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Where have you gone, Grizzly Adams?

Special to The Times

“Check it out,” whispered my friend Mieke, “The lean, Mediterranean-looking guy on the rowing machine.” She signaled toward “the man pit” (the weight area) of Crunch Fitness in West Hollywood, where a clean-shaven, classically handsome guy in his 20s was gazing amorously at his own reflection in the mirror.

But I was gawking in the other direction at a rugged, mustachioed man with salt-and-pepper hair doing bench presses -- probably on the recommendation of his cardiologist.

Mieke slapped my upper arm, “Ew, you are not looking at that old mountain man!” But I was. That gruff fellow, who reminded me of actor Sam Elliott, would become my gym fixation. As young, polished actors and trainers waved business cards in my face flashing knock ‘em dead smiles, I swerved -- as if dodging bullets -- making sure not to lose track of my target.

As a 32-year-old metropolitan woman, I do not (as might be expected) crave a man who can seduce me with Shakespeare or persuade me with Prada. If he looks like he chews tobacco and can recount with masculine aplomb tales of travels, tools and tinkering, I’m intrigued. If Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is his favorite tune and he hunts wild boar, I’m his.

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Maybe this is an extremist reaction to the assault of the metrosexuals. I imagine an army of them lined up in their pristine BMW convertibles -- hair product oozing off their highlighted locks, copies of Wallpaper magazine in hand -- ready to rumble (or rather, radicchio). They’re everywhere. No longer can I use the plastic cover of Brawny paper towels as visual fodder for my fantasies. Even my burly ‘70s man with the gorgeous mustache has been coiffed to an inch of his life by the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” team. He’s been made over into a sun-bed tanned, clean-cut metro. He still wears flannel, but it’s probably Ralph Lauren.

They don’t make them like they used to. There was a time when guys like Kris Kristofferson and Sam Elliott were the norm. Now they, like elk in the Hollywood Hills, seem to be a dying breed, only to be found gutting fish in Alaska. Or, like Sam, they’ve already shacked up with a “special little lady.” “What is it about him?” I’ve been asked. Well, he possesses a quiet wisdom but only speaks when he’s got something really important to say -- as is evidenced by his minimal but pivotal role as the Stranger in “The Big Lebowski.” He’s a Zen cowboy. Like that first cup of coffee in the morning, he’s earthy, full-bodied, sometimes gritty at the core, and deeply stimulating.

“There are places, you know, where they hang out,” said one middle-aged friend of mine, as

if she were telling me a mob secret.

“Barbra Streisand’s house?” I joked, referring to Babs’ cool hunk of a husband, James Brolin.

She laughed and told me of a dreamlike neighborhood known as “grip hills.” This was, she promised, where those Grizzly Adamses of the film community lived in North Hollywood. True, there are some “Elliott enclaves,” where the scant vestiges of ‘70s grit and sexuality swagger about to the rhythm of an Allman Brothers tune. But by nature, they’re lone wolves. They don’t need anything or anyone, so they don’t tend to be the forthright courting sort.

Not long ago I found myself driving through Laurel Canyon with a friend who was looking to buy a house. As the road narrowed, I slowed down and happened to look up through the sunroof. There was a handsome shirtless man in his 40s in jeans, shoveling dirt. He smiled and nodded his head as we drove by. The road narrowed even more and led to a private drive, so I made a U-turn. I had to get a closer look at this virile canyon man. As I slowed down, I noted, with dismay, that he was gone. But, his garage door was open to reveal, what else, but a pristine BMW convertible.

Shana Ting Lipton can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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