The death of Donald F. Smith is particularly saddening personally and as a loss to the world of cabaret. He was a one-man whirlwind in his dedication to keeping the art of cabaret alive in New York City and elsewhere.
Donald started the Mabel Mercer Foundation to celebrate and perpetuate the memory of the great singer. Leading the Foundation, he also in its name started the annual New York Cabaret Convention, an illustrious event at which established artists and newcomers alike gather to present gala evenings of entertainment. He brought similar conventions to Chicago, Philadelphia, Palm Springs and even London and presided over them with wit and enthusiasm.
It was Smith who was responsible for getting the famed Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel re-opened in 1980. He also promoted the careers of leading artists who appeared there. With many others, Smith was saddened at the recent announced closing of the Oak Room by the Marriott Hotel management.
There is a long list of other cabaret achievements in Smith’s career. I can’t think of a more prolific spokesperson for this art form.
Beyond that, Donald was a gracious gentleman about town, and I enjoyed seeing him at various cabaret opening nights. We always had pleasant conversations, and he could be clever and observant in commenting on various artists and shows. I will miss him so very much. I’ll also miss the appreciative notes he would send when I wrote something that pleased him, as was the case when I protested the crass closing of the Oak Room.
I wish I could get such a note from him now.