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I entered the University of Texas before World War II ended; I was fresh out of divorce court. I didn’t know a soul in Austin, and there were only very young men—prodigies—or very old men on campus. American guys were still at war! So I spent my time swinging between the drama and journalism departments. I made friends with the likes of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, who went on to write The Fantasticks and I Do! I Do! I fell in love with the guy who would become movie director Robert Benton. I rose and fell with the wiles of wild man John Bryson, who edited the school magazine and gave me my first byline—he changed my name from Mary Elizabeth to Liz. I observed the Kathryn who became the last Mrs. Bing Crosby, the glamorous blonde we later knew as Jayne Mansfield, the rugged he-man Fess Parker, and the truly fine actors Barbara Barrie and Pat Hingle. I studied Hamlet with the great Shakespearean B. Iden Payne and began to write a gossip column for The Daily Texan titled “40 Acres.” Finally, when all those men returned under the GI bill, I had at last classmates who were my own age and who just loved a divorced woman. I adored UT so much. If I had my druthers, I would still be there, on campus. But a girl has to eat.
Liz Smith was born and raised in Fort Worth. Her five-times-a-week gossip column is syndicated to sixty newspapers worldwide.