I honestly didn’t realize that professional gossip Liz Smith was so old! She’s 92 years old and she’s still pretty sharp. I’ve had issues with Liz’s gossip and point of view in the past, but there’s no denying that she carved out a really interesting career for herself as an interviewer, writer, gossip columnist and more. She’s literally seen it all. And she sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a wide-ranging interview about the good old days of Hollywood and New York, all of the actors and entertainers she’s loved and much, much more. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
Marlon Brando story: “I was living in the Village in a tiny apartment with all sorts of people coming in and out. Marlon was dating my friend Elaine Stritch at the time. One night, he called me at home and he said, “Liz, Elaine just keeps letting me kiss her but she won’t go any further.” I said, “Put her on the phone.” I said, “Elaine, you don’t understand about men. They aren’t satisfied with just kissing. So you have to stop being a prude or just end it.”
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton: “I met Elizabeth just as her career as a beautiful movie star was tapering off and she had escaped to Europe with Richard Burton because she didn’t dare leave him alone. In the ’60s, she became completely distant from what was happening in Hollywood; she made all these crazy European movies and avoided the American press. But they trusted me and eventually I became the only journalist who could get to them… I loved her. She was just snarky and funny and crazy. Selfish and tremendously generous at the same time. But Burton liked me better than she did. She was threatened by any woman, but he knew better. He liked that I could talk to him about Dylan Thomas and not sound like a total idiot. It got boring for them, hiding in Europe. When I was working at Cosmo, I did five or six stories on the Burtons. I practically lived with them in Rome and Paris. My ticket would always be paid for by Liz, or by 20th Century Fox. That was in the studio era, when sticky ethics still prevailed.
Princess Lee Radziwill: “Well, she did something terrible. She was always a close friend of Truman Capote’s. But then Capote got embroiled in that ridiculous libel suit with Gore Vidal over his claim that Vidal had been drunkenly kicked out of the White House. Lee is the one who told Capote the story, but when it ended up in court, she threw him to the wolves. All she had to do was tell the truth. But she refused, and Truman lost the lawsuit, which devastated him. During the trial, as a last-ditch effort, he asked me to call her and beg her to testify. And you know, Truman had done everything for her. He even tried to help her start an acting career. But when I called her and said, “Lee, you really must testify for Truman,” she said, “Oh, Liz, what do we care; they’re just a couple of f-gs! They’re disgusting.” I was so stunned, I just hung up. I’ve never spoken to her since.
The current state of celebrity: “Oh, I don’t even know who they are! Suddenly you have to remember a dozen Kardashians, and really, who has the time? The only reason I can do that is because I’ve written out their names on a piece of paper stuck on the wall. And still, I’m always having to check, is that Khloe or Kourtney or Kendall or Kim?
Celebrities are interchangeable: “They arrive full-blown from the head of Zeus with not a shred of talent. There are some I admire, like Taylor Swift. When you see her perform, it’s kind of old-fashioned, like if Lana Turner could dance and sing for one number. But I have no interest in hearing her whole catalog.”
There are tons of stories that I didn’t even get to – she knows Rupert Murdoch, she had dealings with Bette Midler, she used to really like Ivanka Trump. Barbara Walters is a fair-weather friend. Liz adored Ann Richards and Madonna. You know what surprised me a bit? Liz Smith has said in the past that she doesn’t care for the comparisons between Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Taylor – I’m sort of surprised that THR didn’t ask Smith to talk more about Jolie and the Uncool Bermuda Triangle (I seem to recall Smith had some stuff to say about that situation back in the day, but now I can’t find those comments).
Photos courtesy of THR, WENN.