Liz Smith, the longtime queen of New York’s tabloid gossip columns, who for more than three decades chronicled little triumphs and trespasses in the soap-opera lives of the rich, the famous and the merely beautiful, died on Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 94.
Her friend and literary agent, Joni Evans, confirmed her death.
From hardscrabble nights writing snippets for a Hearst newspaper in the 1950s to golden afternoons at Le Cirque with Sinatra or Hepburn and tête-à-tête dinners with Madonna to gather material for columns that ran six days a week, Ms. Smith captivated millions with her tattletale chitchat and, over time, ascended to fame and wealth that rivaled those of the celebrities she covered.
A self-effacing, good-natured, vivacious Texan who professed to be awed by celebrities, Ms. Smith was the antithesis of the brutal columnist J. J. Hunsecker in Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman’s screenplay for “Sweet Smell of Success,” which portrayed sinister power games in a seamy world of press agents and nightclubs.
Her column, called simply “Liz Smith,” ran in The Daily News from 1976 to 1991; in New York Newsday from 1991 to 1995, when that newspaper closed; continued in Newsday until 2005; and, with some overlap, in The New York Post from 1995 to 2009 — a 33-year run that morphed onto the internet in the New York Social Diary. It was syndicated for years in 60 to 70 other newspapers, even as she appeared on television news and entertainment programs and wrote magazine articles and books.
She was not an exceptional writer or reporter, although there were occasional scoops — the 1990 split of Donald and Ivana Trump, Madonna’s 1996 pregnancy — but her income often exceeded $1 million a year, more than any newspaper columnist or executive editor, and she became as prominent as her legendary predecessors, Walter Winchell in New York and Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons in Hollywood.
(Excerpt) Read More in: The New York Times