Smith was born in Fort Worth, Texas. She married her college sweetheart, George Edward Beeman, a World War II bombardier, in 1945 but left him to enroll at the University of Texas, where her papers and memorabilia are kept in the Dolph Briscoe Center. They were divorced two years later.
Smith graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in journalism in 1949, where she wrote for The Daily Texan and The Texas Ranger, then moved to New York where she worked as a typist, a proofreader and a reporter before she broke into the media world as a news producer for Mike Wallace at CBS Radio. She spent five years as a news producer for NBC-TV. She also worked for Allen Funt on Candid Camera.
In the late 1950s Smith worked as a ghostwriter for the popular "Cholly Knickerbocker" gossip column that appeared in the Hearst newspapers. After leaving that column in the early 1960s she went to work for Helen Gurley Brown as the entertainment editor for the American version of Cosmopolitan magazine, later working simultaneously as Sports Illustrated's entertainment editor as well.
Liz Smith, along with Lesley Stahl, Mary Wells Lawrence and Joni Evans, is a founding member of wowOwow.com, a website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.
On February 16, 1976, Smith began a self-titled gossip column for the New York Daily News. During a 1979 newspaper strike, her Daily News editors asked her to appear daily on WNBC-TV's Live at Five, and she stayed with the program for eleven years. Her exposure on television made Smith a popular figure on the Manhattan social scene and provided fodder for her column, which had, by then, been syndicated to nearly seventy newspapers. She won an Emmy for her reporting on Live at Five for WNBC in 1985.
Smith was hired by Fox Broadcasting Company heads Barry Diller and Rupert Murdoch to develop a talk show, with Roger Ailes as her producer.
Smith was once reportedly the highest-paid print journalist in the United States. In 1991, shortly after her exclusive interviews with Ivana Trump at the time of her divorce from real-estate tycoon Donald Trump, Smith moved to Newsday, where she stayed until 1995. Smith then signed on to the Murdoch-owned New York Post. She worked for Fox News for seven years and is now on Fox & Friends. She is the only columnist to ever have her column printed in three major New York City papers at the same time.
In April 2005, Smith left Newsday, over a contract dispute. The official discontinuation of her column came after several months of dispute among Smith, her lawyer David Blasband, and Newsday management. The matter was settled out of court and Smith continued at the New York Post and the Staten Island Advance, where her column still appeared.
On February 24, 2009, the Post announced that the paper would stop running Smith's column effective February 26, 2009, as a cost-cutting measure.
Her first book, The Mother Book was published in 1978.
Her 2000 memoir Natural Blonde made the New York Times Best Seller list.
In 2005, Smith published Dishing: Great Dish – And Dishes – From America's Most Beloved Gossip Columnist.
As of September 11, 2012, she currently writes a blog for the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-smith/, The NewYorkSocialDiary.com, Drudge, MyWay.com and many other Internet sites.
Smith acknowledged her bisexuality (or as she refers to it, "gender neutrality") in her memoirs. But in the December 5, 2000 issue of The Advocate, Smith dug deeper and confided in Editor in Chief, Judy Wieder, that it isn't her nature to be a role model in the LGBT movement. However she admitted: "I think that my relationships with women were always much more emotionally satisfying and comfortable [than with men]. And a lot of my relationships with men were more flirtatious and adversarial. I just never felt I was wife material. I always felt that I was a great girlfriend." She is twice-divorced and currently resides alone in a Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan. She was a good friend of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and helped her to acculturate to New York City society after Richards left Texas.
She has raised millions of dollars for charities, $6 million for Literacy Partners, millions for AmFAR, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, PAL, and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City under Mayor Mike Bloomberg.On reputation building: "You can't build a reputation on what you intend to do."
On weddings: "All weddings, except those with shotguns in evidence, are wonderful."
On decision making: "The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can."
On gossip: "Gossip is just news running ahead of itself in a red satin dress"
On journalism: "Gossip is a luxury we can no longer afford."