He encouraged her to write a book. When "Sex and the Single Girl" became a top seller, they moved to New York. A movie version of the book ensued, with Natalie Wood playing a character named Helen Gurley Brown who had no resemblance to the original. According to Hearst, "Sex and the Single Girl" has been translated into 16 languages and published in 28 countries.
Brown and her husband pitched a women's magazine idea at Hearst, which turned it down, but hired her to run Cosmopolitan instead. It became her platform for 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."
But Brown and Cosmo didn't please some feminists. "The stuff on pleasing men hit the wrong note for some women," said White, the current editor. "I don't think the feminists recognized that her message was one of empowerment."
At the beginning, many certainly didn't. There was a sit-in at her office a few years after she took over. Kate Millet, who took part, said of the magazine: "The entire message seemed to be 'Seduce your boss, then marry him.'"
Indeed, Brown championed office sex. "I've never worked anywhere without being sexually involved with somebody in the office," she told New York magazine in 1982. Asked whether that included the boss, she said, "Why discriminate against him?"
Another early critic was feminist writer Betty Friedan, who dismissed the magazine as "immature teenage-level sexual fantasy" but later changed her tune and said Brown, "in her editorship, has been a rather spirited and gutsy example in the revolution of women."
Indeed, some say today that Brown was the essence of a feminist. Fuller, who now edits Hollywood Life, is one: "She let women know they could have satisfaction in their lives."
At Cosmopolitan, Brown quickly turned things around. Within four issues, circulation, which had fallen below the 800,000 readers guaranteed to advertisers, was on the rise, even with the newsstand price increasing from 35 cents to 50 and then 60 cents.
Sales grew every year until peaking at just over 3 million in 1983, then slowly leveled off to 2.5 million at $2.95 a copy, where it was when Brown left the top job in 1997.
In 1967 Brown also hosted a TV talk show, "Outrageous Opinions," syndicated in 19 cities. She also went on to write five more books, including "Having It All" in 1982 and in 1993, at age 71, "The Late Show," which was subtitled: "A Semiwild but Practical Survival Plan for Women Over 50."
"My own philosophy is if you're not having sex, you're finished," she said at the time.
Former Associated Press writer Rayner Pike, National Writer Hillel Italie in New York and entertainment writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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