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Hutton happy just to be alive

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lauren Hutton knows how lucky she is just to be alive.

To be on her feet — albeit with the help of a crutch — little more than four months after a 110 mph crash on her motorcycle.

To still have her famous face and gap-toothed grin, which has appeared on 27 Vogue covers and is the face of The Gardens mall in Palm Beach Gardens.

"I wouldn't have prefrontal lobes if I didn't have a helmet with a visor on," she said recently prior to a fund-raiser at the mall. After being thrown 20 feet in the air, she skidded across Las Vegas desert rocks for 170 feet. Without the visor, the crash "would have taken my nose, my eyes, my teeth . . . "

She still has more than a dozen screws in her right arm and left leg, and this week will undergo bone grafts on those limbs. A small price to pay: "I was fantastically lucky."

Friday's event, which raised money for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, was Hutton's first public appearance since the accident. "Tonight's going to be a big night for me," she said.

The 56-year-old Hutton fairly glowed, with her windswept honey-blond hair and golden girl tan set off by a simple black dress. Her "comfortable sophistication" is what landed her The Gardens contract in 1994, said the mall's director of operations.

"I'm sort of at a crossroads in my life right now," she said. "I don't have to work much."

And so she's not particularly interested in landing another TV talk-show gig or more movie roles (she appeared in "American Gigolo," "Nashville" and "Zorro, the Gay Blade"). Instead, she wants to scuba dive, dog sled and hike through jungles around the globe. "I left the South to go to New York to get the money to do that," said Hutton, a native of Charleston, W.Va., who grew up in South Florida. "That was my No. 1 goal — to see the world."

She also stays busy as an advocate for hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the post-menopausal treatment used to help delay osteoporosis and potentially protect against heart disease.

Hutton said she initially resisted her doctor's HRT recommendation. "One year later, I got osteoporosis to the tune of one inch, and I was always a pretty short model anyway."

As for her BMW F-650 motorcycle and her membership in the Guggenheim Motorcycle Club (which counts Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons among its members), she says she'll eventually ride, but "I will never get on a bike again without a full-visor helmet."

It was Irons, in fact, who gave her his full-visor helmet only minutes before. "God bless Jeremy forever and ever and ever."