By PJM Media Editor, Catherine Seipp "Anna, Anna, fabulous Anna, Anna Nicole. You're so outrageous..." So went the theme song from E!'s old "The Anna Nicole Show," whose debut a few years ago around the late star quickly made it "the biggest reality series premiere in cable history," as the E! promos regularly reminded the press at the time.
You may have found that little ditty irritatingly impossible to get out of your head. Maybe that’s because it raises the perplexing question: How, exactly, is someone who spends the day wandering around in a soporofic stupor “so outrageous?”
Well, the stupor ended last week, when Smith died of unknown reasons at just 39. But, anyway…running through the street naked, kicking the houseboy down the stairs — that sort of thing takes energy. From the beginning you could see that the famously voluptuous Anna Nicole Smith, who’d gained quite a bit of weight since her early ’90s heyday as a Guess jeans model and Playboy Playmate of the Year, barely had the pep¬† to get out of the car.
Some scenes from that old E! series are still burned into my brain:
* Sugar Pie, Anna’s easily excitable toy poodle, pretends to have sex with a stuffed animal. “She is rather too close to me, and we do have a doggy therapist, and she is on Prozac,” Smith noted in her semi-comatose sounding drawl at the E! press conference. (Just the dog?)
*Anna looks at a snapshot of herself and remarks that she looks “like a porker.”
* Anna, who does not drive and so must be chauffered around town by her live-in assistant Kim Walther, punches her loyal peon way too hard during a game of Punchbug (you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you get to punch the person next to you.) Apparently she’s angry because Walther didn’t believe her claimed sighting of a Beetle during a previous round.
* Later, all is forgiven and Anna sits on Walther’s lap and bounces up and down. “I like to think that Kimmy is one of those bouncy rides,” she explains, “’cause I drop a quarter down her shirt and she bounces me.” Walther, who was working at a spa when she met Anna, has a tattoo of her employer’s face on her left arm.
“She’s a really, really generous person,” Walther explained at the press conference. “I just wanted to pay homage to her because she’s so incredible.”
The show’s regular “cast members,” as they’re called, included Smith’s mortified teenage son Daniel (who also dropped dead not long ago, at age 20;) her lawyer and “best friend” Howard K. Stern (who is possibly also father of Smith’s new baby girl); her live-in personal assistant Kim Walther; and the hyperactive canine Sugar Pie.
“It’s not suppose to be funny. It just is,” went the E! tagline for the show. Smith didn’t seem to mind the mockery. “They probably are [making fun] but just like it says…” she said at the E! press conference, her voice trailing off. “It’s just to get out of my house and get away from all the litigation.”
Smith was married for 14 months to Texas oil baron J. Howard Marshall II, who died in 1995 at age 90. But Marshall’s stepson is appealing the $88 million the courts awarded her and at the time she allowed the E! cameras in, she hadn’t received any of that money. She did get half of Marshall’s ashes, which she kept in a place of honor on her bedroom TV set.
The tactless question was raised as to why Smith, who hadn’t modeled in years and is famous basically for having been famous, even needed a live-in assistant.
“She needs a full-time assistant just for mail alone,” lawyer Stern jumped in loyally. “She needs five assistants. Her life is a pretty crazy life.”
The decision to produce a reality series around the former Playmate was “a no-brainer,” for E!¬† The cable station has run the 1997 E! “True Hollywood Story” about Smith around 50 times over one past five-year period, and every time it doubled or tripled the time-previous period performance.
As it happens, Anna disliked that 1997 documentary. But then the cable network executives took her out to lunch and she got over it.
“People will see me,” she said of the new series, “and see that maybe I have a little talent. They’ll start to take me seriously as an actress.”
Unlikely then, impossible now. What was on display in “The Anna Nicole Show” — both the cable channel series and the sad, true life, was not acting talent but a bloated live-action cartoon of a dumb blonde past her prime. Lawyer Howard K. Stern labored mightily to set her up with straight lines.
“Hey, some kids asked if we were doing a porno,” he says helpfully on-camera at one point, as he and Smith go house hunting with a leasing agent.
“Yeah, two girls, seven guys and a dog,” responds Smith. “Whoo-hoo! Some porno.” Gracie Allen-style cute repartee, this isn’t.
On the other hand, there are occasional hints that high-school dropout Anna may not be quite as dumb as all that.
“You know those bumperstickers where they have ‘Shit happens and then you die?’ she mused once on camera, while watching the news. “They should have, ‘Shit happens and then you live.’ ‘Cause that’s really the truth of it.”
Yes. Except, of course, once the cameras really stop rolling.
PajamasMedia Special Correspondent CATHERINE SEIPP writes the weekly “From the Left Coast” column for National Review Online, a monthly column for Independent Women’s Forum and freelances other places, such as the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal op-ed pages. She previously wrote columns for: Buzz, Mediaweek, UPI, New York Press and Salon. Her work has also appeared in Reason, Penthouse, TV Guide, the National Post and Forbes.