The stranger-than-fiction tale of Anna Nicole Smith starts in a small Texas town where Vickie Lynn Hogan was born. At 15, she dropped out of school to work in a fried chicken restaurant, and it looked as if she’d be following the sad script of so many small-town girls: Early marriage, endless pregnancies, and slow descent into disappointed middle-age.
But there was something different about Vickie Lynn Hogan. She wanted to be 50s bombshell Marilyn Monroe, and a series of seemingly impossible events set her on the road to stardom.
The idea of the voluptuous Playmate in the shriveled arms of an octagenarian struck a deadly blow to the sensual image of Anna Nicole Smith, sex bomb and pin-up
VICKIE LYNN HOGAN
At 17, Vickie Lynn Hogan married the short-order cook at the restaurant she worked in, Billy Smith, and gave birth to her son Daniel, at 18. So far, her story was running true to form. Even her background, which would kindly be described as “trailer trash,” was the worst of clichés.
She was the daughter of a 16-year-old single mother, Virgie Mae Hogan, whose own family broke up after her father was arrested for raping her 10-year-old sister. But Vickie Lynn Hogan was determined to escape her inheritance of poverty and misery, and she did.
Hogan left her son Daniel with her mother, dumped her short-order cook husband, and headed for the bright lights of Houston. The mousy brunette became a platinum blonde, the fried-chicken waitress became an exotic dancer, and she was on her way.
THE STRIPPER AND THE BILLIONAIRE
The young woman who would become Anna Nicole Smith was working with a purpose. She was saving up for breast implants, and it was while dancing at a Houston club that she met Texas oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall. Marshall showered her with gifts and asked her to marry him, but Hogan had another future in mind for herself.
Once she had her breast augmentation surgery, Hogan took nude photographs of herself and sent them to Hugh Hefner at the Playboy mansion. She was featured in the famous adult magazine, and her career was launched.
THE WORLD AT HER FEET
In an incredible coup, the newly-named Anna Nicole Smith made the transition from centerfold to the prestigious world of fashion. She was selected to be Guess Jean’s new face, replacing the brand’s previous ambassador, supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
In 1993, Smith was named “Playmate of the Year,” and finally got to follow in Monroe’s footsteps into movies. She won a small role in Leslie Nielsen’s comedy “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” and another small part saw her co-starring with Academy Award winners Paul Newman and Tim Robbins in the “The Hudsucker Proxy.”
THE PLAYMATE AND THE BILLIONAIRE
Just when it seemed that Smith was on the verge of true stardom, she took a step that was to skew her entire life. In a bizarre move, Smith married Marshall, 63 years her senior, and patently in poor health. The wedding photos were the punch line of a crass joke: A beautiful 26-year-old bride, and an 89-year-old bridegroom with nothing to recommend him but his billions.
In truth, Smith only agreed to marry Marshall once she had established herself as a celebrity in her own right, earning her own way as a Playmate and as a fashion model. Four years after he first asked her, Smith and Marshall tied the knot.
The marriage was front-page news all over the world, and Smith’s image was significantly tarnished. The idea of the voluptuous Playmate in the shriveled arms of an octagenarian struck a deadly blow to the sensual image of Anna Nicole Smith, sex bomb and pin-up. Smith said:
“I don’t care what people think. We’re in love, and that’s it. . . It just so happens that I get turned on by liver spots.”
THE MERRY WIDOW
Thirteen months after their marriage, in August 1995, Marshall passed away. He was 90, and his widow was just 27. Unfortunately for Smith, Marshall, who had promised her half his estate, never did change his will or set up a trust fund for her benefit, and her son Daniel’s. If Smith wanted her share, she’d have to fight for it.
For the next 16 years, Smith and her estate would be embroiled in a vicious and very public fight with Marshall’s heirs over the money, of which the Playmate laid claim to over $400 million. Decisions and appeals would favor one side then the other, but in 2011, the case was finally resolved. Anna Nicole Smith’s estate was awarded no part of Marshall’s vast fortune.
Over the next few years, life became complicated for Smith. One of her breast implants ruptured and tore one of her nipples. As a consequence, she suffered indescribable pain for which she was prescribed painkillers.
Her acting career foundered, but she was catnip to the tabloids and gossip columns, so she was offered her own reality show, “The Anna Nicole Show.”
The show gave viewers a glimpse into Smith’s odd and highly dysfunctional life, and her relationship with her son Daniel, and boyfriend/lawyer Howard Stern.
The show started with the highest ratings for a cable reality show, but the raw reality of Smith’s life was too much for audiences, and the show was canceled a year later, in 2003.
Smith gained weight, lost weight, and secretly started dating photographer Larry Birkhead. Her life continued to be fodder for headlines, and then in 2006, Smith announced that she was pregnant with her second child. The baby was born in the Bahamas on September 7, 2006, but the joy of the moment would be tainted by unthinkable tragedy.
BIRTH AND DEATH
Smith’s 20-year-old son Daniel flew to the Bahamas to meet his baby sister and visited his mother at the hospital. Their reunion was to be all too brief. On the morning of September 10, Smith woke to find her son dead in the chair in her hospital room from an overdose.
An autopsy would reveal the young man’s cause of death to be related to methadone and two antidepressants. Smith was devastated. She would share her pain in an interview and reveal that she would rather have been the one to die.
GOODBYE VICKIE LYNN HOGAN
Five months after her son’s death, Smith was found unresponsive in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. Attempts were made to revive her but to no avail. Smith, 39, followed in the steps of her icon Marilyn Monroe and died alone of an overdose.
She left a 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, whom she had claimed was Howard Stern’s child. Former lover Larry Birkhead contested paternity and was proved to be the father by DNA tests.
Dannielynn, now 12, has been raised by her father, and is eerily like her deceased mother, with all her delicate beauty. Birkhead confessed that he had told his daughter all about Smith –the good and the bad — and above all, how much her mother loved her and her brother.
Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter lives a quiet life with her father in rural Kentucky, far from the bright lights and glamor her mother so craved.