Gossip maven reveals sexuality
Homophobia is all the rage these days, thanks to Eminem’s lyrics, the Boy Scouts of America’s ban of gays, and televangelists who urge viewers to “hate the sin, love the sinner.”But, as always, Liz Smith is flying in the face of fashion. In her forthcoming autobiography, “Natural Blonde: A Memoir” (Hyperion), the gossip maven has begun a tidal wave of publicity by revealing that she is — gasp! — a bisexual. While her honesty is to be commended, the big surprise is not that a celeb is coming out. (A number of notables, from Ellen DeGeneres to Clive Barker to Chastity Bono have covered that territory quite nicely.) The most remarkable thing is the confidence of the Hyperion PR machine that readers will be titillated by the sexual disclosures of a 77-year-old. A piece by Austin Bunn in October’s Brill’s Content reveals that La Liz is under gag order from her publisher about the book’s contents before publishing. And the tome, according to Bunn, is embargoed to the press until it hits stores Sept. 19, and those who’ve read it signed confidentiality agreements. In short, “Blonde” is enveloped in a shroud of secrecy that matches the Harry Potter embargo. (And so far, little Harry hasn’t revealed his own sexuality — yet.) However, a Bunn source confirms La Smith’s disclosure, and “60 Minutes” and Parade magazine are featuring her Sept. 17, so it seems the news will be out of the closet by publication day. But the announcement has repercussions beyond the Gay Lib front. Revelations of Smith’s carnal side illuminate, once again, the terrible ageism of tabloids and gossip columns. Why should there be endless speculation about the sexual proclivities of Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but not Richard Farnsworth? Why are readers given stories of the heterosexual activities of Madonna, Bruce Willis and Elizabeth Hurley, but not Betty White, Andy Griffith and Joan Plowright? Why George Clooney and not Rosemary Clooney? What goes on behind closed doors of the bedroom of Steve Allen & Jayne Meadows? Inquiring minds want to know. Fascinating as Miz Liz’s sex life must be, news of the book is bound to raise eyebrows for other reasons — such as that title. Liz Smith? Natural blonde? Now that is shocking.