Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fond Farewell: Liz Smith 1923-2017

Well, we were terribly remiss in not acknowledging the recent passing of celebrity journalist Liz Smith on November 12th.  Ms. Smith, a Texan by birth, earned a degree in journalism and began writing in the late-1940s, continuing on until practically the day of her death. Her very long career began with everything from proofreading and editing to reporting and producing, in her early days for Mike Wallace. She even dreamed up quite a few gags for the venerable TV show Candid Camera during its hey-day.

Smith is seen in the inset with silver screen legend Myrna Loy.
Focusing more on celebrity gossip, promotion and other assorted tidbits during the 1950s (having taken over the popular "Cholly Knickerbocker" anonymous newspaper column), she also served as an entertainment reporter for such enduring magazines as Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated for a period of time. By the mid-1970s, she was the author of a very popular self-titled column (ultimately running in three New York papers simultaneously) and later began appearing on TV as well.

Among her many celeb pals are, as seen here, Candice Bergen, Liza Minnelli, Lena Horne, Barbara Walters, Carol Burnett, Beverly Sills and Bette Midler. These are but a smattering of those with whom she was associated.
Celebrating with Elaine Stritch.
Never a fearsome, taunting type of celebrity reporter, she won the trust of many a movie star and musician by relaying fair and often complimentary information. (She found herself on the receiving end of criticism and parody for her "soft" approach to the stars, but this same approach also lent her an inside track that some of her competitors were denied.) She literally knew everybody who was anybody. As her own name value grew, she took pleasure in helping to raise money for several charities.

Her recognizability took an upswing when she famously became embroiled in the Donald and Ivana Trump divorce, siding with the Mrs., who she felt was treated horribly by her wealthy and high-powered husband. (It's doubtful, however, that Ivana has a framed 5x7 of this particular snapshot in her home! LOL) In later years, Ms. Smith continued to stay active and informed about celebrities, though understandably was left confounded by what passed for fame after the advent of reality TV, the Internet and other modern forms of "entertainment" that yield people who are followed and adored for practically no reason whatsoever.
Still clicking away at a keyboard after seventy years in the biz, Ms. Smith was continuing to provide a viewpoint from her column in the online New York Social Diary website when she was claimed by natural causes at ninety-four years of age. To think that a person with her awe-inspiring connections and career would bother for a moment to wade through my blatherings here is mind-boggling, but she did. And she was kind in complimenting me more than once. We thanked her then, but we do so again now! Rest in peace, Ms. Smith.


Gingerguy said...

This was so lovely to discover Poseidon. I feel like I spent my twenties devouring her daily writing. She had a knack for connecting the past to the present, and it seemed smarter somehow. I waited on her in a restaurant that was near her apartment a couple of times and she was so nice. She always started her column with a quote. I had a favorite by Gracie Allen and when I mentioned it she had an assistant mail me a copy. In gossip it's been an earthquake of change and she noticed the shift early in her book "Natural Blonde". I really do think she always tried to take the high road and promote projects and people rather than crush them. I am glad she lived to such a ripe age and will miss her voice. Truly a hard act to follow. RIP Liz

loulou de la falaise said...

I wanted to ring Michael Signoreli's neck with his "bad gay" analysis of her life, come on. Liz was one of a kind, in the right place at the right time.

Rick Gould said...

I loved Liz Smith because she was a square shooter. I never understood the "soft" criticism of her column. I appreciated the fact that she wasn't vicious or took delight in celebrity misfortune. This is why I tune out so much of today's so-called celebrity writers.

Smith had brains, class, wit, and humor. And she loved her subject: celebrity and showbiz.

I wish Liz' guy Friday Denis Ferrara the best in continuing with a classy, smart column!


Poseidon3 said...

Gingerguy, neat remembrances of Ms. Smith. You seem to have met SO many people! Being in NYC helps, I guess. ;-)

Loulou, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with Signoreli. However, it's rarely a good idea to impose contemporary viewpoints onto the lives of people during their past...

Rick, I agree completely. I recall years ago when E! had a show that was 30 minutes of "gossip" and there were several participants such as Army Archerd, Liz Smith and Marilyn Beck, among others (I think Ted Casablanca was probably the snarkiest) and it was tacky, of course, but also sort of clever and informative and - something that's since been lost - rather tasteful by comparison to what we endure now. Of course, there were few to none of these reality "celebs" to concern ourselves with....

F. Nomen said...

Poseiden, Signorile is an openly gay journalist who is sometimes described as the creator of outing. He despises the idea, saying that he is only reporting on gay public figures in the same way as straight ones. When Smith died shortly after the Kevin Spacey accusations broke, he and other journalists criticized many media outlets and figures, including Smith, for allowing Spacey to remain closeted which afforded him the opportunity to target more victims. He also criticized Smith and others for the general dishonesty of not reporting on LGBT figures accurately, saying that it furthered the social stigma of being gay. He had made the same critiques when Smith was still alive so it’s not like he only came for the dead.