Sarasota is known for many things—beautiful beaches, cultural riches and, OK, we admit it, as the epicenter of the recent national real estate meltdown. But after poring through the piles of nominations for our second annual “Hottest Husbands” competition, we’ve decided we have another claim to fame: City of Love.
The nominations practically sizzled with the passion Sarasota wives have for their husbands, as they praised their perfect physiques, amazing intellects, tender hearts, devoted parenting and all-around lust for life. Some wives filled pages with their praise; others kept their comments brief and let their man’s picture speak for itself; a few filled out their forms in rhyming couplets. One created an entire little book. But every nomination was eloquent with the blissful appreciation these women feel to have been blessed with such magnificent mates.
With such intense competition, it took us several weeks to narrow down the nominations to a stack of finalists. But finally, seven guys stood out from the crowd. Our winners include a genetics professor, a construction executive, an artist, a sales director, a minister, a supermarket manager and an architect. And yes, they’re sexy, with enough animal magnetism to generate a tropical heat wave, but they also warmed our hearts with their humor, humility, integrity, energy and absolute devotion to their wives.
Meet seven inspiring reasons to believe in happily ever after—Sarasota’s 2008 Hottest Husbands!
Thirty-four-year-old Maurice Opstal has the boyish, All-American good looks of a Matt Damon, but his easygoing charm first impressed his wife, Vanessa. They met for the first time as teenagers in Miami; when he sat down next to her at a movie and started eating her popcorn, “We talked through the rest of the show,” she says. Several years later they met again at Florida International University, where Maurice instantly recognized her as “that girl in the movie,” and they became buddies and confidants. But a road trip together turned them into lovers, and in 2000, they were married in Sarasota, where he directs construction and management for SMG Property Development and she owns Box Furniture.
“He’s a sweet guy, a wonderful friend and an incredible father—his family always comes first,” says Vanessa. They have four children under six, including eight-month-old twins; and if she’s out, he’ll feed (he’s the family cook), bathe and tuck in the entire crew, singing Hannah Montana songs to the two older girls while he gives the twins their bottles. He’s also a romantic; he proposed by arranging a surprise carriage ride that ended at Lido Beach, where he’d set up a little table with candles, wine and a poem that asked her to marry him. He still sends her poems, Vanessa says—flowers, too—but it’s his rock-solid character that makes him the foundation of her life. “You can always count on him,” she says—and that says it all.
Joe Gallante, 44, proves that a rugged, all-man exterior can hide a tender heart. When his wife, Tina, met him in college in Michigan, she admits that his sexy good looks fired her up, and, she says, “After 20 years of marriage, we’re still feeling the heat together.” But she soon discovered much more to love about Joe.
A steady, hardworking guy, he always “knows the right thing to do” and makes judgment calls that are in his family’s best interest, says Tina. Though they fell in love with Sarasota years ago, Joe stuck with his job as an audiovisual manager at Michigan State University until retirement. Then he started a second career as a regional manager based in Atlanta, which allows them to spend lots of time at their condo on Siesta Key, where they like to start their mornings with seven-mile runs on Siesta Beach.
A devoted dad to their two school-age children, Joe is a careful listener who “senses when something is not right” and will figure out the problem “without nagging or prying,” says Tina. He may seem reserved, but “we talk for hours and never run out of things to say”—especially on their Friday night dates with a bottle of wine on their back deck. And though he’s “not gushy romantic, he has his own way of never letting me forget that I’m very special,” she says.
Long before Henry Porter noticed her, his wife, Helena, had such a crush on him that she was too “dumbfounded” to even speak in his presence. And why not? Even as a teen-ager, he was clearly a rising star: handsome, well-dressed and, just like his father, the Rev. Henry Porter of the West Coast Center for Human Development, a gifted musician and preacher as well. Helena’s best friend was Henry’s sister, so she had lots of opportunity to observe him—and when she was eight, she told Henry’s mother she’d decided to marry her son.
But sparks didn’t fly until years later, when Henry had to chaperone his little sister on her first dates, and the sister asked Helena to come along to keep him company. When Helena went to college, they tried to maintain a long-distance romance, but that fizzled. In 2005, at a school reunion, they connected again, but as friends; and that friendship, says Helena, deepened their relationship and showed her how special Henry really is. He has a rare gift for “connecting with people” of every sort, Helena says, and he’s “caring and giving” to both friends and strangers.
Now 30, he’s a vice president of his father’s enterprises, but busy as he is, “He always shares time with me and makes me feel wonderfully loved,” says Helena. And maybe sexiest of all, this successful public figure knows how to be vulnerable and intimate, “trusting me with his dreams, desires, fears and insecurities,” she says. “I know all about him.”
Brains and brawn blend gorgeously in 32-year-old Mitch Ruzek, a graduate student and genetics instructor at the University of South Florida. An athlete who excels at sports and does occasional modeling, he’s also a part-time biotech consultant—and was on the Brain Bowl in college.
