Friday, February 09, 2007

Pop Culture Icon Anna Nicole Smith Dead At 39

Following her untimely demise at the age of 39, as the body of Anna Nicole Smith was undergoing an autopsy in the office of the Broward County Medical Examiner, the scene played out as if it belonged in a Fellini movie. A line of TV satellite trucks were positioned outside of the medical examiners office while reporters waited like a pack of ravenous wolves for any news that could be immediately transmitted back to the various news shows. But most people witnessing this prime example of the intense public interest in Smith's death, cast a jaundiced eye toward the bizarre proceedings. Jacques Gill,a 73 year old retiree from Quebec summed it up with the succinct comment," Well, that's America."

You're right on that count, Jacques. That most definitely is America. We love our celebrities. We love to cheer them on when they're on top, but we also get a thrill out of kicking them in the teeth when they're down. It's a modern day spin on the Roman gladiator spectacle with our beloved celebrities in the arena while we the public view their meteoric successes and plane crashing failures with equally voyeuristic fascination.

And so it was with Anna Nicole Smith. To be blunt, I never considered her an actress; she was mainly a celebrity. Although Smith aspired to be the "NEW" Marilyn Monroe, she only managed to achieve the dubious honor of being a pale imitation. You see, Marilyn Monroe could act(check out films like NIAGRA,BUS STOP or THE MISFITS and see for yourself) while Smith specialized in playing the sexy,ditsy blonde in every film she appeared in. And all you have to do is check out her skimpy film credits on IMDb to see how minuscule her career as an actress was. Smith's specialty was just being herself on The E Channel, which required no real acting chops. Her crowning achievement was The Anna Nicole Smith Show, playing herself naturally, which from the previews looked to be a real snoozefest. Unless of course,you're a fan of hers; then the show was an hour well spent.

When Smith first appeared on the landscape, she was lionized for her beautiful face and buxom figure; even after it was discovered her bustline was the result of silicone implants as opposed to Mother Nature as she claimed at the time. When she married 89 year old millionaire J. Howard Marshall, the under the hairdryer set licked their chops in salacious glee. There was a seemingly unending supply of fodder for the tabloid journalists,to be sure.

Then, Smith gained so much weight she resembled a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Float and people shook their heads in disbelief and muttered to themselves as they stood in line at the grocery store check out lane, " How could she let herself go like that?" After her association with Trim Spa and Smith lost all of the weight(and then some), her adoring fans gushed about how wonderful she looked.The public either adored her, envied her, reviled her or made her the object of their pity. It's all part and parcel of living in the glaring spotlight; the price one must pay to be a cultural icon.

Now, Anna Nicole Smith has died, leaving behind an infant daughter, Dannielynn, who will never get to know the kind of person her mother was except for Smith's public persona. Dannielynn will see her mother on The Howard Stern Show in a drugged stupor and slurring her words. She'll watch a music awards show where once again Smith appeared on stage doped up and almost incoherent. She'll thumb through many magazines to see her late mother's photographic image. But that's all Dannilynn will ever have. That and the reminiscences of family members.

In the end,Anna Nicole Smith left the world as an iconic legacy to be remembered for years to come.The actual person may have been clouded by prescription drugs, self indulgence, self destructive behavior, and an unabashed love of publicity. However, her pop culture stature remains intact. Smith's mortal self has shuffled off this mortal coil, but the image she presented to the world stands firm as a reminder of her existence.



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