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LIZ SMITH: Recalling the great, great PR woman ...

Lois Smith (center) at her favorite NYC restaurant Trattoria Del Arte, with Cindi Berger, Marian Koltai-Levine, Michael Barker, Suzy Berkowitz-Weksel, Jill Fritzo, Joe Quenqua, Jennifer Glaisek, Lisa Hintelmann, Michelle Benson, Leslee Dart, Rosie O’Donnell. In front: Billie Jean King, Meryl Streep and Peggy Siegal.
Recalling the great, great PR woman, Lois Smith. (Lois actually thought famous people had a right to their privacy!)
by Liz Smith
Thursday, December 6, 2012


“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult,” said Charlotte Whitton back in the '70s.
We don’t want to dwell on tragedy — everyday there are losses everywhere. But recently we had three deaths among important women — Nora Ephron, Helen Gurley Brown and the lesser-known Lois Smith, publicist to earlier big, big stars.

This week NYC’s intelligentsia took leave of Lois who was much beloved and an all-around wonderful creature. She died some weeks ago after a fall, in her eighties. She was retired and living in Massachusetts, even though many begged her over and over to “come back home!”
Robert Redford and Lois Smith in 1974.
So it was a weepy get-together at the 92nd Street Y where such as Meryl Streep and Rosie O’Donnell got into a semi-loving-correcting contretemps onstage over another actress, Claire Danes. (All I can say is that Lois Smith would have loved every moment of this friendly “argument.” Lois was such an “innocent” in her embracing positive motherly manner that she once looked at me in amazement when I told her one of her clients had used cocaine right in front of me. “Really, Liz — I never suspected that!” said Lois. She left it at that and to my conscience. I didn’t print it.)
Lois Smith and Mara Buxbaum. Lois with Meryl Streep.
Anyway, I found it pretty remarkable and appealing that another Smith — Lois — could be eulogized in person by the mistress of all she surveys, Oscar-and-every-other-kind-of-winner Meryl Streep. (Streep was formidable and the best of most speakers at the recent Nora Ephron memorial and she out-does herself informally time after time!)

At the Y, it all began with emcee Rosie O’Donnell. She was wearing red, imitating Lois who was famous for the scarlet coat she wore on the red carpet so her celebrity clients could easily find her.

Rosie opined that she hoped Lois “was up there” talking with Marilyn Monroe and with Nora Ephron taking notes. Then, Rosie segued into a bit about whether Claire Danes now employs a lisp on the TV series “Homeland”?
Lois Smith helped guide the career of like Marilyn Monroe, seen here with Arthur Miller. Photo by: Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
This was followed by Lois’ former partner Leslee Dart reminding that Lois called those she loved by the pet name, “Ducks!” (She had sprayed the premises with Lois’ favorite, Joy perfume!) Ms. Dart won applause by noting that the PR industry should follow Lois’ lead and “be less self-centered, and kinder” ... Rolling Stones’ critic Peter Travers made some funny remarks ... there was a song from Mandy Patinkin.

Then — I think it was then, this was all interrupted by Streep who defended Danes, saying that the latter “had her mouth taped up for two days — and she’s pregnant — you get a pass!” Rosie yelled from backstage, “Sorry!”
Smith with Alfre Woodard, Frances McDormand, Kate McEnroe and Rosie O'Donnell in NYC for the New York Women in Film & Television's 2002 Muse Awards Luncheon. Photo by: Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images.
In speaking, Streep said something to the effect that, in the past, “....This is hilarious; people wanted to preserve their privacy and Lois seemed to think this was reasonable.” She credited Lois with giving her own family a private life before the era of cell-phones and 24/7 entertainment-media tweets!

Lois with her daughter Brooke Smith.
Lois’ grand-daughter Brianna spoke and also her daughter, actress Brooke Smith, who remarked that her mother had loved talent, loved her job and made it easier for actors and directors and show folk to do theirs. (You will remember Brooke as the girl captured by the serial killer in the film “Silence of the Lambs” and kept captive in a well.)

And the woman of women, Gloria Steinem, spoke eloquently.

When Rosie got on to close, she remarked on “being dissed by Meryl Streep at a memorial.”

Well, I’d put THAT in my bio for Google and Wickipedia — if I were Rosie.
Mona with loving son Ari Ackerman and husband Richard Cohen.
ALSO now comes word of the untimely death of the popular psychotherapist Mona Ackerman, who had been ill quite sometime at her Fifth Avenue home. Our hearts go out to her one and only, the astute columnist Richard Cohen.

Mona was much loved. She was fun, generous and wise. (She was the daughter of Meshulam Riklis, a man well-known for putting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on the map back in the day when they voted for his momentary wife, Pia Zadora, as their star of stars!)

The Association recovered from this glitch and became the name behind the all-important Golden Globes.

Services will be held at The Park Avenue Synagogue on 50 E 87th St  Madison Avenue on Friday at 11:45 a.m.
WELL, AS long as we are speaking well of the dead, we will show you a photo by Cyd King of where the late Helen Gurley Brown is resting in peace beside her producer husband, David Brown. It came to me from one sbarnes05@sprynet.com.

These headstones are in Sisco Cemetery in Osage, Arkansas. Neither of my famous friends, the Browns, were crazy about Arkansas; one is hard-pressed to imagine the gentleman intellectual David even passing through. But there they are; Arkansas has claimed them.

Contact Liz Smith here.

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© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com