Liz Smith

The 82-year-old syndicated newspaper columnist—and professional Texan—on politics versus gossip, the trouble with young Hollywood, and the one magazine that can make or break a star (nope, it’s not Texas Monthly).

Evan Smith: So here we are in a Mexican restaurant on the ground floor of your  apartment building in New York.

Liz Smith: Do you think it’s funny that I live over a Mexican restaurant called El Rio Grande?

ES: I think it’s appropriate. But what I’m stuck on is whether you can get good Mexican food in New York.

LS: Remember what Jane Trahey, who used to work for Neiman Marcus, always said? There’s no such thing as really bad Mexican food, and even bad Mexican food is better than no Mexican food. They make a few things here that I like and a few things that I don’t like. You can’t get a decent taco in New York, and people are crazy about burritos, which I never much took to.

ES: What did you like growing up, and what do you still like now?

LS: Oh, I like chicken-fried steak better than anything. I’d eat it every night if it didn’t make you weigh four hundred pounds. Then I could do the Kirstie Alley show.

ES: You’ve managed to retain a lot of your Texanness after being away all these years—

LS: Well, I have on cowboy boots today from Tony Lama.

ES: Some people lose it.

LS: I think Dan [Rather] has kept it. Bob Schieffer has kept it.

ES: It’s obviously an important part of your self-identity.

LS: I guess so. I’m not good at faking anything. When I went to work for NBC, I said, “I’d like to go to your speech coach and get rid of my accent,” and they said, “Are you crazy? We hired you for your accent!” So I never did.

ES: You don’t seem to have much of an accent now.

LS: I think it’s terrible. If I’m around people

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