February 8, 2007
Anna Nicole Smith Dies at 39
By MARGALIT FOX
Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy centerfold, actress and television personality who was famous for being rich (sporadically); litigious (chronically); and, above all, for being famous, died today after collapsing at a hotel in Florida. She was 39.
Chief Charlie Tiger of the Seminole, Fla. said at a news conference this afternoon that Ms. Smith collapsed in a room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel. He that Ms. Smith’s personal nurse called the hotel operator, who then called 911. A bodyguard administered C.P.R., Chief Tiger said, before paramedics arrived at the the scene and rushed her to a hospital, where she died before 3 p.m.
Edwina Johnson, chief investigator for the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, told The Associated Press that the cause of death was under investigation and that an autopsy would be done on Friday.
The product of a hardscrabble Texas girlhood, Ms. Smith, at least in her mature years, was obtrusively voluptuous and almost preternaturally blonde, attributes that would stand her in extremely good stead. A ninth-grade dropout, she rose quickly from life as a small-town wife and mother to a highly visible, and sparsely clad, career as a topless dancer, pinup, model, film actress, reality-show star, clothing “designer,” product endorser, and, briefly but most notably, wife of a tycoon nearly four times her age, a marriage that would eventually propel her to the United States Supreme Court.
For writers of gossip columns and supermarket tabloids, Ms. Smith’s life provided unremitting fodder. She often found herself in court, as either the complainant or the defendant in high-profile suits. She publicly battled bankruptcy, drug addiction and wild fluctuations in her weight. And she was much in the headlines last fall when, in a three-day period, her second child was born and her first died abruptly.
Ms. Smith was widely known to television viewers as the star of “The Anna Nicole Show,” broadcast on the E! network from 2002 to 2004. The show chronicled the minutiae of its heroine’s daily life, including visiting her dentist and giving Prozac to her dog. Ms. Smith was also familiar as a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a diet supplement.
She appeared in several movies, among them “The Hudsucker Proxy” (1994) and “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994). Her other cinematic credits include “Playboy Video Playmate Calendar” (1993); and “Playboy’s 50th Anniversary Celebration” (2003).
Ms. Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on Nov. 28, 1967, in Mexia, Tex. Her parents divorced when she was an infant, and her mother, Virgie, a police officer, reared her alone. When she was still a teenager, she married Billy Smith, a 16-year-old fry cook who specialized in chicken. Their son, Daniel, was born in 1986; the couple divorced the next year.
Ms. Smith found work as a waitress, later becoming a topless dancer in Houston. After submitting photos to Playboy, she appeared on the cover of the magazine’s March 1992 issue. In 1993, she was named Playmate of the Year.
In 1994, Ms. Smith married J. Howard Marshall II, a Texas oil billionaire whom she had met in the course of her dancing career. She was 26, he 89. Married life was a bounteous stream of clothes and jewelry, but also, just possibly, deep intellectual discourse: Mr. Marshall was a former professor of trusts and estates at Yale Law School .
In 1995, after 14 months of marriage, Mr. Marshall died, setting off a contrapuntal series of legal victories and reversals, which for Ms. Smith included these: fighting Mr. Marshall’s son E. Pierce Marshall for the right to inherit his father’s estate; being awarded $474 million in federal court; having the award reduced to just under $89 million; having it overturned altogether; and appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
In May of last year, the justices ruled that the dispute properly belonged in federal court, giving Ms. Smith another chance to collect millions once her case was heard again. (The case was still pending at the time of her death.) Mr. Marshall’s son, E. Pierce, died in June 2006, after a brief illness.
On Sept. 7, 2006, Ms. Smith gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn. On Sept. 10, Daniel, Ms. Smith’s son from her first marriage, died suddenly in the Bahamas. A medical examiner hired by the family found that the death was the accidental result of the interaction of methadone with antidepressants.
Besides her daughter, Dannielynn, Ms. Smith is survived by her companion, Howard K. Stern, a lawyer who she said publicly was the child’s father. (Last fall Larry Birkhead, a former boyfriend of Ms. Smith, filed suit, claiming he had fathered Dannielynn.) Information on other survivors could not immediately be confirmed.
In an interview with Los Angeles magazine in 1994, Ms. Smith was asked whether her rapid success troubled her in any way.
“Oh, no, I like it,” she said. “I love the paparazzi. They take pictures, and I just smile away. I’ve always liked attention. I didn’t get it very much growing up, and I always wanted to be, you know, noticed.”