Just a small-town girl from Green Forest, Arkansas, Helen Gurley Brown became editor of Cosmopolitan and liberated women's magazines with her spunk and sexual brashness. Proof that good girls may go to heaven but bad girls go everywhere, she reflects on hair color, Cleopatra, and pussycats.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
There is no such thing as perfect happiness. We know there are good times and bad times, sometimes predicated on what's happening in nature. We have no control over that as human beings, so I think we have to ignore the idea of perfect happiness.
What is your greatest fear?
That I won't be able to handle aging better than I am now. At 85, I am technically old and, while being intellectually grateful I made it this far, I don't like being old and dread being older.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Cleopatra. She was a good boss and had a good love life.
Which living person do you most admire?
President Bill Clinton.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Sorry, I can't let myself think of one! I've tried to fix anything fixable.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Not doing what they say they will when I need them to do it. Not returning phone calls is another.
What do you most value in your friends?
They are supportive in times of trouble, happy for you in times of achievement, and good to spend an evening or day with.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I address everybody as "pussycat," but nobody minds, and it's a nice term of endearment.
What is your favorite journey?
La Samanna, on St. Martin, in the Caribbean. Yes, Paris, London, and Florence are good journeys, but La Samanna is for collapsing, snoozing, and indulging in piña coladas.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
My husband's overtipping. He carries only $20 bills in his pocket.
On what occasion do you lie?
Telling people they look great in a new outfit when they don't. Saying I loved the party when I didn't.
What do you dislike most about your appearance?
My fat tummy.
What is your greatest regret?
That I never sat down with my mother and asked her to talk to me about her life. It was a terrible life—two husbands died on her, daughter in a wheelchair from poliomyelitis before the Salk vaccine. I should have persuaded her to talk as I do my girlfriends. She had nobody else to do that with.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband, David Brown.
When and where were you happiest?
I'd say right now. I'm married to a pussycat and still have a good job with the Hearst Corporation. There are now 59 editions of Cosmopolitan all over the world.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I'd get my tummy to be flat again.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Editing Cosmopolitan successfully so Hearst didn't have to close it down in 1965, when it was losing tons of money.
What is your most treasured possession?
My husband, if the possession can be a person.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Worrying yourself crazy over somebody you love.
Where would you like to live?
Exactly where I am living—the Beresford Apartments, on Central Park West and 81st Street. We have the top four floors of a tower apartment. I'm slightly prejudiced, but I think it's the best apartment in New York.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I'm a workaholic.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Hair color. It costs $136 to color, shampoo, and set, but I'm too old to be running around with white hair. Chanel suits are another indulgence.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
He should think I am attractive and like to be with me.
Who are your favorite writers?
William Shakespeare, Nora Ephron, and Joan Didion.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Who are your heroes in real life?
My husband and Art Buchwald as he faced death.
What is your motto?
"Get up and do it if it needs to be done, even if you hate it!"
LOL @ how she mentions her "fat tummy" twice.