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Surprise! Cosmo Gets Sassier and Sexier

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday

“His and Her Orgasms: How to Slow Him Down and Speed You Up.” “Are You About to Be Dumped: 10 Hidden Signs He’s Ready to Run.” “Your New Man: How to Make the Sex So Good He’ll Be Groveling.”

Cosmopolitan?

You guessed it.

There’s a new editor in chief at Cosmo, but the popular young women’s magazine, now edited by Bonnie Fuller, reads like a familiar, if slightly wilder version of the title led for so long by Helen Gurley Brown. Cover girl Laetitia Casta appears to be signaling the subtle, but noticeable change in the new March issue--Fuller’s first--as this month’s shapely model tilts her torso in a sassier manner than readers may be accustomed to.

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And there is Howard Stern, the subject of “his point of view” (a carry-over feature), who plugs his upcoming movie and mouths off on “how to handle a beastly man like me.”

Other changes include more fashion, more beauty coverage, more celebrity dish, more on fitness and health and an airier graphic layout.

“I’m totally thrilled, as an editor, to have the opportunity to talk to 13 million readers a month,” Fuller said. “The meat of the magazine is not changing. It focuses on a woman’s inner life and how it helps her achieve success in her other life.”

She added: “My philosophy echoes Helen’s philosophy. I believe in a young woman who wants to have it all, do it all and have fun doing it.”

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At the same time, the 40-year-old Fuller faces the challenge of succeeding a legend. Brown took Cosmo, a general-interest magazine that journalists such as Andy Rooney wrote for during the postwar years, and turned it into a sexually frank and empowering monthly for young women--a huge hit on college campuses. Cosmo has a circulation of 2.5 million (and many more pass-along readers), plus annual ad revenue of more than $150 million.

After Hearst Magazines announced 13 months ago that the former editor of YM and Marie Claire would take over from Brown, editor in chief for more than 30 years, Fuller served as deputy editor until the original Cosmo Girl, now 74, put out her farewell February issue. The length of the transition was unheard of in publishing, where most exits are cold and swift. But the span of time enabled Fuller to prepare professionally and personally (she will give birth to her third child in a few weeks), and it allowed Hearst to acclimate advertisers.

At a Tuesday night party for Fuller at the Four Seasons Hotel that drew Calvin Klein, Molly Ringwald (the actress’ Manhattan digs are featured in the new issue) and an array of industry folks dressed in stylish black, two of Cosmo’s salespeople explained that advertisers were concerned about losing Brown. The two added, however, that Fuller’s five years at the teen mag YM, whose circulation doubled, and her successful launch of Hearst’s Marie Claire two years ago allayed those concerns. Gap and Esprit are among the new advertisers appearing in Fuller’s first issue.

“Helen has been extremely gracious--she always answered my questions with great seriousness,” Fuller said. “She’s very understanding of the situation.”

Brown, who becomes editor in chief of Cosmo’s foreign editions, has said: “The time comes when you can’t be 75 and edit a magazine for a 24-year-old.”

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She Speaks Again: Like J. D. Salinger, Harper Lee has made a second career out of silence. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” her story of a small Southern town and its racial divisions, came out 37 years ago and remains her only novel. A foreword that she wrote for a hardcover edition first reissued in Britain four years ago ran only 10 lines. “I am still alive, although very quiet,” she said. “ ‘Mockingbird’ still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble.”

The novel’s enduring popularity--it has sold more than 30 million copies and frequently ranks among top selling books in the country--no doubt has allowed her to live comfortably, in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala.

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Now, Lee speaks again, but again only briefly. Seaburn Publishing, a small company based in the Astoria section of Queens, obtained a jacket blurb from the reclusive writer for a new book of poems written by people living in nursing homes.

“Many Things to Tell You,” compiled by psychologist Thomas E. Heinzen, prompted Lee, now 71, to say: “Because Tom Heinzen listened, we have a book of great beauty and wisdom. Its authors may be uncertain of memory, but they have created a work that is unforgettable.”

Sam Chekwas, the manager of Seaburn, recalled, “We just sent her a copy of the book and she found it interesting.”

Afterwords: Oprah Winfrey’s boyfriend, Stedman Graham, a management consultant, has a book out: “You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success.” But don’t look for him to plug his goods on Winfrey’s show, an all-but-certain launch pad to the bestseller list. Won’t happen, Simon & Schuster says. Still, Graham describes his relationship with you-know-who in the book, which is just fine with McCall’s. The March issue runs a large cover image of Winfrey that dwarfs reference to the “exclusive” inside: “What’s it like to be Mr. Oprah?” It’s an excerpt from Graham’s book.

* Paul D. Colford’ s e-mail address is paul.colford@newsday.com. His column is published Thursdays.


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