Memory Games & Sexy Lingerie
As the longest living, eating restaurant critic in the world, or at least on the Upper West Side, I get requests every week for interviews to plumb my supposed expertise and harvest my reveries. Given my selective memory, I try my best to be helpful.
What was different about eating out in the 60s? someone asks. You could get a table at a hot restaurant between 6 and 9 pm. Chefs were likely to be found in the kitchen.
Is there a prejudice against women restaurant critics? Women chefs, yes; women critics, definitely not. Maybe in 1968 when I started reviewing for New York, but not now.
Two women are writing books about Helen Gurley Brown, an amazing dame, a visionary, Arkansas' gift to Hearst. I wrote about 50 articles for Cosmopolitan starting even before Helen arrived to take over and invent the Cosmo girl. So I try to dredge up memories that aren't already in my memoir, "Insatiable: Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess."
What do I remember? We both wore falls in the big hair days. And Pucci. I remember her slip showing. I remember her book full of story ideas that she would offer writers she summoned to her desk. The "emo" pieces. And her "icky boo" edits in my major oeuvre: "The Cosmo Girl's Book of Etiquette." She put them into the manuscript. The editor, Jeanette Sarkisian, took them out. I am forever grateful. I remember that even when she had delivered billions to Hearst and lived in luxury with her beloved David Brown on Fifth or (was it Park?) she still refused a car and took the bus to work.
Last week, Brooke Hauser spent time in the HGB archives before she called to interview me. She sent me a photo of an ancient "Step Into My Parlor," by Helen, on me and Tom Wolfe. Cosmo had published an excerpt from his "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." I'd written "Freudian Slips and Other Nude Underthings" for her. It seems I claimed a woman's choice of underwear reflected her innermost sexual fantasies. Underpinnings were evolving quickly then from Maidenform rigidity to sheer and colorful, barely-there freedom.
Later would come the golden 70s when, single again, I carried a satin teddy in my coat pocket to dinner and the disco, just in case I didn't get home to my own bed. At least I remember that.