Every day is opening night.


Ladies and gents,

I’ve written a lot of obits over the years, but perhaps none so heartfelt as this one I’ve just sat down to pen. Saying that I do what Liz Smith did is a bit like my Uncle Bert, the art school dropout who still tinkers in his garage, saying he and Tintoretto are in the same field. To paraphrase Jerry Herman on Stephen Sondheim, there is Liz and then there’s the rest of us. Or rather, there was Liz, because now – I have to keep reminding myself – she only exists in past tense, at least here on earth.

What made Liz so great was not her work ethic, though it had no peer. It wasn’t her appetite and instinct for news, though both were boundless. And it wasn’t her knack for writing copy, though I can think of none with one finer. What made Liz such a unique force in the world was her heart. Heart is the great undervalued asset of the news business. With the rise of the internet, and the correlating speed at which scoops need to be fed to the public, heart has taken a backseat to “voice.” And “voice” is just a nice way of saying “snark.”
Well, in Liz’s day, having a certain amount of respect for your subjects – even the ones you would ultimately destroy – went a long way. What made Liz so damn special is that she never had to fake her good will towards those she covered. She was, first and foremost, a giant hearted fan. And she never felt the need to hide her fandom, like so many of us do in our vain attempts to level imaginary playing fields.

That is why she had a rolodex for the ages. That is why her phone calls got returned. That is why she ultimately became as famous as the names in her column (thereby leveling that imaginary playing field once and for all). Explaining why she liked to gossip, Liz once said, “If you’re at a party, and you say to somebody, ‘Isn’t it hot outside?’ then how interesting are you? But if you say, ‘Sit down, I’m going to tell you a story that’ll knock your socks off,’ they’ll never forget you.”
Well, Lizzy, if your goal was to knock our socks off, you sure as hell succeeded.
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!

Scoop V.