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Yep, I'm ... Game


But Liz didn't limit her affections to closeted gay men. There was the night Artie Shaw begged Smith, while in the backseat of a car, to go home with him. "I was sorely tempted. He was damned sexy," she writes. But the thought of his having been with Ava Gardner and Lana Turner made her feel faint. Now, she says, "I wish I had let him take me home. At the very least, I'd have been talked to death in a most interesting manner." We also learn that Warren Beatty once confided to an acquaintance that there was "one particular woman in the world he wanted to sleep with. . . . It turned out to be me." And did we mention her crush on Robert Redford? "Here was the most beautiful man in America . . . munching a crunchy drumstick," she writes, about watching Redford eat Kentucky Fried Chicken. "He wanted me to stay and have dinner with him in his motel room!" But Liz had a dinner date with her mother.

In all fairness, though, she often admits to having been "potted to the gills." In one memorable scene, even Norman Mailer -- out on the town without his wife Norris -- tries to bed her. " 'I guess you know,' he said, 'that you are a very attractive woman.' (Yes, I thought, especially when I'm drunk.) 'Can you tell me,' asked Norman, 'why you and I have never gone to bed together?' " To which Liz Smith replies, "If I go to bed with any of the Mailers, I'd rather it be Norris."

Who knew that Liz Smith was such a sex magnet?

"You think so?" she says, blushing. "Oh, I'm so silly. You know, I used to be really cute when I was young . . . but I never could make too much distinction between men and women. I really couldn't. I was always amazed at the depth of my own feelings." So she's . . . ?

"I don't even want to use the term bisexual," says Liz. "Because it seems weaselly. It's a weasel word! And I'm not gonna categorize myself. Because I might change my mind tomorrow. But I don't care if other people do. I've had a lot of sniping and gossip and rumor and damaging things said about me since I became a public person. That's the fate of public people."

Liz Smith's office-apartment is about 90 percent office and 10 percent apartment. She has lived and worked in this antiseptic high-rise in the East Thirties since 1976 -- moving from one rent-controlled apartment to another. "Oh, I don't own anything!" she confides. "Except this house in Texas my mother died in. And I do have a car." (An old navy-blue Mercedes.) But basically, as she puts it, "I'm still living like a college sophomore."

She stands up and ambles toward a tiny bathroom decorated only with electric curlers. "I'm gonna go to take my medicine now, as much as I hate to," she gripes. "Oh, you know, blood pressure, cholesterol, arthritis . . . and the good ol' hormone," she says, winking from the bathroom door. "Let's not forget the hormone!"

"Lizzie?" asks Diane Judge. "Do you need taxi money? I'm going to the bank."

"I'd love some cash -- thank you, honey," says Liz. Diane, who's known Smith for 45 years, handles all her money.

"Come," Liz says, leading me into the bedroom -- the only room not overrun with files, papers, books, and ringing telephones. On her bed, she has an enormous red pillow with a Texas logo. Another is embroidered with the words i don't repeat gossip, so listen carefully. Lying on top of a simple white bedspread is a remote control and a book about Richard Nixon. On her bedside lamp, a crucifix is draped around the shade. "Don't read too much into that," she laughs. "I just thought it was pretty."

Liz is installed at her usual table in El Rio Grande, the hokey Tex-Mex restaurant in the lobby of her building where she takes "too many" of her meals. She is talking about what a pain in the ass it was to write "The Fucking Book," how she resisted the idea for years, fearful that she "wouldn't remember anything," worried that she'd piss people off. She didn't give anyone a peek until the past few weeks. "I didn't even show Barbara Walters what I'd written," she says, until the other day. And? "She says she loves it! I was really worried that she might not, because, oh, I owe her so much. She forced me down people's throats! She'd invite me to parties and I knew I wouldn't have been at those parties without her intervention."

And, well, Barbara has gotten mad at her before. "Oh, yes. Frequently! You know, she's hot-tempered," says Liz. "She thinks I'm part of her family, so she's always telling me off. She thinks I'm stupid! She's always telling me, 'You talk too much, you tell too much.' So I was delighted that she likes the book."

Natural Blonde is filled with Barbara-is-marvelous stories. "I consider her the biggest star and the grandest VIP in the world," Liz writes, with her usual understatement. In one memorable scene, Walters invites Liz to Egypt with her and her then-husband, Merv Adelson, promising her the last seat on Linda Wachner's private jet to see the pyramids with a group that includes Mort Zuckerman and the Leonard Lauders. But when they took off from New York, "I discovered," writes Liz, "that there wasn't really a seat for me on the plane. Barbara had erred on the side of generosity," as she puts it. And so "I slept stretched in the aisle overnight under a blanket."

It is vintage Liz Smith that this is gleefully relayed without the slightest trace of humiliation. Later she describes her dilemma in being "inside" but never really inside: "I seemed always to be passing awkwardly through first class," headed back to coach as her fancy "friends" sipped champagne and waved. But she rewarded them nevertheless with glowing items in her column.

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