The love affair started 27 years ago when, at 7, a Brooklyn-born kid was escorted by her babysitter to an audition for a touring production of Annie. To the babysitter’s probable surprise, her charge was plucked out of the crowd and cast as one of the chirpy orphans. Three years later, in 1983, Alyssa Milano was cast as Tony Danza’s tomboy daughter, Samantha Micelli, in the sitcom Who’s the Boss? That’s when a generation of guys—guys who are now, like Milano, well into their thirties—fell full-on, flush-cheeked, terminally in love with her. Her geekier fans are still reeling from the epsiode when Samantha gets her first bra. They also own spare copies of her best-selling dance/exercise video Teen Steam.

“It’s funny, I just had this conversation,” Milano says. She’s sitting on a white leather couch in her West Hollywood condo, spilling out of a halter top, ruminating on her cult sex appeal. “My friend tells me, ‘Every time I mention you in front of guys, they all go nuts.’ So he asked one of them, ‘What is it about her? Can you define it?’ And the guy said, ‘She’s the girl we never got over.’”

The fact that Milano looks as appealing now as she does in syndication only intensifies the collective crush. Rather than swan-dive into a Corey Haim-style crash-and-burn after Who’s the Boss? ended, she mightily rewarded her male fans by posing nude in a magazine, playing Amy Fisher in a TV movie, and baring her 36Cs in a couple of straight-to-video flicks. In 1997, Aaron Spelling made an honest woman out of Milano, casting her as a troublemaking seductress in Melrose Place and, later, as a belly-button-flashing good witch in Charmed, which ran for eight seasons before it ended last year. Now she’s appearing in Pathology, a thriller out this month in which she plays the fiancée of a med student who gets tangled up in a bloody game of Who Can Commit the Perfect Murder? Screenwriters Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are veteran Alyssa-ites who not only brag about owning a well-used VHS copy of Teen Steam (“Inapproporiate mental theater was always a big part of the Alyssa experience,” Neveldine says) but also confess to fetishizing the nude, life-size prosthetic body double of Milano used in the filming of Pathology. “We kind of think of it as the Stanley Cup,” Taylor says. “We all take it home and share it.”

Those of you who don’t have access to that kind of Milano iconography will have to settle for nuggets of insight into the former Samantha Micelli’s life as a grown-up: She’s a UNICEF ambassador and the founding ambassador of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control, an organization to which she recently pledged $250,000. (“The fact that these diseases can be eradicated was like, well, this is a no-brainer,” she says. “It’s like a sale in global health!”) She has a successful line of Major League Baseball wear for women called Touch by Alyssa Milano, an entrepreneurial sideline the baseball fanatic created out of, she says, necessity. “I was sick of going in to purchase stuff and not being able to find anything that wasn’t pink,” she says (she’s a diehard Dodgers fan who has a blog on the MLB website). “It drove me nuts ’cause it was some guy’s answer to ‘What are we gonna do for the women? Oh, we’ll just make it pink, they’ll love it!’” Lastly, and most important, Milano is available.