Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Killer curiosity

Posted By on Wed, Jan 10, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Madonna says, “I like Liz because she has balls, like me.” Balls, eh? Now there’s a word that aptly describes a columnist. Just imagine any respected writer gloating with such praise as appears on the jacket of Natural Blonde.

Liz is a prominent gossip columnist whose salacious words titillate readers and reaffirm our groping identities. We too are like Julia Roberts, the Rockefellers and Brad Pitt. A little money and fame couldn’t change this fact. Right?! Why else could we identify intimately with their successes and failures? The wonder of Natural Blonde is that Liz Smith, gossip columnist that she may be, is quite philosophical.

“Ambiguity,” “curiosity” and “idle talk” are characteristics that make us who we are. They are not “bad” and “deplorable.” Gossip is good! Its characteristics are our “existential determinations.” Gossip is a part of our very makeup, our being in the world with others.

Got it? Well, if not, don’t worry, Liz makes it all very plain for us. Her title, Natural Blonde, points to “ambiguity.” We are not who we seem to be. How could one of the most visible and highly paid journalists have kept it a secret that she herself is a lesbian? Or is she? Got balls? Don’t go there! Balls have nothing to do with sexual persuasion or much else, really. How was Rock Hudson’s homosexuality kept secret in the biz? Liz blackmailed the wench who threatened to go public with it because she draws the line at writing about the sexual persuasion of stars and about their children.

Ever wonder what made Barbara Walters or Allen Funt of “Candid Camera” successful? Neurosis? Anal retentiveness? Although Liz gives a good face to her friend Barbara, we know that this well-respected journalist wields a powerful stick and is more than a stickler for details. Barbara is Liz’s “very own super-chief friend.” But is she a big chief with insecurities? “She has lots of perfectionist trouble making up her mind,” even in choosing what to wear.

Fed up with the company on a trip to Egypt with Barbara and other chiefs, Liz, the professed “Indian, an American Indian at that” opted to head home. This brings out a very likable quality about the book. Liz writes in a way that identifies her with the rich and famous, though separates herself from them. She remains one of us, supplying us with endless fodder for “idle” talk.

E-mail Judith Ellis at


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