Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gimme A Hint, Will Ya?

As you probably know, I have a vintage shop on Etsy.  (If you didn't, you can visit it here. Okay, how's that for a hint!)  So yesterday I was listing two old paperback books filled with the wisdom of  Heloise, and it hit me: What up with Heloise.  A little digging later, here's what up.  And quite a dame she was:

It was late 1958 and Eloise Bowles Cruse was a 39 year old Air Force wife bored in paradise.  She, the fly boy hubby and two kids were stationed in Honolulu.  She was a 5'2" bundle of energy that was only mildly satisfied by household upkeep and bridge with the girls at the Officers Club.  One thing she did really enjoy was the exchange of ideas on housekeeping tips and shortcuts that happened over her kaffeeklatches with friends.

Say-wait-a-minute! (cue the ascending glis on the harp) if this were a newspaper column; broader audience-more tips!  She casually brought up her journalistic desire at a cocktail party and a colonel within earshot laughed.  Laughed!  He then did something you probably shouldn't do if you wanted to keep Eloise in her place, he bet her ten bucks that she couldn't get a newspaper job because "you're nothing but a housewife".  Cut to:  Office of the Editor, Honolulu Advertiser.  Eloise, in business suit with silver spray in her hair (meant to indicate a look of wisdom) sells the guy on a thirty day, no pay trial basis for a column called "Readers Exchange".

After collecting on the $10 bet, she set up a card table in her bedroom and the non-typist hunted and pecked her way to preparing her column debut in February of '59.  In 1960 she changed her name (for alliteration's sake) and the name of the column to "Hints From Heloise".   On her own, with no agent, manager or lawyer she sold her column to papers in Oklahoma City, Houston and Dallas (she was a native Texan).  In the fall of 1961, King Features Syndicate (a division of Hearst) offered her a contract.  So by 1962, she was a household name and wrote the first of the two books I have.

Our Helpful, Hintfull Heloise was not without her quirks and eccentricities.  She was in the habit of using colored theatrical sprays on her hair to match her outfits (blue, green, lavender, no shade would be ignored).  If she were dancing at a social event with a perfect stranger and became aware of an odor emanating from his dentures, she thought nothing of informing him of a solution mixture that would cure the problem.

Difficulties in the relationship with her daughter, Ponce` (who now writes the feature and maintains the Heloise empire) were at times titanic, but seem, for the most part, to have been ironed out before the formers death in 1977.

In recent years with all the attention being devoted (deservedly) to Julia Child, it's seems that the contributions of Heloise, the column and the woman, have been a bit overlooked.  For an example, in all my research I was unable to find a photograph of her!

UPDATE! -  The spectacular Jason supplied the pictures below:

Above: Heloise and Ponce`
Below: Heloise and Nixon talk China

So here's to an American heroine who's work had and continues to have a major impact on domestic living!
Now, go clean something.


jason said...

Of course, a few seconds of clicking and I ran across a lovely photo of Hel with Tricky Dick, wearing a fabulous hat. I wonder what color her hair was sprayed that day? A conservative blue I suspect.


FelixInHollywood said...

You're a peach! I have updated the post.

Apparently Google works better in NOLA than LACA!

Ask the Cool Cookie said...

I have my copy of the green book. I enjoy reading it. Takes me back to a time long since gone.

normadesmond said...

is that even a hat on her head? from here, it kind of looks like a swollen ham with pineapple rings & cherries.

but i dig the post! makes me think of eppie & popo.

Mike, Studio city said...

Boy did my brain just flash. My Mom had her books and would send me some so that I would be handy around the house, and I am.

mrpeenee said...

Somewhere I remember a most spectacular, pre-Edna Everage photo of her modeling catseye glasses she has tarted up with the remains of a pair of old rhinestone earbobs.

kabuki zero said...

why is she wearing a pineapple upside cake on her head? Is that proper attire to meet tricky-dick? Would a red-velvet bundt look as lovely? I shall immediately start wearing cakes to all my affairs. If it is good enough for Heloise, it is good enough for kabuki. At least she would know how to remove icing from silk. Go ahead, ask her.

Donna Lethal said...

Oh, I love the pics! And I do love Heloise. I'm something of a kitchen hint-lover myself (want to keep your car fresh smelling? Use dryer sheets!) and she's the originator. Of course, I love anyone who used colored sprays in their hair.