HOLLYWOOD, May 10 (UPI) -- Rarely has the epigram about beauty in the eye of the beholder been open to question more than in the periodical lists of the 100 or 50 most beautiful people in the world.
This month People magazine printed its surefire circulation-building list.
Emblazoned on the May 13 special double-issue cover is "The 50 Most Beautiful People" and a photograph of Nicole Kidman.
Kidman is a lead-pipe cinch to be among the 50 most beautiful women in all English-speaking nations.
But would Nicole make it in Zambia, China, Peru, Afghanistan or Libya?
Nicole clearly is No. 1 or she wouldn't be on People's cover to sell the special double issue.
The definition of beauty varies in different cultures, among races, ethnic and age groups.
So who makes the decisions at People?
The editorial staff? Its photo department? A poll of readers? Does the list come straight from God?
The individuals on this year's list -- as in the mag's past lists -- are mostly actors, actresses, TV personalities, models and newsmakers.
Naturally, these people are not strangers to cameras. They're familiar to readers.
Maybe the graduating class of Toledo's Brown Junior High School has 15 of the most beautiful people, but don't count on them making it to People's list.
The magazine is rigorously politically correct to avoid offending minorities. Ergo, there are black, Hispanic and Asian beautiful people.
To prevent offending physically revolting citizens, there are some downright plain-looking folks in the current issue.
However, the most unforgivable plotz in this 2002 group, as in the past, is the inclusion of males -- an affront to all male readers of this special double issue.
Show us a man, even a nebbish nerd, surrounded by a phalanx of tattooed, Nazi, helmeted Hell's Angels bikers who would dare think of another male as "beautiful" by any stretch of the imagination.
C'mon, People, get off it!
Stop padding the most beautiful lists for heavy-breathing female readers by tossing in a bunch of guys who need a shave and who doubtless are ticked off for being called "beautiful."
The mag did that to Brad Pitt in past issues only to gain his enmity for life. The poor guy is stuck with a "pretty boy" image, which he's tried to lose ever since, playing characters who appear to need baths.
Near the top of this issue's beautiful people is the superb Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.
Truly, Denzel is on the beautiful list.
Washington is many things, extraordinarily talented, a gentleman, gracious and athletic, neat and intelligent. But we'll be damned if anyone on the planet would call him beautiful ... except People.
Among the definitions of beauty found in an exhaustive thesaurus are such words as loveliness, pulchritude, comeliness and magnificence.
Anyone brave enough to apply these adjectives face-to-face with Mr. Washington would likely come away from the encounter with a fat lip.
But maybe the People employees who decide who makes the list have a special insight to these individual characters' inner traits, virtues and admirable works and have applied "beautiful" in an esoteric, recondite burst of approbation. If so, perhaps they might consider Yasser Arafat a beautiful person or the late Boris Karloff.
Among other men on People's list is Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, whose name perhaps appealed to some of the more literate members of the mag's staff.
Another male beauty is singer Craig David, whose facial hair made him only slightly less beautiful than man-mountain Dean, the old-time wrestler.
At any rate, we were spared the choice of Elton John as one of the 50 most beautiful this year.
News anchor Diane Sawyer, 56, was on the list. And while she is an attractive middle-aged woman, at no time has she been a candidate for Miss America.
That also goes for Jennifer Aniston, a perfectly nice young woman who happens to be the wife of the aforementioned Pitt. Maybe People's jury got the wrong member of the family.
Pity poor Tom Brady, the New England Patriot quarterback who made the list. Imagine what those ugly 400-pound NFL linebackers will call him when they knock him flat.