Liz Smith: Reflections on a Life Well-Lived

And more from our Gossip Girl on her favorite eateries, parties, and what she might have done had gossip not gotten in the way

Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance is the last perfume,” said Jean de Boufflers.

Recently, reporter Rob Arango shot some questions at me — my past, my present, my future.  Here’s how it went, as 2011 comes to as end.

* * *

What is your favorite memory of the Plaza Hotel?

It was the night that I escorted Mrs. Vincent Brooke Astor across the dance floor in the ballroom. I was all dressed up in cowboy clothes for some reason or another, and Mrs. Astor asked me to walk her across. So I did, with her on my arm. She was going up to accept, a “Living Landmark” and I will never forget my spurs of my boots were clacking on the floor and I was so embarrassed. And she said “I’ve never been taken anywhere by a cowboy before.”

What do you love about New York?

Well, I love everything. Because there is a “there” there in New York.  You can go places and know you have arrived. I especially love the living theater in New York.

Where is your favorite place to eat in New York?

I’d say Swifty’s on Lexington near 73rd Street.

What was your most difficult interview?

It was with that red-headed guy on “CSI Miami” – what’s his name?  He was just awful.

If you could have dinner tonight with 3 people, who would they be?

Jesus, Einstein and Elizabeth Taylor. They would be a great dinner party.

Is there someone you wish you could have interviewed?

Jesus and Einstein! And Marilyn Monroe, who I saw in her lifetime, but was never introduced to her.

What is the most memorable party you have ever attended?

My 80th birthday given by 10 of my insane friends at the old Le Cirque when it was on Madison Avenue. Liza Minnelli and Bette Midler and Tommy Tune sang and people like Mike Nichols, Joel Schumacher, Vernon Jordan, Pete Peterson and Ann Richards made wonderful speeches. It was just magic. Oh! And Michael Buble made his debut there.

You have a big heart. What some of your favorite charities that you support?

Literacy Partners, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, PAL, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York, which builds houses for domestic violence victims. And there are so many more that I just do something now and then for.

You are a true living landmark – what does that mean to you?

It means that I’ve been very lucky and got singled out and they asked me to become their spokesperson.

If you hadn’t pursued such a fabulous career in journalism what would you have done?

I would’ve become a great PR person. I know how it’s done.

How did you become a gossip columnist and what was the turning point in your career that made you such a powerful force among your peers?

At the height of the Eisenhower recession, 150 producers were let go by NBC so I was out of work. And I went to see a man named Igor Cassini who was the society columnist at “Cholly Knickerbocker” – this was a title owned by the Hearsts. I was hired by him to be his ghost writer so that was great. Later, Rex Reed recommended me to the New York Daily News and they hired me in 1976. The rest is history.

Is there a time in your life that you wish you could go back and re-live?

No, I just want to go forward. I’m sure there are a few other triumphs.



5 Responses so far.

  1. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Did Brooke Astor’s greedy son ever go to the slammer for latching onto her assets? And what’s become of Ms. Piggy, his porker wife?

  2. avatar Joan Larsen says:

    Liz, I have several questions I would adore asking, if you will:

    What are the best parts of growing older?  I believe there are some . . . and I wonder if we are on the same track.

    And this is one – that for you – there would have to be more than 24 hours, but:  If you knew you had only one more day to live, who would be the people you would call and what would you say to them?  I know that when that was asked of me, I had to give that one some thought . . but perhaps you would know right off??  

  3. avatar ths65 says:

    You were the most gracious & so down to earth person when I went to a book signing at R. J. Julia in Madison, Ct a few yrs ago. I have always loved your column and since that meeting have loved you as a person for all you have done for various charities. I hope when the time comes that I will have lunch with you & Elizabeth & Al & Jesus…and Jesus can pick up the tab lol….all the best in 2012 .

  4. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Liz, I’ve never thought of you as a “gossip columnist.” From my perspective, you are an entertainment journalist. You never descend into the muck and mire like so many of the gossip columnists. A Liz Smith column is always classy. It’s the reason I followed you from the Post.

  5. avatar Linda says:

    Loved this piece and your answers. The last one says it all.