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On the wild side

On the wild side


Julian McMahon has no sexual hang-ups, and he's not afraid to say so.

It's probably just a testament to his scalpel-sharp performance on TV's naughtiest drama, Nip/Tuck, but the idea of meeting Julian McMahon on a street corner in Hollywood without a chaperone, even in broad daylight, seems a bit dicey. He's more than convincing as Dr. Christian Troy, the caustic, womanizing man-slut half of the show--which, for the uninitiated, is a daring slice of kink about two sexy professional body carvers.

Luckily, the real McMahon is an open and playful sort. (Witness his sexy Advocate cover shoot, which was the gentleman's own idea.) At a sushi joint near his hillside home he plops his 6-foot-2, 182-pound self down and orders a Popeye roll, named for its key ingredient, spinach. "I need to get myself some muscles," he quips. The interviewer assures him he's fine in that department. McMahon smiles. "That's what I was fishing for." Flirt.

Decked out in jeans, McMahon looks younger than he does on the tube, but he is a veteran when it comes to kinky on-screen action. Now entering its fourth season, Nip/Tuck--already brimming with LGBT story lines--is taking the sexy doc on a maybe-gay ride.

In the September 5 premiere, lonely Christian sees a therapist (Brooke Shields), who promptly tells him he's in love with Sean (Dylan Walsh), his married business partner and best friend. Horrified, our hero hires an interior designer to revamp his Wallpaper-worthy pad and "butch it up." Included in the makeover: a jutting bronze sculpture that, as Sean clues him in, looks like "a giant cock."

McMahon is very much on the rise himself these days. Now that he's notched TV stardom on his bedpost--thanks to Nip/Tuck and Charmed, a show he says he misses--his next conquest is big-screen leading man. He is about to film the sequel to last year's comic-flick smash hit Fantastic Four, reprising his role as the nasty Dr. Doom alongside a heroic Jessica Alba and megababe Chris Evans. And in March he stars opposite Sandra Bullock in Premonition, a sort of spooky Groundhog Day. All that and idolatry too (online fans have been known to marvel at the dimples toward the bottom of his back).

"No one is immune to his charms," says the star's Fantastic friend Alba, attempting to explain all the hubbub. "I think even straight men and gay women want to sleep with him." While she offers no proof of that conviction, it's worth noting that Rosie O'Donnell is one of many Nip/Tuck celebrity fans who have lined up to guest-star this fall.

Bullock has her own explanation for McMahon-mania: "Have you seen Nip/Tuck?" she asks, c'mon-style. "Enough said." But wild story lines and McMahon's dashing good looks aside, Bullock hints that camp is part of the alchemy. When both were bored during a lull on the Premonition set, she recalls, McMahon "did a wicked impression of Hitler's hairdresser convincing Hitler to go from a handlebar mustache to the little patch he is famous for." Bullock's role? "I played the German hausfrau who swept up the salon."

"I was Hitler's image consultant," McMahon later corrects with a sly giggle, as he downs a shrimp tempura and orders himself and his interviewer a second Coke.

But arriving at this shticking point with one of moviedom's biggest stars hasn't been an easy sprint for McMahon (and not just because he was nixed as the next James Bond). True, he and his two sisters were born into privilege in Sydney, but he has seen his share of sorrow and relationship woes.

His father, William, onetime prime minister of Australia, died when Julian was just 20. His 1994 marriage to pop singer and gay icon Dannii Minogue fizzled after just one year. And his 1999 marriage to actress Brooke Burns, which produced his daughter Madison, now 6, lasted only two years.

"I'm not even on the Richter scale of where I want to be," McMahon says, adding that he relates to the journey many of his gay pals have faced: "They've had to travel to be where they're at, and it's not an easy ride." The interviewer calls it the trooper mentality. "I find that intriguing," he says, noting that he's lost friends to AIDS and drugs, "and definitely, without a doubt, I feel like I've been on a similar journey myself."

Like a lot of us, he has a penchant for stylish excess. McMahon lowers his white Hoven Ritz sunglasses, which reflect his latest obsession. "I buy six pairs at a time," he says, rolling his eyes. He drives a 2007 Jaguar Super V8, favors Dolce and Gabbana suits, and gets off on the mind-blowing films of Michelangelo Antonioni. But these days the reformed--OK, "exhausted"--ladies man prefers to watch The Amazing Race with Madison. He's even thinking of trading in his Austin Powers-worthy bachelor pad, a modern multistory palace with a gym and huge windows that frame the Hollywood sign. "I think about moving for my girl," he says. "I wouldn't mind a place with a little more grass." Another revelation: "I just bought this tea set. I make my own ginger teas!"

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