Helen Gurley Brown died this week at age 90, but oh what a ride she had before leaving this world. For such a tiny woman with a delicate voice, the Cosmopolitan magazine and Sex and the Single Girl author certainly made a loud impact on American culture in the 1960s.
Mad Men's scriptwriters pore over old issues of the magazine in creating the characters who inhabit the show's secretarial typing pool.
You either loved or hated Helen Gurley Brown: just read the comments in The New York Times' obituary.
Here's one: "Former Cosmo Girl copy editor here. CG was hands-down the best job I ever
had, and I've been around in publishing. I'm about as mouseburger as you
can get, but working there made you feel like a million bucks. If you
only read the cover lines at the supermarket, you don't understand the
tone of Cosmo. It's about being happy that you're a woman--and yes, sex
IS an important part of that. I'm a lesbian and a very different
kind of feminist than HGB was, but she spoke to women who might not
have been entirely happy with who they were, especially in the early
days. She didn't brainwash them, she told them they weren't
mouseburgers—they were absolutely fantastic and deserved to have fun."
Here's another: "HGB was a woman without morals and basically one who cared not at all
about other women. She had a brief affair with my father in the 50's and
pursued him relentlessly!
I asked my 90 yr old mother yesterday why she was so passive while
feeling so hurt and heartbroken and her response was that it was
economic. She had 4 small children to care for and no real job skills.
Obviously my father was lacking in character and morals too but what
kind of woman does that to another woman? Where is the sisterhood?"
But to really get a feel for her, the best way is to listen to her in her own words. Here's Helen Gurley Brown's advice to men on how to have an affair, taken from a recording circa 1962 after the publication of Sex and the Single Girl:
Now, I'm not for promiscuity, but I think it's ridiculous to pretend that it doesn't exist, and I think there's far less hurt and more joy for everybody if certain rules are followed.
So first, how to get a girl to the brink, and second, how to keep her there when you're not going to marry her. I believe most girls are attainable by somebody, really most girls, but you have to work at it. I think the reason you don't always succeed is that you want everything now, this minute, tonight's the night.
Rule One is, take time to court her.
Rule Two, love her out of bed. Laugh at her jokes. Women have fantastic egos too, you know, even pretty little slips of girls just love to be thought fascinating and funny. Make her talk to you, and you listen. No matter how shy she is, make her feel that with you she's a dynamo.
Rule Three, admire her character, even if she doesn't have any. You like the way she handles her jobs, her friends, her family, her money. When bedtime comes, you'll have her thinking that with you, at least, she can't do anything wrong.
There's much more, including the advice that "brute force isn't sexy," here at YouTube.