Not since Princess Diana, have the tabloids been blessed with such a sensational celebrity death.
Anna Nicole Smith died mysteriously February 8 in a Florida hotel room.
In the short time since her death, the 39-year-old former Playboy model’s gorgeous visage, with its frame of wild platinum blonde hair, has been the subject of some gruesome stories on newsstands, on television and on the internet.
There’s much speculation on her possible final moments, not to mention the controversy over her infant daughter and multiple paternity suits.
The media coverage of Smith is almost gleeful in its extent. It is pervasive and it leaves nothing to the imagination.
Every embarrassing, trashy faux pas in this small-town girl’s life — including those perpetrated on the night of her death — have been reported, photographed, and sold to an eager public.
This troubled, aging star was Playboy’s Playmate of the Year in 1993 and a model for Guess?
When she gained weight, she wore it with a smile on her face and hid the scarlet shame of being a fat sex kitten with her party girl image.
The world loved the contradiction between her low-class antics, including doing an interview while visibly stoned on Larry King Live, and her beauty.
But although it shook its head and it turned up its nose, the world never stopped watching.
The Anna Nicole Show, the short-lived reality TV show in which she acted like a dumb, overeating child and struggled with booze and drugs, was a hit and developed cult status even before her death.
The most exciting thing about the freak show that was Anna Nicole was Smith’s impending annihilation.
Now she’s finally dead, her tragic beauty immortalized by the millions of pictures of the former centerfold and in an infant daughter swaddled in Hollywood-style controversy. And the world can fully own her.
Born Vickie Lynn Marshall in Houston, Texas, on November 28, 1967, Smith was raised by a mother who would marry five times.
Smith dropped out of school after Grade 8, got married at 17 and had a baby. She worked at Wal-Mart and waitressed at Red Lobster to support her child after separating from her husband of two years before she got work as a topless dancer.
At 25, Smith entered a Playboy photo contest that led Hugh Heffner to select her for his magazine’s cover in 1992.
The following year, she married 89-year-old oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, whom she met while stripping.
Marshall died 13 months later worth US$1.6 billion, but a lawsuit by his son would preven Smith from ever seeing the money.
Smith had a film career starring in movies like The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, but in last few years, after The Anna Nicole Show, she was only ever cast as herself.
Her latest gig was as a TrimSpa spokeswoman, a diet center that she claimed helped her lose 60 pounds.
Smith got greater attention for her private life, mostly tragic.
Her 20-year-old son died in September, 2006, and the tabloids say she was depressed (no shit!) and possibly suicidal over it.
However, in death Anna Nicole Smith is the biggest news out there.
The day she died, she trumped the war in Iraq and everything else in the world for hours on end on CNN, not to mention other televison news stations.
The day of her death, the domain name thestoryofannanicolesmith.com sold for US$3,500.
She is big business on e-Bay, where an Anna Nicole bobblehead doll sold for $300, and there is already debate about whether she ‘marketed’ herself properly in terms of her lasting power as a celebrity now that she’s gone.
It will be sad if she is forgotten, as she probably will be. Her idol was Marilyn Monroe.
And although the two pinups died under very similar circumstances (Monroe was 36), unfortunately for Smith, these days women like her and Monroe are a dime a dozen.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.