Ann Landers, an advice columnist who gained popularity with a fake name but genuinely blunt remarks, died Saturday.

Her feature first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on Oct. 16, 1955, and within a few decades she became the word's most widely syndicated columnist with 90 million readers in more than 1,200 publications around the globe.

Landers, whose real name was Esther Lederer, said she drew on her instincts when passing along advice to people. But Landers also consulted experts when she felt unqualified to answer certain questions.

Her responses were sprinkled with humour and one-line zingers, including the now-famous phrase, "Wake up and smell the coffee," which became the title of one of her books.

Topics ranged from food to finances, with a good number tackling sex. There was also everyday fluff, including the perennially popular debate over which direction toilet paper should hang off a roll.

Not fond of computers, Lederer would sit at a typewriter and respond to hundreds of letters a day from an office in her high-rise apartment in Chicago.

She kept her syndication based at the Sun-Times until 1987, when she switched to the Chicago Tribune the publication that issued a news release about her death Saturday night.

"Eppie Lederer was a great columnist and a wonderful person, said John W. Madigan, chairman and CEO of Tribune Co. "She helped people with her advice, and made important contributions to society through the causes she supported."

She died of multiple myeloma a type of cancer that formed a malignant tumor in her bone marrow. Her 84th birthday was only weeks away.

Sister was 'Dear Abby'

Lederer, known to readers as Landers, actually began life with a different name Esther "Eppie" Friedman. She was born on July 4, 1918 in Sioux City, Iowa, just minutes before her twin sister Pauline.

Decades later, when Pauline became "Dear Abby" with an advice column of her own, the sisters reportedly fought for several years before finally reconciling.

Esther married the founder of Budget-Rent-A-Car, Jules Lederer, in 1939. She won a contest at the Sun-Times in 1955 to become the second Ann Landers replacing the woman who had created the column.

"I learned early in this work to take the problems seriously but not to take them too personally," she once said. "I have to separate myself from the readers and realize what's happening to them is not happening to me."