Liz Smith dead at 94: celebrities react

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Liz Smith, the legendary gossip columnist whose dispatches on the highs and lows of NY society made her a celebrity in her own right, has died at age 94.

Her literary agent, Joni Evans, told The Associated Press that Smith died of natural causes in NY.

In a melancholy profile published in the New York Times earlier this year, Smith lamented the changing landscape of celebrity journalism.

The story divided New York's big wigs and caused friction between the now-President and Smith, who became a staunch defender of Ivana. This exposure on television enhanced her status - she became a popular staple on the Manhattan social scene, which served to provide more material for her column, by this point in syndication in more than 70 newspapers.

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Smith told the New York Times in 2014 that her love of movies began when she was six or seven and that she never wanted to do anything else. "I don't think these stars now have enough background or sense of history and philosophy to do that".

There were occasional scoops - the 1990 split of Donald and Ivana Trump, Madonna's 1996 pregnancy - but her income often exceeded US$1 million (S$1.36 million) a year, more than any newspaper columnist or executive editor. She also wrote magazine articles and three books: The Mother Book, Natural Blonde and Dishing: Great Dish - And Dishes - From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist. She was still having breakfast, lunch and dinner outings with friends, family and associates, Evans said. During my time at WNBC she was nothing short of fabulous. She once said their friendship "really helped make my career" and that "it didn't do them any harm, either". Throughout her life she raised $37 million for Literacy Partners, helping 27,000 people learn to read.

Smith was married and divorced twice to George Beeman from 1945-47, and to Fred Lister from 1957-62, but acknowledged her bisexuality in a roundabout way in her memoirs, dubbing it "gender neutrality".

As news of Smith's death spread, the Today show's Al Roker paid tribute to her on Twitter.

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