The Cult of Performer Anna Nicole Smith in Skyscraper (1996) Part One

*contains spoilers

The tragic life of actress and model Anna Nicole Smith (1967-2007 multiple drug overdose) is probably not meant to be celebrated but this cult personality made one movie which encapsulates herself and Marilyn Monroe on steroids and I mean low budget steroids. That film is the still disappointing Skyscraper (1996).

Smith only made a few movies in her lifetime before her premature death. Her life was troubled by multiple addictions including alcohol, drugs, fast food and sex. Taking extracts from Anna Nicole’s biography, I will review a life and career on the big and small screen.

Performer/actress/model Anna Nicole Smith
Anna NIcole with her assets

When we think of Anna Nicole, we think of her beauty and first and foremost her big breasts, and then we think of how she turned off friends and relatives, with her disregard for her own safety and that of her son… and also the drinking, the drug abuse and reckless sex. It was all because of fame and too much money which had the same effect on busty blondes Marilyn Monroe (1926-62 drug overdose) and Jayne Mansfield (1933-67) whose careers kind of had the same trajectory.

It is said in the book that Anna Nicole naturally sprung from Houston in Texas because of her overboard flamboyance, outrageous ambition and unbounded self-indulgence – it was quintessentially Texas where she was born on 28 November 1967 as Vickie Lynn Hogan. Her father was a felon and alleged rapist who left her mother after just over a year. There were rumours that her mother wasn’t her mother at all and that her aunt was her real mother.

Anyway, Anna Nicole went to elementary and intermediate school in Houston before moving to Mexia to go to high school. Her aunt Kay Beall said: “She used to come over and stay with me and clean my house for five dollars of my food stamps to let her go down to the store to buy some candy. She was dirt poor and there were tales she took toilet paper from the local restaurant.

Anna NIcole’s parents marriage lasted just over a year
Anna NIcole as a child
As a teenager
Before her hair was blonde
A beautiful shot of a young Anna Nicole

Mexia was a dusty town where the local theatre had been turned into one of the town’s 20 churches. It was also the site for one of the biggest World War Two internment camps for Rommel’s Africa Corps. The only celebrity to come out of Mexia was the football coach Ray Rhodes (1950-) … Anna Nicole only lived there for a few years and the town still probably doesn’t appreciate the honour of her presence there once upon a time.

The names the model and actress went by at the time was Nikki and Cricket.

“She was just so common said one classmate, while another called her “a nerd”.

“I wasn’t popular at school,” she said and attributed it to being flat-chested.

After a fist-fight with another student she was expelled and went to work at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken. It was there she met sixteen-year-old baby-faced cook Billy Smith. They married in April 1985. The marriage quickly went sour.

“I wasn’t allowed to go out to the store. He was so jealous”. And he would punch her. She decided a baby might help but the arrival of her son Daniel (1987-2007 drug overdose) made no difference. “I stayed in the relationship for two years. I was so naïve.”

JIm’s Krispy Fried Chicken where Anna Nicole met her first husband
Anna Nicole’s first marriage was relatively brief
Baby Daniel’s birth didn’t help Anna NIcole’s marriage at all
Anna NIcole was a gifted model

After living briefly with her mother, Anna Nicole lived in a trailer park with a friend who was a hairdresser and it was this woman who turned her mousy hair to platinum blonde. She craved good times and excitement, but waitressing wasn’t going to cover those bills. The other option was the ‘titty’ bar or strip club circuit. It was in these places that dancers would gyrate near nude or in customer’s laps.

The ‘nicer’ end of the circuit was Rick’s Cabaret which served good food and liquor and where the women had a Playboy aura about them of the girl next door. It was a place celebrities dropped into while in Houston.

“I could tell she had a lot of potential … As she certainly was a pretty girl,” said one bar manager. But Rick’s would only use her on brochures because she wasn’t endowed in all the right places. She was then relegated to the night shift. Anna Nicole sought training to dance better from a fellow performer who said: “She was a very quick leaner and really became a seductive dancer in a hurry.”

It was a case of the bigger the breasts, the bigger the tips. Anna Nicole was already drinking but it was at this time she added pills and drugs to her daily cocktail.

“Her favourite drug or pill that she liked to take was Xanax … and boy did she devour those, she lived on them,” said the stylist at Nick’s who would ‘hold’ her drugs for her.

