After Ann, other voices to heed

Many columnists follow Landers' steps

June 25, 2002|By Colleen Freyvogel and Tori Campion | Colleen Freyvogel and Tori Campion,SUN STAFF

"I will probably slump over at my typewriter when I am 90, and that will be it. At least that is the way I would like it to be."

- Ann Landers, 1990

Venerable advice columnist Ann Landers didn't quite make it to age 90, dying Saturday at 83 from cancer. But the estimated 90 million readers who consult her column every day will still be able to get her advice - at least for another month.

Landers, whose real name was Esther "Eppie" Lederer, penned her column a month in advance, so it will continue to run in The Sun and many other newspapers until July 27.

Those columns will be the final chapters in Landers 40-year reign as the queen of advice columnists, a period in which her pithy responses on virtually any subject imaginable grew to be the most widely syndicated column in the world, appearing in more than 1,200 newspapers.

The column's distributor, Creators Syndicate, is obeying Lederer's long-stated wish, retiring the Ann Landers byline once the remaining columns have been published. But the general advice column as a form is not dying with her.

Already, Creators Syndicate has a replacement for the popular column in the wings. Starting late next month, Landers' two longtime collaborators, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, will offer a daily advice column called Ann's Mailbox.

And, of course, Landers was not the only woman in her family who's made a living giving advice. Her twin sister, Pauline Phillips, became a famous rival as Dear Abby, and still pens the column with her daughter, Jeanne Phillips. And Landers' daughter, Margo Howard, is none other than Dear Prudence, the advice columnist for online magazine Slate.com.

Creators Syndicate has announced it will begin syndicating Dear Prudence to newspapers along with Ann's Mailbox.

But what about the millions among us who need good - or at least very public - advice right now? Newspapers, magazines and online sites publish dozens of advice columns these days, but most are much more specific than Landers', dealing with topics as varied as finance (Susan Bondy on Money by Susan Bondy), health (Your Health by Dr. Rallie McAllister), and automobiles (Click & Clack Talk Cars by Car Talk's Tom and Ray Magliozzi).

But while no one is yet seen as the clear heir apparent to Landers, there are a handful of general advice practitioners besides Abby and Prudence vying for those letters from Troubled in Tucson and Desperate in Des Moines:

Tell Me About It: A syndicated advice column for those under 30 written by Carolyn Hax, who writes about bad dates, new marriages and dubious decisions. Her column originates in the Washington Post and is distributed to a handful of others.

Advice Sisters: Twin sisters Jessica Blackman and Alison Blackman Dunham specialize in the "double-take," or an answer from each to every question asked. The twins have been "focusing their efforts online" and believe the Internet is "the biggest mouthpiece of the world," according to Alison Blackman Dunham. Their advice can be found online at users.rcn.com/adunham/privacy.html.

Advice Diva: A general advice column written by Tara Solomon, it is distributed by the Miami Herald, but questions can be posed via e-mail to advicediva@)tarasolomon.com.

Direct Answers from Wayne and Tamara: Married couple and authors Wayne and Tamara Mitchell offer advice on everything from arranged marriages to midlife crises; they even analyze books and famous relationships. According to their Web site (www.wayneandtamara.com), the Mitchells are different from Landers and Abby because their aim is "to help people become students of relationships, so they can answer their own questions." Their syndicated column appears in countries including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Dear Mrs. Web: Back from a recent overhaul, this online advice column offers daily personal advice and weekly dating advice. Mrs. Web's identity is unknown, but she answers questions ranging from family problems to work issues. The column appears on www.dearmrsweb.com.

One of the newest and perhaps strangest entries in the advice category is a column by none other than Amy Fisher, the famed "Long Island Lolita" who pleaded guilty to an assault charge in the 1992 near-fatal shooting of Mary Jo Buttafuoco. Her column, for the Long Island, N.Y., New Island Ear - www.islandear.com - will begin publication Monday.

Sun news researcher Shelia Jackson contributed to this article.

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