Georgette Mosbacher insists she’s an Unremarkable Woman. Really.
“I am not at all remarkable,” she says, perched on the sofa in the pale yellow drawing room of her Upper East Side townhouse office. “I grew up in a one-parent family, I worked my way through college, I had very average grades and I was very average-looking, but I’ve lived a remarkable life only because I believed I could.”
This unshakable belief in self, coupled with a driving ambition--think Judith Krantz heroine and you’ve got the idea--is what Mosbacher, 46, calls her “feminine force.”
"(It’s) that inner strength, that power, that will to face down any negative circumstances in life and defeat them,” she explains in her low, husky purr. She leans across the glass coffee table and purses her matte-red lips. “It’s guts,” she says.
Which Mosbacher has by the Rolls full. The Washington press corps skewered her when she blew into the Capitol in 1989 as the shiny trophy wife of Texas millionaire Robert Mosbacher, secretary of commerce during the Bush Administration. They dubbed her “Hurricane Georgette” and sniped at her penchant for self-promotion, her blitzkrieg of jewels and her entrance-making arrivals that on one occasion upstaged Marilyn Quayle.
Undaunted, Mosbacher is facing off with the media this month, including a stop Thursday at Rizzoli Books in Beverly Hills, to ballyhoo her book “Feminine Force: Release the Power Within to Create the Life You Deserve.”
Part autobiography, part self-help manual and part women’s guide to the business world, the book is stuffed with such yummy tidbits as: Wear neutral nail polish to board meetings, and man hunt at F.A.O. Schwarz on Saturdays (lots of divorced daddies buying toys for their kids--rich divorced daddies).
In a two-hour interview, Mosbacher is unpretentious, outspoken and focused, firmly steering the discussion away from, say, the collapse of nouvelle society marriages and back to her book. She never drops a single name--not Barbara Bush or Dawn Steel or Kathie Lee Gifford, all of whom have written gushy book-jacket blurbs. (“Georgette is my kind of feminist,” Gifford trilled.) And she doesn’t mind telling you that before acquiring her couture wardrobe, she bought her clothes at thrift shops.
She still does her own manicures and touches up the roots of her paprika-colored hair, now refined to a subtle ginger shade. Later, when she returns to her sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment with its Aubusson rugs and 18th-Century porcelain, she will stand over the sink and slather on the Clairol. “The only thing I can’t do is highlights,” she concedes.
Mosbacher--or the Divine Mrs. M, as Texas Monthly calls her--has creamy skin, perfectly arched eyebrows that have been tattooed on and a dazzling smile. She is fanatical about staying out of the sun, shrouding herself in a leotard, hat and gloves when she bobs in the Bahamian surf.
“Creating my look and making myself attractive was and still is hard work,” she writes in the book. Looking fabulous is essential to the “feminine force.” You can’t expect to “create the life you deserve” if you’re a frump.
If “Feminine Force” sounds more Helen Gurley Brown than Harvard Business School, who cares? Certainly not Mosbacher wanna-bes, who probably aren’t as interested in becoming a CEO as they are in marrying one.
“Unlike other self-help books, it’s not based on any scientific theories. It’s just really my story of how I got from where I started to where I wanted to go,” Mosbacher says as her King Charles spaniel snoozes beside her.
Born Georgette Paulsin, the oldest of four children of a Highland, Ind., bowling alley operator, Mosbacher was 7 when her father was killed by a drunk driver. She took charge of her siblings while her mother worked to support the family.
After graduating from Indiana University in 1969, Mosbacher worked for a Detroit advertising agency before moving to Los Angeles. At a Sotheby’s auction there, she spied Robert Muir, a wealthy realtor. No shrinking violet, she wangled an introduction by posing as a Time magazine reporter. They married a year later in 1972. Muir was 40; Mosbacher, 23.
After five years of marriage and an amicable divorce, Mosbacher pursued a richer, more glamorous catch: George Barrie, then chief executive officer of Faberge. Mosbacher, by then a marketing executive with Faberge in New York, was 33 when she married the 67-year-old Barrie in 1980.
The union ended in divorce two years later. “I was happier single than I ever was in that miserable marriage,” Mosbacher snaps. In the book, she describes Barrie as an abusive alcoholic who once punched her in the face, an allegation he has denied.
She met her third husband, Robert Mosbacher, 66, a Texas oilman worth an estimated $200 million, on a blind date in Houston. A widower rebounding from a brief second marriage, he had no interest in wedding bells. A frustrated Georgette began dating another man--making sure Robert knew about it--and sure enough, he proposed. They were married in 1985.
The pair’s peripatetic lifestyle tends to keep them apart, but they try to spend weekends together in Houston. After breakfast on Sundays, they sit down with their date books and coordinate schedules.
“There are people who don’t understand our marriage and say, ‘Oh, Georgette, he’s so divine. You’re going to lose him if you’re not home more,’ ” she says. “They don’t realize that, besides our deep love for one another, our marriage is strong because we respect one another’s goals.”
For Georgette, financial independence is priority No. 1.
“Even if you have to take a few dollars out of the milk money to put under the mattress, then do it,” she urges. “It has nothing to do with trusting your husband. Unless you have financial resources of your own, you can’t be free.”
In 1988, Mosbacher bought La Prairie, the luxury Swiss skin-care company, for about $30 million she raised from backers--with no help from her husband, she’s quick to add. As chief executive officer, she expanded the line to include makeup and oversaw every detail, right down to toting Windex on her visits to La Prairie counters. She sold the company to a German conglomerate for an estimated $45 million three years later.
No longer extolling $75 jars of eye cream, Mosbacher now sells makeup to the masses. Her New York-based Exclusives line is sold at Sears and via the QVC shopping channel and infomercials. The makeup line is on the back burner, though, while Mosbacher peddles her book.
On one recent evening, the fashionable trooped to Maxim’s to congratulate the new literary lioness. Looking stunning in a white Dior suit with a diamond-studded unicorn pinned to her shoulder, Mosbacher, with her handsome silver-haired husband by her side, exchanged air kisses with Gayfryd Steinberg, Carolyne Roehm, Ivana Trump, Barbara Walters and Rush Limbaugh.
“The book serves a purpose because it advises women how to enjoy life,” Limbaugh says. “Georgette doesn’t take the angry, bitter feminist route.”
You’d better believe it.
“I am all for chivalry,” she says. “I want the doors to be opened for me, I want the chairs pulled out for me, I want men to stand when I enter the room. I don’t apologize at all for being a woman.”