Pauline Phillips, Flinty Adviser to Millions as Dear Abby, Dies at 94
January 19, 2013Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We’re newlyweds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there’s really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? — Ed
Dear Ed: It’s O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying bacon.
Pauline Phillips, a California housewife who nearly 60 years ago, seeking something more meaningful than mah-jongg, transformed herself into the syndicated columnist Dear Abby — and in so doing became a trusted, tart-tongued adviser to tens of millions — died on Wednesday in Minneapolis. She was 94.
Her syndicate, Universal Uclick, announced her death on its Web site. Mrs. Phillips, who had been ill with Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade, was a longtime resident of Beverly Hills, Calif., but lived in Minneapolis in recent years to be near family.
If Damon Runyon and Groucho Marx had gone jointly into the advice business, their column would have read much like Dear Abby’s. With her comic and flinty yet fundamentally sympathetic voice, Mrs. Phillips helped wrestle the advice column from its weepy Victorian past into a hard-nosed 20th-century present:
Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? — M. J. B. in Oakland, Calif.
Dear M. J. B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
Mrs. Phillips began her life as the columnist Abigail Van Buren in 1956. She quickly became known for her astringent, often genteelly risqué, replies to queries that included the marital, the medical and sometimes both at once:
Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? — Bertie
Dear Bertie: Only if they don’t work.
She was also known for her long, much-publicized professional rivalry with her identical twin sister, the advice columnist Ann Landers.
Long before the Internet — and long before the pervasive electronic confessionals of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, et al. — the Dear Abby column was a forum for the public discussion of private problems, read by tens of millions of people in hundreds of newspapers around the world.
It is difficult to overstate the column’s influence on American culture at midcentury and afterward: in popular parlance, Dear Abby was for decades an affectionate synonym for a trusted, if slightly campy, confidante.
Over the years, recording artists including the Hearts, John Prine and the Dead Kennedys have released a string of different songs titled “Dear Abby.”
Even now, Dear Abby’s reach is vast. (Mrs. Phillips’s daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over the column unofficially in 1987 and officially in 2000.) According to Universal Uclick, Dear Abby appears in about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, has a daily readership of more than 110 million — in print and on its Web site, dearabby.com — and receives more than 10,000 letters and e-mails a week.
Politically left of center, Mrs. Phillips was generally conservative when it came to personal deportment. As late as the 1990s, she was reluctant to advise unmarried couples to live together. Yet beneath her crackling one-liners lay an imperturbable acceptance of the vagaries of modern life:
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/2-pound baby be this premature? — Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
Mrs. Phillips was also keen, genteelly, to keep pace with the times. In 1976, she confided to People magazine that she had recently seen an X-rated movie. Her sister, she learned afterward, had wanted to see it, too, but feared being recognized.
“How did you get away with it?” Ann Landers asked Dear Abby.
“Well,” Dear Abby replied breezily, “I just put on my dark glasses and my Ann Landers wig and went!”
The youngest of four sisters, Pauline Esther Friedman, familiarly known as Popo, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918. Her twin, Esther Pauline (known as Eppie), beat her into the world by 17 minutes, just as she would narrowly beat her into the advice business.
Their father, Abraham, was a Jewish immigrant from Vladivostok, Russia, who had made his start in the United States as an itinerant chicken peddler and, in an archetypal American success story, ended up owning a chain of movie theaters.
The twins attended Morningside College in Sioux City, where they both studied journalism and psychology and wrote a joint gossip column for the school paper.
As close as they were, the intense competitiveness that would later spill into the public arena was already apparent. “She wanted to be the first violin in the school orchestra, but I was,” Mrs. Phillips told Life magazine in 1958. “She swore she’d marry a millionaire, but I did.”
In 1939, Pauline Friedman left college to marry Morton Phillips, an heir to a liquor fortune. She was married in a lavish double ceremony alongside Eppie, who, not to be outdone, was wed on the same day to Jules Lederer, a salesman who later founded the Budget Rent A Car corporation.
As a young bride, Mrs. Phillips lived in Eau Claire, Wis., where her husband was an executive with the National Pressure Cooker Company, which his family had acquired.
