Feb 15, 2007
BY BELINDA M. PASCHAL
By the time today’s paper hits the stands, volumes will have been written about the bizarre, untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith. Editorials will have opined, blogs will have blasted, hard-news stories will have reported, and water-cooler conversations will have run from the poignant to the profane.
So, why, you ask, am I giving yet more press to she of the prodigious cleavage and dubious celebrity? Because I’m a writer and for writers, opinions are like crack. Except we’re more than willing to share our stash.
If you’ve read this far, it just goes to show that Smith can draw an audience in death just as she did in life. With no real talent to speak of, Smith nevertheless captivated viewers of her TV show like rubbernecking motorists passing a five-car pileup. Even those who didn’t watch the program know the details. The drugs and the battles with her weight. Her marriage to a 218-year-old billionaire and the subsequent court battles over his fortune. The loss of her 20-year-old son in September, mere days after she gave birth to a daughter, whose uncertain paternity seems to have every potential daddy except Kevin Federline crawling from the woodworks.
Smith, who died Feb. 8, was the object of frequent derision, mocked for her vapidity and tenuous grip on both reality and sobriety. True, she was a glorious mess, a larger-than-life kewpie doll zonked out of her gourd on who-knows-what, a walking punch line who made almost too easy a target. However, methinks the lady was perhaps a wee bit more savvy than she let on. She may not have been a rocket scientist, but she played the fame game well, whether she realized it or not.
Like many of today’s “stars” – for instance, one whose name rhymes with Harris Pilton – Smith was famous for being famous. Though she dabbled in both, she wasn’t an actress or singer in the true sense. A brief, all-but-forgotten-by-the-public modeling career thrust her into the spotlight, but what kept her there? The answer to this question is twofold.
First, Smith’s fame can be attributed to Smith herself. With a seemingly insatiable appetite for attention, she continuously managed to find a way to keep that spotlight aimed in her direction, even if it meant being the butt of the joke. According to her mother, Smith once said, “If my name is out there in the news, good or bad doesn’t matter, good or bad I make money, so I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
While other celebs play cat-and-mouse with the media, Smith virtually served herself up on a platter, proclaiming, “Come and get it!” And the press, public and paparazzi devoured every crumb.
Which brings me to the second, larger reason why Smith continued – and will continue – to make headlines long after her 15 minutes expired. That reason is US. Smith appealed to the Peeping Tom in us all, the spectator who pities the train wreck victim, but is glad it’s not him or her.
Those who denounced her as “tacky,” “cheap” and various epithets not fit to print did so while gawking at the tragedy of her life. In the end, that says more about our culture of voyeurism and fascination with fame than it does about Smith herself.