Liz Smith, the syndicated gossip columnist 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, died Sunday at the age of 94.
Joni Evans, Smith’s literary agent, told The Associated Press she died of natural causes.
For more than a quarter-century, Smith’s column — titled simply “Liz Smith” — was one of the most widely read in the world. The column’s success was due in part to Smith’s own celebrity status, giving her an insider’s access rather than relying largely on tipsters, press releases and publicists.
With a big smile and her sweet southern manner, the Texas native endeared herself to many celebrities and scored major tabloid scoops: Donald and Ivana Trump’s divorce, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s impending parenthood. One item proved embarrassingly premature: In 2012, she released a column online mourning the death of her friend Nora Ephron. But Ephron, who was indeed gravely ill, did not die until a few hours later and an impending tragedy that Ephron had tried to keep secret became known to the world.
Smith held a lighthearted opinion of her own legacy.
“We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously in this world of gossip,” she told The Associated Press in 1987. “When you look at it realistically, what I do is pretty insignificant.
“Still, I’m having a lot of fun.”
“I was fortunate enough to work with the amazing Liz Smith,” Al Roker tweeted. He said that during his time at WNBC, she was nothing short of “fabulous.”
“Liz Smith was the definition of a lady,” actor James Woods tweeted. “She dished, but always found a way to make it entertaining and fun.”
After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Smith recalled buying a one-way ticket to New York in 1949 with a dream of being the next Walter Winchell.
But unlike Winchell and his imitators, Smith succeeded with kindness and an aversion to cheap shots. Whether reporting on…