Even Helen Gurley Brown Got the Blues — The Cut

By October 4, 2023 No Comments

It is true, without a doubt, and well recognized: Intercourse shaped the soft-core, hard times, and fame days of Helen Gurley Brown. Openly, actually ever the coquette on Johnny Carson’s couch, she embraced the picture. Privately, she held near the pain sensation of her ascent — the astonishing sexism, the slut-shaming leveled at a young sexual outlier, the male mice and reprobates she experienced as you go along. Actually buddies had been unaware that brazen, secure


girl used therapy — with good wit — for 68 of the woman 90 years.

She performed


males, and ended up being thrilled to allow carefree, ravishing legend stand. In the end, intercourse had propelled Helen — a poor lady through the Arkansas Ozarks — inside writing legend “HGB” when she loosed this lady incendiary finest seller,

Sex and Solitary Female

, regarding the globe in 1962. In her reassuring, big-sister prose, she ended up being one of the first to suggest to solitary females, “maybe you will reconsider the concept that gender without relationship is filthy.” A few years later, gender assisted the girl switch a moribund general-interest magazine,


, into a hot ladies’ book that rescued the foundering Hearst company. “acceptance the penis,” she urged the girl visitors, a motto she lived by. Intercourse secured Helen’s useful relationship to flick manufacturer David Brown and held it “frisky” for half a century; sex created the woman wide range and shaped the woman general public image. Nowadays, gender delighted and sustained her really into her eighth ten years.

“inside 1947, we understood it had been ok to sleep with males and never be hitched for them,” she once said. “I not ever been a revolutionary. I found myself merely stating what was true for my situation, genuine for my personal girlfriends.” But whilst Helen relished her liberties as a single working lady in la, the woman matters caused their more pain than she actually ever let on. At ladies’ “den nights” in
the lady apartment
, Helen would usually see herself cheering upwards “the hiking wounded.” These people were all so susceptible, these ladies, she recalled. Thus was she, despite an astonishing lineup of suitors. Her

Mad Men

career — Helen would end up being the many coveted and highest-paid feminine advertising copywriter on western Coast — spanned the period whenever she’d come to be both a grasp of gender and a prisoner of love. Heartbreak, and its attendant depressions, cycled through those many years. The sensation to be duped on, the collapse of marriage goals, those lonely-night “sads” fostered a torment Helen realized also well. Inside bed room as well as in work, entrenched sexism bedeviled this lady. There are plenty obvious escape ramps for males whilst still being very couple of rickety stepladders up and away your females they put aside.

It had been constantly even worse for an unhealthy lady. Just how severely — and baldly — Helen sought out one to deliver monetary safety. The woman parent had died in a lift accident in tiny stone whenever she had been 10; once the woman family members transferred to Los Angeles, 19-year-old Helen ended up being assisting to help her mommy and pay smashing health costs on her behalf sibling, who had been wheelchair-bound after an incident of polio. Crammed into a gopher-ridden local rental household frustrating because of the railroad paths, the Gurley ladies were eager and influenced by Helen’s minimal receiving power. Her program: “I got wished to get married a person rich and solve all my loved ones’s and my personal issues. Alas, i did not experience the recommendations — seems, family background, psychological stability.”

Helen endured 17 lowly secretarial jobs before she discovered a foothold for a critical career in 1948. Whenever she took the task as secretary to Don Belding, co-founder of the advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding (FC&B), she was still looking the girl principal potential. Helen, subsequently 26, was cheered to track down a roster of qualified guys on staff members. Years afterwards she announced by using the exemption of


, “We have never ever worked


— and I also’ve worked a

good deal

of anywheres — without being intimately involved in


at work.”

Yet she couldn’t sleep the woman way from a receptionist’s cubicle to a workplace together with her title on door and a copywriting work that discovered this lady pointing Bogart and Bacall in a Catalina bathing suit advertising. She blogged the woman method here, with the same immediate and colloquial style she’d later used to communicate with her mag readers. For this basic essential Catalina profile, Helen clambered regarding slick rocks with Dixie glasses of bourbon to comfortable model mermaids as they shivered into the beginning mists of Malibu. After customer asked for “field work,” skip Gurley barnstormed with a sales staff nationwide, braving the dressing spaces more than 30 shops to fit and sell Catalina swimsuits.

