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Longtime Gossip Columnist Liz Smith Dies At 94

Nov 13, 2017
Originally published on November 15, 2017 7:47 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we are sorry to report that Liz Smith has died. She was 94 years old and spent her career as an old-style newspaper gossip columnist. If you lived in New York in any of the last several decades, you've discovered that Liz Smith was as big a name as some of the stars she covered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ SMITH: I think that's the, quote, "secret of my success" was that I was essentially a very naive person who - you know, I want to be a fan. I am a fan.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

She grew up a fan. Liz Smith was born in 1923 in Fort Worth, Texas during the era of silent films. Talkies, films with sound, began to spread when she was a child. And she grew obsessed with movies and the people in them.

GREENE: She studied journalism then moved to New York City in 1949 with two suitcases and $50. As she grew prominent, she became involved in the lives of her subjects. She broke the story of Donald Trump's divorce from his first wife in 1990. Long afterward, she told our colleague Renee Montagne all about it.

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SMITH: One day, Ivana called me and asked me to come to the Plaza Hotel. And when I got there, she threw herself in my arms and told me that Donald didn't want her anymore. I tried to give her some motherly advice. I said defend yourself against him. So he got on the other side. He said he was going to buy the New York Daily News in order to fire me.

INSKEEP: It was an empty threat. Trump did not buy the paper, did not fire Liz Smith and, instead, cultivated her. When Trump faced financial trouble in 1991, Liz Smith said on TV that he could come back.

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SMITH: Who knows what he will do? I think he's - he's just got this drug of needing to be in the paper all the time.

INSKEEP: Liz Smith herself was in the paper for decades. And by the height of her career, she was earning over $1 million per year.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO COVERS CLUB'S "I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.