tv Book Discussion on Enter Helen CSPAN August 30, 2016 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
for inter hell in helen a biogf cosmopolitan editor telling gurley brown. this is one hour. hello, everybody and thanks for your patience. we are excited to be celebrating the launch of "enter helen" by brooke hauser. let's ge give a round of applau. [applause] we would appreciate if you grab one from us. a little bit about author and moderators.
brooke hauser has written for "the new york times," "los angeles times" and glamour among others. she's also the author of victory and great journeys at the high school for immigrant teens which is the winner of the library association 2012 alex award. first moderator is jezebel.com editor anna holmes who's written for "the new york times," "washington post," "newsweek," new yorker online and others and books including the book of jezebel which we have up at the registers as well. and she works as a columnist for the review. the last moderator rachel syme is an editor and reporter. her work is in the new yorker, gq, wall street journal magazine, rolling stone and npr. her first nonfiction book is forthcoming from random house
and she is also the founder subpoenas will come the speaker. [applause] >> i just wanted to thank everybody for being here. the book came out a few weeks ago. we pushed it back a little bit, the project, not the buck because i had a baby. this is one of my first provoke public appearances. i had a little anxiety dream last night where i had to make all of you eggs and you wouldn't eat it. [laughter] on to you. >> congratulations on your baby and your books may be. >> i'm going to be moderating the discussion on the buck on
helen gurley brown. i want to start by asking about helen gurley brown. why her, and maybe give a little bit of context how you came to this? >> in 2012 i grew up looking for a book review idea and it's a scavenger a way and in particular i think she just made a film. i was reading about helen gurley brown. she died in august of 201 2012 d her life was so colorful in this
rags to riches story and it ended in arkansas again. but i just thought, that might be my computer. it was a fascinating story and i thought why don't i know more about her? the magazine covers film and helen gurley brown i understood her as this woman later in life. >> have you been a longtime reader of cosmopolitan? >> yes. [laughter] i need no, i enjoy it now.
my son was a few months old when i started going through the archives from the 60s and 70s and it was so much fun. it is a good time if you have extra time on your hands. and we have a couple of original staffers of helen who was there in 1965 and eileen works at cosmo. barbara was the first person in the 1965 cosmo. i have looked and started trying to track down people doing detective work that they are not around. one lady is in denmark and she
changed her name and connected me to people and that's how i made my inroads. >> i have one more question about when you started the book. i know you said to me they were bringing in the cultural women's movement and talked about all the things and i wanted to hear about the evolution of this that you chose. >> my first editor is extremely helpful and read the boo grabbed said this is great. if you want everybody to read
this, think about expanding the focus of the a little bit. she's a good example of someone tapping into the zeitgeist and it would be helpful to show the era that she helped find. and i tried to accomplish that but it wasn't easy because in the 60s and 70s she's very blunt and said something like flash cards of the 60s it covered via non- and the assassination. it's different than what people thought of. she was a woman that was kicked out for living with her boyfriend on campus and at the career girl's murder.
so it's really more in line with her own story interest. >> you've founded jezebel which seemed to be speaking truth to power. and talk about your experience when you came into that and if you have an opinion about her work. >> the women's media outlet at the time was against the reports of the women's magazine. i think a bout of them have gotten better. my understanding was i heard of
her and i didn't subscribe, it felt too old for me and as a teenager scandalous because there were a lot of copper lines about this sex. but she was a famous editor and i think by the time i started paying attention the editor i believe came right after helen left. maybe it was dumbed down a little bit more. it's funny because when we were
spending months trying to think about how we were going to put on the site we went to an old magazine purveyor who had a space on east tenth between third and fourth avenue. we decided to get an old pile to look through as a way of informing ourselves about the issues in the 60s, 70s and 80s and maybe some material on the site. as a young teen i appreciated then the thirtysomething.
important. >> i know that you had said that the kind of bombshell and they take away the agency and what matters is this idea behind cosmo and how we look at the partnership so i wonder if you would describe that. >> he's a very famous hollywood producer and the biggest production of all times. she was the real success story. and actually, bob can speak to that. we had some people in the buck
who knew her very well and i think in some ways they have a very modern marriage especially in 1962 when sex and the single girl came out. david credited the dissolution of one of the marriages to his ex-wife. she had worked at a magazine in new york city and credited and wasn't happy staying at home so he said something like if you want to love a woman and see her happy, let her work.
sex and the single girl was his idea but she's the one that made it but he edited it and then when she started thinking about cosmo, it was a magazine version as a longtime managing editor. my cluster must i don't know if that mattered. everybody that knows helen gurley brown knows that she believed in using them to get what you want. sex and the single girl was a success before he made it big in hollywood as a producer.
