Years and YEARS ago - I used to sell cameras at a shop. It's funny- because I took a very unusual tack to my job. I would be honest with customers. I'd tell them to forget about all the hoopla... go as manual as possible and use ONLY one lens - and no zooms or silly filters! It doesn't make me more money that way - but the customers REALLY appreciated. Actually - I got bonuses for really high sales since everyone would come to me since they trusted me.
But what I really think on the issue is simply this. Go as high quality as you possibly can. Think about what you want to DO with the camera. Aperture or shutter priority auto models might be a good thing depending on what you're doing. But with prices of 35mm slrs being SO LOW right now... it's easy to buy quality. Without knowing too much about what you're doing - I'd say go with a Nikon F3HP and 55 micro lens. you should be able to pick up a kit for less than $350. It's a REALLY solid high quality camera - with a REALLY excellent viewfinder. I cannot stress enough the importance of ergonomics and easy use like this in a camera you're just starting out with. If the design is too funky - then it'll be a turnoff - and you may never really make it out of the starting blocks. The lens I menioned... while a tad slow - is unbelievably sharp and will allow you to get in as close as you need to any subject whatsoever. Many people might suggest a beginner pick up a low-quality camera to begin - but I think that's anathema to learning. Other good choices would be spotmatics, nikon f or f2, SRT-101 or 102 (if memory serves), yeah, the canons are good. If you can get something with removable prism - that's a great and useful thing at times (nikon F2, F3, canon FT).
I stress the one-lens approach also because that way you'll be able to train your vision and your composition better without being fettered by too many choices. The more things remain the same - the faster you'll go forward. I know that may seem like a hard thing. But you'll have to trust me on this.