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Front Page

Liz Smith interviews Lorne Michaels
Photo by Polly Van Raalte

Murdoch To Liz Smith:
Youíre So Fired!

By Tim Boxer

HAT Liz Smithís retort should be to the New York Post: "Drop Dead! Youíre so last century!"

It is the end of an era as far as print is concerned. The New York Post has unashamedly dumped Liz after 14 years as its reigning gossipeuse.

Liz was a victim of desperate cost cutting measures calculated to keep Rupert Murdochís money-losing Post on life support.

Now Americaís Queen of Gossip rules cyberspace. You can follow the antics of the rich and the notable in Lizís lively column at www.wowOwow.com. She was one of the founders last year of this exciting Women-on-the-Web site along with Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes correspondent at CBS, and former literary agent and book editor Joni Evans.

At age 86, Liz is at the height of her power, having graced the pages of every New York tabloid for 33 years: Newsday, Daily News, New York Post.

I remember when Liz first came on the scene of celebrity reporting. She was hired by the Daily News to compete with Earl Wilson, the premier gossip columnist in the nation whose home base was The New York Post. I was Earlís assistant, and we followed Lizís column avidly.

Other wannabe gossip columnists emerged but they did not have the class or the sources that accrued to Liz. Liz quickly made a name for herself as a hard working reporter and commentator on the Hollywood/Broadway/society beat.

Tim Boxer column in the New York Post

She was very friendly and helpful to me after I took over Earlís column upon his retirement after 4 decades on his unique column. In 1980 I printed what I thought was a hot tip from a trustworthy press agent:

The Beverly Wilshire Hotelís reportedly up for grabs, and if you have $200 million in your pocket, itíll make an ideal Christmas gift for the man who has (almost) everything.

I got a note from my competing columnist, Liz Smith of The Daily News: "Dear Tim: Happy New Year! I noticed the item on the Bev. Wilshire. I just want to say that if it came from the same press agent who sent it to me some weeks back, then that is pretty irresponsible since my office spent a lot of time and money trying to check it out. We got a categorical denial from the Bev. Wilshire that it is up for sale. We told the press agent. If he still believes it is true and is still sending it around to columnists, at the very least he should include the info that the item has been checked and denied but that he still believes it. All the best to you."

Liz taught me a valuable lesson in the column trade: donít believe everything they tell you until you fact check it first. Even though itís the gossip business, she was always honest and truthful, never malicious, and always apologized if mistaken. Just like Earl.

Long live the Queen!


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