Friday, November 02, 2012

Dear Abby Radio Show

Pauline "Popo" Phillips started writing an advice column in 1956 under the pen name Abigail Van Buren. Her twin sister Esther "Eppie" Lederer wrote similar column "Ask Ann Landers" under that pseudonym from 1955 to 2002. Only one of them took their brand to radio.

Pauline Friedman and her sister were born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1918. They attended public school together then both attended and Morningside College where sisters wrote for the college newspaper. Both married in a double-wedding ceremony on their shared birthday in 1939. (This is all kind of creepy so far. )  But the two stories actually diverge in 1955. Esther took over the existing Ask Ann Landers advice column at the The Chicago Sun-Times from the deceased Ruth Crowley. Sister Pauline was more than a tad jealous at this coup.

Pauline moved to San Francisco in 1956 and boldly cold called the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Stan Arnold, to tell him that his advice column kind of sucked and she could do better. History does not record who she un-seated, but like her sister she rose to prominence. In fact she later undercut her sisters syndication by low-balling her own price. She even did it at their own home town newspaper, The Sioux City Journal. Her column was syndicated by McNaught Syndicate until 1966, when it moved to the Universal Press.

The Dear Abby radio show was a family affair. The program was short format. The 5 minute short ran daily, 6 days a week for 5 mintes starting in 1963. The scripts were written by her daughter Jeanne Phillips. West Coast character actor Harry Bartel did the announcing and read the questions to Pauline. It was carried on the CBS Radio Network for 11 or 12 years depending on what source you beleive. It aired at 9:00 AM Monday through Friday and at 11:30 on Saturdays.

Esther died in 2002 ending her column series abruptly. Pauline is still alive, but she retired the same year already suffering some symptoms of Alzheimers. Her daughter Jeanne Phillips took over her column.