Gossip Liz Smith has died at the age of 94, the Associated Press reports. Smith, who became nearly as famous as her subjects, was synonymous for decades with her syndicated column (titled “Liz Smith,” naturally). The columnist, who had suffered a series of strokes earlier this year, died of natural causes, according to her agent.
A native of Texas, Smith came to New York in 1949. She worked in odd jobs for years—including a stint as Mike Wallace’s assistant—before her Cosmopolitan pieces about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton landed her a column at the New York Daily News. There—and later at the New York Post and Newsday—she reigned over a world of celebrities and their antics. At the height of her column’s popularity, she was read by millions.
Unlike sometimes-vindictive predecessors like Walter Winchell or Hedda Hopper, Smith had a reputation for kindness—and for not reporting rumors about sex or sexuality—that set her apart. As the AP notes, her reticence on certain topics may have been partially motivated by her desire to maintain her own privacy: Smith admitted in her 2000 autobiography that she had had relationships with women as well as men, including a long-term relationship with archaeologist Iris Love.
Smith, who was briefly married twice, is survived by her nieces and nephews.