Magazines: Sex & the Editor

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February's Cosmopolitan made some disparaging remarks about an author named Helen Gurley Brown. "Despite her book, Sex and the Office, which equates the office affair with a gay lark," the article admonished, Mrs. Brown has the wrong slant. "Career girls who have been burned or who have seen their friends burned, offer one loud word of advice, 'Don't!' " Now Hearst's Cosmopolitan seems to have changed its mind. Last week Helen Gurley Brown, 43, was named editor.

The magazine is bubbling with enthusiasm over its new editor, even though she has had no editing experience: "She is the most exciting woman in the world," says Publisher Frank Dupuy Jr. In language reminiscent of an old Peter

Arno cartoon, a press release declares: "She has made an intensive study of the single girl's needs, hopes, problems and aspirations." Translation: She has written a whopping bestseller of a book, Sex and the Single Girl, a collection of saucy tips on how to win and hold a man. On the strength of her success, Mrs. Brown has been turning out a thrice-weekly newspaper column besides writing a second book, Sex and the Office. And she has suffered a rash of improbable imitators: Sex and the Single Man, Sex and the College Girl, Sex and the Single Cat.

Sex and the Single Girl has outsold all its sister sex books because it talks hip. "It's not a study on how to get married," says Helen Brown, who married at a ripe 37, "but how to stay single in superlative style. How much safer to marry with the play out of his system and yours. It takes guts." Such words are calculated to allay the anxieties of the 14 million single women in the U.S., most of whom are perpetually nagged to get married.

Helen Brown hopes to attract these women to Cosmopolitan and shore up its declining circulation, now down to less than 800,000. But she has no intention of turning the rather bland magazine into something racy. "Sex," she says, "will not be dragged in by the heels; it will just be there naturally." Though her husband David once edited Cosmopolitan for a few years, Mrs. Brown would be the last to claim she is in competition with men. "Men hate loudmouth, show-off dames," she has written. But in case she should turn termagant under the pressures of her first executive job, she offers her employees an escape hatch. "If you happen to have drawn a female Tartar, young or old," she wrote in Sex and the Office, "I'd suggest you work as hard for her as you would for a dreamboat, and, when you've had all you can take, move on to the next job."