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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDER LIZ SMITH
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Queen of gossip


Like most of the kids she grew up with in Fort Worth, Texas during the Great Depression, Liz Smith was star-struck by the movies. "They told me there was a whole world out there where people were glamorous, where men and women drank wine with dinner and wore white tie and tails and drove cars with the tops down and danced on glass floors," she recalls, smiling dreamily. Her soft, languid accent, dripping with Southern charm, echoes through the coffee shop at the NBC building in midtown. Despite her cordiality, she somehow gives the impression of being in a great hurry. And for good reason: Smith is probably the hardest-working — and certainly the most successful — gossip writer on the East Coast.

Unlike Rona Barrett, the queen of Hollywood gossip, Liz Smith does not have a large staff, but relies on a single full-time assistant and part-time "leg man" in California. Nevertheless, she manages to turn out, each week, six columns for the New York Daily News (syndicated nationally to more than 60 newspapers), five radio spots for NBC, and two television spots for WNBC's Newscenter 4.

"The minute I get up, I go to work. I get up at about nine, and go right to work," says Liz. "I look at the paper right quick, and go right to the typewriter, and work till I finish the column at one. I work in my apartment because I would never have time to get up and dress and go to another place. I would never get to meet my deadline. … I work all the time. I work a lot on the weekends because that's the only time I can even vaguely make a stab at catching up. … I just about kill myself to get everything done. I don't know if it's worth it."

For all her complaints, Liz believes that gossip-writing is well suited for her personality. "I can't help it. I'm just one of those people who likes to repeat a tale," she explains. "I'd be reading every newspaper in America that I could get my hands on and every book and magazine anyway, even if I weren't doing this job."

When she was hired by the Daily News in February, 1976 to start her column, Liz was no stranger to the New York celebrity scene; she had already been in the city for 26 years, working mainly as a free-lance writer. "I made a lot of money free-lancing. Even 15 years ago, I never made less than $25,000 a year." Besides writing for virtually every mass market publication in America, she spent five years ghostwriting the Cholly Knickerbocker society column in the old Journal American. Her many contacts among the famous, and the resurgence of............
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