I watched a television show today about the life and last days of Anna Nicole Smith, whom I’ve always considered to be a very intriguing figure. For all her flash, brashness, and well … trashiness, there was something sweet about Smith, born Vickie Lynn Hogan, that appealed to me.
The show recounted Smith’s rebellious youth, including her stint as a stripper while still in her teens. Smith’s mother, who worked in law enforcement, claims she went to the strip club and told the manager that if her daughter wasn’t out of that joint now, she’d come back every day and make a real pest of herself. The owner complied, but apparently, Smith had already become addicted to the attention and money that being an entertainer brought.
At some point, Smith became obsessed with increasing her bust size and paid for a pair of silicone breast implants that were so large (her mother described them as “three times larger” than Smith’s original size) they caused back problems. According to her family, Smith began taking medication for the back pain, and this was the start of drug use—and abuse—that would later characterize her lifestyle.
The documentary chronicled Smith’s first marriage and birth of son Daniel; her career as a Playboy model and spokesperson for Guess? jeans; her marriage to eighty-nine-year old J. Howard Marshall II (Smith was twenty-six at the time); the long court battle over Marshall’s assets following his death; Smith’s career decline and resurgence; the birth of her daughter Dannielynn; the bizarre confusion regarding the baby’s father; the death of Smith’s son Daniel; Smith’s “commitment” ceremony to her attorney, Howard K. Stern; and Smith’s own death at the age of thirty-nine.
During the show one thought kept running through my mind. “It’s not good to need so much.”
Smith’s life seemed to be typified by excess fueled by too much need—for attention, fame, money, drama, and excitement. According to her mother, who was estranged from Smith during the later years of her life, Smith exaggerated her childhood hardships to create a more interesting “story,” and much of Smith’s behavior could only be described as outrageous, even for a celebrity.
Whatever she was chasing it doesn’t appear she ever found it. During the documentary, Smith’s cousin cried while describing watching Smith on The Anna Nicole Show, a public display of the train wreck that was her life. I almost cried, too.
Too much need and a need for all the wrong things are a hallmark of the human condition. I’ve no intent to harshly criticize Smith, because she was a tragic figure, much like her idol Marilyn Monroe, and I was saddened to hear of her death. There’s no question that many were fascinated with her larger-than-life persona and her dramatic antics. But in the end, as always, too much is never quite enough.