Anna Nicole’s hourglass figure
Anna NIcole as Marilyn Monroe

Anna Nicole would sometimes pass out after dancing due to her drug and alcohol intake. It also became apparent that Anna Nicole’s erotic exhibitionism continued on back stage with uncontrolled sex. She would even perform oral sex while other people were around. It was during a calendar shoot for Rick’s that her interest in women became apparent even if it wasn’t sex “just” in the car… “hugging and kissing and things like that.”

Yet she was told she was a natural for the camera and would make the big time on the Penthouse and Playboy circuit. Some shots from the shoot were sent to the magazine but nothing came of it.

Silicone breast implants were the only answer. She would claim later on that her breasts were ‘an act of God’ after having put on weight during her pregnancy and losing it again except in her bust. In the end, she had two operations, the second one ending in an infection. She ended up with a 42DD bust which some say put her bust in a different zip code than the rest of her body. Men were in awe of her beauty and her breasts. Women too.

“Feel them babies all you want,” Anna Nicole would say telling them there was $14,000 worth of work contained within. “I could have bought myself a truck for what these damn things cost.”

It is said it was money for a car from a guy she was dating that she had to pay back. Anyway, she continued to do ‘the circuit’ of bars and be a party girl who would get fondled by men on stage, screwing in cars in the car park and date women and go to lesbian bars – she was out of control.

Anna NIcole and J. Howard Marshall II
Her life was her breasts according to Anna NIcole herself

It was around this time that octogenarian multimillionaire J. Howard Marshall II (1905-95) was slumming it in one of the bars. He was the product of a respectable Quaker family and born in 1905. He became embroiled in the oil industry and was known as a consummate deal maker. He moved to Houston in 1965 and thirty years later was worth $400b while others scoffed and said he was worth only $3b. He divorced his first wife and was estranged from two of his sons. His second wife had Alzheimer’s and instead he was infatuated with a stripper named Lady Walker but despite his guilt they carried on a sexual relationship until he was 83. It was then that the 50ish Lady booked herself in for plastic surgery and died on the operating table. Some said the morphine pump had been tampered with but the official cause of death was a congenital brain defect.

Marshall sued Lady’s estate for all the gifts he gave her so her children and bodyguard wouldn’t profit … in the meantime his wife had died and then he wandered into a strip club and met Anna Nicole. It was said that she was the type of girl who would sit down with you for hours and wasn’t necessarily and hustler or a gold-digger. Marshall would help her out with $500 or $1000 and then up to $2000. The old man would melt when she did baby talk and she would give oral sex to this “angry, very abrupt” old man who people tolerated because he was so rich.

“My one ambition and goal in life is to be a fashion model,” Anna Nicole wrote to a friend.

Then it was someone’s idea to try Playboy again and she got an interview where she said straight-faced that she was afraid of nudity and would always have sex with the light off. In her application she said her hobby was “watching horror movies” and under likes she put “Gentlemen who no (sic) how to treat a lady”.

Vicki Smith as she was then known and her Playboy application
Anna NIcole and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. Photo by Alex Berliner
Busty as always

The photographer was immediately impressed by Anna Nicole’s body despite the scarring around the nipples and some stretch marks. She was a Ruben’s painting with magnificent breasts … Her skin was clear and beautiful and there was a youthful look about her.

The test worked well and Playboy called to do a Playboy Playmate test. These tests are usually a day’s shoot. The model must turn up with no makeup, clean hair and loose-fitting clothes. They would then be styled.

But the day before her shoot, Anna Nicole would report a boating accident and that she had bruises all over her body. Two weeks later she turned up in tasteless skin tight spandex and five-inch heels. The backdrop for the shoot was Sugar Land where there was a small lake. It wasn’t isolated and someone might come across them and she might be nude. She assured the photographer it wouldn’t be a problem. It was there that work began and she eagerly ripped off her dress ready to embrace the opportunity with none of the previous nerves. It turned out she was a natural, a ‘goddess’ and all involved thought it was a thrilling day filled with untold promise. The next location was at a home with an elegant fireplace.

Then the champagne corks popped … and Anna Nicole drank too much … the truth about her accident a couple of weeks earlier was she rear ended someone in her car while she was drunk … the warning bells had already started. Three days later she was at the Playboy mansion.

One of her Playboy covers
Foreign edition
One of her Playboy DVDs

Her friends thought she had a sense of honesty and naivete but there was also the sense that she wasn’t too bright either. She didn’t know where California was or if the limousine picking her up was going to be checked black and white or just plain black and white … It seemed bizarre and almost demented. It was then decided she’d be the cover of March 1992 Playboy.

