Jim Mitchell, a senior publicist/press agent here in New York was a close friend and business associate with Liz Smith for more than sixty years. Yesterday he shared some of his recollections (and some of his favorite photos) of the beginning of their friendship.
I had just come to New York after college and had gotten my first job — as Press agent for El Morocco. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do but at that same time, through a friend I met Liz. She was working for Igor (GiGi) Cassini, writing his Cholly Knickerbocker (society) column in the Journal-American.
They would start early in the day, speaking to each other over the phone at 10:30 to plan the column. He would go to the “A” parties and send Liz to cover the “B” parties. Afterwards, she and I would have dinner at El Morocco. She’d finish the column in my office at the nightclub, give it to a taxi driver along with $5, and tell him to take it down to the Journal-American. Then we’d continue drinking.
One night when we were leaving the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were right in front of us also leaving. Liz curtsied behind their backs — when at the same instant, the duke turned around and extended his hand to help her up, while saying “thank you.”
She introduced me to Lee Bailey who was a very important person in her life. Liz was devoted to him. He had a house in Bridgehampton where Liz and I frequently stayed, paying the expenses. These were very happy, glorious years for us. Except one summer when Lee had a “friend” staying with him, and we were not allowed there.
Liz with her late, great friend, Lee Bailey.
We shared many weekend dinners with many of the same people at Lee’s. Liz cooked chicken fried steak every weekend. Andreas Brown, the owner of the Gotham Bookstore, came for a weekend and brought two bottles of Chateau Lafitte as a gift. Liz, cooking her chicken fried steak used one of the (unopened) bottles as a rolling pin. Jackie Kennedy had given Andreas a case of the wine.
Jimmy Kirkwood was always a weekly guest for dinner, always telling Liz about his new show he was working on. She heard about it so much that she concluded the show was one of his pipe dreams, or he smoked too much. His show was “Chorus Line.”
Liz with David Frost.
Liz with Elaine Stritch and Peter Rogers.
Liz with Lena Horne and John Galliher.
Liz with Bob Kerrey, Ann Richards, Bill Clinton, and Joe Armstrong in 2001.
Liz with Cynthia McFadden.
Liz with Sam and Elizabeth Peabody.
Liz with Gov. Ann Richards, Chita Rivera, and Judith Ann Abrams.
Liz and Mary Wells Lawrence in Mustique.
Liz as houseguest with her "borrowed dog," Annabel.