August 13, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown — the magnificent Cosmopolitan editor — has died at the age of 90.

Goodbye to a great lady.
"Helen Gurley Brown was an icon. Her formula for honest and straightforward advice about relationships, career and beauty revolutionized the magazine industry," said Frank A. Bennack, Jr., CEO of Hearst Corporation. "She lived every day of her life to the fullest and will always be remembered as the quintessential 'Cosmo girl.' She will be greatly missed."
I was never the Cosmo girl type, but I respect the media genius, even one who speaks mostly to other people. Though I never bought a copy of Cosmo for myself, I read every issue of the magazine for 2 years in the mid-70s, when I had my pre-law school job in a market research company, analyzing magazines, and Cosmo was one of the magazines.
It was her 17th job, at the advertising agency Foote, Cone, and Belding, that launched her future success. As executive secretary to Don Belding, Gurley Brown's work ethic and witty notes impressed both her boss and his wife, who suggested she try her hand at writing advertising copy. She proved her talent, winning prizes for her copy. By the late 1950s, she had become the highest-paid female copywriter on the West Coast and one of the few to be listed in Who's Who of American Women. (She is also recognized in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in The World, and the World Book of Facts.) 
In 1959, at the age of 37, Gurley Brown married Brown, 43, then a film executive at 20th Century Fox Studios, and later an independent producer. During their marriage, Brown was a partner behind many of Gurley Brown's projects, even writing Cosmo cover lines. It was he who persuaded her to write a book about her life as a single woman. The result, Sex and the Single Girl (1962), took the nation—and then globe—by storm....

The Browns... worked together to keep Helen in the public eye. She wrote a syndicated newspaper advice column and made record albums and radio spots. The pair pitched plays, television shows, more books, and new magazines for single women. One, a magazine called Femme, attracted the interest of Hearst Magazines. But instead of a new title, they agreed to let her try to revive Cosmopolitan magazine.
She was a famously single woman and a brilliantly married woman. There's lots more at the linked article, which ends with the quote:
"Before I wrote my book, the thought was that sex was for men and women only caved in to please men. But I wrote what I knew to be true—that sex is pleasurable for both women and men."
Here's the ultra-famous book. (And here's the movie they made out of it — with Natalie Wood.)

29 comments:

David said...

Women like sex!

Wow!

I wish someone had told me.

I never say that in Field and Stream.

David said...

"saw that"

AllieOop said...

I read Cosmo faithfully. Rest in Peace HGB.

shiloh said...

She used to appear on all the talk shows back in the day ie Johnny/Cavett/Griffin/Donohue and was always rather pleasant.

May she rest in peace ...

rhhardin said...

Nine Tips for Great Sex after Death

Chip Ahoy said...

It's hard to admit this but she totally kicked my ass on my own publishing project, Astropolitan didn't get far at all. She outdid me in every way. Even died first. Originally Hellen Macho Brown, her name change signaled a new direction. She will be sorely missed.

campy said...

Fortunately, Ms. Brown will still be able to vote for Obama this fall.

Shana said...

I won't miss her. I don't think most of the sex advice she sells via Cosmo actually benefits women at all. "Fifty tips to make sure there isn't any difference between you and a hooker - in his mind".

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I used to read the magazine occasionally, when I was getting my hair done. Always thought...."Who buys this crap!?!?" and "Who would follow any of this stupid advice?!?"

How shallow are women?

Other than that. I guess she found a good niche for herself and maximized her potential.

wyo sis said...

She marketed herself brilliantly.

Eleanor said...

Without Helen Gurley Brown we may never have had Carrie Bradshaw. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. . .

rhhardin said...

Cosmos means beauty (via order). Astro is just geeky.

edutcher said...

My sister is Ann's age and she was put off by her. A Mrs Robinson type trying to be hip.

A less appealing advertisement for more sex (and we know how that ended up) could scarce be found.

rhhardin said...

I was thinking ee cummings had a book titled after COSMOS but it turns out to be XAIPE which just means rejoice, as in charisma.

Ron said...

So there's where a bit of Peggy Olsen on Mad Men comes from....with a pinch of Joan thrown in for good measure...

Alan said...

I had to google "Carrie Bradshaw." Never found a reason to subscribe to premium cable.

furious_a said...

...and, of course, all that her magazine and others that it inspired did to promote body-image insecurity in a couple of generations of young women.

William said...

I'm unsure of the pecking order in women's magazines, but I do know that most women claim that they never bought it. Its readership consisted mostly of women who found it laying around. I found the recipes in Cosmopolitan to be tasty, quick, and economical. I'm surprised that more women didn't read Cosmopolitan for the recipes.

ken in sc said...

RIP, but I thought everyone knew those 'Who's Who' books are bogus. They will put anyone in it who buys a copy of the next edition.

ken in sc said...

I have been approached by 'Who's Who' several times. It all depends on what I am willing to pay.

Chip S. said...

Cosmopolitan: girlie drink, Gurley mag

Oso Negro said...

I must say I always admired the quip "A lady is someone who never shows her undergarments by accident."

Chip S. said...

Oso, that line has to be updated for the Lindsay Lohan era.

Luke Lea said...

"Before I wrote my book, the thought was that sex was for men and women only caved in to please men. But I wrote what I knew to be true—that sex is pleasurable for both women and men."

They always knew that in China. What happened here?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

As usual, The Onion is right on top of this: Cosmopolitan Releases 5 Sexy Helen Gurley Brown Obituaries To Drive Your Man Wild.

Kirk Parker said...

DBQ,

"Always thought....'Who buys this[?]' "

Allie, apparently.

Kirk Parker said...

Nothing Gurley Brown did can come remotely close to James Lilek's wonderfully hilarious send-up. My wife and I quote these to each other all the time...

PatCA said...

She was a feminist who took joy in sex and men. She loved them! Her husband adored her.

My young angry self would be shocked, but I think now she's a great model.

city said...

thanks for sharing...