Liz Smith is sitting front and center at Michael's, still a media whorehouse after all these years. It is the Wednesday after Labor Day and everyone is back. Smith herself just flew in from the Hamptons on a helicopter with Pete Peterson and his wife, Joan. You can practically smell the pent-up neediness--the yearning to get back in the spotlight--emanating from all these show-offs in their new fall wardrobes. Indeed, there is so much boldface here today that Smith's blonde bobbed head is spinning.
Next to us on one side is Les Moonves, sipping a glass of white wine. ("He didn't introduce me to his lunch companion.") Kathleen Turner arrives to sit on the other side of us, and Smith jumps up. ("I feel I should rise for her. I can't let her come to me.") The handsome young fellow who is keeping Barry Diller waiting for far longer than anyone should has not arrived yet, so Diller pays us a visit, bends to kiss Smith on the cheek, and then talks about his trip through the Greek islands on his "boat." ("One of the biggest yachts in the world," says Smith. "When he says we, I am not going to ask who we is.") Jim Bell, the executive producer of the Today show, appears in front of us and tells Smith she looks beautiful. ("He's a really important guy.") Jerry Della Femina waves from across the room as Smith points out an elegant elderly English gentleman at the table next to his. He was once ... the Beatles' publicist. Still in the game!
In fact, Smith is so busy looking around, name-checking half the room, ignoring Star Jones, and acknowledging all who come to genuflect at her altar that she does not realize that the onetime superagent Mike Ovitz is sitting directly in front of us. "Where?" asks Smith. Right there, I say. "Oh my God," she says in her noisy whisper. She looks down at her lap and unfolds her napkin. "I'd better move tables. He doesn't like me." Apparently she had lunch with him in the early nineties and then wrote a column that enraged him. "I thought Liz was my friend," Ovitz whined to the director Joel Schumacher, who had arranged the lunch. "Why? Because you had lunch with her?" Schumacher said to Ovitz. "Have you ever given her a story? Made her the recipient of any of your inside knowledge? What does she owe you?" And then Smith says to me with surprising intensity: "I hate him. He's an awful person. He really betrayed all those guys who worked for him."