Liz Smith: I’m So Vain, But I’m Also 90 Years Old

BUT please, don’t print that!” people invariably say after they have just told me an incredible story.

I am saying to myself today, “Liz, please don’t print the following.” Well, I am going ahead against my better judgment.

Yours truly, as Winchell used to say, is going to be 90 years on February 2nd. How in the hell did that happen? I still feel as if I am at my favorite age, 28, although I am losing short-term memory, eyesight and hearing and I can’t run anymore.

My elegant friend Billy Norwich, who was once a newspaper columnist himself and has worked for the biggest most important editors in the world, advised me to “claim the age of 90.” I didn’t want to do that because I am so vain. But considering the alternative, I think Billy was right.

The other day my friend Joan Kron ofAllure stated in the New York Times that she was the oldest person still working for a living in media. (We are not counting the actress Betty White who is in a class by herself!)

I had to correct Joan. I am, I think, the oldest.

MY friends at the New York Social Diary … TMS News & Features … The Huffington Post … the Chicago Tribune … and at Fox Television News let me ramble on and the rest of the Internet picks up whatever they like and runs with it.

I am mighty glad to still be here and to be working. Otherwise I’d be bored.

“Entertainment Tonight” is going to tell you anyway when I am 90 and there is no escape from the calendar, despite the Mayans recent dust-up.

What I’d like to state here is that I am hoping to escape the inevitable on Groundhog Day. I don’t care whether the hog sees his shadow or not. I just don’t want him sending me any presents.

When I was only 80 and still had a big newspaper column that you could actually hold in your own hands, I asked people not to spend money sending cards, sachet, stationery, and flowers. A decent birthday card costs two or three dollars. So, I asked readers and friends to send a couple of bucks for The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York.

I thought I might get a few hundred. Instead I was overwhelmed with the sum, give or take, of over $250,000. I passed it on to Mayor Bloomberg who behaved as if he’d never realized he had a Mayor’s Fund. But he did and he could do as he pleased with the money for a good cause. He put me on his Board where I still recline in lazy splendor. And I bask in his friendship.

We went on to raise a few million more for the Mayor’s Fund and have built much-needed shelters for battered women and children.

Now, I want to ask you not to make a big deal out of my being 90! Make me happy and send me a few dollars you would waste on a gift, c/o Suite 26A, 160 East 38 Street, 10016. It can be made out to one of my favorite charities. They are:

Literacy Partners, which tries to teach millions of adult New Yorkers how to read and write at the 5th grade level. This is truly hard work done person-to-person. Its annual fundraiser is May 1 andJackie Weld Drake will get The Lizzie Award.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy, which helps save monuments, buildings, churches and anything else worthwhile about to be torn down to the City’s detriment.

This charity makes deserving New Yorkers into “Living Landmarks” and next November 14th celebrates the 40th year of doing so at the Plaza Hotel with a “black and white” ball. Celebrities galore!

The Maria Droste Counseling Services. This is run by Elizabeth Taylor Peabody and offers psychiatric help to those who can’t afford it. We will be putting on a little show this year on April 9th with the help of our pal Whoopi Goldberg and this fund-raiser is a real rising and popular comer.

The New York Restoration Project wherein Bette Midler picks up the City’s garbage and makes NYC more livable and beautiful. Sensational parties abound raising dough for this one.

Citymeals-on-Wheels, which feeds New York’s hungry. Gael Greene, the food expert, thought this up and almost every great restaurateur in the world has helped her with it. Incredible, to serve the elderly and shut ins. Needed more than ever these days.

The St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis which does such incredible work and hasMarlo Thomas as its sparkplug. This caused Marlo and her brother to work harder than they wanted to and wonder why their famous father, Danny Thomas, hadn’t left them a “fun” gambling casino instead.

The Police Athletic League,which the District Attorney’s office, the Police Commissioner and every politician worth his salt supports because it gives New York kids a place to be mentored, a place to play, a cop for a friend and a way to stay out of trouble.

The Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter is helping solve the problems of nearly 27,000 adults who are homeless and in shelters. Sleeping on the streets and in the subways are 3,200 of them who must be rescued from this degradation. I’ll learn more about this in April when they honor me.

Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. of MSNBC has a nifty charity for children in Malawi. It is called K.I.N.D. “Kids in Need of Desks” and I have been helping him in a feeble way. The children make their own desks so they can go to school with just a little bit of help from the U.S.

I am on the board of AmFAR, the international fighting group, and you could help any AIDS organization and be doing a good deed in a naughty world. Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Sharon Stone, Harvey Weinstein all worked hard against AIDS. We must follow President Clinton’s example and go on with this work.

The Bowery Mission, chaired by Veronica Kelly. Holding a black tie Valentine’s gala at the Plaza to feed hungry kids. Such as Sandra Lee, Maria Bartiromo, and the Police Commissioner will be there. I’m going and I’ll take your check made out to them.

Happy Birthday to me. Thank you.

This column originally appeared on on 1/21/13

7 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Rho says:

    Happy Birthday Liz, many more.

  2. avatar JERILYN says:

    Happy Happy Birthday dearest Liz Smith. I will send a contribution in your honor to ETAF and Saint Jude. My idol Dame Elizabeth was a good friend of yours and your dedication to writing the truth about our “Queen of the Night”is heartwarming for all her fans. You are simply the best in all you do and we are blessed to still have you here doing what you love. God Bless our “Dame of Dish! ” Nobody does it better even at 90. Happy Birthday Liz! May you live to be over 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.

  3. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    To the lovely Liz . . . each year on my latest calendar on the circled February 2 is your name.  Others have in parenthesis a new age, but yours is easy.  It remains 28 and always will.  Age itself I have found is a state of mind.  It is how we feel in our hearts that counts if we are truly honest.   .   . and when our hearts still have such verve and life going on inside them, “forever young” comes to mind.  

    Not one of our lives has been lived without aches and pains, without adversities, without sadness so often not shared.  But you are THE model for all of us, for we see you publicly rising above all adversities.  I have often seen that sign in England:  KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.  You had to be the originator of that sign as you live its credo and the world sees you do it every day.  Remember that classic children’s book The Little Engine That Could?  From a child, I made the words of that book my own credo:  “I think I can, I think I can” — and Liz, I think that that is your credo come true.  YOu not only “live each day” but you make it better for the rest of us, showing us that we too can live life to the fullest as you so ably do.  You give us that dream and make us too realize we can hold it in the palm of our hand.  

    Forget the celebrities, all the glitz and glamor, beautiful Liz has remained snappy and sharp, caring in her private life beyond most others, and a LADY to be emulated.  A birthday I feel is just a moment in time – here and gone — but you, Liz, are the one for the ages . . . and we remember, don’t we, that age stops at age 28!!!  So let’s not say happy birthday, but instead say “many wonderful years still ahead”.


  4. avatar cb says:

    what a beautiful baby!!!! And what a beautiful Lady. I live for your columns, so please…. keep em coming!

  5. avatar Linda says:

    Happy Birthday! Amazing in every way!

  6. avatar malcolm says:

    I am a new fan, but i hope you continue for another 90 years! I stumbled on your columns through my interest in the big old houses column on New York Social Diary. I have loved all of your columns, both your clear and always well-expressed thoughts on contemporary culture and your more nostalgic pieces on the great stars of the past. All of your writing seems to me to display a wonderful, playful, almost child-like joy in watching and chronicling the great unfolding human drama with all its tragedy and comedy. I was truly shocked to see your age, but now I see that you are in your heart 28. I am having my own second youth by opening the Hostal Cumbres del Volcan in El Salvador. i am 67′ but in my heart i am 32! May we both go on for quit a bit longer.

  7. avatar Dorothyt says:

    Happy Birthday.  You are a class act.