GOOD MORNING: “There are no gossip columnists in Los Angeles,” Liz Smith told the SRO lunch bunch at the Hotel Bel-Air where she was toasted by AARP the Magazine on publication of her book, “Dishing.” “What about Army Archerd?” she was asked. “I don’t consider him a gossip columnist,” Liz answered. “He’s a reporter.” Thank you, Liz, but remember, you and I shared that same identification as “gossip columnists,” as regulars for 5½ years on E!’s “Gossip Show.” And as columnist for Daily Variety over these 52 years, have printed my share of “gossipy” stories — about Frank and Ava (and others), Marilyn and Joe (and others), Judy and Sid (and others), Liz and Eddie (and others), Debbie and Eddie (and others), Bob Evans — (and seven others). She called today’s gossip reporting as “a tawdry jewel in a crown of free speech.” Liz’ column appears in abbreviated (guillotined!) form in the L.A. Times and she is so unhappy with that use of her column she “offered to let them (The Times) run it for nothing.” Almost every important independent showbiz press agent was on hand to applaud her, but she told them, “you don’t need us any more.” She identified herself as “a bleeding heart liberal” and blasted the administration’s Social Security plot. She targeted the lack of style by today’s stars, calling the red carpet “fashion pornography and when they (the stars) are not there they go around like rag pickers.” She doesn’t look or act (whatever that is) her admitted age of 82. Reflecting on it all, she said, “We’ve had the best of everything.” … Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief of AARP Publications, Christine Donohoo, chief communications officer, and Nancy Griffin, West Coast editor of AARP, also greeted the group. Norah Ephron, Liz’s good friend — and a chapter in “Dishing” — also made remarks. AARP’s Hollywood issue was covered with seven glamorous Oscar winners — all of whom qualify for AARP membership. Two were on hand, Rita Moreno and Shirley Jones. As were other qualifying AARP members: Jacqueline Bisset, Jane Seymour, Tina Sinatra. As for the guys: Marty Ingels, James Keach, Martin Landau, Mace Neufeld, Al Sargent, Robert Wise and Michael York were there.
JILL ST. JOHN THROWS away the crutches Tuesday. She has been recuping following the skiing accident in Aspen resulting in multiple fractures to her pelvis. She underwent extensive surgeries and has been on a walker for seven weeks. She says “I’ll be back at my house and skiing again. R.J. (husband Bob Wagner) has been a great nurse!” “Desperate Housewives'” Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria are taking on different roles this week. Longoria, who plays the Latin sexpot Gabrielle Solis in “Housewives,” is named national spokesperson for Padres Contra el Cancer (Parents Against Cancer) tonight at the Skirball Center. She will be honored for her work as an ambassador for Latino children with cancer and their families. She told me Latinos have the highest death rate of children with cancer in the U.S. The reasons: economical, social and the language barrier. She hopes to help raise funds for an activity center next to L.A.’s Children’s Hospital and to fund more translation facilities at the hospital. Career-wise, she segues from the season’s finale of “Housewives” to join Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland as Secret Service agents in “The Sentinel” with the romantic lead going to Kim Basinger. Eva’s hoping she’ll also have her romantics as well in the pic to film in Canada. Pic is in direct contrast with her completed role in ” “Harsh Times” with Christian Bale and Freddie Rodriquez filmed in East L.A. She says it’s a “dark, coming of age story.” … Hatcher joins Calista Flockhart and Julianne Moore as hosts of Comedy For a Cure at the Fonda Music Box Theater on Sunday. The Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance benefits from the evening. TS is a leading genetic cause of epilepsy and autism. Several children of showbiz families are afflicted with the dread disease. Julianne Moore will provide testimony on April 19 in front of a congressional Labor, Health and Services and Education sub-committees to pitch for research funds. Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” is the honoree and Bill Maher, the Dan Band and Nigel Lawrence will perform … Leslie Ann Warren inked for four segs on “Desperate Housewives” as Teri Hatcher’s mom. “I had her when I was 14,” Leslie Ann says, explaining the age similarity. In this flamboyant role, Warren has an on/off romance with Bob Newhart. She also just wound a role as an alcoholic in “Tenth And Wolf” (Street corner in Pittsburgh) with Val Kilmer Dennis Hopper, Giovanni Ribisi and Brian Dennehy. And Warren also wound a “heart-breaking” role in “Crossing Jordan” airing April 17. Meanwhile, her son Christopher Peters is producing “Mad Monster Party” at WB with Basil Iwanyck … Hugh Hefner, who will be 79 April 9, filmed guestints on HBO’s “Entourage” and Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” … Host Daphna Ziman taped two upcoming Comcast shows: April 8, she hits the U.S. Senate Bill 3, which would prevent states from warning citizens that mercury-containing vaccines or other drugs may be dangerous. And on April 15, Ziman’s topic is stem cell research … Jack Rourke’s colorful life will be celebrated April 9 at Lakeside Country Club in Toluca Lake. Rourke, who started his radio-TV career in 1947, died Oct. 14. Joe Campanella and Horace Heidt Jr. will host the tribute. Jack’s shows included “Wheeler and Rourke,” “Ladies Matinee,” “Beauty Parade,” “Opinion Please” and “Hollywood Scrapbook,” He also launched the “Save Autistic Children” telethons. We miss him.