Liz Smith, Longtime Queen of Tabloid Gossip Columns, Dies at 94


Her model was not the intimidating jugular badault of columnists who expose intimacies or misdeeds within the personal lives of public figures, thriving on Schadenfreude and typically damaging reputations. Nor, for the sake of a titillating merchandise, did she seize upon ugly rumors or tasteless embarrbadments.

On the opposite, she supplied a kinder, gentler view of film stars and moguls, politicians and society figures. And gossip was hardly the one ingredient of her columns, which had been sprinkled with notes on books or movies, bits of political commentary and opinions about actors, authors and different notables.


Ms. Smith in July 2017 in her Manhattan residence.

Hilary Swift for The New York Times

She typically inserted herself into tales. Explaining why Madonna had grow to be an everyday in her columns, Ms. Smith wrote in 2006, “I didn’t always agree with what she said, or what she did, but the hysterical overreaction to her caused me, if not to defend her, then at least to put a more balanced perspective on her astonishing ongoing saga.”

If her columns lacked edge, they offered one thing extra: the insider’s view. Many of these she wrote about turned private badociates, individuals she genuinely appreciated and who appreciated her. She lunched with them, partied with them, vacationed with them and shared their successes and travails. And they trusted her, figuring out she wouldn’t trash them in print.

But journalism’s watchdogs accused her, with some justification, of conflicts of curiosity, of missing objectivity and distance from these she wrote about. The Village Voice, Spy journal and different publications made her the butt of satires, portraying her as an selfish, mistake-prone partisan, utilizing columns to advertise her badociates.

“It’s a valid criticism, I suppose,” Ms. Smith stated in a 1991 interview with The New York Times. “But I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t have to be pure, and I’m not. I mean, I am not a reporter operating on life-and-death matters, state secrets, the rise and fall of governments, and I don’t believe you can do this kind of job without access.”

Mary Elizabeth Smith was born in Fort Worth on Feb. 2, 1923, the daughter of Sloan and Sarah McCall Smith. Her father was a cotton dealer whose playing issues and fading revenue throughout the Great Depression pressured the household to promote their house and transfer. Her dad and mom paid bribes to maintain her in her old fashioned, however it left her a painfully shy outsider.

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“I grew up with all these little rich kids,” she recalled. “I didn’t have a dime. I couldn’t face that. I was always a horrible little social climber in my way.”

Movies offered an escape. She adored Tom Mix, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and dreamed of a profession someplace within the orbit of stars.


Ms. Smith appeared onstage with the forged of “A Chorus Line” in 1983, when she was honored for her work with the Literacy Volunteers of New York City.

Nancy Kaye/Associated Press

After highschool, she attended Hardin-Simmons University, a Baptist-affiliated school in Abilene, and met George E. Beeman, whom she married and divorced.

She leaves no instant survivors.

She studied journalism on the University of Texas and, after graduating, moved to New York in 1949. She took a collection of jobs — at Modern Screen journal, at Newsweek and as an badistant to Kaye Ballard, the actress and singer, who in 1953 took her on a nationwide tour with the Broadway firm of “Top Banana,” a musical comedy that starred Phil Silvers. Back in New York, she labored for Mike Wallace at CBS Radio and Dave Garroway’s “Wide Wide World” on NBC-TV.

In 1959, Igor Cbadini, who wrote the Cholly Knickerbocker gossip column for The New York Journal-American, employed her to interview celebrities at nightclubs and to put in writing the column throughout his holidays. In the 1960s, she was married for a number of years to Fred Lister, a journey agent. They had no youngsters, and that marriage additionally led to divorce.

Ms. Smith developed concepts for Allen Funt’s tv present “Candid Camera”; wrote for Ladies’ Home Journal, Vogue, Sports Illustrated and different magazines; and was leisure editor of Cosmopolitan. Besides her columns for The Daily News, Newsday and The New York Post, she labored for a few years as a commentator for WNBC-TV, the native Fox channel in New York and E! Entertainment Television.

Long earlier than her “Liz Smith” column led to The Post in February 2009 — after being minimize to a few occasions every week in 2008 — newsprint gossip columns had been migrating to the web and its ever-expanding blogosphere, which had grow to be an excellent format for rapier thrusts at celebrities, typically delivered anonymously and with little regard for reality or penalties.

Ms. Smith, a founder and former half proprietor of the web site, nonetheless had lots to do, writing for information syndication, Daily Variety and Parade journal, a Sunday complement in tons of of newspapers. In 2005, she printed a e-book of reminiscences and recipes, “Dishing: Great Dish — and Dishes — From America’s Most Beloved Gossip Columnist,” a serving of celebrities garnished with favourite meals.

Her 2000 memoir, “Natural Blonde,” a finest vendor for months, was a breezy compendium of tales about Rock Hudson, Richard Burton, Joe DiMaggio, Sean Connery, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn and others — nothing very scandalous. Reviewers chastised her for not sharing intimate particulars of her relationships with ladies, together with the archaeologist Iris Love, with whom she lived for a few years.

But her work was praised. “Her brand of gossip is the old-fashioned kind, not the embarrbading or repulsive stuff dug up by so many of her journalistic colleagues,” Jane and Michael Stern wrote in a evaluate for The Times. “When she escorts us into the private lives of popular culture’s gods and monsters, it’s with a spirit of wonder, not meanness.”

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