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Liz Smith, Grand Dame of Dish, Dead at 94

Liz Smith, Grand Dame of Dish, Dead at 94
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Liz Smith, the legendary, New York-based gossip columnist from Texas who chided and celebrated everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna to the Trumps, has died at 94, Variety reports.

Smith's literary agent Joni Evans confirmed Smith died of natural causes Sunday.

Following a long career in magazine publishing at Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated, on the popular series "Candid Camera" and in TV news (she produced Mike Wallace at one time), Smith launched her first gossip column in the New York Daily News in 1976. She had the experience, having ghostwritten the Cholly Knickerbocker column for the Hearst newspapers in the '50s, which led to her extensive contacts in the world of entertainment.

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In college

Over the following decades, her juicy column would be anchored at Newsday and the New York Post before she moved online at wowOwow.com and New York Social Diary, where until this week she penned a popular column with longtime collaborator Denis Ferrara.

During the apex of her career, Smith became the news, taking Ivana Trump's side during the Trumps' contentious divorce, and churning out columns more popular than her home paper's hard news items for years.

Smith told The New York Times she never paid for stories... except for the time she covered Elizabeth Taylor's wedding to Larry Fortensky: "They said, ‘No press.’ And I said, ‘I’ll give all the money to AIDS charities.’ So they let me come, and boy, that was an experience.”

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Smith (bottom L) with a stellar group of ladies, including Lesley Stahl, Elaine Stritch, Sheila Nevins, Joni Evans, Joan Ganz Cooney and Cynthia McFadden

Smith's notoriety led to many on-camera appearances, including an Emmy-winning stint for her daily dose of dish on WNBC, guest spots playing herself on series such as "Murphy Brown" and "The Nanny," and featured slots in many documentaries on Hollywood, including the brand-new "Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood," in which Smith speaks as a longtime intimate friend of the late Katharine Hepburn.

In July, Smith granted her final major interview, to The New York Times. In it, she waxed philosophical about her years as a "celebrity accomplice," noting: “I don’t think my name could sell anything now. It used to mean — bylines used to mean something in journalism, [but] most people have forgotten about so-called powerful people like me; we served our time."

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With Bette Midler in 2007

Married and divorced twice, Smith came out as bisexual in her 2000 memoir. She told The Advocate that same year, "I just never felt I was wife material. I always felt that I was a great girlfriend.”