The New York Times obit of Helen Gurley Brown reads like the life a Mad Men character in the brilliant, fevered imaginings of Mathew Weiner– say, if Peggy and Joan were merged into one person and left Sterling Cooper Draper Price to take over a woman’s magazine and reshape the industry by openly embracing women’s sexuality. Also, the tone is pretty darn (if entertainingly) snarky for the NYT, much less an obituary. Here are some highlights:
“She was 90, though parts of her were considerably younger.”
“[The Cosmopolitan Girl] looked great, wore fabulous clothes and had an unabashedly good time when those clothes came off.”
“Ms. Brown had never held an editing job, but her influence on Cosmopolitan was swift and certain: she did not so much revamp the magazine as vamp it.”
Telegram from Ms. Brown’s mother prior to the 1962 publication of “Sex and the Single Girl”: “dear helen…if you move very quickly, i think we can stop publication of the book.”
On a more serious note, Brown led an incredible life and played an important though obviously controversial role in defining women’s changing roles in the second half of the twentieth century. Whether that role was for better or worse is clearly a debate that will continue long after her death, as the obituary (and comment section) makes clear.