Gossip columnist Liz Smith dies at 94

Gossip columnist Liz Smith, whose mixture of banter, barbs, and bon mots about the glitterati helped her climb the A-list as high as many of the celebrities she covered, has died.

Literary agent Joni Evans told The Associated Press she died in New York on Sunday of natural causes. She was 94.

For more than a quarter-century, Smith's column — titled "Liz Smith" — was one of the most widely read in the world. Its success was due in part to Smith's own celebrity status, giving her insider access.

The Texan started her own column at the New York Daily News in 1976. Known as the "Dame of Dish," Smith helped usher in the era of celebrity journalism in print and television. Her reporting on Donald and Ivana Trump's divorce made front-page news.

She was divorced twice, from her college sweetheart Ed Beeman and travel agent Freddie Lister, but acknowledged speculation about her sexuality in her 2000 autobiography Natural Blonde.

Smith laughed it off in an interview at the time with USA TODAY, declining to define herself as bisexual or gay. "I don't say what (I am) because I have never known, and I have switched around a lot," she said. "I have left my options open and made a few jokes and 'came out' in this book as a heterosexual. Let's just leave it at that."

Even then, she lamented the loss of glamour among modern celebrities. "There isn't any glamour except as they get themselves all tarted up for awards shows," Smith told USA TODAY. "Making a fashion statement has been substituted for real mystery and glamour. It's totally synthetic. ...I knew Tallulah Bankhead, Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner and Bette and Joan. A big star like Loretta Young had real glamour and real class, and she had mystery! This woman could have a child by Clark Gable and wouldn't confess it.

"What everybody needs today is a big sense of humor about themselves. I don't think these stars now have enough background or sense of history and philosophy to do that."

As news spread about her death, the stars she covered for so many years began to react.

Al Roker tweeted about having worked with her. He wrote, "I was fortunate enough to work with the amazing Liz Smith. During my time at WNBC she was nothing short (of) fabulous." He added that "a piece (of) New York" has passed away with her. 

Rob Lowe tweeted: "Loved Liz Smith. Smart and funny. Gossip from the High Road."

Singer and actress Betty Buckley also tweeted about the newspaper legend. "Deeply sad reading this. Liz Smith was such a force & great, great lady."

James Woods paid homage to Smith as well, writing in a tweet that "She dished, but always found a way to make it entertaining and fun."

Contributing: The Associated Press, Lorena Blas, Kim Willis and Stephen Schaefer

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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