Classic Essays

Chutzpah Lady

“Ann Landers”

HOW DOES A nonentity like Ann Landers bounce out of the boondocks of Iowa and almost overnight become the seamy sibyl of millions of dumpy lumpenproletarians?

Those who wonder about this should read the Ladies Home Journal (Jan. 1980). A treacly piece of puffery about Mrs. Eppie Lederer, Ann’s assumed name, revealed that she started her career as a Democratic party wardheeler in Wisconsin. One day her eye was caught by a local newspaper column, “Ask Ann Landers.” The writer conveniently died just as Mrs. Lederer (nèe Friedman) grew interested. She was told that if she wanted the job she would have to answer a number of identical reader questions in competition with twenty-eight other professional writers. The amateur who had never had a line published in her life went to work immediately. She called up Justice William Douglas, whom she had met once or twice in her political work, to help answer a legal question and wangled permission to quote him. Then on the question of annulling a Catholic marriage, she contacted Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame. “Ted, can I use your name?” And so on.

Mrs. Lederer has seen her advice-to-the-forlorn goop litter so many papers her publicity man called it “the most widely read column in the world.”

If this is not enough, her Jewish twin sister, who wrote under the name of Abigail van Buren, had a column that was almost as popular, and even more banal.

* * *

Source: Instauration magazine, June 1980

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3 Comments

  1. Guest
    May 9, 2018 at 11:10 pm — Reply

    I still see her name popping up in advice columns.

  2. Last Time I Was Here I Wasn't
    May 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    She’s long dead. Why even give her any belated publicity?

    • Travon MartinVanBuren
      May 13, 2018 at 12:56 am — Reply

      Well Dr. Joyce Brothers would say you’re being insensitive to those who do show interest.

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