Ann Landers-Dear Abby feud on again

June 27, 2002 at 2:13 PM
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CHICAGO, June 27 (UPI) -- The daughter of the late advice columnist Ann Landers says her cousin and Dear Abby columnist Jeanne Phillips is trying to cash in on her aunt's death.

Landers, whose real name was Eppie Lederer, died of cancer during the weekend at the age of 83.

In an interview published in Thursday's Chicago Tribune, Landers' daughter, Margo Howard, criticized Phillips, who took over the Dear Abby column from her mother, Pauline Phillips, for offering newspapers subscribing to the Ann Landers column her "Farewell letter to Eppie," free of charge.

"This is not about grief," Howard said. "This is about new clients."

The row mirrors the sometimes-bitter feud between the feisty Lederer and the elder Phillips. Reports indicated that the identical twin sisters did not speak to each other for years after creating their columns.

Howard said Phillips had no relationship with her aunt for years and should not have discussed the death in an interview Tuesday on "Larry King Live."

Universal Press Syndicate issued a statement saying Phillips had turned down requests for interviews by several national television shows and was just fulfilling a commitment made a week earlier to appear on "Larry King." It also said she had no control over the show's content.

"Her (Phillips') television appearance, flogging her 'grief' at my mother's death, in addition to her 'farewell' column, is beneath contempt and as I understand it, is being seen for what it is: an excuse to flog her column," Howard said. "Such publicity grabs are just this side of disgraceful. I have been very protective of her mother -- and I am shocked that she would try to advance her career on the reputation of mine."

Phillips was invited on "Larry King" to discuss a letter from a pedophile she had turned over to police. The first portion of the interview, however, was devoted to Landers' death.

"Aunt Eppie, I love you," Phillips said in her goodbye letter. "I know it's time to say goodbye. But the words are impossible to say because you will always live in my heart and in the hearts of the rest of your extended family. God bless you and keep you forever."

Eppie Lederer took over the Ann Landers column at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955 from Ruth Crowley and recruited her sister to help. After a few months, Pauline Phillips decided to write her own column and persuaded the San Francisco Chronicle to run it under an Abigail Van Buren byline. By 1958, the two sisters had stopped speaking with each other and stayed aloof for a decade.

Though the relationship between the two sisters eventually became closer again, Howard said she has yet to hear from her aunt. She described the younger Phillips' condolence call as "cordial."

Jeanne Phillips said her mother took to her bed on learning of her sister's death.

"She did not take it well," Phillips said.

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