Tuesday, 16 October, 2018

Famed Gossip Columnist Liz Smith, 'the Dame of Dish,' Dies at 94

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Stacy Diaz | 13 November, 2017, 03:20

Liz Smith, known as "the Grand Dame of Dish" or "the Doyenne of Dish" and one of the most prominent gossip columnists in the country for decades, has died in NY from natural causes.

Joni Evans, Smith's literary agent, told The Associated Press she died of natural causes.

The Texan started her own column at the New York Daily News in 1976.

The column's success was due in part to Smith's own celebrity status, which gave her insider access.

Her syndicated daily column moved over to Newsday and then also to the New York Post.

After a brief marriage while attending Hardin-Simmons University, Smith earned her journalism degree and headed off for NY with two suitcases and $50.

After graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Smith recalled buying a one-way ticket to NY in 1949 with a dream of being the next Walter Winchell.

From hardscrabble nights writing snippets for a Hearst newspaper in the 1950s to golden afternoons at Le Cirque with Frank Sinatra or Audrey Hepburn and dinners with Madonna to gather material for columns that ran six days a week, Smith captivated millions with her tattletale chitchat.

In 1985, Smith won an Emmy for her show "Live at Five" on WNBC, a reporting gig that would span 11 years. She soon relocated to NY, where she worked as a typist, proofreader and reporter before working as a news producer for Mike Wallace at CBS Radio.

For almost 30 years, Smith bounced from job to job: publicist for singer Kaye Ballard; assistant to Mike Wallace and Candid Camera creator Allen Funt; ghostwriter for Igor Cassini's "Cholly Knickerbocker" gossip column. Throughout her life she raised $37 million for Literacy Partners, helping 27,000 people learn to read.

As news spread about her death, the stars she covered for so many years began to react. She was less circumspect in a 2000 interview with Judy Wieder, editor-in-chief of the Advocate, declaring that while it was not in her nature to be a role model in the LGBT movement, "I think that my relationships with women were always much more emotionally satisfying and comfortable (than with men)".