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Money Makes the Word Go Around -- Especially in the Jackson Family. And, Farewell to the PR Great, Lois Smith.

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File/Getty Images
File/Getty Images

"One out of four Americans can't name Abraham Lincoln's assassin!" writes the 60 Minutes poll in the November issue of Vanity Fair.

This really means people aren't paying attention.

After all, Fox's Bill O'Reilly is still No. 4 on the bestseller list for non-fiction with his and Martin Dugard's work Killing Lincoln.

Now, quick -- the star O'Reilly, whom I've known since he was a pup -- already has another hit out titled Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot. Can you name the assassin in that one? (Well, it's more problematical as to who was actually to blame.)

  • I've written before that the way to get rich these days is to do something with food, open a hot café, become a chef, or get expert with a frying pan on TV... the other way is to invent something absolutely essential for working the Internet... the other way is to become an overnight instantaneous rock/country western star even though the general public doesn't quite get your name... and the last sure-fire route is to become a starry fashionista, work for one or design stuff on the fringes of accessories. (General interest writers, these days, are a dime a dozen unless they can get on TV as pontificators and prognosticators and specialists.)
  • So, I was delighted when my phone rang and it was Alex Hitz who I had given up to Los Angeles for good. The socially adept Mr. H. is the man who keeps a portrait of the late, best-dressed Nan Kempner in his Beverly Hills living room. (It was painted by Peter Rogers, now of New Orleans.)

    Alex used to give Manhattan dinner parties in restaurants where he brought along the old family silver service. Now, Alex says he is using his Beverly Hills kitchen more than the living room and I'll bet Nan is lonely in there.

    As you know. if you've been keeping up, Alex has written a handsome book titled My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking With a French Twist.

    And, all along, I thought Alex could only open jars of caviar or pop open champagne and I believed he'd never dirtied so much as a pinky with a potato peeling. But his book tells you step-by-step how to create 175 yummy recipes.

    So you should get busy. If you have a lot of great photos or can get someone like Harry Benson or Bruce Weber to take some for you; you too can write a book about cooking, or maybe you could branch out and talk about mending sails or improving one's sex life. In Alex's case, he needed a Beverly Hills house where he could "get down" and recall his Deep South roots.
  • OKAY, IT wasn't exactly as if Lionel, John and Ethel Barrymore had teamed up, but recently there was an amusing bit of family pairing on TV. FOX's sitcom Ben and Kate offered Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. (Dakota is Kate; Nat Faxon is Ben.)On the same night, same network, one could find the series Raising Hope, which featured appearances by Melanie Griffith, and her mom, the immortal Hitchcock heroine, Tippi Hedren. Miss Hedren's role was confined to a casket -- she was dead. But the audience did get to see her speak in a videotape her character left behind. Miss Hedren is still a knockout, in or out of a casket.
  • I WAS shocked, shocked to find out that there was wrangling over money immediately after the death of Michael Jackson. (Check Vanity Fair's November issue for the full story.) This is as surprising to me as the thought of Dina Lohan in denial.

    The article is culled from a coming book about the Jacksons by Randall Sullivan. I'm surprised. VF usually gives its Jackson stories to Maureen Orth, one of Michael's most devoted non-fans. (At certain points, Ms. Orth and Diane Dimond, have practically had to go into witness protection following scathing reports on Jackson.)

    In reading this article at least we have a clearer idea of who was doing what to whom and who wanted what from Michael's now-vast estate. The tragic pop star died with shaky finances, but his estate is now worth multi-multi-millions. His children will never want for a thing. (And the rest of his family would like to enjoy similar luxury.)
  • Only recently, this column inadvertently reported that the famous PR woman who had served Marilyn Monroe and Robert Redford and numerous other stars, one Lois Smith, was dead. I called the creator of PMK PR in Massachusetts to apologize and she laughingly assured me, she was alive.

    But now, having suffered a fall, Lois is dead at 85. I just loved this woman and everybody else did as well. If you want to reach her actress daughter, Brooke, or her other children, or her husband Gene Smith, here's the address: 49 Southern Blvd., Newbury, Mass. 01951

    So long, Lois, it was grand to know you.