Celebrity culture would be nothing like it is today were it not for Liz Smith, known better as the Grand Dame of Gossip. For decades, her column was the only thing that mattered in showbiz and even today, at 92, she's still writing about the comings and goings of the rich and famous.
Smith recently sat down for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. It was, as it always is with Liz Smith, enlightening. Here are the six juiciest tidbits:
1. She tried to convince Elaine Stritch to sleep with a pre-fame Marlon Brando.
"I was living in the Village in a tiny apartment with all sorts of people coming in and out," she recalls. "Marlon [Brando] 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.'"
Ultimately, Smith says the two lovebirds decided to call it quits because they were both students of Stella Adler at the time. Of course, Stritch and Brando went on to become legends in their own right.
2. She went shoplifting with Shelley Winters.
For one of her first jobs as a writer, Smith says she was assigned to follow Shelley Winters as she went Christmas shopping. As it turns out, the two-time Academy Award winner was a big fan of the five-finger discount: "Every store we stepped into, Shelley would take these expensive things and head for the door," Smith reveals. "The shops were horrified, but they were afraid to ask her to pay."
3. Her first encounter with longtime friend Bette Midler was not so amicable.
Smith says that it was Bette Midler who convinced the city of New York to name a park after her on 114th St. But the beginning of her relationship with Bathhouse Bette was a little rockier.
"Bette Midler was pretty tough on me early on," Smith notes. "I ran something about her dating some actor. And she called me up, furious, saying, 'I don't want to be in your f–king column!' Which was an odd thing to hear from someone just starting a career in show business."
4. Her relationship trajectory with Barbara Walters, however, was something of the opposite.
"Well, it turns out Barbara Walters can do without me, though I still consider her a friend," she says. "She has done so much for me through the years. But when I lost my column and my power, she kind of lost interest in me."
5. Barry Diller consulted her about coming out of the closet.
Smith, who is, herself, gay, tells THR that media mogul Barry Diller — who has been married to fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg since 2001 — asked her whether he should come out after David Geffen publicly acknowledged that he was gay in 1992. She counseled him not to, and he has still not done so.
"I saw him after David Geffen came out and he said, 'Liz, do you think I should come out, too?'" she recalls. "And I said, 'No, Barry, David Geffen needs to come out. He needs a big story or a scandal or a fight to push him in business and make people afraid of him.' But I said, 'People are already afraid of you. So what will you gain? And also, you like women [too].'"
6. She may be the world's oldest Swiftie.
"There are some [modern celebrities] I admire, like Taylor Swift," she tells the magazine. "When you see her perform, it's kind of old-fashioned, like if Lana Turner could dance and sing for one number."
Want more? You can read the full interview, and its many other revelations, here.
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