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November 15, 2001 05:09pm
Sexy Victoria's Secret fashions heat up prime-time TV
Source: Reuters
by: Monica Summers

(NEW YORK, NY) -- The much-ballyhooed Victoria's Secret fashion show will make its television debut this evening, pumping images of supermodels clad in bras and thongs into what is hoped to be millions of America's living rooms.

The annual fashion show, now in its sixth consecutive year, was taped on Tuesday in New York City's Bryant Park, where an estimated 1,100 invitees ogled celebrity supermodels like German-born Heidi Klum, Brazilian Gisele Bundchen, and America's favorite supermodel, the Juno-esque Tyra Banks.

The show will air at 9 p.m. EST on Thursday (0200 GMT Friday) on the television network ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS - news).

More than 20 models, wearing everything from simple bras and panties to sequined corsets, thongs and six-foot wings, inspired many in the show's audience to hoot and holler as they watched the women strut down the runway showing the retailer's latest and greatest lingerie fashions.

Acrobatic angels, hanging from cables, glided and tumbled just a few feet above the heads of the crowd -- prompting more than a few ``oohs'' and ``ahs.''

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, the opera and classical recording star who has performed at the Grammys and the Oscars, opened the show. Later, rhythm-and-blues diva Mary J. Blige stirred the audience with her goosebump-inducing version of ``Family Affair.'' The show closed with the Broadway Gospel Choir's exhilarating rendition of ``Let the Sunshine In.''

While it was ``standing room only'' for many, the front rows were packed with a slew of celebrities, including Sigourney Weaver, Macaulay Culkin, Ivana Trump, Regis and Joy Philbin, Alan Cumming, Stephen Baldwin, Tara Reid and Mark Wahlberg.

After Bocelli's performance, the first model pumped her way down the runway in a white suede halter bra and white leather panties.

READY FOR PRIME TIME

For many who attended the taping, the question immediately came to mind: How would a throng of nearly naked women fare on prime-time American television?

The models, all professionals and, obviously, enjoying themselves, did more jiggling than a bowl of Jell-O.

Victoria's Secret marketing chief Ed Razek told Reuters in a recent interview that is why the company gave ABC two days to review all of the footage from the show and put together a production the network deemed appropriate.

``We're not going to break any censorship laws,'' Razek said. ``A great deal of the attitude toward sex is in the mind anyway, isn't it?''

The first 30 ``outfits'' veered much closer to the edge than the final 30, with many of the models wearing rhinestone- and sequin-encrusted corsets, leather boypants (like tight short boxers), red patent leather camisoles and red leather panties.

The second group of styles favored simplicity over details meant to send a man's heart and hormones racing. This segment showed off the popular Victoria's Secret Miracle Bra and matching Second Skin Satin thong underwear.

The show's entire final half consisted of models, models, models -- in all their barely dressed glory.

Razek said everything featured in the show, except the Valentine's Day products, is available in the Victoria's Secret stores. He noted, though, that many of the items were embellished, for production's sake, to make them look a bit more flashy. Victoria's Secret, based in Columbus, Ohio, is owned by Intimate Brands, Inc. (NYSE:IBI - news), in which The Limited Inc. (NYSE:LTD - news), owns an 84 percent stake.

``The wings won't be for sale and we only have one of the $12.5 million diamond-encrusted Miracle Bras,'' Razek said.

ABC DIDN'T HESITATE

While the theatrical value of the 2001 show was just as fantastic and eye-popping as the previous shows, viewers of this year's television special will no doubt be more pleased than viewers in previous years, who had to either watch the show in the flesh, so to speak, or via an Internet broadcast.

The first time the show was opened to mass audiences was just before Valentine's Day in 1999, when a record 1.5 million Internet users flooded the 17-minute live Webcast, causing the site to crash, leaving many unsatisfied viewers in its wake.

In 2000, the company timed the event to coincide with the famous Cannes Film Festival and once again decided to use the Internet as its mass medium of choice. That time, 2 million viewed the live Webcast with slightly better results.

This year, however, Razek said he wanted to do something totally different, so Victoria's Secret decided to pitch the idea of a pre-holiday television special to all four major U.S networks.

ABC was the first, and last, meeting.

``The first meeting on the first morning was with ABC, and about 15 minutes into the meeting, they said, 'We'll take it,''' Razek said. ``I think our instincts were right and I think the timing is right.''

At the party in the Bryant Park Hotel after the show, Heidi Klum was asked what it was like to wear this year's $12.5 million Heavenly Star bra, the diamonds-and-pink sapphires fantasy bra that's lined with platinum instead of fabric.

``At first, it feels a little cold,'' Klum told Reuters.

``Then, it warms up with the body heat,'' she added.

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