Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine who invited millions of women to join the sexual revolution, died Monday. She was 90.
Brown died in New York after a brief hospitalization, Hearst chief executive Frank A. Bennack Jr. said in a statement.
"Sex and the Single Girl," her grab-bag book of advice, opinion, and anecdote on why being single shouldn't mean being sexless, made her a celebrity 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."
"It was a terrific magazine," she said, looking back when she surrendered the editorship of the U.S. edition in 1997. "I would want my legacy to be, 'She created something that helped people.' My reader, I always felt, was someone who needed to come into her own."
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 on the magazine's cover, behind teaser titles like "Nothing Fails Like Sex-cess -- Facts About Our Real Lovemaking Needs."
Brown and Cosmo were anathema to militant feminists, who staged a sit-in at her office. One of them, Kate Millet, said, "The magazine's reactionary politics were too much to take, especially the man-hunting part. The entire message seemed to be 'Seduce your boss, then marry him.' "
Helen Gurley was a child of the Ozarks, born Feb. 18, 1922, in Green Forest, Ark.
Her father died when she was 10 and her mother, a teacher, moved the family to Los Angeles, where young Helen graduated as valedictorian of John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in 1939.
With typing and shorthand learned at a business college, she went through 18 jobs in seven years at places like the William Morris Agency, the Daily News in Los Angeles, and, in 1948, the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency. There, when finally given a shot at writing ad copy, she began winning prizes and was hired away by Kenyon & Eckhardt, which made her the highest-paid advertising woman on the West Coast.
Marriage came when she was 37 to David Brown, a former Cosmopolitan managing editor turned movie producer. He encouraged her to write a book, which she wrote on weekends, and suggested the title, "Sex and the Single Girl." They moved to New York after the book became one of the top sellers of 1962. Moviemakers bought it for a then-very-hefty $200,000, not for the nonexistent plot, but for its provocative title. Natalie Wood played a character named Helen Gurley Brown who had no resemblance to the original.
Brown followed up her success with a record album, "Lessons in Love," and another book, "Sex in the Office," in 1965. She would write five more books including, in 1993, "The Late Show: A Semiwild but Practical Survival Plan for Women Over 50." "My own philosophy is if you're not having sex, you're finished. It separates the girls from the old people," she told an interviewer.