As you go along, the woman enchanting flings effervesced, cooled, and often collided. By the woman very early 30s, Helen was actually feeling what she known as “the power,” the peak of the woman sexual expertise. There clearly was even an artistic making of Helen’s surging intimate wattage. She had a quick event with a skill manager at FC&B, who had been distressed to arrive at the woman apartment one day and locate two other guys already visiting. Then the musician had gotten over it and started implementing a comic tribute to Miss Gurley due to the fact siren of Bonnie Brae Street. The drawing revealed Helen’s bachelorette apartment building, with males holding from the rafters, males falling-out house windows. The stairway was blocked with men; the road exterior ended up being beset by a traffic jam of suitors. Two females endured beyond your building, taking in the mayhem. The caption had one stating to another, “i do believe her name’s Helen Gurley.” The part was actually presented and later installed inside the restroom of Helen and David Brown’s Park Avenue apartment.

But despite her lots of conquests, a serial cheater had the woman center all along; the guy thrown, dribbled, and drop-kicked it mercilessly for eight decades. Helen usually regarded him as Don Juan or DJ. She composed about him in a number of her memoirs and under a few guises; the guy seems in

Sex plus the Single Woman

as two different offenders. Only once, in an unpublished meeting, did Helen discuss their full name. Various other documents she also known as him “Bill,” “W.G.,” or “Willie.” Helen outlined him due to the fact creative manager at an inferior advertising company, and “a real gender guy.” She likened him to a Greek god, more than six foot tall with black colored, frizzy hair. He had been 2 years older than Helen; she had been 29 whenever they found.

By Helen’s explanation, DJ might have been the model for

Mad Guys

‘s Don Draper
in the penchant for wreaking serial, unrepentant, idiosyncratic chaos on women. Initially she was therefore besotted that she failed to look at symptoms which he was a habitual heartbreaker. But sooner or later Helen concerned recognize that it satisfied DJ greatly having the girl understand that there have been various other ladies, a lot of, in his existence. He had a compulsion to continuously “stick the shiv in,” as she put it.

In 1996, Helen moved into more information on her tormentor in a startlingly frank meeting about the woman sexual background. “He was really enchanting, the absolute most intimate man you could feasibly ever before hope for within expereince of living. I needed to wed him. He’d come back to me after a hiatus making use of the blossoms, a Brooks Brothers top, the pencil that claims, ‘We have gray tresses, brown sight and a black heart.’ It was this excellent gold pencil which he will have generated. It was thus adorable. And rotten into core. However come-back and he would state, ‘Okay, we’re going to be with each other, if everything goes really, we’re going to get hitched.’ Idiot! We fell for this about three differing times. He would keep coming back, we would maintain trouble, we might break-up once again.”

She started to observe how cunningly the guy planned his tortures. A cuter, much younger lover turned up banging on his apartment home while Helen was a student in his sleep; gee, he would felt that girl had been in European countries. The guy remaining letters off their ladies in which she may find all of them. From snooping into one, Helen, a scant A cup, found that he’d known as a New York girlfriend’s big breasts “Liebchen” and “Schatzi.” The guy bought gifts for their harem in multiples — the shirts, the pencils — monogrammed for each. One Christmas, Helen noticed piles of those gift ideas in the apartment, designated for various women.

Lots of his conquests had been really affluent, an undeniable fact he typically pointed out to Helen, generating this lady feel just like “a nothingburger.” The guy extolled his ex-wife, the woman charm, the woman Cordon Bleu cooking, the woman perfect convenience as a hostess. The majority of cruelly, he belittled the matter that provided Helen probably the most self confidence, the woman so-called job. He had been patronizing, mocking about her ad backup, as if she happened to be just a little lady playing at a huge people’s online game. Coming from a successful expert, the jabs hit frustrating.

Naturally, Helen created some fury problems. When a blonde product walked by their particular table on Santa Ynez Inn and welcomed DJ, Helen poured a pitcher of water over his head in a spasm of envy. Things started initially to travel and shatter; she put a pitcher of icy gimlets, sneakers, papers, publications. Locating a letter inside the glove storage space, she when screamed at him, “You’re seeing your wife once again!” After that she got his car, parked it within side of the ocean, and would not tell him in which it had been for three times. She sobbed, shrieked, and pleaded, occasionally for hours, concise in which just chugging a quart of whole milk could ease the hiccuping frenzy. DJ reveled when you look at the crisis; the greater amount of extreme the woman anxiety, the more turn-on it actually was for him. His sound became calmer and hotter as he tried to relieve this lady.

