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The only thing weirder than Anna Nicole Smith dropping dead at the age of 39 is how her death somehow inspired several days of wall-to-wall news coverage. This is a woman who by most accounts was “famous for being famous.” At the end of the day, “famous for being famous” is a nice way of saying no one’s really sure why we knew who she was.
By my count, Anna Nicole Smith’s five biggest accomplishments were as follows:
1. She took off her clothes for Playboy—which on the one hand makes her special, and on the other makes her no more special than pro wrestler Chyna.
2. She married an impossibly wealthy oil tycoon, who died at the age of 409 and left her his fortune without really leaving it to her.
3. She had a speaking part in one of the Naked Gun movies.
4. She got fat.
5. She got unfat, sold TrimSpa, then died.
She also starred in a reality show somewhere in there, which was about as far removed from the concept of reality as any reality show has ever been. Mostly, the show just consisted of Anna Nicole stomping along from room to room, slurring her speech and whining while she talked to her lawyer and looked like Miss Piggy.
Personally, I never found this woman the least bit interesting. Honestly, I never believed anyone else found her interesting, either. Ironically, I think the most interesting thing she ever did was die.
Which makes the endless news coverage of her death all the more puzzling.
Yes, Anna Nicole was embroiled in a number of interesting controversies. There’s the still unsettled billion-dollar dispute between her estate and the heirs to that rich oil guy. Or the mysterious death of her 20-year-old son five months ago. Or the fact that no one knows who fathered her newborn—and now motherless—child.
All the same, as interesting as these things may be, it’s still downright bizarre that we even know about this stuff in the first place. Here was a woman who was famous for just being famous. Did people really like her so much that her death deserves so much news coverage? Why? She never did anything. People are calling her the modern day Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe was an actress. She married Joe DiMaggio. Anna Nicole married a skeleton and then just sort of existed. How do they even compare?
I don’t mean to spit on the dead. I realize once somebody dies you’re supposed to talk about them like they were the greatest person who ever lived. Gerald Ford was somewhere between William Henry Harrison and Chester A. Arthur on the list of fondly remembered presidents; then he died, and Fox News threw him a three-week funeral. In the case of Anna Nicole, I’m just surprised we have anything to remember her fondly for to begin with. We’re talking about how interesting she was, yet her whole claim to fame was that she never did anything interesting. She was famous because she was famous. She showed up one day, and for the next few years she was there.
Maybe the reason we find Anna Nicole’s death so intriguing is because, now that she’s dead, we realize how strange it was she was ever alive. Historians are going to look back on all the press her death has been getting, and they’re gonna conclude that this woman must have done something truly significant. They won’t know what it was, and won’t have the evidence to prove that it ever happened. They’ll just know that it must have been something. Which is really something else.