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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Chantal Westerman, the Sexiest Woman in Dallas

She's happiest these days with her horses.
She’s happiest these days with her horses.

FADE IN:

INT. D MAGAZINE OFFICES, DALLAS – DAY. IT IS EARLY 1977.

WICK ALLISON and DAVID BAUER are in mid-conversation as the camera pushes in.

WICK
I met this woman last night; she’s an usher at the Theater Center. I want you to write a story about her.

DAVID
You want me to write a story about an usher?

WICK
She’s incredibly sexy. Her name is Chantal. Do a story about the sexiest woman in Dallas.

DAVID
What? I can’t do that…

WICK
Yes, you can. Because if you don’t, you’re fired.

 

And that is how David Bauer came to pen an article in the April 1977 issue of D that was accompanied by the first “centerfold” ever in the magazine’s pages. I’ve never met her in person, but after a brief phone conversation this week, I can vouch for the fact that his story, “The Sexiest Woman in Dallas,” is a true and accurate portrait of Chantal Westerman.

It’s one of D Magazine‘s 40 greatest ever. After you’ve read the whole thing, come back here, and I’ll tell you what Chantal (see, we’re already on a first-name basis) has been up to in the 37 years since its publication.

The article changed her life both personally and professionally. The way she tells it, being proclaimed the sexiest woman in town led to an opportunity in radio. She became the “traffic girl” on the KNUS morning show, where hosts Dick Hitt and Kevin McCarthy would jauntily proclaim on-air that she’d been hired because “she gives good head-on collision.”

That radio gig led her to other opportunities on radio and TV after she moved to Los Angeles a few years later. Then came an audition for Good Morning America, a job she landed after having to disclose to the network brass any past activities that might be a violation of the morality clause in the contract that she was about to sign. She told them about the D Magazine article and about her appearance in the buff in Charles Collum’s 1977 photo book Dallas Nude. She spent 13 years at GMA as an entertainment reporter. (You can watch her here: in 1987 substitute co-hosting with Charles Gibson and an impressive display of hair, and petting a rabbit, and hanging out with some half-naked dudes.)

From a personal standpoint, however, the article’s effect wasn’t all positive. Too many men read the word “sexy” to mean “willing and able.” “I became very tired of being the sexiest woman in Dallas,” she says.  There’s also the matter of what took place between Bauer and her but didn’t get into print.

Bauer was then the boyfriend of our own Nancy Nichols. They lived in a house around the corner from Chantal’s apartment building, and according to Chantal, she and Nancy were best friends. Which made for a difficult conversation after Bauer’s reporting on the piece was finished.

“The first thing I had to do was I had to confess to my best friend, Nancy, that David and I had a little bit of a makeout session after he was done with the interview, just to see what it was like with the sexiest woman in Dallas,” she says.

Nancy says Chantal misremembers the facts a little. They didn’t know each before Bauer wrote the story, and “it was more than a makeout session.” The first time they spoke was the night Chantal came to Nancy at a bar where Nancy worked and confessed what had happened between David and her. Nancy already knew, and strangely enough she and Chantal did end up becoming great friends. They were roommates after she broke up with Bauer and lived together again later in Los Angeles. Chantal was the maid of honor at Nancy’s wedding.

Bauer tells me that he found Chantal smart and funny and sexy. As for the round of participatory journalism in which he engaged with her: “I’d like to say I was just doing my job as a good and thorough journalist, but frankly I was just badly seduced.” He’s gone on to a long career as a top editor at Sports Illustrated and is also the brother-in-law of our company president, Christine Allison.  “I wrote many stories for D that I like to think were much better than this one. But at retrospective time, it’s this story that always comes up,” he says.

Chantal now lives in a small town in Idaho, devoting most of her time to rescuing wild horses from being rounded up by the federal Bureau of Land Management and finding homes for stray dogs. She says that it was during her time in Dallas that she learned to love horses.

“Dallas has really shaped me, and then to be represented as something  of the best, the sexiest in Dallas, was really so much,” she says. “Dallas and D Magazine and all it did for me are an instrumental part of the tapestry of my life.”

In the 1977 story, Chantal lists the things she finds sexy and others that she finds unsexy. I asked her what’d be on those lists today:

Sexy

  1. Equine veterinarians
  2. Mouths that tastes good
  3. Flat bellies
  4. Rough hands
  5. Kindness
  6. Generosity of spirit
  7. Spirituality, knowing you’re not alone in this world
  8. A man who will stop for a lost dog on the side of the road, especially if he’s dressed in a tux on his way to an event

Unsexy

  1. Dirty fingernails
  2. A raised voice
  3. Bigotry
  4. Prejudice of any kind, but especially against women or gay marriage
  5. Gov. Butch Otter, the governor of the great state of Idaho

 

As we finished our conversation, she issued an invitation: “You want to come and dig some posts, build some fences, let me know. We always need men up here.”

So that’s an FYI to all you fellas.