Liz Smith, the original gossip, has some great vintage celebrity stories


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.”

[From THR]

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.

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36 Responses to “Liz Smith, the original gossip, has some great vintage celebrity stories”

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  1. neelyo says:

    “They arrive full-blown from the head of Zeus with not a shred of talent.”

    I don’t know if it’s Zeus’ head from which some of these celebs ascend.

  2. NewWester says:

    I hope she writes a book. I love reading about Hollywood in the time before social media and the Internet

    • BengalCat2000 says:

      Me too! I’m obsessed with Old Hollywood and have read many books about older celebs and the old industry. I’ve heard the Truman Capote story. He was horrible at times, but witty as hell and one of the best writers of the 20th Century. I’m glad LS defended him. His stories in Music for Chameleons are mini masterpieces.

    • Snazzy says:

      My goodness yes! And especially now that she’s been fired and so it’s more difficult for her to earn a living – that way she gets loads of money and a bit of snarky revenge, we get good reading, and Rupert Murdoch can suck it for firing her.

      • ISO says:

        Wouldn’t be amazing if they started a new and improved fashion police with her at the helm!!

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Would love to read more.

    • Jen says:

      I love it too and if you haven’t, you should read “The Million Dollar Mermaid” by Esther Williams…full of great gossip from the Golden Age of Hollywood and such a fun read. Anne Helen Petersen’s “Scandals from Classic Hollywood” series on the Hairpin is a lot of fun too.

    • Pinky says:

      Count me in for a copy!

  3. PunkyMomma says:

    Liz is probably the last of the truly powerful gossip columnists – at the height of her popularity, she knew were all the bodies were buried.

  4. Cannibell says:

    Thanks for this! And agree that any book she wrote would be a must-read romp.

  5. Jen43 says:

    She is great. I love hearing about old time Hollywood.

  6. Frosty says:

    Aw, love Liz Smith, she’s the real, old school thang. The other great gossip columnist I loved back in the day was Eileen Mehle a/k/a Suzy. She covered the social scene though.

  7. Christin says:

    Oh, to have that sort of insider view and be far along in life to just tell it like you see (or saw) it.

    I always thought Liz T. would be a fun person to sit down and chat with. I would like to have talked to Liz in the 1980s or 1990s, though, when she had a bit more time of self-reflection. The Burton years sounded a bit crazy.

  8. MarcelDeux says:

    Marlon Brando when he was young and in his prime, was a stud. He was easily one of Hollywood’s best looking actors to have lived.

  9. Lucy says:

    Write a book, lady! Also, LOVED the diss towards the Ks.

  10. Really says:

    Love it! I used to do write ups of ol’ timey gossip for my vintage store’s customers. Now you know everything about everybody, so to find out old gossip and scandal from people who went through publicity machines can be fascinating. Especially when you find out something interesting about someone who has been lost through time and you get introduced to a whole new style of film or music.

  11. jenn12 says:

    Used to always read her column in the Daily News. She’s old time royalty here, or used to be- don’t think anyone knows her anymore. I hope she writes a book.

  12. Coconut says:

    Liz has already written and published three books: Natural Blonde, The Mother Book, and Dishing.

  13. A.Key says:

    ELIZABETH TAYLOR felt threatened by THIS WOMAN??

    Yeah right, sit down please.

    Oh and nice of her to pressure her friend into having sex when she did not want to. NICE.

    • Hautie says:

      Threaten, in the sense, that Burton paid attention to her (Smith) in general.

      Taylor was not a girl who like to share the attention of her man. With anyone. Period. She was exhausting to be around. (A lot like Mariah Carey, now.) They make their own drama out of boredom… just to get any kind of attention they can.

      So when Smith makes that comment… it is not in a “he was sexuality attracted to me” way. It was that Burton had the nerve to think anyone else besides Taylor was interesting enough to have his attention.

      And Liz Smith has written some great books. All are dishy fun. But she has not written one great big “f*ck you” gossip book. Yet.

      Elaine never shagged Brando. That was the point of the advice. Brando was looking to get laid. And Elaine wasn’t. So she dumped him.

  14. Pinky says:

    The whole interview was pretty great.

  15. anne_000 says:

    Omg. The thing she said about the Kardashians. It made me laugh out loud!

  16. Ksenja says:

    Weren’t the original gossips (Hollywood-wise, anyway) Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons?

  17. Vava says:

    I thought Louella Parsons was the first gossip columnist in Hollywood.