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Paying tribute to publicist Lois Smith

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Friends and family gathered Thursday at the Old South Church in Newburyport to pay tribute to longtime Hollywood publicist Lois Smith. A resident of Plum Island with her husband, Gene, a former editor and writer at The New York Times, Smith helped shape the careers of many star clients, including Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, and Rosie O’Donnell, who attended Friday’s service. The crowd also included MSNBC contributor Mike Barnicle and wife Anne Finucane, former WBZ-TV arts reporter Joyce Kulhawik, and high-powered publicists and Smith protégées Leslee Dart and Mara Buxbaum. Speakers, including Smith’s daughter, former “Grey’s Anatomy” actress Brooke Smith, and granddaughter Brianna Smith, told funny and affecting stories about a sweet woman who put her family first even as she hobnobbed, often in a vivid red trench coat, with Hollywood’s elite. Brianna recalled being taken to see her grandmother’s good friend Liza Minnelli perform, though she had no idea who Minnelli was at the time; of visiting O’Donnell’s stylist and getting, to the chagrin of her mother, “the Winona,” the hairstyle worn by actress Winona Ryder in the movie “Reality Bites”; and of seeing an early screening of Robert Altman’s “Gosford Park” and being asked by the director afterward for her opinion of the movie. Smith, who was 84, died over the weekend after a fall down steps at a bed-and-breakfast in Bryant Pond, Maine.

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