Dear Abby is Gone – America’s Public Chat Room Lady

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Pauline Phillips (Pauline ‘Popo’ Esther Friedman)

…died on January 16, 2013, aged 94

 

 by  Jim W. Dean, VT Editor      … featuring John Prine and John Hermans

 

The middle aged Mom wanted a job

I must admit that I had thought she was already dead, because my memories of her would seem to have put her at 120 now. But she hung in there til 94, despite the Alzheimers.

Advice columns had been around for a while before she came of age. Twin sister “Eppie’ had won a competition to replace Ann Landers, and later brought in sister Popo to help carry the huge load of mail coming in. The Chicago paper eventually put the kabosh on that.

But the future Dear Abby would later put the time spent with her sister to good use. When she arrived in her chauffer driven limousine (married well) at the San Francisco Chronical to try out for their retiring advice columnist job, she did 70 letter replies in two hours and was hired on the spot.

The Friedman twins now had two historical oars in the water.  Under the pen names of Ann Landers and Dear Abby they became American cultural icons.

I am sharing this with you only because a Berkshire School mate from Sheffield Massachusetts days posted the great John Prine ‘Dear Abby’ song below on my Facebook wall today. The song immortalized her in 1973.

As I watched it the memories came back of the wonderful voyeurism that these advice columns gave us all where we could peek in the windows of other people’s intimate lives and not be arrested.





The greatest gift of all was learning that there were a of lot of  people more weird than you were, and being not perfect was quite common.

[youtube b2ccC4aULow] – John Prine…1973

Yes, as you might expect, there is a lesson in all of this for us today…America’s melting pot. It starts with two Jewish girls who married well and stepped out onto the yellow brick road.  The girls were planning a double wedding ceremony (and later honeymoon) when Effie (Ann Landers) decided to swap her Morton liquor store fiance for the buyer at the wedding dress store.  He went on to form Budget-Rent-a-Car.

Her parents never got to see her success

As I always love to say, “You just can’t make this stuff up!”

The Friedman sisters touched a lot of lives, as did their Russian  Ellis Island parents, and dad who ended up owning a chain of movie theaters. The girls did not have to work, but wanted the challenge.

We carry on at VT like this…in a way. Our ‘mail’ comes in from a variety of sources, email, phone calls and Skype, with people are either wanting advice or giving it.

Sure, the issues are a lot different from the Friedman sisters’ days. They deal with life, and death, on a larger scale, and the conflict seems never ending.

We all come from a wide variety of backgrounds here, share a lot of the same concerns, and try to learn from each other’s experiences. That’s where the intimacy part kicks in.

What drove the success of the star advice columns was their touching on universal themes. Writing a letter in, and especially getting a reply, gave hope to a lot of people, that others shared their struggles and disappointments.

There is no more of a lonely world than the Intel biz. And for those who have been in it, to be able to be public in their golden years is like having a twin like the Friedman sister’s did. We can share, exchange, train, protect…and try to pass on what we would hope might be some valuable lessons that can save others from the painful trial and error method.

And speaking of reconnections, I had not seen fellow football team mate John Hermans since 1966-’67 until I caught my 45th reunion back home in the Berkshires this Spring, my first trip in 16 years. I shoot a lot of footage and did a lot of reconnecting.

I posted a June 10th, 2012 review of my trip before I came home. It was a bit of a magical mystery tour of sorts… and a mass mailing Dear Abby response.

And oh, I almost forgot, Dear Abby’s audience? ….  100 million.

Despite the Washington Post taking a cheap shot at us on your Sandy Hook coverage, a Lobby organized effort, they had a good obit on our grand dame of confessionals.

__________________________________

Author Details
Jim W. Dean is Managing Editor of Veterans Today involved in operations, development, and writing, plus an active schedule of TV and radio interviews. He broke into television work doing Atlanta Public TV programs for variety of American heritage, historical,military, veterans and Intel topics and organizations since 2000. Jim’s only film appearance was in the PBS Looking for Lincoln documentary with Prof. Henry Lewis Gates, and he has guest lectured at the Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Gordon, GA.

He is working to find time now to database his extensive video archive of Americana and interviews filmed during his public TV days so individual topic segments can be key word searched to quickly use in future multi-media projects.

Read Full Complete Bio >>> Jim’s Latest Posts
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