As reported by the Associated Press and confirmed by her literary agent, iconic gossip columnist Liz Smith—a.k.a. The Grand Dame Of Dish—has died. The Associated Press says she died of natural causes, but no other information was given. Smith was 94.
Born in Texas in 1923, Smith quickly became a big fan of movies due to the fact that they were one thing her devout Baptist mother didn’t consider sinful. After earning a degree in journalism, Smith moved to New York and worked in various jobs tangentially related to the entertainment industry in addition to a gig ghostwriting for Igor Cassini’s gossip column. The Associated Press says she eventually worked for nine different newspapers in New York and dozens of different magazines, but her big break came when she became a “an authority on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton” while working for Cosmopolitan.
New York Daily News gave her a regular column in 1976, establishing a more wondrous and positive tone in her celebrity scoops as opposed to what AP calls “unfounded rumors, sexual preferences, or who’s-sleeping-with-whom.” That could’ve been partly because of her hesitance to talk about her own personal life, though she eventually confirmed in her 2000 autobiography Natural Blonde that she was bisexual and had been in relationships with both men and women—including a longterm relationship with archaeologist Iris Love.
In 1978, she began making regular appearances on TV to talk about celebrity news, with regular spots on NBC and then Fox. She later became a fixture on E! and then Fox News, all while her columns continued to take off. One of her most memorable scoops came in 1991 when she reported on the impending divorce of Ivana and Donald Trump, a story that dominated the New York tabloids for months and led to Smith moving to the New York Post and also Newsday—Donald Trump reportedly said he wanted to buy the News just so he could fire Smith. By then, her column became nationally syndicated and her salary reached “well into six figures.”
Smith also raised money for charitable groups, including equality organization Women’s Action Alliance and adult literacy program Literacy Volunteers. She is survived by her nieces and nephews.