Silly woman

Helen watched herself as a prisoner of sex. “regardless of the psychological issues, I feel nonetheless that sex is really a powerful wonderful happening that your minds get bye-bye if you should be upset about that individual,” she said. “you simply can’t end up being practical, you can’t say, ‘Well, we’ll only rest with him but I’ll go have some other person that is good. We’ll marry somebody else and that I’ll bare this individual as a playmate.’ You can’t do this. If you should be intimately zonked, that’s all.”

She remaining DJ several times over those eight decades, sometimes so long as six months. During one hiatus in 1951, she had a dalliance with a high-ranking Army officer, Chester “Ted” Clifton, Jr., which later turned into elderly army guide to chairman John F. Kennedy. Clifton had been sticking with his leader, General Omar Bradley, within Beverly Hills resort. Helen’s boss, a friend and admirer of that battle champion, had loaned their automobile, driver, and assistant to the general on his visit to L.A. Helen kibitzed poolside and entered the occasional memo; whenever Bradley retired the evening, the woman stealth techniques with Clifton started. They noticed both on and off for decades, on two continents.

On another break from DJ, Helen had certainly her more light-hearted and the majority of public matters, motivated by the woman employer Don Belding, who believed it good for company. Prizefighter Jack Dempsey, 27 years their elderly, was promoting Bulldog Beer, the product of an FC&B customer, Acme Brewing organization. Helen was actually 4 yrs . old in 1926 whenever Dempsey’s heavyweight championship match with challenger Gene Tunney took up two-thirds from the nyc


first page. The bout, which Dempsey missing by unanimous choice, paid him an unheard-of $850,000 — about $11.3 million nowadays. Whenever Helen came across him years later on, she proclaimed him a “extremely stud,” still powerful and instead voluble when you look at the clinch. Whenever near the second, he was provided to shouting, “Straighten myself on, darling!” Said Helen, “apparently, I did.”

On Dempsey’s arm on Mocambo Club or Chasen’s, Helen popped right up when you look at the gossip columns, though generally as “unidentified brunette.” Eventually, the affair petered down. Helen ended up being upset, though scarcely heartbroken, whenever Dempsey quickly decamped for brand new York to cope with a labor conflict at his eponymous bistro and had gotten himself engaged, shortly, to a wealthy widow. The Champ sent Helen a cheesecake.

DJ nonetheless pursued the woman relentlessly. To split the woman dependence on him, Helen turned to a fresh counselor that has produced the wildest, a lot of demanding type psychotherapy she had previously known. Charlie Cooke’s class practice found in a classic home in Griffith Park ten years before the bloom of Esalen also California-based, crawl-on-the-carpet routes to complete selfhood. Helen cried loads and endured agonizing group workouts, but finally, she was presented with from DJ for good. By the point she switched 35, she had come to understand why: Sex and love were too damned unstable. The office, despite the ups and downs, was a far safer wager. “company i really could rely on. It never ever moved out and kept you. It wasn’t capricious. It couldn’t go out with another lady. If you performed good by it, it could be good by you.”

Her therapist had persuaded Helen that she ended up being ready for a good man, that she earned really love and security. “i do believe relationship is insurance policies your worst years of your life time,” she’d write-in

Gender therefore the Solitary Girl

. “throughout your most useful years its not necessary a husband. You do require men definitely each step of the way, and they’re frequently mentally more affordable and more fun from the dozen.”

When the woman friend Ruth Schandorf informed her about a good prospect — a well-respected film manager no less — the two ladies spun a marriage story; it unfolded over almost 2 years. It took a complete year just for Schandorf to determine that the guy had done chasing starlet wannabes and beachy airheads and was prepared for a real commitment. Schandorf introduced Helen to David Brown at a tiny dinner party in 1958. Terrified of blowing it as she had with the amount of “possibles,” Helen hardly spoke to him at supper. He appeared curious and asked the girl down. But Helen sensed a vexing inertia on his part. It was not unexpected; he’d already been married two times, for 17 of his 42 decades, to two stunning women who both went on him, leaving him alimony-poor in a fairly but rundown oceanfront house in Pacific Palisades.

