Vickie Lynn Marshall, better known as Anna Nicole Smith, was 39 when she died of an alleged overdose. She started her career as a playboy centerfold and wanted to be the next Marylin Monroe. The years preceding her death were filled with tumultuous affairs and shocking events. But not only her last years. Anna’s life was filled with gossip. Anna Nicole Smith was one of the first reality-celebrities, someone most famous for her appearance in the entertainment media. Smith wasn’t just in Entertainment Weekly, she was entertainment, weekly.
After she married an elderly oil baron (who she met in the strip-club she worked at) and the legal hassle following his death about his huge estate, she was propelled into the weeklies. She never left. Or at least, never for long. Perhaps one of the first large-bosomed women to enter the mainstream, Anna Nicole was Pamela Anderson before Pamela was. She was also a gentle person, a caring mother and a flopped movie star, but mostly, she was an open book for the media. She never managed to be the next Marilyn Monroe, simply because there’s only one Marilyn. But her inability to handle the strange world of show business changed her ambitions. Anna was known to blurt out inappropriate comments and emotions in public. CNN’s headlines for her obituary ironically ran, ‘Reality TV Star Anna Nicole Smith dies at 39’.
Her son’s death, two days after the birth of her new childher problems with her weight, her affairs – everybody knew about it. In the culture of gossip entertainment, Smith belonged in the ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ category. Although her star quality cannot be discounted, attention has mostly focused on her private life. She was the stuff biographers and journalists crave: a beautiful woman and a crazy story. A story worthy of a book. The first, Great Big Beautiful Doll: The Anna Nicole Smith Story by Eric Redding, an ex boyfriend and colleague, contains detailed information on her life before 1990, and little thereafter, which makes it the least interesting. Train Wreck: The Life and Death of Anna Nicole Smith by her sister, Donna Hogan and Emmy-award winning journalist Rita Cosby’s book, Blonde Ambition: The Untold Story Behind Anna Nicole Smith’s Death have all the ingredients of Smith’s fascinating story: The story of a woman in public trouble.
If this sounds like a cynical view of the life and death of a much loved person, it is. But only because someone transcends into something more than a person if her image is everywhere. There’s a deep sadness to the lack of integrity and fortune that befell Smith, who probably deserved better. In the land of court-TV and television tears, Anna was queen. There might never be someone like her again.