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In memoriam

Helen Gurley Brown, Longtime ‘Cosmo’ Editor, Dead at 90

Ad Age reports that Helen Gurley Brown, who spent more than thirty years as editor of Cosm0poltian after publishing her revolutionary 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl, passed away Monday at the age of 90. She was a true trailblazer in the publishing industry: Under her leadership, Cosmo became a beacon of the sexual revolution and challenged many of the day’s sexist notions, chief among them the widely held beliefs that women need marriage to find fulfillment and that sex should only occur within that august institution. Cosmo grew to be a bible of sorts for independent, fashion-conscious, liberated women–or “Cosmo girls” as Ms. Gurley Brown called them. “Good girls go to heaven,” she often said, “but bad girls go everywhere.”

Even after Bonnie Fuller took over as editor in chief of Cosmo in 1997, Ms. Gurley Brown spent many years overseeing the magazine’s international editions, a position that allowed her to offer her advice to Cosmo-affiliated editors all over the world. In a typically irreverent 2000 interview with Dow Jones Newswires, she noted that these editors were not required to take her advice, but they usually did “because it works.” Who would argue?

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Rest in Peace, McKayla Maroney Meme

That's the one. Today in The Serpent Eats Its Tail news: I think we can all express some relief that McKayla Maroney has a sense of humor and hope that the “McKayla Is Not Impressed” meme will quietly resign itself to eternal rest after a very short and fitfully amusing life.

 

Bonus question for theater majors: We can’t be sure about this, but we think Maroney may have just broken the fifth wall. Thoughts?

David Rakoff, Writer and Humorist, Dead at 47

At the core of all PR is humanity, and David Rakoff understood humanity like no one else. His insights were naked and powerful, his life heartfelt and poignant. Boldly insecure and damned funny, Rakoff connected with people because he was honest about being sad. For Rakoff, being unhappy was OK, even normal. For many of us, this unwelcome truth was beaten out of us as children and replaced with Santa Claus.

As noted in this Gothamist post, Rakoff opened his most recent book, Half Empty, with the lines “We were so happy. It was miserable.” If that doesn’t make you laugh, then I’ve got some terrible news for you about Santa Claus. Rakoff wrote two other collections of essays, Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable, in addition to publishing pieces in magazines from GQ to Spin. He was also a popular contributor to This American Life on NPR.

Rakoff’s death was especially notable because he treated his disease with humor, which is a form of courage we give to others to spare them our pain. Rakoff, born in Canada, was also a classic New Yorker—the kind of New Yorker who believed that art and its ability to bring together, and not money and its ability to separate, was at the core of the city’s soul. He will be missed. RIP David Rakoff. You can relax now.

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Gore Vidal Dead at 86

Prolific, opinionated and controversial writer and debater, Gore Vidal, has died. Today’s PR industry professionals, who tout the importance of creating a sleek personal brand and magnetic public identity, should embrace the one strategy that guided Mr. Vidal’s lifestyle: be yourself.

Intelligent, gruff and unapologetic creates better public relations than being insincere, disingenuous or pretending to be something you are not. Perhaps that is the legacy Mr. Vidal, who claimed to be the last of a unique generation of Americans, wanted us to take from his colorful life. Talented and witty, Mr. Vidal has much to offer today’s media stars who have parlayed PR campaigns into reality TV shows, perfumes and other vapid ventures that will only leave behind a legacy of hollow purchases and pointless conversations.

RIP Gore Vidal.

Stephen Covey, Influential Author and Speaker, Dead at 79

Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” died today at age 79. As an author and motivational speaker, Covey influenced millions of businesspeople across a spectrum of industries, including public relations. The book, published in 1989, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and touts the power of integrity, dignity, fairness and adaptability—principles all PR experts know well.

The book focuses on fundamental ideals and the concept that the goodness within human beings is also innate to everything human beings create, such as businesses and corporate cultures. Covey used anecdotes and analysis to explain how following virtues and common decency can lead to success on every level in life.

Many professionals incorporated Covey’s conclusions into their business models and management philosophies. Covey’s impact on the business world, however, also created controversy as detractors claim the author simply profited from repackaging common sense (which many argue isn’t so common—especially today).

As a PR professional, did you encounter “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” or any of Covey’s teachings in your career development? If so, what impact—positive, negative, none at all—did it have on your career?

Andy Griffith: The Original Influencer

Sad news today about the death of actor Andy Griffith at the age of 86. He may be best known for his namesake television program, but he was also the star of one of our favorite movies of all time — A Face in the Crowd.

Griffith plays a small-town hobo who becomes a celebrity host, “Lonesome” Rhodes. As he grows in popularity and influence, he also grows in arrogance and disdain for his audience. You can see where this is going. It’s a four-star must-see.

Author, Fashion Publicist Erica Kennedy Has Died

Erica Kennedy has died at the age of 42. Kennedy was an author and writer whose work was published in the New York Daily News, Vibe, In Style, and other publications. She got her start as a fashion publicist and continued on as a social media and branding consultant.

Her first book, Bling, was a satire about an aspiring hip-hop artist. And her second novel, Feminista, was about a hotshot celebrity journalist searching for love.

News of her death has traveled across Twitter with one of her biggest fans, Roger Ebert, saying that “the world is a lesser place” with her gone. Kennedy was 42 years old. The cause of her death has not been made public.

You can click here for a 2009 Q&A with the writer.

*Update: The Root reports that the Miami Beach Police Department is awaiting a toxicology report to help determine the cause Kennedy’s death. There were no signs of a break-in at her home or other “foul play.” The report will take four to six weeks. Her family requests that, instead of flowers and gifts, donations on Kennedy’s behalf be made to either Groundwork Opportunities or the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

[via The Root]

Donna Summer Remembered By Her Former Publicist

Donna Summer’s family has confirmed the death of the disco great at the age of 63 after a battle with cancer. In a statement, her family said, “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.”

Much of her legacy is rooted in the sexy sound of her music, which first hit the airwaves more than 30 years ago. A publicist who worked with her more recently says she wanted to move away from that.

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Taco Bell Tweets for MCA?

Today we got the very sad news that the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, died after a years-long battle with cancer. The news has taken over Twitter and is prompting all sorts of media coverage and tributes.

One of those tributes came from @TacoBell, which tweeted:

Our eagle-eared colleague Alex Weprin recalled a Taco Bell reference in a Beastie Boys song. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the line comes from “Long Burn the Fire” and goes a little something like this:

Now that we’re here, back and raising hell
I’m running wild like rats in the Taco Bell

Sounds like someone saw what was trending and went a little tweet happy without first double-checking. Or Taco Bell is totally got over that jab. Either way, #RIPMCA. You will be missed.

Dick Clark Remembered for Influence on Pop Culture

One of the many ways that Dick Clark is most remembered for his pop culture influence. Clark and American Bandstand brought rock n’ roll into people’s homes in its early days (the show debuted in 1957), and became a cultural touchpoint for millions of teens across the country who learned about new dances, new acts, and cool clothes through the program.

E! has a top ten list of ways that Dick Clark and his TV shows inspired other TV shows that have now become staples. TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes! How many people totally forgot about that? From top ten lists, to music programs (like Soul Train, which was pioneering in its own way), game shows, and New Year’s Eve, Dick Clark played a role in all of it.

The New York Times has a comprehensive obituary that covers Dick Clark’s career, which, by extension, covers the evolution of pop culture. After the jump, Dick Clark’s big first interview with Madonna.

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