I don’t have any personal recollections about legendary New York City gossip columnist Liz Smith, who passed earlier today at age 94. But she more or less ruled the roost for about 25 years. Not as a tough, occasionally adversarial, opinion-driven columnist but as a friend to the rich and famous. Smith always worked with and for the powerful, and did a good job of not ruffling feathers.
Except, that is, when it came to rival publicist Bobby Zarem, whom I briefly worked for in the mid ’80s. Zarem so didn’t like Smith that he kept a feud going with her for decades.
Smith wrote an essential N.Y. Daily News column from the ’76 to ’91, and then did the same for Newsday from ’91 through ’95. She then worked for the New York Post as well as Fox News for seven years (including stints on Fox & Friends). There was apparently some overlap or carry-over between columns and employers She left Newsday in ’05 over a contract dispute, and then the Post stopped running her column in early ’09.
John Leland wrote an excellent profile of Smith for the N.Y. Times on 7.28.17, titled “The Rise and Fall of Liz Smith, Celebrity Accomplice.” Leland quoted gossip columnist Michael Musto: “We need Liz because we need someone who actually likes celebrities. We knock everyone down, and then she builds them back up.”
Another Leland excerpt: “Others resented her fawning and occasional sharp elbows. Spy magazine ran a monthly ‘Liz Smith Tote Board’ of favorites she puffed. The publicist Bobby Zarem, angered over perceived slights, once helped send false wedding notices for Ms. Smith and her partner at the time, a socialite and archaeologist named Iris Love. Mr. Zarem, who, when asked to comment for this article, said, ‘I hope it’s for an obituary,’ added that as Ms. Smith rose, people bowed to her.” Condolences to Showbiz411‘s Roger Friedman, who was close to Smith for many years.