When it comes to longest time, David wouldn’t also give Helen their home phone number, forcing her to get hold of him through their answering solution. In response, Helen resulted in the sex. “He appreciated it,” she judged.  However, the courtship lurched along slowly. Every occasionally David “misplaced” the girl, relatively forgetting they happened to be something. He carried on as of yet other people, plus they separated regularly. One-night she had been operating home after group therapy, wishing at a light on Santa Monica Boulevard when she watched David’s big white Chrysler 300, via Linden Drive. There was clearly a blonde “smashed facing him” in the front seat.

Helen couldn’t simply take their calls for 24 hours later and night. When she eventually did make a quick call, they negotiated a limpid rapprochement. (David insisted the blonde ended up being his company manager). Helen informed herself that he really was an okay guy, “merely frisking about.” She was not deeply, romantically crazy; she was actually hardly because preoccupied as she was indeed with DJ. Yet she was used with David, even informed herself that she-kind of adored him. And also at 37, it was time to get married. So she began to press again. A ring, please.

One night he forced straight back. He said the guy just couldn’t get married once more. Helen informed him — calmly now — that she comprehended, but it absolutely was over. He had been not to phone their once more. She moved home and cried. These early morning at 8 a.m., teary and bereft, she laced up her sneakers and set on for her preferred spot to end up being alone, may Rogers State Park. She climbed up to the vista at motivation Point. Whenever she trudged back into the parking lot, there endured David beside his Chrysler. He understood exactly where locate his distraught wellness nut.

“come-on residence,” he stated. “we are going to work it.”

Throughout that summer time of 1959, their unique wedding strategies happened to be off and on no less than five times by Helen’s reckoning. He finally decided to marry that September. Whether or not he hadn’t forbidden the woman to inform anyone, Helen would have remained mum. “i did not want to get the practice that much and have now it derail with a few extravaganza. Imagine if the guy had gotten cool feet and failed to arrive? No, we achieved it David’s way, merely a judge along with his secretary as witness.”

That mid-day, September 25, 1959, David had gently left work on the twentieth Century Fox studios very early, telling his employer, “i am taking off for a few many hours, see you Monday.”  These people were hitched at Beverly Hills City Hall. After, they visited dinner with screenwriter Ernest Lehman along with his spouse, Jackie, next on Largo strip nightclub to capture the dazzling and sports Candy Barr. Helen judged the girl “a damned good stripper.”

Against all odds, Helen Gurley had married the passion for the woman existence. The relationship would endure 51 many years, finishing with David’s passing in 2010. Together, they mined Helen’s single-girl adventures into guides, a motion picture,


.  He penned the crazy


cover traces; Helen did the shameless logrolling for his films — from

Butch Cassidy additionally the Sundance Kid


The Sting



. They lived an exciting, exciting life, gathered a fortune from inside the vast sums and kept it to educational charities. It was not always easy; Helen nevertheless had a temper. She bent spoons in half at boring activities in lodge ballrooms and passed them to her husband under the table to signal, “we are outta here!” — otherwise. David ended up being aghast whenever she indulged in breast enhancement at get older 73; he had adored the woman lovely small ready, the guy informed pals.

For years, well into her eighties, Helen maintained a correspondence with her tormentor, DJ, who was in addition long married. Their own interaction was primarily one-sided; the guy usually delivered haphazard bloviations to buddies and acquaintances. It is obvious from their correspondence that, despite multiple crass propositions, Helen never dropped back into his hands and had perhaps not seen him in years. An image tucked into one of is own emails is actually of a silver-haired popinjay in a three-piece white suit. Helen showed it to her nearest pal and former FC&B co-worker, Charlotte Veal, that has observed the couple’s miserable tango way too long back. Helen informed Charlotte: I Experienced


. Whatever had we observed in



Adapted from

Perhaps not Quite Enough: The Extremely Unlikely Success of Helen Gurley Brown

by Gerri Hirshey, to-be published July 2016 by Sarah Crichton Books.