>> it was a big hit in the cultural moment and seems like we are living through another cultural moment. there's a lot of books that have emerged in the last year or two and there's all these sort of explorations of what it means to be a single woman in a modern-day. i'm wondering if we are at a rather moment of the phenomenon of the single girl. >> that is a great question but i don't really know the answer to. maybe it is a moment in terms of book publishing.
although most television and reader movies end up with a man even sex and the city. i think i assume it's just demographics and a certain hunger. to talk about what it's like to be single, when i think of cosmo from the 60s and 70s i would be curious to know what you think but it seems there were stories i recall seeing it celebrated being single not as
explicitly as a point on the timeline before you became very aware in the past ten years, a lot of magazines would celebrate singlehood. but the underlying message was there was no space for the relationship said they would give you tips. do you think that's fair? >> she encouraged women to be adventurous and sleep with lots
of men on the way to getting married and maybe that is the difference between then and now that celebrates singledom for what it is and is not something as a pitstop to walking down the aisle. i think she also understood not every woman wanted to get married so while she gave tips she understood some women wanted to stay single and so much of what people remember about her when i read it for the first time in 2012 it was hardly shocking. now please give me a break nothing is fascinating anymore
except for valuable advice and much of it has to do with the career so that's what i took from it. here is a step-by-step guide on how to become an individual. that was it and i still read it that way. it still had a lot of relevance and good advice. it's fair to say cause no encouraged women to find their meet and get married if sh but e gave some good and bad advice.
what a bunch of nut burgers. self-explanatory, i guess but then a couple or four years later, 1969, soon after she wrote that, it was interesting. i e-mailed and didn't remember it being an cosm in cosmo becaus unlikely. i still wouldn't call helen gurley brown a feminist to retroactively apply a label like that but i would say that she believed in what feminism is in the equal right outcast of the movement and didn't have that many friends in
the movement. >> she also said [inaudible] i want to ask as someone that spent so much time at a women's magazine if you think they can be vehicles to teach about feminism as they evolve. >> teaming the women are the magazine? >> magazines. >> my interest in the magazines was in part because i was reading the magazines that i felt were maybe not exclusively
it was my mother talking about it all the time and related issues. i think that it's harder now because i think a lot of young women are learning about gender politics and magazines to try to be relevant when things pass them by and. there were conversations happening every single day, every single second of every single day. i think that is where young women are now becoming politicized. that said i'm also living in a bubble similar in age and
profiles where you'd have to ask the star of the moment do you consider yourself a feminist. i think if jezebel had existed. she fabricated diets like the hard-boiled egg diet. [laughter] people wrote letters to the editor in fact when i was doing some of my work i called one woman and i've read the letter
and she said yes i wrote this letter but i didn't write that line. basically she edited the letter to the editor and wrote them. [laughter] it's tough because they had an issue once a decade. there were stories that were created that went backward to say they asked for the story to remain around it and some others
the biography will sound like one of the questions they pose. she frustrated un that there were moments you had to go back and check those and as a journalist and a biographical subject do you feel an obligation to to approach with a kind of ad clicks >> everything i had to take with a grain of salt and that made me completely fascinated by her. when she was kind of acting it's
fun to write about. she was a very fun person to write about. i didn't always like her because if you read the book you will see there were times when she cast her family and a life less than flattering and now having met some of the family members it's given me a perception of what that actually feels like. so she really created this portrait of her family as a bunch of quotes hillbillies from arkansas. when i met and -- met and with her cousin and we had a nice long talk it was interesting to discover her father was a lawyer
and planning on running for political office when he was killed in an elevator accident. her mother was a schoolteacher and a very educated for a woman of her time living where she did and went to college. she grew up middle-class in little rock even though it said she was dirt poor and all that. so i found that to be interesting and important to fact check. >> is never an obligation to like your subject. >> i loved her but i also had problems. she was very rich at the end of her life and there were things she could have done to make some waves each year to make a --
lives easier. her complexity she's very famous for being stingy with money and that puzzled me because she lived through the depression and had a lot of issues. that makes her more interesting to write about. i don't know what i would have thought if i had gotten to know her in real life but i've read every scrap of paper she ever wrote on that has been saved so it's a weird way to get to know somebody. >> despite the complicated feelings and complementary --
it's a powerful man to say that's why she became powerful but being attached does open certain doors that might not have been if he were so low that i admire the tenacity and agree with some of her opinions on achieving power. >> if you look at the more recent issues they didn't really get the sense that american women were diverse. in terms of ethnic diversity perhaps they were not as much as they are now but it's something that occurred to me that did
seem to be speaking to a very narrow american womanhood which is to say publicly middle-class, highly educated. that was one of my frustrations i worked for and it was part of the reason why it started because i felt we could walk down the street and see a whole type of womanhood and ethnic backgrounds and economic situations and it wasn't being reflected in the women's media. it felt like we were living in the 20th century when we were in the 21st so that's something that frustrated me about her.
