Like Cobina Wright, Jr., Brenda Diana Duff Frazier (1921-1982) was a wealthy American debutante who rose to fame toward the end of the Great Depression.
Her coming-out party, held at the Ritz-Carlton in December of 1938, attracted a remarkable amount of media attention. In anticipation of the event, LIFE made her a cover girl in mid-November.
The name Brenda had already been on the rise, but the buzz around Brenda Frazier kicked the name into high gear in 1939:
1942: 7,237 baby girls named Brenda
1941: 6,332 baby girls named Brenda
1940: 5,442 baby girls named Brenda
1939: 2,756 baby girls named Brenda
1938: 677 baby girls named Brenda
1937: 232 baby girls named Brenda
1936: 164 baby girls named Brenda
1935: 132 baby girls named Brenda
(This was also the year that Walter Winchell coined the word celebutante — celebrity + debutante — to describe Frazier in his society column.)
The baby name Brenda went on to become one of the most popular of the mid-20th century.
By that time, though, Brenda Frazier’s popularity had long since faded. She went on to suffer from eating disorders, become addicted to drugs and alcohol, divorce twice and attempt suicide multiple times before passing away “a virtual recluse” in 1982.
In 2007, New York Magazine ranked the top 20 socialites of all time. Frazier came in 16th.
Esther Cobb (1887-1970) was an ambitious gossip columnist known professionally, and later legally, as Cobina Wright.
She had her only child, Cobina Carolyn Wright, in 1921.
Cobina Sr. made sure to groom Cobina Jr. “for a film career capped by a spectacular marriage.”
Cobina Jr. ended up becoming one of the glamour girls of her era:
By 1938, [Cobina Jr.] was already under contract with 20th Century Fox while also modelling and singing in nightclubs. The next year, she won the title of Miss Manhattan and was named “most attractive and talented New York girl of the 1939 season.”
In the early 1940s, she appeared in several films (e.g. Week-End in Havana) and made the cover of Life Magazine (17 February 1941).
While Cobina was at the height of her fame, her name appeared on the SSA’s baby name list twice:
1941: 7 baby girls named Cobina
1939: 8 baby girls named Cobina [debut]
In late 1941, at the age of 19, she got married. Several years after that, Cobina Jr. retired from acting.
Update, 6/1/2018: Just discovered something! In the early 1940s, Bob Hope “hired two ladies, Blanche Steward and Elvia Allman, to do parodies of two well-known debutantes of the period, Brenda Frazier and Cobina Wright, Jr.” The characters Brenda and Cobina appeared in several films together from 1940 to 1942. But Bob had to get rid of the characters when the real-life Cobina initiated a lawsuit. This might be a better explanation for the return of the name in ’41. It also might relate to Robin’s comment…