In one of her incarnations, Brown was the host of a radio talk show. A caller asked if she thought that diamonds really were a girl’s best friend. That notion, Scanlon points out, was first proposed by another shameless, enterprising native daughter of and famous escapee from Little Rock: Lorelei Lee. She was the adorably mercenary heroine of Anita Loos’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and the first Material Girl in a lineage from which the Cosmo Girl, Madonna, and Carrie Bradshaw all descend. Brown began her answer by lamenting the demise of gold-digging: “I think all the sugar daddies dissolved in their own sugar or something, and chorus girls have to compete with all the other pretty girls there are nowadays.” Then she added that one could marry a rich man for big diamonds, or a poorer man for smaller diamonds, but maybe the best idea was to buy one’s own diamonds. Attention shoppers: a girl’s best friend is herself.
I didn’t really know very much about Helen Gurley Brown until after I read Edith’s story about Cosmopolitan magazine’s global empire, but of all the things I’ve read about Brown so far, this has been my favorite. It’s great if someone buys you a diamond, but it’s even better if you’re in a position to buy your own.