Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown celebrates the original superstar sex-columnist through all of her exuberant conquests and tumultuous shortcomings.
Long before Carrie and company sucked down cosmos (and more) in the city, a plucky wordsmith rocked the culture with her racy take on the role of single women. A lightning rod both figuratively and in figure (she’s famously thin), Helen Gurley Brown was toiling as an ad copywriter when she penned Sex and the Single Girl, the brazen 1962 bestseller that advised unattached gals on how to handle their affairs, financial and otherwise. Its success helped her nab the top spot at Cosmopolitan and turn it into the vampy mag we know today. Scanlon details these and ancillary achievements to explain why the notorious HGB deserves a place among the ranks of our most notable feminists.
If the idea of lauding Brown—who believed in flaunting bodily assets to boost material ones—as a liberator causes more than your bosom to heave, you won’t feel alienated by this bio. In typical academic-prose style (at times it borders on dry), Scanlon fairly balances her subject’s most glorious moments with her gaffes, including Brown printing misinformation about AIDS and making flip statements about sexual harassment, and her belief that a woman’s appetite should be for men and money, not food. Yet, in addition to publicly rallying for the ERA and abortion rights, Brown encouraged millions of women to pursue pleasure and go after their career goals. Even if you’ve never been a Cosmo girl, after reading this book, you just might appreciate the Gurley girl.