Firemen have always been sex symbols, of course, but suddenly they're more desirable than Brad Pitt -- and much more approachable. "Women have been coming in every day, bringing dinner and cookies to the guys and giving us massages," says nine-year Engine 24 veteran Charlie Gaffney (Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker have both stopped in). "A few women chiropractors came in to do adjustments."
At a benefit for the Leary Firefighters Foundation at the Park last week, Denis Leary played matchmaker. "If you're a girl," he said, "kiss a fireman." Many women took him up on it, stampeding past Matt Dillon, Liam Neeson, and Harrison Ford to get to the men in uniform. "I told my girlfriend, 'I'm not going home without a fireman,' " said a twentysomething brunette wearing a red leather miniskirt and an fdny tank top. One 25-year-old magazine editor told herself that she was doing it for America when she made out with several firemen at the event. "I felt sort of guilty that I didn't have any money for all those things at the silent auction, so I just figured that this was a way that I could contribute," she said, "plus they were hot." And her friend admitted that, a few days after the tragedy, she donated socks to the cause and then slept with a fireman from Miami.
Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, who wrote a monologue based on her interviews with wives and girlfriends of firemen killed in the tragedy, says firemen appeal to women because they have a feminine side. "Men think that women like machismo, but it's the opposite," she says. "They are the ideal men because, like women, they use their strength to de-escalate violence."
Women are willing to go to great lengths to land one: Two dates with Terry Quinn, a 40-year-old fireman from Ladder 22, were auctioned for $8,000 at the Leary benefit. But Gaffney looked incredulous when he was asked where to pick up a fireman. "We have a few single young guys, and they're always asking the question 'If a fireman wants to meet a girl, where should he go?' " he said. For the record, the boys of Engine 24 hang out most weeknights at Chumley's, Off the Wagon, and Milady's.