The world's most ravishing women would club one another with loaded purses to get his attention--and have for more than 30 years.
3. He's got the cellphone numbers of every great athlete of our time--from Arnold Palmer to Ken Griffey Jr.--and he never homered, dunked or blitzed.
It's not Michael Jordan or Joe Montana. This guy's on the other side of the lens. Walter Iooss Jr. (pronounced yose, as in dose) is one of the greatest sports photographers in history, and you'd give a year's salary and any spare organ to be him for just one week, because he has shot SI's Swimsuit Issue for 34 years. Do you know how many thongs that is?
This guy has more stories than Contact has tiny time-release pills. Better yet, one adult beverage and he'll start telling them.
"The most beautiful girl I ever shot?" Iooss says, choosing from among a group that includes Kathy Ireland, Heidi Klum and Elle MacPherson. "Without doubt, Paulina Porizkova. You could not take a bad picture of her. And yet she couldn't have cared less. She was a concert pianist, smoked like crazy and didn't give a damn about modeling. She was the train that came through your life just once."
Second place? "Christie Brinkley lit up in front of a camera like a 1,000-watt bulb." Of today's models? "Petra Nemcova."
Iooss has an eye for the human form the way Dean Martin had an eye for a gimlet. If you treasure a striking photo of an athlete or a model, chances are Iooss took it. The man has seen more perfect bodies than the night watchman at the Louvre.
"Elle MacPherson's body leaves people speechless," he recalls, happily. "She'll walk into a restaurant, and the whole place will go absolutely still. Yet she's so insecure. The whole time you're shooting her, she's saying, 'Do I look O.K.? Does my butt look fat?'"