America lost a national treasure this week with the passing of Pauline (PoPo) Friedman Phillips, better known as Abigail Van Buren or “Dear Abby”! A California housewife, who decided she wanted to “do more than play mah-jong”, Van Buren gave practical and often hilarious advice dubbed “uncommon common sense” to thousands of people over a 40-year career. Her column allowed us a daily peak into our neighbors’ peccadilloes, a chance to both bond and be amused, to sometimes empathize with and other times feel glad we were not at all like the person behind the letter. With most of the letters virtually anonymous – “Sally from Sarasota” – she created a form of reality journalism, a more tasteful and private precursor to the full-on confessionals on Springer, Maury and other reality TV shows. “Dear Abby” was tell without the show. I would’ve loved to have asked her what she thought of all this current public laundering!
Van Buren unofficially retired in 1987 and officially in 2000 with her daughter Jeanne Phillips taking over the column. Her twin sister,who passed in 2002, was also in the family business as advice columnist Ann Landers. Rest in peace, Ann and Abby!