I have been on the road the last couple of days so I have had the chance to think about the tumultuous life of Anna Nicole Smith. Besides, there's only so much ESPN Radio that even I can listen to.
I described her earlier on in this space as "a completely useless woman" and I will not much back off from that characterization. However, upon reflection, I felt that when this uniquely American story is looked upon in light of some of her contemporaries in the world of celebrity, the life of Anna Nicole can at least be described as benign. Not everybody in what passes for her peer group can make that claim.
Where to begin? So much of this woman's life defies description. So let's just jump right in.
First of all, what of her marriage to the late billionaire J. Howard Marshall who became obsessed with her after seeing her perform at a Houston strip club? He was in his eighties when they married. When he died he left her approximately 500 million dollars in his will, a devise that has been the subject of hotly contested litigation in State and Federal Court. As you might imagine, J. Howard Marshall's son portrayed her as an abject gold-digger which she has always denied.
Was she a gold-digger? Of course she was. It is laughable to believe that Anna Nicole could be attracted to an octogenarian that wasn't loaded. However, the Federal Judge that presided over the portion of this Gordian Knot that wound up over before him viewed the relationship charitably if not entirely sympathetically.
"[T]heir lives were intertwined in need, and driven by greed and lust." wrote United States District Judge David Carter in the case of Marshall vs. Marshall. " She cherished the protection and security he afforded her and the lavish gifts that he gave to her in order to win over her affection. J. Howard used his money to get Vickie (Anna Nicole used her legal name of Vickie in the litigation) to fall in love with him, and in her own way, Vickie loved J. Howard."
In her own way Vickie loved J. Howard. Not exactly Robin Givens and Mike Tyson is it?
Speaking of litigation, this is the first time in the history of family law that 3 different guys have stepped up and admitted paternity. Of course, when parenthood comes with the potential of playing half a billion dollars for the use and benefit of Anna Nicole's infant daughter
Dannielynn, the woods may soon be full of putative babydaddies before it is over.
Anna Nicole was as crude and vulgar as American junk culture itself, her blond mane and what has been referred to as a "pneumatic" figure propelling her to fame and fortune far beyond what may reasonably be expected out of a high school dropout from Mexia, Texas. Vulgar she was, but her vulgarity was a caricature based on Marilyn Monroe whom she sought to emulate. There were no videos of her having sex floating around on the Internet, claims that cannot be made by her equally useless counterparts Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson. And unlike the even trashier Britney Spears, Anna Nicole was usually fully, if immodestly, clothed when she went out on the town.
Anna Nicole never assaulted anybody. Kobe Bryant can't say that. O. J. Simpson can say it but nobody with a half a grain of common sense could possibly believe it. She had her troubles with booze and drugs. But, unlike Courtney Love, nobody ever accused Anna Nicole of shooting heroin during a pregnancy.
Finally, Anna Nicole Smith deserves some measure of sympathy for no other reason than the tragic circumstances surrounding her untimely demise. I don't mean to imply that her passing leaves much of a void in world. Anna Nicole will be with us as long as there are drag queens. But anytime a mother leaves behind her an infant, it may fairly be considered tragic.
Further, her 20 year old son Daniel died of a drug overdose 3 days after the birth of his half-sister. While the cause of her death has yet to be determined some suspect that Anna Nicole met the same fate. She was said to be beyond despair over the loss of her son. Who knows? Anna Nicole was not particularly stable under laboratory conditions. Combine a history of drug abuse with grief and throw in some post-partum depression on the side and you have a surefire prescription for disaster.
Anna Nicole Smith's life was an absolute train wreck. She died a caricature of herself as if that is possible. She leaves behind a potentially limitless estate and a generation of unresolved litigation.
But as completely useless though she was, she was not the worst of her kind. She was benign. That's not much of an epitaph, but that's a better claim than Paris Hilton can make.