Meanwhile at the Playboy mansion, Anna Nicole became paranoid after she masturbated with sex toys in front of a mirror in her room to relieve the stress and then learnt there were hidden cameras. She thought this peccadillo would ruin her career she told her friends in Houston. It is legend that the tapes are now collector’s items.

Soon after her cover appeared, Anna Nicole was busy nearly every night signing photographs and layouts and hosting talent searches and going to parties and spending her money. She hadn’t revealed her stripper past as Playboy saw itself as ‘respectable’ and she had so far passed the test with minor hiccups.

Her boyfriend at the time was a fireman named Al Bolt who said: “Her idol was Marilyn Monroe so she would come on with a soft, smooth kind of a voice which told you – whatever she wanted and she could … lure you into whatever she wanted you to do.” He also described Anna Nicole’s family as “poor, trashy and lost” with bugs crawling on the furniture.” He found a check stub one day in her car with belonged to Howard Marshall’s company part of the proof she had brought the man back to life after the death of his mistress. Bolt said: “The old man liked to watch. That he would like it when (she) was with another girl … He was too old to do too much for himself.”

Looking particularly beautiful
An Anna doll
The Anna NIcole Bobber

It was around this time that Anna Nicole was at Marshall’s beck and call while Bolt was a Christian who was attempting to change her from the inside – he was now learning too much of her past. The partying continued and that was anything and everything. Drugs and alcohol were consumed in excess while Anna Nicole’s appearance began to suffer due to her diet. She was turning up drunk for events, boisterous and loud and far from gracious. It was while working in New Orleans that she got drunk and stripped off in the middle of the street with her bosses and her six-year-old son Daniel present. She then proceeded to buy sex toys and had sex in an elevator again with her son present. Witnesses couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

At night, Bolt would take her to the toilet so she wouldn’t wet the bed since she was so out of it. But it became apparent this woman didn’t want to be saved and Bolt left her.

Anna Nicole then did another Playboy video and took up with a body-builder and it was then that she was beckoned by Guess? Jeans. They took a shot of her lying in a field chewing on a piece of straw in a red and white shirt. It became iconic.

One of the images from Guess?
Another image from Guess?
More memorabilia from Guess?

It was this company which decided to change the model’s name to Anna Nicole Smith. It was August 1992. Christmas that year was held with her family at a million-dollar mansion bought by Howard Marshall. The family departed after the gifts were distributed.

It was after that she became petulant and rude and demanded more money for her appearances. In March 1993, Marshall spent more than $350,000 on jewellery on Anna Nicole. And there was another spree at an up-market New York jewellery store where two million dollars was spent with the wheelchair bound Marshall.

Inside Edition did a story on: “The hottest model in the world right now” while she appeared on Larry King and the Arsenio Hall Shows.

But then things started to go wrong when she was hospitalised with a drug overdose. It was February 1994 when she was found naked with a 20-year-old friend passed out on the bed in the Peninsula Hotel after they had apparently trashed the room high on alcohol and prescription drugs. The previous night the drunken pair made a scene in the hotel lobby.

“She sure didn’t look like a supermodel,” said one witness: “Her hair was sticking up straight like a broomstick, and her make-up was smeared all over her face.”

She remained a creature of appetites and several boyfriends reported that “Paw-paw” or Marshall would call while they were having sex and she would tell them to shut-up. Another of her addictions was food which ranged from fries to whipped cream and she had two liposuction procedures which were worth $25,000 each but she ate all the weight back on again.

Anna Nicole would put on loads of weight
The weight slowed down her career
Plus sized models were also icons

At one stage during her success, Anna Nicole lived in a Los Angeles house that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe and even went so far as to think she was the reincarnation of this actress. She had photos and memorabilia all around the place but it was damaged in an earthquake and she moved to Brentwood. It was a bigger place which could accommodate Marshall but her son wanted to move back to Houston. Then her former housekeeper brought charges of sexual harassment and sexual assault. She wanted $2m in reparations.

It was now February 1994 and having made about $20m from Guess?, the rest of the contract was cancelled due to the bad press. Then there was another lawsuit by her ex-publicist that she owed him money with $500,000 damages.

Anna NIcole makes movies and comes to a tragic end in PART TWO

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