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RIP, Helen Gurley Brown, Irving Fein

By Rich Heldenfels Published: August 13, 2012

Two more pop-culture figures have passed away: Cosmopolitan editor and "Sex and the Single Girl" author Helen Gurley Brown, who was 90, and show-biz manager and producer Irving Fein, 101. Following are a few words about each.

In 1985, I was at a press gathering with George Burns and Steve Martin (even now, I get a little thrill) for a comedy anthology show that was weird and wonderful and, alas, short-lived. Burns -- 89 at the time -- would launch into a story, only to hesitate -- "It was in, in ..." From the back of the room came a voice: "1938, George!" Burns would continue his story, occasionally pause, receive another shouted detail, and go on. The man shouting the details was Irving Fein, Burns's manager, and clearly someone who not only protected his clients but was trusted to get them over the rough spots. Well, done, Irving Fein. RIP.

Helen Gurley Brown was a little scary, especially as the years went by and she defied -- yes, defied, by gum -- any notion that she was much older than one of those Cosmo standard bearers she insistently called girls. But Brown believed in happy living, and happy endings. Nora Ephron, who wrote for Cosmo and profiled Brown in 1970, recalls in her book "Wallflower at the Orgy" that Brown revised a piece Ephron wrote about getting a Cosmo makeover "to give it a peppy, upbeat ending." (In the book, Ephron restored her original downbeat one.) Still, Ephron said that anyone who met Brown was fascinated by her -- and made clear that, however strangely it might have come out at times, Brown was serving an audience that in many ways really needed her advice.

Brown, Ephron wrote, was " "just worried that somewhere out there is a girl who hasn't taken a bath during her period since puberty. She's just worried that somewhere out there is a girl whose breasts aren't being treated properly. She's just worried that somewhere out there is a mouseburger who doesn't realize she has the capability of becoming anything, anything at all, anything she wants to, of becoming Helen Gurley Brown, for God's sake. And don't you see? She is only trying to help."

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