Helen Gurley Brown, Iconic Cosmo Editor, Dead At 90

By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran
By: CBS News, Posted by Chelsey Moran

(CBS/AP) Helen Gurley Brown, the editor who made Cosmopolitan magazine into a single girl's handbook of sex and glamour, died Monday after a brief hospitalization in New York, according to the Hearst Corporation. She was 90.

Brown died Monday morning at the McKeen Pavilion at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.

"It would be hard to overstate the importance to Hearst of her success with Cosmopolitan, or the value of the friendship many of us enjoyed with her. Helen was one of the world's most recognized magazine editors and book authors, and a true pioneer for women in journalism--and beyond," the Hearst statement read.

"Sex and the Single Girl," her grab-bag book of advice, opinion, and anecdote on why being single shouldn't mean being sexless, made a celebrity of the 40-year-old advertising copywriter in 1962.

Three years later, she was hired by Hearst Magazines to turn around the languishing Cosmopolitan and it became her bully pulpit for the next 32 years.

She said at the outset that her aim was to tell a reader "how to get everything out of life - the money, recognition, success, men, prestige, authority, dignity - whatever she is looking at through the glass her nose is pressed against."

Along the way she added to the language such terms as "Cosmo girl" - hip, sexy, vivacious and smart - and "mouseburger," which she coined first in describing herself as a plain and ordinary woman who must work relentlessly to make herself desirable and successful.

She put big-haired, deep-cleavaged beauties photographed by Francesco Scavullo on the magazine's cover, behind teaser titles like "Nothing Fails Like Sex-cess - Facts About Our Real Lovemaking Needs."

Male centerfolds arrived during the 1970s - actor Burt Reynolds' (modestly) nude pose in 1972 created a sensation - but departed by the `90s.

Brown and Cosmo were anathema to militant feminists, who staged a sit-in at her office.

An early critic, Betty Friedan, dismissed the magazine as "immature teenage-level sexual fantasy" but later came around and said Brown, "in her editorship, has been a rather spirited and gutsy example in the revolution of women."

"Bad Girls Go Everywhere," the 2009 biography of Brown by Jennifer Scanlon, a women's studies professor, argued that her message of empowerment made Brown a feminist even if the movement didn't recognize her as such.

"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 Corp. in a statement. "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."


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