You're 36,000 feet above the Great Plains. A Leo, you flip to your horoscope in the in-flight magazine: "Now that certain obstacles and anxieties are finally out of your way, the big question is this: Can you handle the security that monogamy promises without getting so bored you fall asleep at the wrong time?"
Whoa baby! Prepare for landing. This astrologer has your number.
Cheeky, blunt, a tad naughty, Michael Lutin has turned an ancient art on its ear. Don't expect his astrological forecasts to portray us mere mortals as victims of our signs, "trapped in a whirlwind of inequity," as Mr. Lutin puts it.
Rather, he opts for telling readers to take responsibility for their preordained shortcomings, as in: "Look. You're selfish. You're greedy. You can't stop eating cookies. That's why you're fat. It's not because of your mother."
Tonight, Mr. Lutin will discuss "Astrological Predictions: How To Make Them and How To Beat Them (Uncle Mikey's Secret Recipe for Coping with the Future)," at the Theosophical Society in Maryland. His talk is sponsored by the Maryland chapter of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, a group of astrology enthusiasts.
As avid horoscope followers have noted, Mr. Lutin's snippy monthly predictions in Vanity Fair and American Way -- American Airlines' in-flight publication -- have set the tone for horoscopes now appearing in other slick magazines, such as Elle, Allure and Vogue.
"I'm part of a new breed of astrologer who believes in free will," he says by phone from his New York City home. "The old stuff was strictly predestined. The younger generation of astrologers believes there's a [cosmic] script, and there's improvisation as well."
Mr. Lutin's stinging horoscopes alluding to Virgo's relationship problems or Aries' egotism take aim at common personality flaws that all readers can relate to and are spiced with references to Hollywood, fairy tales and the Queen of England.
"Michael hits a nerve with readers that not a whole lot of people do," says John H. Ostdick, American Way editor. He quotes from one piece of fan mail addressed to Mr. Lutin: "I'm absolutely floored about the accuracy of the horoscope in the February 1 edition of American Way."
At the same time, Mr. Lutin approaches his work "with a very good sense of humor much as he approaches life," Mr. Ostdick says.
In his private practice, Mr. Lutin uses his clients' astrological charts to formulate "a certain hypothesis about their early life and how it affects their life today. . . . Slowly, and with great painstaking effort, astrology has helped to unlock secrets and free those people. I have not had a lot of successes, but the ones I have are very gratifying."
The author of several books, including "Childhood Rising" and "Made in Heaven: The Astrology of Relationships Ideal and Real," Mr. Lutin has also penned several astrological musicals. In one episode of his ongoing opus, "What God Says Goes," Mr. Lutin performed in a straitjacket.
"I love astrology," he says. "I use it to get me back on track and to encourage me to embrace whatever path. It reminds me of my strengths and that bad things aren't going to last forever; the good things aren't either."
Astrologer Michael Lutin speaks at 7 tonight at the Theosophical Society in Maryland at 523 N. Charles St. in Baltimore. Admission is $3 for National Council for Geocosmic Research members; $5 for nonmembers. Call (410) 466-1510 for details.