Georgette Mosbacher insists she's an Unremarkable Woman. Really.
"I am not at all remarkable," she says, perched on the sofa in the pale yellow drawing room of her Upper East Side townhouse office. "I grew up in a one-parent family. I worked my way through college, I had very average grades and I was very average looking, but I've lived a remarkable life only because I believed I could."
This unshakable belief in self coupled with a driving ambition -- think Judith Krantz heroine and you've got the idea -- is what Ms. Mosbacher calls her "feminine force."
"Feminine force is that inner strength, that power, that will to face down any negative circumstances in life and defeat them," she explains in her low, husky purr. She leans across the glass coffee table and purses her matte red lips. "It's guts," she says bluntly.
Which Ms. Mosbacher has by the Rolls-full. The Washington press corps skewered her when she blew into the capital in 1989 as the wife of Texas millionaire Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., the secretary of commerce during the Bush administration. They dubbed her "Hurricane Georgette" and sniped at her penchant for self-promotion, her blitzkrieg jewels, her figure-hugging Paris gowns and her entrance-making arrivals that, on one occasion, up
staged Marilyn Quayle.
Flirtatious, brassy and nouveau riche, Ms. Mosbacher epitomized the let-'em-eat-cake extravagance of the '80s. She was the shiniest of trophy wives, who filled out her decollete couture gown more sexily than could any of her social X-ray chums who nibbled endive leaves at Le Cirque.
Undaunted, she's currently hitting the interview circuit to ballyhoo her new book titled -- what else? -- "Feminine Force: Release the Power Within to Create the Life You Deserve" (Simon & Schuster, $22).
Part autobiography, part self-help manual and part woman's guide to the business world, "Feminine Force" is stuffed with such yummy tidbits as wear neutral nail polish to board meetings and man-hunt at F.A.O. Schwarz on Saturdays (lots of divorced daddies. Rich, divorced daddies.)
In a two-hour interview, Ms. Mosbacher comes across as direct, outspoken and focused. Try shifting the conversation from "Feminine Force" to another topic, like why so many Nouvelle Society marriages have collapsed, and she firmly steers the discussion back to her book.
She is also unpretentious. She never drops a single name -- not Barbara Bush or Dawn Steel or Kathie Lee Gifford, all of whom have written gushy blurbs for her book. ("Georgette is my kind of feminist," trills Ms. Gifford.)
Ms. Mosbacher, who is wearing a cinnamon-colored Dior pantsuit, coral-and-diamond earrings and a gold and diamond Bulgari watch, doesn't mind telling you that before acquiring her couture wardrobe she bought her clothes from thrift shops.
She does her own
She still does her own manicures and touches up the roots of her paprika-colored hair, now subdued to a soft ginger shade. That night, when she returns to her sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment with its Aubusson rugs and 18th-century porcelain, she will stand over the sink to slather on the Clairol. "The only thing I can't do is highlights," she concedes.
Ms. Mosbacher -- or the "Divine Mrs. M," as Texas Monthly calls her -- has creamy skin, perfectly arched eyebrows that have been permanently tattooed on and a dazzling, beauty queen smile. She is fanatical about staying out of the sun, shrouding herself in a leotard, hat and gloves when she bobs around the surf in the Bahamas.
"I stayed out of the sun when I was young, not because I knew better, but because I'm a Type A personality who gets too restless to lay around and do nothing," she explains.
In her book, Ms. Mosbacher concedes that "creating my look and making myself attractive was and still is hard work."
Looking fabulous is essential to the "feminine force." Don't expect to "create the life you deserve" if you're a frump. ("You shouldn't have to wait for your birthday to get your hair done," writes Ms. Mosbacher.)
If "Feminine Force" sounds more Helen Gurley Brown than Harvard Business School, who cares? Certainly not Ms. Mosbacher wannabes who probably aren't as interested in becoming a CEO as they are in marrying one.
