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Looks to Die For


One thing no one disputes is Goldsmith’s talent. After graduating from NYU, Randy Goldfield joined Booz Allen Hamilton, the management-consulting firm, where she worked from 1976 to 1981 and was one of the first women to make partner. Around 1983, she started her own firm, the Omni Group, which helped companies such as Hoffman-La Roche, Merrill Lynch, IBM, and Data General automate their offices.

What she was best at, even back then, was pitching stories. “She was a rather extraordinary salesperson,” says Warren Waldbrand, who worked as an executive under Goldfield at Omni. “She knew how to sell intangibles, which you do in consulting. She was very skillful at creating a buzz.”

Waldbrand recalls when Randy convinced BusinessWeek to include her start-up among a short list of top IT-consulting firms. “Let’s say the buzz was ahead of the facts,” Waldbrand says. “The kind of thing at which she really excelled was gaining access to very high-level decision-makers, and she knew how to move them to act in the way she wanted. She knew how to close at a very high level.”

Nonetheless, her heart was apparently elsewhere. “If you told her she was going to be a successful IT consultant the rest of her life, she’d be profoundly depressed,” says Waldbrand, who remembers the way Goldfield remained at the office late at night with an administrative assistant, trying to write novels and children’s books. She and her partners eventually sold the company to Butler Cox, a British firm.

“As doctors worked to resuscitate her, friends kept vigil, talking to her, singing to her, rubbing her feet.”

In 1976, Randy married John T. Reid, a business executive. The couple split acrimoniously six years later. Broke from her divorce and legal fees, as her oft-told legend has it, she moved to London, changed her name to Justine Rendal, and wrote her first novel about revenge-seeking first wives, based, she said, on her own marriage to a philandering tycoon.

However, the real Reid, who still lives in Manhattan, recently told the British newspaper The Mail that the problem with his marriage wasn’t that he was a master of the universe but that he wasn’t. “I was a very ordinary, monogamous person running a ladies’-clothing line.”

More recently, Olivia was said to have been married to a much younger Florida yacht skipper named Paul Smith. “When she called you, on your caller I.D. it still came up as Paul Smith,” says Nick Ellison. Larry Ashmead got to know Paul Smith well when Goldsmith bought the mansion down the road from theirs two hours north of Manhattan and rode around the countryside on the back of Smith’s motorcycle. “She used to introduce him as her husband; he wasn’t,” says Ashmead.

“She ran singles ads in New York Magazine and was meeting men that way,” Ashmead adds. “I knew she met at least one, a fairly nice guy. We all had dinner together.”

Kelly Lange, a longtime anchor for NBC-4 Los Angeles and now a mystery writer, also remembers meeting Paul Smith. “I’d heard it was a marriage she did in some Central American country and never made legal,” she recalls. “At some point she said, ‘I’m divorcing him.’ Maybe it wasn’t that hard. He was not big in her orbit. She had a high orbit. She made big, big tracks.”

Lange remembers Goldsmith as a Roman candle. They met when Olivia picked up a copy of Kelly’s novel Trophy Wife at the airport and left a message on her answering machine at NBC-4. “She said, ‘You don’t know me. I wrote a book called First Wives Club. I came out here. I’m at the Beverly Wilshire.’ I fell in love with her on the phone. I went over and picked her up and took her to a party. We were close for a long time.”

Lange remembers the Valentine’s Day when, between relationships, she had dinner with Olivia and Gail Parent between the early and late news and lamented the fact that all the women at work except her had received flowers.

“Olivia excused herself, went to the phone, and fifteen minutes later, in comes a florist with a huge vase,” Kelly says. “It covered the table. The card said, ‘Dear Kelly, Last night was wonderful. Denzel.’ ” The reference was to Denzel Washington, co-owner of the restaurant where they were having dinner.

“I’ve never seen anyone enjoy” her wealth more, Parent observes. “She lavished gifts on everyone she knew. It was a fantasy—‘I can do these things!’ I don’t think it spoiled her.”

Olivia doted on her nieces, but her relationships with her sisters, Kate Goldfield and Barbara Turner, were turbulent. Steven Mintz, Goldsmith’s lawyer, said that no family member was available for comment.

Perhaps the person Olivia was closest to was Nan Robinson, her assistant. “Nan was a gofer, a typist, and Olivia more or less took over her life,” Ashmead says.

“She ran interference for her all the time,” Lange recalls. “She made a lot of money as an assistant. I’d heard Olivia put a child of Nan’s in private school. She was really, really good to Nan.”

Lorelle Phillips, who owns the house next door to her upstate house and who frequently had Goldsmith as a houseguest, believes that her neighbor had a surpassing fear of growing old. “She was the first person who ever talked to me about Botox, and she had had it long before it became de rigueur,” recalls Phillips, whose phone calls Olivia inexplicably stopped returning as soon as she moved into her own house. “She was somebody who had a difficult time growing old. She definitely didn’t tell her age. Maybe this was the way she needed to go, because I don’t think she would have dealt well with old age. She would have died when the London Telegraph called her “plump’ ” in an obituary.

Ashmead agrees. “I think she had a great fear of growing old and not looking pretty,” says the editor, who says he forced her to retire the long blonde wig she wore for her photograph in First Wives Club. “That was the reason for the plastic surgery.”

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