|February 26, 2009. Sunny and cold yesterday in New York.
The Michael’s Lunch. Crowded with the usual suspects and then some. Joe Armstrong had the table of interest, hosting George Stevens Jr., Cindi Lieve and Kerry Kennedy. Now, what were the editor from Conde Nast (whom some think will replace the lady at Vogue), the producer and former head of the Kennedy Center, and Ms. Kennedy who always has a lot of balls in the air, discussing at lunch with Mr. Armstrong? Who knows? (somebody obviously) But that is what Michael’s is all about.
Around the room: Showtime’s Matt Blank with David Remnick of The New Yorker and Lisa Hughes (again, what?); next table over: Stan Shuman; producer John Hart with guests; Jill Brooke with Rosanna Scotto, Literary agent Ed Victor with Julie Grau who has her own imprint at Random House; moving/moving: Debbie Bancroft, Peggy Siegal, Tom Moore, Laurie Bodor, Chris Napolitano, Chris Meigher of Quest, Lois Chiles and Alexandra Trower, Lisa Caputo, Francine LeFrak; Stephen Perrine of Best Life with Cartier’s Frederic de Narp, Nicole Ehrbar and Blair Bartell; Sherry Rollins with Victor Garvey, Dr. Sarah Simms Rosenthal, Joan Jedell, Lisa Linden and Tom O’Brien of WNBC-TV, Jerry Inzerillo, Miki Ateyeh, Larry Burstein; Jonathan Wald of CNBC and David Carey of Conde Nast; Dr. Gerry Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Andy Bergman; Henry Schlieff. At my table, Joy Ingham, Hilary Califano and Betsy Bartlett.
The talk: The Speech the night before. A big hit with a large contingent. The Other Talk: Liz Smith’s seemingly sudden departure from The New York Post.
The Liz news came as a surprise to many although the writing has been on the wall for more than a year ago when Col Allan, the paper’s Editor not only refused to re-new her contract but also cut her weekly spot in half, from six columns to three.
Some insiders felt that Mr. Allan just wasn’t crazy about Ms. Liz. Even she acknowledged something like that (“not his cup of tea). The official excuse is that the Post is cutting its budget – quite credible considering its on pools of red ink. The Post is an enigma because it is definitely the paper of the chattering classes in New York, thanks in good part, to its columns like Liz, Cindy, Keith Kelly and the now often anthropomorphic Page Six under the helm of Richard Johnson. And yet the Post loses money. Alas, poor Rupert.
Once the Queen of Gossip along the Great White Way, Liz has stated outright that the Gossip as we knew it is just about gone, replaced by the pie-in-the-face base insult, the one boldface sentence character assassination, or the slop-slinging in the form of a two sentence sound bite. Much of what is written is reduced to the who was doing what (or what to whom) in the bathroom of some downtown club, or the latest incident of Lindsay Lohan having screaming snitfits in public with her girlfriend Sam Ronson, or the sinewy Madonna re-inflating her hyped up hotsie-totsie 80s sex image to sell her next tour, ka-ching, ka-ching. That and an array of the garden variety couplings and uncouplings of the chronically unfaithful, make up today’s gossip.
In a world where anything goes -- and comes and goes -- with alarmingly increasing speed; where everything’s been verbalized and every character has been cannibalized on a chopping board of ignorance bordering on illiteracy or at least disinformation, what’s left to gossip?
The world known as New York when Liz got off the bus from Texas in 1949 with stars in her eyes, has transmogrified into another planet in so many ways. And along the way it delivered to this girl probably more dreams than she could even imagine.
|Liz with Peter Rogers and the late Ann Richards
For in the past thirty-five years, her entertainment reportage raised her name to a stature that has graced our lives in ways far more favorable to the community than anything ever achieved by her bosses. Her integrity and even-handedness as a reporter, the scope of her literacy and her common sense curiosity and intelligence opened the doors to the pathways of power and influence that few journalists in our time have ever had in American newspapers.
What she did with those gifts is even more remarkable. Her philanthropic activity, employing the connections her stature and wit provided has raised millions and millions for the city, for the children of the city, for the mental health and education of the people of New York, and for the cultural institutions such as the library, the theater, preservation and conservation of the city. As much as this may count for our community, it is useless to those who are busy trying to crunch profanity and lurid blasphemy into a buck.
The problem with newspapers today is the same problem we have with the banks. A dearth of credibility fed by a surfeit of avarice. The reader, the audience has moved to the Internet where journalism, gossip, punditry, analysis are being re-invented, re-defined, and refined. So for those of you who might be mourning the loss of Liz Smith, the town crier of the Glitterati, the Literati and the Cognoscenti, cry no more: she got the zeitgeist and moved to the web where you can read her daily or almost on wowowow.com, a site in which she is also part-owner and creator.