Goodbye, Vickie Lynn.
"There are no second acts in American lives," ⎯ F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Of course, we all know that Anna Nicole Smith had several acts in her tempestuous life before her final curtain fell, and she lived out several genres as well, from soft-porn to farce to reality TV to courtroom drama to tragedy. She was born into a cliché of poverty and a broken home; she had nothing but her good looks, a voluptuous figure and a fervent will to be somebody; she lived hard; and she died as a cliché of American excess. She is the only celebrity I know of whose life has traversed the sex soaked grottos of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion to the hallowed halls of the United States Supreme Court. She was absolutely one of a kind in life though not so unique in death in that she most likely shared the same fate as her idol Marilyn Monroe among other celebrities who lived fast and died young.
But you already know this.
What you may not know is that Anna Nicole Smith fancied herself a painter too. She enjoyed painting so much that she actually had a gallery show to publicly display her works and, if I recall, to raise money for charity with the proceeds.
That’s the night I met her. Along with the gallery showing, the crew from The Anna Nicole Show was there to document all the festivities (The Anna Nicole Show, Season 2, Episode 9: “Paint & Pain”). Sure, I’ll admit. I wanted to join in on the train wreck that was Anna Nicole Smith, but other than an obviously staged brouhaha involving the show’s antagonist, Bobby Trendy, there was no drama or nastiness to be seen. It was like any other gallery showing I’ve attended. And Anna Nicole, seemingly dolled up for the prom in her debutante updo and ornate white satin dress, even gave a pleasant, little speech and thanked the crowd for coming and hoped that everyone liked her paintings.
It would've been very easy to skewer Anna Nicole’s pieces, but what kept me in check was the charm of the paintings. They were by no stretch of the imagination masterpieces or were they even competent, but they were really cute, childlike. Even innocent. It was less a real gallery showing than a fourth grader’s open house. Even her late son Daniel was by her side. It was really quite sweet.
When I got the chance to chat her up, I told her that I’ve been following her career since she replaced Claudia Schiffer as the Guess? model. I made a little champagne toast to her and her paintings. I also told her that my favorite piece was the monkey painting and if I had enough money I would’ve purchased it. She was surprisingly soft-spoken and gracious, saying “thank you” and “I’m glad you like my paintings.”
This is the only event involving Anna Nicole of which I have a personal account. It just so happens to be totally incongruous with what I’ve seen and read about her in the media. I am by no means disputing her wild and reckless life, however, the innocence of that evening really made an impact on me.
As with any larger than life and tragic figure, Anna Nicole’s death and its aftermath has taken on a life of its own. In effect, the ugly events that will inevitably play out after her death is yet another act⎯an act that F. Scott Fitzgerald surely would have missed entirely.
In an intensely scrutinized life and death saturated with pain, anguish, greed, sleaze and intoxication, that one moment of innocence I witnessed should’ve been more valuable to Anna Nicole than her bitterly pursued, multi-million dollar inheritance from her late husband and oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall. Perhaps what she needed more of was that innocence. Maybe that might’ve saved her life. She was born with nothing. She eventually got more than she ever dreamed possible. And then it suddenly all came crashing down around her.
I, we, finally got that train wreck we’ve all been waiting for.
Anna Nicole Smith sitting next to her son Daniel.
Vickie Lynn Marshall aka Anna Nicole Smith (November 28, 1967 – February 8, 2007)