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Well-aged pinups are turning gray heads

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LANTANA, Fla. — The pinup models sat in the quiet library, free, at least for a while, from the burdens of their celebrity. They grumbled about the popularity that dogged them, one pair of sensible heels at a time, since their sold-out calendar, "The Men of the Carlisle," was published this spring.

They smiled a lot as they grumbled, the way men complain about having too much good wine, too much Sinatra, too many sunsets.

And now, so many women.

So little time.

"I'm a very tired man," said Paul Smallen, 89, one of more than 20 men who posed for a beefcake calendar at the Carlisle, a retirement complex in Lantana, and found himself deluged with suitors in a place where only 22 percent of the residents are men.

"They're chasing me all over the place," Smallen said. But it is hard to feel sorry for him because he is still just grinning and grinning. "I love these women, but I wish they'd leave me alone."

A few feet away, Harry Levinson, 88, nodded in sympathy.

If they had known, Levinson said, that one day they would be sex symbols in a place where women outnumbered them four to one, "we'd have taken better care of ourselves."

The calendar, which has only one semi-nude shot — of Ray Fox, 92, backstroking in the community pool in goggles and what appear to be Bermuda shorts — was the idea of Susan Mahoney, the retirement community's marketing director.

She noticed the men have a love of life that defied time, that not only ignored age but also seemed to sneer at it and thumb it in the eye. Of her models, at least six have pacemakers, several use canes and some are recovering from operations that seek to extend their sunsets for a while.

"Some of us don't have all our parts anymore," one said.

"Some of us got ones we didn't come with," another said.

The calendar, which shows the men playing golf, sipping champagne, throwing a football and posing beside the water, was their way of letting everyone know that their retirement community "is not heaven's waiting room," said Fox, who swims 22 laps in the pool daily.

"It's not how old you are, but how you are old," he said.

Syd Rabin, 92, said she was not impressed, personally, with what she said amounted to a bunch of strutting popinjays. But other women here, Rabin added, have shown no such restraint.

"They have gone hysterical," she said, since the calendar was first circulated through the complex. "They don't care if those men are 80, 90, 104 —as long as they're breathing. And those men are now so conceited."

A few feet away, resident Helen Goodman chatted with Bernie Goldin, 90, a calendar model.

"You are good-looking," Goodman told him.

"I know," he said.

This is not, these men say, some kind of second childhood. The calendar and the fun they had doing it and the fun they gleaned from it were only reminders of things before they began to pursue grown-up lives and families and businesses, a time when they spent hours in front of the mirror with combs — and had something to comb.