Liz Smith, arguably one of the most famous gossip columnists for more than two generations, has passed away at the age of 94. Joni Evans, the literary agent for Smith confirmed her passing of natural causes to the Associated Press.
Beginning her career covering the New York social scene for the New York Daily News in 1976, and her witty writing style about the glitterati of the early-late disco era won her a wide readership and quickly became syndicated across a range of newspapers. In response to a newspaper strike in ’78, she was added to a daily Live at Five television segment where she would continue for eleven years.
With the addition of her television coverage, she caught the attention of the celebrities themselves and she became welcomed into ever higher social circles. While most writers would have to rely on a network of tipsters for her content, she was able to mine for news and anecdotes herself.
Her coverage became one of the leading templates for journalistic celebrity coverage. A large part of her popularity with her readers and with the people whom she wrote about was with her kindness and a reticence to dive into unfounded rumors and “who’s sleeping with who.” She lifted the content from simply gossip to the modern era of celebrity reporting.
One quote who was attributed to her style was:
When she escorts us into the private lives of popular culture’s gods and monsters, it’s with a spirit of wonder, not meanness.
At the height of her popularity she was being read by more than 50 million readers per day, and is the only columnist to ever have a column printed in three major New York newspapers simultaneously.
She is survived by a family of nieces and nephews. Memorial services will be held in the Spring of ’18.
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