Not all women of fame are pictured on Page 3

Dec 13, 2005 3:36 AM

Only a cad or curmudgeon would point it out, but one might be forgiven if he got the idea that a great number of women in Las Vegas are regarded as objects, bodies without minds, subjects of desire.

Any city that glorifies the female body as Vegas does, and any city that has — what? — 50 pages of escort services in its phone book, can convey that thought. The impression from the billboards and marquees, and the selling of the city, is one of lust. A city that advertises itself with "What happens here stays here" is playing not to the intellectual side of man, but to his longstanding status as a beast of prey.

There are, of course, brainy women of accomplishment here, but they are forced to labor behind the communal façade that offers the body, rather than the mind, as woman’s prime achievement.

It was refreshing, therefore, to read about some non-Vegas achievers during the last week, women who may have bodies worth noting, but are not noted for them. They were in the news not because of beautiful butts or bosoms, but because of big deeds and intriguing thoughts.

One of them was Annika Sorenstam, the world’s best woman golfer.

She was talking last week not about birdies, but about the birds and bees and the fact that a woman can yearn for something more than admiration or success or beauty.

Ms. Sorenstam ended an eight-year marriage recently. Her life is that of the harried celebrity, and she is not built for that. She is shy and thoughtful, introspective and hard to know, so intensely immersed in her golf game that she is considered robotic by some who see her only on the golf course. Friends, however, say she can be warm and fun in private.

Since her divorce from David Esch, who shared her career and provided guidance in it until this past summer, she has become involved with Mike Magee, son of a PGA Tour player and an agent for International Golf Partners. Sorenstam says she is still struggling to move on, and credits Magee for helping her through her post-divorce crisis. "I think what we have is great," she said recently, a very human sentiment from a woman of fame not known for being warm and cuddly.

Two other women, far less known but moving into the international spotlight in horse racing, were in the news last week.

One was Emma-Jayne Wilson, the first woman in 50 years of racing at Woodbine in Toronto to wind up as that major track’s leading race winner. Emma-Jayne won four races on Woodbine’s closing card Sunday, giving her 175 riding victories for the season. Even more impressive, she also rode in more Woodbine races — 1,095 — than any other jockey, and earned more money, riding the winners of $7,484,513, than any jock at the Toronto track. Her comment: "It was a helluva season. Let’s do it again next year."

In New Jersey, veterinarian Dr. Patricia Hogan, who saved Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones by restoring his fractured skull, and Afleet Alex by repairing his fractured leg, added another trophy to her case. Dr. Hogan treated the 2-year-old pacer Jereme’s Jet, about to be scratched by severe lameness from the $575,400 Breeders’ Crown, and the colt went on 24 hours later to win the classic race in smashing fashion.

And then there was the thinking woman’s Olympic skier, Julia Mancuso. A renaissance woman, she loves what she does best, but she also surfs, sketches, sings Karoake, swims in icy lakes, and does things she says others may consider stupid but she considers testing her own limits.

Although she is preparing herself for the winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in super-G, giant slalom and combined events, she is looking beyond the snow. She says she thinks she has a good show voice, and she plans to take professional lessons to find out. If she does, she may take a crack at Broadway.

You may even get to see her in Vegas one of these days, with her clothes on and her mind clear. Like the other ladies named here, this one knows what life is all about, and she intends living it to the fullest.