It’s hard to say whether Mitch’s sex appeal or smarts first attracted his wife, Kim, who met him when she was a senior doing academic coaching for athletes and freshman Mitch applied to be a biology tutor. Whatever the reason, “It was love at first sight,” says Kim, who’s now a radiologist. They’ve been together ever since—through college, her medical school (he managed sports stores and taught high school while she completed her fellowship and residency) and now his graduate studies.
Outgoing, happy and “great fun,” Mitch is also “a commonsense guy” with an intuitive understanding of people, Kim says. “He’s kind to everyone—and very accepting.” He’s got the kind of easy confidence that gets him grooving on the dance floor to the techno music he loves—even though, she says with a giggle, “He can’t dance.”
And despite his striking looks—he was recruited to the modeling agency by a woman who saw him pumping gas and asked, “Do you get paid to look like that?”—he makes Kim feel totally secure. They work out, swim, surf and enjoy the Sarasota arts scene together, and she predicts he’ll be an amazing father. That’s good—because they’re expecting a baby in July.
With his silky black hair and confident smile, Steve Carlin, 36, raised the judges’ hot-o-meter right away, but it was his stellar character that sent him to the top. “I call him one of the giants of the world,” his wife Stacy says, a “hero” for his unshakable ethics and moral values.
A “small-town girl” from North Dakota, Stacy was living outside of Manhattan when she decided to take a chance on meeting someone on Match.com. Nervous and skeptical, she met Steve, a New York City architect, for a drink and “could see he was a very honest, open person.” But it was on their next date, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that she began to get “goosebumps” as she saw his pure passion for the art—and felt a “fantastic” electricity sparking between them. When her North Dakota girlfriends asked just why she’d fallen for this guy, Stacy sat down and in 20 minutes e-mailed them 100 reasons. (Among them: his healthy lifestyle, logical mind, love for animals and kids, and, our favorite, “He watches me leave and enter a room.”)
Several years ago they moved to Sarasota, where Steve grew up, and he joined Jonathan Parks Architects. Despite all his talents, Stacy says, Steve is a “go-with-the-flow” guy who’s easy to hang out with—and has so earned her trust that “He could be in a room full of naked Playboy bunnies and I could go have a cup of coffee and not worry a bit.”
Hot isn’t always the burning sexiness or macho swagger of a Russell Crowe. Sometimes it’s the quirky charm and open heart of a creative spirit, a true original who warms every corner of your soul. That’s 33-year-old Csaba Orvath, says his wife, Erica.
They met on his first day in this country, when the Hungarian doctoral student showed up at her office at American University looking for directions. With his “round glasses, shaggy hair, blue eyes and little brown shorts held up with suspenders decorated in music notes” and a small suitcase holding all his worldly possessions, he may not have looked like an ultra-cool college student, but Erica soon learned how intriguing this shy young man was. Soon after their meeting, someone began filling her office with colorful paper birds, flowers and other artwork; only when he one day invited her to a Hungarian polka dance did she discover her secret admirer was this gifted artist.
Their six years of marriage have been “the most wonderful time of my life,” says Erica, thanks to a husband who provides “magic and enchantment, love and adventure, care and compassion and art.” Some of his art depicts their love story; other works preserve the stories of friends, including many Hungarian immigrants; he’s even brightened the lives of cancer patients by donating work to the Wellness Community.
“His love for life is incalculable,” says Erica. “He gives himself to me, his family, friends and strangers with great meekness and vision, and expects nothing in return.”
When Andy Lappin “looks deep into your eyes with his soft browns, you feel completely understood,” says his wife, Michelle Taylor. “It’s enough to melt your heart.” It melted ours, as did the way Lappin, 48, has embraced her children, who were 12 and 18 when they met, “as if they were his own.” So did his habit, after long days managing Longboat Key’s Publix, of coming home and making her a cup of tea and a bubble bath while he cooks dinner.
But while tenderness is hot, what’s even hotter is a thoroughly modern man who accepts and enjoys all aspects of life; and that defines this “highly evolved” guy, says Michelle, who “treats everyone with respect and consideration—male or female, rich or poor, old or young, gay or straight.” He’s also an adventurer who has taken her to three continents, where he “embraces the differences and absorbs the culture.”
And though he loves to choose beautiful outfits for her, including shoes and jewelry, and has even been known to tear up watching chick flicks, he also skis, fishes, golfs and restores and races old cars. (He was also in a pool league until the meetings conflicted with his church choir practices.)
Yes, this guy is for real, says Michelle, and she hopes he’s an inspiration “for all the single ladies out there who are discouraged.” He’s more than she ever dreamed, she says, “my guardian and my protector, my best friend and advocate, my council and my consolation.”