Long before Carrie Bradshaw and Dr. Ruth were conceived lived the phenom known as Helen Gurley Brown who sadly passed away last week at the life-well-lived age of ninety.
I can remember reading her book Having it All which came out in the early 80s, empowering women to rise above the trophy wife syndrome. While the feminist movement tomes Feminine Mystique and Fear of Flying certainly made their mark, HGB took girl power to a new level during the zenith of the sexual revolution.
Raised in rural Arkansas, Helen hit the big city and literally clawed her way to the top as the birth and rise of her magazine Cosmo is the stuff of publishing legend. Her first best selling book turned film Sex and the Single Girl was touted as the "unmarried women's guide to men" and a primer for women in the sixties. Husband and producer David Brown suggested she write the book for women who wanted to have an affair and it hit the bookstores at a time where women were becoming both sexually and financially independent. The book was later developed into a film starring Natalie Wood (as HGB), Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda and Lauren Bacall and became a huge box office hit in 1964.
For someone who touted extramarital affairs, HGB seemed to have a pretty terrific marriage to Jaws and The Sting producer David Brown (51 years) who was one of the nicest men on the planet (I used to work down the hall from his office at Universal and he'd give us scarves every Christmas. A man after my own heart!) It was apparent those two had the formula for a successful marriage down pat.
|HGB with husband David Brown who passed away in 2010|
Helen also coined one of my favorite terms (perhaps only known to baby boomers) --"mouseburger" aka quiet little "mousey" women who needed to claim their own power and rise above the traditional roles as life as a homemaker, wife and mother.
While much has recently been written about her death, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it best : “She was a role model for the millions of women whose private thoughts, wonders and dreams she addressed so brilliantly in print. She was a quintessential New Yorker: never afraid to speak her mind and always full of advice. She pushed boundaries and often broke them, clearing the way for younger women to follow in her path...”
|Natalie Wood as unsurpassable HGB|
|Wood and Tony Curtis in Sex and the Single Girl|
|The ever fashionable Brown as a poster child of the sixties|
Photo Credits: New York Times, Warner Brothers, Simon and Schuster