“It never occurred to me that I’d have any kind of career,” Mrs. Phillips told The Los Angeles Times in 1986. “But after I was married, I thought, ‘There has to be something more to life than mah-jongg.’ ”
She took up civic work training hospital volunteers, an experience that helped lay the foundation for her future calling. “I learned how to listen,” Mrs. Phillips told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1989. “Sometimes, when people come to you with a problem, the best thing you can do is listen.”
In 1955, Mrs. Phillips’s twin, now Eppie Lederer, took over the Ann Landers column for The Chicago Sun-Times. A rank beginner soon swamped by a flood of mail, she began sending batches of letters to her sister — for advice, as it were.
“I provided the sharp answers,” Mrs. Phillips told The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1981. “I’d say, ‘You’re writing too long (she still does), and this is the way I’d say it.’ ” She added, “My stuff was published — and it looked awfully good in print.”
So good that when The Sun-Times later forbade Mrs. Lederer to send letters out of the office, Mrs. Phillips, by this time living in the Bay Area, vowed to find a column of her own.
She phoned The San Francisco Chronicle, identifying herself as a local housewife who thought she could do better than the advice columnist the paper already had. “If you’re ever in the neighborhood,” the features editor said rhetorically, “come in and see me.”
Mrs. Phillips took him at his word and the next morning appeared unannounced in the newsroom in a Dior dress. She prudently left her chauffeured Cadillac around the corner.
If only to get rid of her, the editor handed her a stack of back issues, telling her to compose her own replies to the letters in the advice column. She did so in characteristic style and dropped off her answers at the paper. She arrived home to a ringing telephone. The job was hers — at $20 a week.
Mrs. Phillips chose her pen name herself, taking Abigail after the prophetess in the Book of Samuel (“Then David said to Abigail ‘Blessed is your advice and blessed are you’ ”) and Van Buren for its old-family, presidential ring. Her first column appeared on Jan. 9, 1956, less than three months after her sister’s debut.
An immediate success, the column was quickly syndicated. But with Mrs. Phillips’s growing renown came a growing estrangement from her twin, as Dear Abby and Ann Landers battled each other in syndication. According to many accounts, the sisters did not speak for five years, reconciling only in the mid-1960s.
Mrs. Lederer died in 2002, at 83. In addition to her daughter, Jeanne, Mrs. Phillips is survived by her husband of 73 years, Mort Phillips; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. A son, Edward, died in 2011 at 66.
Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours — blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women. This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighborhood? — Nob Hill Residents
Dear Residents: You could move.
John Gaps III/Associated Press
長年撰寫《親愛的艾比》專欄的葆琳·菲利普斯（左）和以安·蘭德斯的筆名寫專欄的孿生姐姐埃佩·萊德勒。圖為1986年兩人在畢業50年的中學同學聚會上。Pauline Phillips, left, who wrote an advice column as Dear Abby, with her twin sister, Eppie Lederer, who wrote a column as Ann Landers, in 1986 at their 50th high school reunion.
如果戴蒙·魯尼恩(Damon Runyon)和格勞喬·馬克斯(Groucho Marx)曾聯手寫讀者來信，他們的專欄讀起來應該會像“親愛的艾比”的專欄。她的語調幽默、堅定，但其實卻充滿同情，菲利普斯推動了讀者來信這個專欄的 發展，告別惺惺作態的維多利亞時代，進入了硬朗務實的二十世紀。
親愛的艾比：我一直想追溯我的家族史，但我拿不出很多錢來這麼做。你有什麼建議嗎？——M.J.B., 加利福尼亞州奧克蘭菲利普斯1956年開始撰寫她的專欄，筆名艾比蓋爾·馮布倫(Abigail Van Buren)。收到的提問有關於婚姻的，有關於醫療的，有時二者兼而有之。她以犀利優雅、亦莊亦諧的筆調回答這些問題，很快名聲鵲起。
多年來，包括心樂隊(Hearts)、約翰·普賴恩(John Prine)和死肯尼迪樂隊(Dead Kennedys)在內的創作型藝人都推出過不同的名為《親愛的艾比》的歌曲。
即使是現在，《親愛的艾比》影響依然廣泛。（菲利普斯的女兒珍妮·菲利普斯於1987年非正式地接管了這一專欄，2000年正式接管。）據 Universal Uclick說，《親愛的艾比》出現在世界上大約1400份報紙上，每日的讀者人數超過1.1億——包括報紙和它的網站dearabby.com——每周 收到超過1萬封信件和電子郵件。
親愛的艾比：我們的兒子在服軍役時娶了一個女孩兒。他們在2月份結婚，她在8月份生下一個8.5磅（約合3.86公斤）的女嬰。她說嬰兒是早產了。但一個8.5磅重的嬰兒有可能早產這麼多嗎？——想知道(Wanting to Know)菲利普斯也熱衷於與時俱進——以她從容的方式。1976年，她對《人物》(People)雜誌坦率承認，她最近看了一部三級片。她後來知道，她的姐姐也曾想看，但是害怕被認出來。
葆琳·埃絲特·弗里德曼(Pauline Esther Friedman)在1918年7月4日生於愛荷華州蘇城，是四個姐妹中最小的一個，熟悉她的人稱她為波波(Popo)。她的雙胞胎姐妹埃絲特·葆琳 （Esther Pauline，通常被稱為埃佩Eppie）比她早來這個世界17分鐘，寫專欄也只比她早一點。
1939年，葆琳·弗里德曼離開學校，嫁給了一個大型酒業公司的繼承人莫頓·菲利普斯(Morton Phillips)。在她舉行婚禮的同一天，埃佩不甘下風，也和銷售員朱爾斯·萊德勒(Jules Lederer)完婚，雙喜婚禮十分奢華。萊德勒後來成立了巴吉租車公司(Budget Rent A Car)。
年輕的新娘菲利普斯婚後居住在威斯康星州的歐克萊爾，她的丈夫在其家族收購的國家壓力鍋公司(National Pressure Cooker Company)擔任高級經理。
1986年菲利普斯告訴《洛杉磯時報》(The Los Angeles Times)，“我從沒想過自己會從事任何職業，但婚後，我想‘生活里應該還有比打麻將更有意義的事情’。”
她參加社會服務，為醫院的志願者做培訓，這一經歷為她未來的事業打下了基礎。1989年菲利普斯告訴《聖地亞哥聯合論壇報》(The San Diego Union-Tribune)，“我學會了傾聽，有時人們帶着問題來找你，你能做的最好的事就是傾聽。”
1955年，菲利普斯的雙胞胎姐姐，現在叫埃佩·萊德勒(Eppie Lederer)，接手了《芝加哥太陽報》(The Chicago Sun-Times)的《安·蘭德斯》專欄。很快，這位新手就因為洪水般湧來的信件而忙得不可開交，她開始將大批信件轉寄給她的妹妹，算是聽取她的意見。
1981年，菲利普斯在接受《婦女家庭雜誌》(Ladies’ Home Journal)的採訪時稱，“我提供機智的回答，我會告訴她，‘你寫的太長了（她現在依然如此），我會這麼說。’”她補充說，“我寫的東西被發表了，印出來後，看上去棒極了。”
她給《舊金山紀事報》(San Francisco Chronicle)打電話，稱自己是當地的一個家庭主婦，她認為自己能比該報已有的讀者來信專欄作家寫得好。“如果你什麼時候到附近來，就過來見個面吧，”特刊的編輯客氣地說。
菲利普斯自己選了筆名，她從《撒母耳記》(Book of Samuel)一書中選取了女預言家艾比蓋爾(Abigail)這個名字（大衛對艾比蓋爾說，“你的建議是當受祝頌的，你是當受祝頌的。”），然後選了范 布倫(Van Buren)，因為這個名字聽上去像來自古老的家族、有點總統范兒。她的第一個專欄於1956年1月9日見報，與她姐姐第一次發表專欄的時間相差不到三個 月。
親愛的艾比：兩個自稱是父親和養子關係的男人在對面買了座舊的大宅，並裝修一新。我們注意到他們家什麼時候都有一群可疑的人進進出出，這些 人里有黑人、白人、東方人、看上去像男人的女人和像女人的男人。這裡一直是舊金山最好的社區之一，現在這些怪人卻為這裡帶來了惡名。我們該怎樣改善這個社 區呢？—— 諾布山居民