Thursday, April 19, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith: Blond Inferno

Ravenously hungry for some real old school, voluptuous glamour, it would be hard to exaggerate the effect that Anna Nicole Smith's 1992 nine-page Guess campaign had on me and my young friends, both male and female, all of us film classic buffs. The supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer had never appealed to us with their faux reinterpretation of the 1950's bombshell. Madonna was still vainly ripping off Marilyn Monroe but her bulging triceps and six pack just didn't cut it and we hated her for trying to hijack her legacy. Even British Vogue committed the mortal sin of comparing the rail thin Christy Turlington to "a young Sophia Loren," an act that would surely send them to hell, we mused. Quickly seeing through the clever clothing tricks and PR hype, we knew all of these wannabees were about as close to Monroe, Loren, and Bardot as New Kids On The Block.

Would the media ever really deliver "the real thing," much less a reasonable facsimile?

One day our prayers were answered. The terrifying "heroin-chic" waif model movement lead by Kate Moss and Kristen McMenamy was just gaining force, and yet suddenly, all over the magazines, there was this bodacious blond nearly 6 feet tall with complete curves everywhere. Large breasts, small waist, an unheard-of set of 39 inch hips and strong, solid legs with healthy thighs. Her doll-like face and cupid's-bow mouth radiated a true vintage pinup look which was set off by the most unearthly shade of platinum blond since Harlow. In some shots she danced in a clingy dress, her full, wide backside left unadulterated by the art department; in others, her bodacious calves and thighs wielded a pair of six-inch stiletto platforms with all the dexterity of an expert flying twin kites on a blustery day. She looked sophisticated and commanding, a true amazon and the only heir apparent to Anita Ekberg, one of my most adored actresses.

So a few months later, when my best friend Trisha and I saw a picture of Anna Nicole Smith in her previous and small-chested incarnation via an old photo sniffed out by US magazine we were disappointed to learn she was not 100% natural. But she had already grown on us by then and we were not ready to divorce her. She was after all a young mother, she'd come from poverty, she had a cartoon-like personality and an ancient husband who had put a huge diamond on her hand. She liked to eat and obviously loved sex more than the gym. Natural schmatural, the implant acceptance culture started with Anna Nicole Smith because they looked so good.

The guys I knew were less concerned about the origins of the curves or even if she could talk..

"Hurt me!" was the response of Matt, the guy who sat next to me in English homeroom, "Anna can do whatever she wants with me, I don't care if they're fake!"

And in an odd way, authentic size queens that we were, neither did we.

My close friend Brian K who holds three, count em, three degrees from Stanford and has serenaded Polish busty sensation Ewa Sonnet, recalls his discovery of Anna Nicole at the age of 16:

"When I was in high school back in her Guess? Girl days -- before Playboy, before reality TV -- Anna Nicole was like a muse to me. I had never been interested in the mainstream models at the time, and suddenly she came along and I realized what I had been missing -- a voluptuously feminine beauty, vivacious and proud to be different. I taped one of her Guess? layouts up in my room before anyone knew who she was. I can remember wanting to meet her... My days meeting models may be over, but I'll always be inspired by such types. If only there were more..."

Because she was making fun of herself all the time when pretension reeked out of every sex symbol from Sharon Stone to Elle McPherson, we just plain liked her. Anna was a lovable goofball in films like Naked Gun 33 1/3 or wearing velvet muumuus in skittle shades to the Oscars as she rapidly grew more out-sized and buxom. An incredible spread in the 1994 Valentine's issue of Playboy had Anna Nicole fully nude in a hot bath hands and legs interlocked with a hunky stud, her eyes rolling back in her head. Her female maid actually accused Anna of coming onto her and Anna later admitted that having a French maid around for "hot sex" was one of her fantasies.

"She's becoming an exhibitionist," Trisha remarked.