issues should be addressed, economic or racial at the time whea timewhen there was a lot of going on in the political syst system. >> if he went down one of the more fascinating avenues in the book comparing cosmo from the late 60s to an issue of the magazine that no one really remembers anymore but was like rock music and cosmo meets rolling stone and how was the supervising editor of fast. it was a clash between the editor that did the magazine and helen. there was no mentioning of martin luther king or kennedy unless it was talking about how good-looking he was.
the title, one of my favorites was the undiscovered joy of having a chinese lover. [laughter] are target reader was illustrated in the magazine that came out later. a simple small-town working girl from the boondocks. the women and men that worked at cosmo by the college-educated new york sophisticates who were kind of filtering their knowledge down to these stewardesses from cincinnati and
because they would invent problems you didn't know you h had. >> looking online in the tab one of the stories i think it was like the wrong way that you are washing your hair and that suggested a kind of story because she's like your dumb hair and what to do about it. so in some ways it might have been intended to be an escape. they do run some investigative pieces and they did a great package on birth control contraception. i think of the perfect cocktail as the ultimate mythologist
there has to be stuff about your career. one of my favorite parts was finding gloria steinem from 1968 and the spread about the seductive brunettes with cleopatra and jackie o.. here she is in a purple dress. i don't want to say too much but she had a serpent around her arms and i interviewed her and asked her what in the world was that about a. she said i think that was the
case. i should have walked away when i saw what they wanted me to wear. i didn't know what to say and i regretted it. she had this political career and i interviewed the photographer years later and he felt absolutely horrible about it. next to it there was an article how to find an abortion provider
and we are seeing that a lot now in the marketing feminism and i'm wondering your thoughts to continue to put that forward. >> the jury is out in my brain if it is a good thing or bad thing to bring it up with an actor which at certain points editors want you to hit. it's great there's a lot of young women that say they are not a feminist and have no idea what it means so i don't think that it's a bad thing to say yes here's why. i asked that question when she
was 17 or 18 and i thought that it was important for young women to hear their idols and say so i have mixed feelings about the marketing of feminism. >> my last question with regards to where the future is for the magazine so if you would like to see them become these new initiatives that pop up in the last decade that have allowed the modern mission where would you like to see that? >> it has been this launching
pad they never said her name out loud so i'm not sure if i'm pronouncing it correctly. people that come from jezebel are incredible and they are not all writing for the women's magazine or media including "the new york times" and i think there's something to be said for that. maybe the future of the magazine is what people say about the women's movement. it won't be to exist. there won't be the need for the magazine when they care to read about the issues or they are considered to be more important news frankly.
i do read the women's magazines and has a special audience for them. but i like the idea that a lot of women are starting to write for the audiences. >> a lot of it has to do with if the editors are comfortable and are still stuck in the past. they can't do the harder stuff. we found between 2010 staring ad staring at them every single month tearing them apart. but i think it's because there
may have been a shift in the content you find on the websites or magazines that have to do with women's issues so they are not all shunted off to the side. you see a lot that came up writing for the websites were creating their own been snapped up by the complications of. certainly not someone who came up in the media and that is heartening so ideally maybe there won't be the need for the magazines that wouldn't it be fascinating to have a magazine or website entirely staffed by women and when you look at the magazines that are high-ranking
men at the top. it is a default. a lot of times it's described as women's fiction so what i would like to see is the need for the women's magazines versus men's magazines. i don't know that that is going to happen in the traditional and even more recent digital brand. >> i'm being given the time that it's time to take questions.
photographer who provided pictures for the book. questions? >> i was inspired to write about your book and when i pitched it, one of the millennialist i work with tapped me on the side and said i love cosmo. i worked for them and on and on. she had an interesting point. i love the magazine but i'm disappointed in the website.
having worked for magazines and websites i would like to know your thoughts when they have an intense woolly old readership where do the two converge. is that a good thing or bad thing that have the digital side like being so upset. but i would like to know what you thought about why that is a thing and if it is good or bad. >> it's important to serve different functions. in the digital media i can speak
from the beginning of the stone ages when i worked at premiere magazine that folded after 25 years i had remembered when they were trying to transfer and that was rough. they were trying to make the websites like the magazine but that was impossible because even though the stories were about movies it still took months to report and a lot of investigative work being done into the website saying it wasn't as good or thought through the. but i think they have to almost exist on their own if they are connected to a print version.
this sounds really interesting what about a story about helen gurley brown cosmo and the ad agency so that's how it started and as to why i thought that it would be a good story for me and it was. my first book i had to spend several years with these teenagers either immigrants or refugees from around the world. they were wonderful and it was a great experience. i had a boyfriend for a long
time and we didn't get married because then by the time i came to write "enter helen" i wanted to do something immersive but have my own life because i had a child at the time and they couldn't bcouldbe living like ar people's lives. so it was a great subject and practical, something i could do. >> if she were here today do you think she would've liked the book? >> a couple people who knew her well said she would and that is heartening. do i want her to like the book? i do but i wouldn't want her to like everything because it wouldn't be an honest depiction. she did a lot of things and gave