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Sex Maniacs

Whom does "Sex and the City" really speak to?

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With their skintight sheath dresses, revolving door of suitors, and arsenal of withering put-downs, the four saucy heroines of HBO's Sex and the City epitomize the modern single urban female to a sisterhood of fans across the country. But one demographic responds to the show with even greater devotion than would-be That Girls: their gay male friends.

"I really feel like it comes from a gay man's perspective," says Christopher Brescia, an entertainment attorney who ordered HBO just so he could watch Sex and the City. "They all go to the gym, have sex, drink Cosmos, and shop. They are gay men."

Tom Samiljan, an editor at Wenner Media, is so eager to share his enthusiasm for the show that he calls from his cell phone while taxiing down a runway in San Diego. "I watch it every week -- all my friends watch it. I tape it if I'm not around," he confesses as the seat-belt sign chimes in the background. "They use all this gay terminology on the show, like 'fuck buddy' and 'gay-acting straight guy,' " he says, recalling one of the more-talked-about episodes, when Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is confounded by her pastry-chef love interest's Chelsea address and choice of Cher for make-out mood music. "I've been saying 'gay-acting straight guy' for years, but when I said it to my friend recently, he was like, 'Oh, that's so Sex and the City!' "

It's not just familiar catchphrases; gay men also relate to the boy troubles of Sarah Jessica & Co. As the writer Bob Morris puts it, "Now you've got women and gay men both expressing how fucked-up men are. Basically, we're in the same boat." "The idea of Mr. Big is a gay man's fantasy," adds Marc Bunag, a film executive who for his birthday asked for a gold ghetto-fabulous nameplate necklace like the one worn by Parker's Carrie. But what the gay audience appreciates most, suggests Samiljan, are the risqué story lines about anal sex and circumcision. "Just exploring those topics," he says, "they're totally breaking taboos."

One bond trader who actively recruits his friends to tune in claims that each episode is also a dose of positive reinforcement. "You feel this shame or embarrassment that gay men have more sex than the general population," he explains, calling from the waiting room of his doctor's office. (A few minutes later, he calls back to report that his gay doctor is a big fan as well.) "But there's no shame in having sex on that show." "It's refreshing to see that it's not just us fags who are sleeping around," agrees a publishing-world partisan. Perhaps that's why they unanimously nominate the slutty Samantha (Kim Cattrall) as their favorite character. "Samantha is the most gay-man of them all," says Samiljan. In one episode, Samantha's ex has become a drag queen, and just last week, the show's writers had her propositioned by a gay couple. "There must be a gay man writing that show," Brescia insists.

As the October 3 season finale approaches, Sex junkies are already scrambling for alternative ways to get their fix. On a recent Saturday, one real-estate financial analyst and six of his friends held a Sex and the City marathon. "It was so addicting," he exults. "It was like Melrose at its peak!" Other fans are busy using connections to get their hands on scarce review tapes. "It's being passed around like a bootleg drug," says Morris of one tape packed with seven back-to-back shows. "But I owed somebody a huge favor," he says sadly, "and now they own the tape."


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