Living and Dying in the Limelight

    Anna Nicole poses with a painting of movie icon Marilyn Monroe.

(photo courtesy of:  Melissa Byrum)

    Melissa Byrum

    From Playboy centerfold to high-viz jeans supermodel, to Anna Nicole Smith’s marriage with a tycoon 63 years her senior and legal battles for years following his death, hers was a made-for-TV tragedy with all the trappings. The voluptuous blonde’s good looks were too reminiscent of bygone-era bombshells for Hollywood to offer her serious roles that would transcend typecasting. While there were the cinematic flops, she had modest success with a few ‘90s movies and mixed results with assorted TV shows. As unfortunate missteps increasingly became salacious grist for gossip columns, cable TV seized the opportunity and gave her a nighttime show to chronicle the labyrinthine trials and tribulations of her dysfunctional day-to-day life. For one season, it got the highest ratings of any reality program.

    When the network didn’t renew her contract after two years, other personal dramas played out elsewhere in the media. The public witnessed Anna Nicole’s over-medicated appearance on a national award show, as well as the mystery surrounding the paternity of her daughter and sudden death of her 20-year-old son. Never-ending court battles over the estate of her former husband and the custody of her daughter also ensued. Worse for the unrelenting wear, an overdose would end her short, tragic life.

    Tune in to the National Geographic Channel for the three-night event, “The 90s: The Last Great Decade? this Sunday, July 6 at 9/8c.

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