How it all began
"Unlike other self-help books, it's not based on any scientific theories," Ms. Mosbacher emphasizes, as her King Charles spaniel snoozes beside her on the sofa. "It's just really my story of how I got from where I started to where I wanted to go."
Born Georgette Paulsin, the oldest of four children of a Highland, //TC Ind., bowling alley operator, Ms. Mosbacher was 7 when her father was killed by a drunken driver. She took charge of her
siblings while her mother worked to support the family.
After graduating from Indiana University in 1969, Ms. Mosbacher worked for an advertising agency in Detroit before moving to Los Angeles. At a Sotheby's auction, she met Robert Muir, a wealthy real estate agent. No shrinking violet, Ms. Mosbacher wangled an introduction by pretending to be a reporter from Time magazine. They were married a year later in 1972. Mr. Muir was 40; Ms. Mosbacher was 23.
Five years later, the couple divorced amicably, and Ms. Mosbacher went after a richer, more glamorous catch: George Barrie, the CEO of Faberge. Ms. Mosbacher, a marketing executive in Faberge's New York office, was 33 when she married the 67-year-old Barrie in 1980. It was a disastrous union that ended in divorce two years later.
"I was happier single than I ever was in that miserable marriage," Ms. Mosbacher snaps. In her book, she describes Mr. Barrie as an abusive alcoholic who once punched her in the face. (Mr. Barrie, in an interview with W, denies ever hitting her.)
She met her third husband, Robert Mosbacher, 66, a Texas oilman worth an estimated $200 million, on a blind date in Houston. A widower who was rebounding from a brief second marriage, he had no interest in wedding bells.
A frustrated Georgette began dating another man -- making sure Mr. Mosbacher knew about it -- and, sure enough, he proposed. The couple was married in 1985.
The pair's peripatetic lifestyle tends to keep them apart, but they try to spend weekends together in Houston. After breakfast on Sundays, they sit down with their date books and coordinate schedules.
"There are people who don't understand our marriage and say, 'Oh, Georgette, he's so divine. You're going to lose him if you're not home more,' " she says. "They don't realize that besides our deep love for one another, our marriage is strong because we respect one another's goals."
Her line on big money
For Ms. Mosbacher, financial independence is a main priority.
"Even if you have to take a few dollars out of the milk money to put under the mattress, then do it," she urges. "It has nothing to do with trusting your husband. Unless you have financial resources of your own, you can't be free."
In 1988, Ms. Mosbacher bought La Prairie, the luxury Swiss skin-care company, for approximately $30 million she raised with a group of backers -- and no help from her husband, she's quick to add.
As CEO, she expanded the pricey treatment products to include a makeup line and oversaw every detail, right down to toting a bottle of Windex with her when she visited La Prairie counters.
In 1991, she sold the company to Beirsdorf A. G. of Germany for an estimated $45 million. Although there was industry buzz that the company was losing money, Ms. Mosbacher denies it.
"The company was making a profit," she says flatly. "The balance sheet was very strong, which is the moment to sell, as any business person will tell you."
No longer extolling $75 jars of skin cream, Ms. Mosbacher is now selling makeup to the masses: Her Exclusives line of moderately priced cosmetics is sold at Sears and by QVC and infomercial.
But the makeup line is on the back burner while Ms. Mosbacher peddles her book.
Recently, New York's fashionable armies of the night trooped to Maxim's to congratulate the new literary lioness. Looking
stunning in a white Dior suit with a diamond-studded unicorn pinned to her shoulder, Ms. Mosbacher, with her handsome, silver-haired husband by her side, exchanged air kisses with Gayfryd Steinberg, Carolyne Roehm, Ivana Trump, Barbara Walters and Rush Limbaugh.
"The book serves a purpose because it advises women how to enjoy life," says Mr. Limbaugh. "Georgette doesn't take the angry, bitter feminist route."
Never, never, never.
"I am all for chivalry," she says. "I want the doors to be opened for me. I want the chairs pulled out for me, I want men to stand when I enter the room. I don't apologize at all for being a woman."