"Paw Paw & Lady Love"
Even in death, Anna Nicole Smith is back in the spotlight as Supreme Courtruling expected soon
She was as troubled as she was beautiful, with fame and (sometimes, maybe) fortune to boot. For all the claiming of classy superstar Beyoncé as Houston's golden daughter, we can't forget that Vickie Lynn Hogan — better known as Anna Nicole Smith — was a Houston girl too, just dying to escape.
In January, just under four years after her death, the Supreme Court for the second time heard arguments relating to whether Smith's estate would get a share in her late husband's fortune. A month later an opera about her life premiered at the Royal Opera House in London. And now New York magazine has laid out the tragic story of her life and death in "Paw Paw & Lady Love."
Why the sudden interest again? New York writer Dan. P. Lee writes:
Sometime this month, and as soon as this week, the [supreme] court will issue its final decision in the case. It will be, at long last, the definitive adjudication of one of the most voluminous and colorful cases in the history of American jurisprudence. But for those whose lives constituted the case's facts, the decision will mean less than nothing. For within one year of that morning in 2006 [when the case was first heard at the Supreme Court] all of them would be gone."
A mother and wife by 16, an "almost illiterate" Smith dropped out of her freshman year of high school. Born brunette and boyish, she transformed herself into a buxom blonde, a Marilyn Monroe for the Pamela Anderson age. Already addicted to pills, Smith was stripping in the afternoons at Gigi's off of 34th Street and Northwest Highway when the wheelchair-bound Marshall saw her and offered to change her life.
But despite the gifts and cash that Marshall showered on her, it was another old man that really changed her life — Hugh Hefner. The same month Smith met Marshall, she also responded to an ad to do test shoots for Playboy, which led to a pictorial, a centerfold, and eventually Playmate of the Year in 1993.
It was when her modeling took off that Vickie became Anna, posing as the face of Guess? and H&M. Shot often in black and white, styled in Veronica Lake curls and diamonds and dressed (or not) and satin gowns, Smith exuded a vintage glamor that belied her white trash roots.
She married Marshall in Houston in 1994, 14 months before he died, then caught a flight immediately afterwards for a photo shoot. As a wife she left much to be desired, with her frequent abscences, infidelities, carelessness about his health and desire not to share a bed with an old man who was liable to pee in it.
It was after his death, when the pill problem became even more apparent, and the legal battle for his money had just begun, and her weight had ballooned up that she became the Anna Nicole of tabloid notoriety, first in her exploitative E! reality show and later through her dramatic weight loss.
When the birth of her daughter was followed by the death of her son, it seemed clear that Anna's soap opera life was in it's third act, and it was more sad than surprising when she was found dead of a massive overdose just six months later.
The account in New York is nothing new, but it remains endlessly fascinating as it captures the desperate, damaged, truly All-American story of Anna Nicole at her best — and worst.