I Got Down with Helen Gurley Brown

I once got sloshed with Helen Gurley Brown. Back in the days when magazine publishers were rich, and I worked at Cosmopolitan, all the employees drank for free during the holiday party at Tavern on the Green.

The first person on the dance floor was Helen. She grabbed me by the hand in 1998 and said, “Let’s get out there.” We clinked our glasses and headed to the empty area as she shimmied in her minidress. Between songs, she assured me that if I kept working hard and doing my best, I’d do well. She didn’t know me–though she did bother to ask my name. She was just super cool–and superhumanly nice–to everyone she met. She was a champion of success and happiness. After that night, I’d stare at her in reverence when she flittered about our offices, always smiling and enthusiastic with more energy than Gabby Douglas–and she was almost 80 by then.

Helen championed better sex for women at a time when we were just supposed to be mending stockings and tenderizing pork chops. I referred to her classic manual, Sex and the Single Girl, in my twenties when I wrote stories like How to Touch a Naked Man. Her writing was quirky, funny, and she only intended for it to be helpful.

My colleague at that time was John Searles, Cosmo’s book editor. Now he’s the deputy editor, an author and a Today Show regular. Here’s the memory he wanted to share about the original Cosmo girl:

“One of Helen’s big things was sending letters. I have so many from her on her trademark pink stationary. They’re all wonderfully kooky and sweet. She always knew how to make the people around her feel adored.”

Yes, I felt adored for those fleeting moments when she held my hand. I aspire to be a woman who’s more like that–nicer, gutsier. The dance floor will feel empty without her.

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