The New York Times magazine tried to take her out at the height of her fame by using an unflattering photo outtake of her eating potato chips for their 1994 "White Trash Nation" issue. The premise was that performers like Smith were creating a trailer park environment in the media (Predictably, Madonna, who had recently been on Lettermen discussing how cool it was to pee on herself and acting raunchy, was never mentioned once in the article). Anna later sued The New York Times unsuccesfully.

As time marched on and I focused on different stars and started to forge my own glamour persona, Trisha and I would still remark on the wacky latest bit of Anna Nicole news.

Trisha was a young mom too, with a son a few years younger than Anna Nicole's. He was and still is the center of her life. I remember her calling my once upset about her elderly grandfather's sudden passing. At first I thought something had happened to her son Jordan.

"Oh no, if it was my son who had died I wouldn't be on the phone right now, my car and I'd be slammed against a wall and be gone from this earth to be with him."

This coming from a reasonable and balanced woman who never shared any of Anna's problems with substance abuse or men.

And that's why Anna's gone. Forget all of the other crappy sensationalist theories, the paternity tests, methadone rumors, diet pills, the hangers on and fights for inheritance, her son was the only thing she ever really had to depend on and love and after his tragic death following the birth of her daughter Danni Lynn, it was most likely just a question of when she'd leave to be with him.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but history has shown us that sexually provocative and outrageous women have little they can really depend on and have been marked at birth for tragedy. Women are too intimidated to be their friends and men usually too threatened with how sexual they are. They may think it's great at first but ultimately most men can't deal with the 'it factor' and feel overshadowed. Intimacy becomes a continual source of resentment and ultimately an impossibility for the majority of bombshells. It's a testament to her spirit and to some extent those who did try to help her, that she made it as far as she did.

Jayne Mansfield, who Anna emulated in that very first Guess campaign, was said to have taken the myth of the platinum blond with her when she died in 1966 in a now notorious car crash. Anna Nicole did the impossible, she resurrected an archetype that was long gone and lived it to the hilt, and while that may be a dubious honor it would be unfair to not celebrate Anna Nicole Smith for what she was--a living piece of pop art, bold, annoying, dazzling, beautiful, bizarre, at times bombastic and excessive but ultimately, like Mansfield, a beautiful blond inferno and an American original.

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Blogger Metalchick said...

Hi Amanda,
I was shocked when I heard that she died, she has really been through a lot of hell lately. First losing her son, then losing custody of her daughter, it's all too much to go through.
There may have been times when she did get a little crazy, but I respect her for being herself without caring what people thought of her.
She will be missed.

4:28 AM  
Anonymous Agnar said...

Beautiful tribute, and i am with You completely in Your reaction to Anna's first appearing on the scene. She had an incredible affect on me, so much more than all of the waifish models thrown at us constantly by media. Thank You for sharing Your feelings and memories of Her.


12:34 PM  
Blogger Johanna in Vista said...

That was a special tribute. Well written. I hate all the ill being spoken of Anna Nicole after her passing.

Thanks for sharing that.


2:08 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Yes, nice tribute. I always felt sorry for her, seemed to have a lot of people around her, interested in her money, and she seemed like a genuinely nice person. Sad.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Grace said...

Hi Amanda, that was a great tribute to Anna Nicole. She was beautiful, and so troubled too. But she drew you in somehow. When I heard her son had died, I said to myself, that this is really going to take a toll on her. Sadly she is not here anymore, I think it was too much. and her beautiful daughter will never really know her, hopefully she will be placed in the best hands.


11:57 PM  
Blogger E.L. Wisty said...

A beautiful tribute. She had a sad fate :(

11:11 AM  
Blogger ginab said...

I'm late on the wagon here to say this is a great tribute. Even though her marriage (her second) turned my stomach (yep), I was glad to see her spirit on. She was stunning in the Guess ads and certainly made me want to hide (I'm a wee one and it's only because even my cousins are). We are as we are. And here, you celebrate this point in a wonderful tribute to a savvy and then a truly heartbroken star. I'm glad she discovered all her points. Her final steps to fulfill her greatest wish will and can never be known. I am glad she is where she wants to be most.


4:54 AM  

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