The Netflix documentary Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me is two hours of stuff we probably already knew. Smith has been deceased for over 16 years, which was longer than she was active. So, why do something like this now?
Filmmaker Ursula Macfarlane assembles some people who were close to Smith as talking-head interviewees. But there’s not much that is a surprise. She had a same-sex relationship with one of the women she used to work at a strip club with. She had an addiction to pills. What is eye-opening is the relationship she had to J. Howard Marshall and how there was really love there. He was 89 when they got married and she was only 26. It played out in the media tabloids. She was painted as a gold digger.
She modeled herself after Marilyn Monroe and she followed down the same path Monroe went. Both had birth names that sounded like women who would be end up being low-level secretaries in towns barely a flyspect on a map. Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortensen and before she became famous, she was married to James Doughtery. Smith was born Vicky Lynn Hogan and was married to Billy Smith before she became famous. She chose the dance name of Nikki before settling on Anna Nicole. And like Monroe, her career didn’t last 20 years and she died in her 30s.
Could Smith have made any changes in her life or was she always destined to have a tragic end? Macfarlane seems to conclude that yes, Smith was doomed from the start because she sought too much fame and attention at whatever cost. Her mother, Virgie, recalls that Smith would constantly lie about her upbringing because a bad childhood gets more money. This barely touches the surface of what it says about us as a society to be more enamored by a celebrity’s terrible upbringing.
It could’ve been more as a ruse to make her critics feel guilt for badmouthing her success or make people empathize with her drug use and decline. Smith never knew her father, Donald Hogan, growing up but was reportedly happy to reconnect with him later in life when she was famous. It’s here where the documentary takes a left turn into creepsville. Donald looks and acts like what you would think. A younger half-brother says that Donald was a bad guy who Smith said tried to rape her.
Was the lack of a father figure what attracted her to Marshall or did she see a golden ticket? The documentary doesn’t make Marshall’s son, Pierce, out to be a saint, but we pretty much knew that back in the mid-1990s. And a lot of people around her aren’t the best people. Howard K. Stern, an attorney, was probably more interested in the probate settlement on Marshall’s estate than having a relationship with Smith. And Larry Birkhead, who would be identified as the father of her daughter, is a scumbag who took the DNA results as both a win-win that everyone knew he had sex with Smith and he could be entitled to her daughter’s wealth if there was any. The case was concluded in 2018 with Dannielynn receiving nothing from Marshall’s estate.
The tragedy is that Smith couldn’t trust most of the men in her life. Her bodyguard, Maurice Brighthaupt or Big Moe as he was called, said that she would ask him a question if he was atrracted to her. And this was a general question she’d ask any of the men bodyguards around her. However, Brighthaupt told her he say her as a sister which made her happy. The rumor mill flew around that her son, Daniel, was the one who fathered Dannielynn, but he is remembered more as a shy boy.
I tried to watch The Anna Nicole Show but you could tell how fake it was. I don’t think Daniel ever wanted the limelight. He especially didn’t want his peers talking about how they had seen his mother naked. In a world where nude pictures are just a click away, how would a young man deal with that? So, his descent into drug addiction at the end of his life was a coping mechanism.
But after the documentary ends, you don’t feel like you’ve learned anything really new. The documentary seems like it’s a good 15 years past when it would be more relevant. Unlike Pamela: A Love Story, there’s never any intimacy to the story. You feel sorry for Smith, but you also wish someone would’ve stepped in to help. Macfarlane unfortunately doesn’t have the guts to point the finger at us, the public, who told jokes about her and made her the concept subject of ridicule.
The other Howard Stern comments on her show, saying she looks like she’s almost 300 pounds. This, as well as other things, pointed to her taking dexatrim at an alarming rate to lose weight. There’s the infamous New York magazine cover photo where she was holding a bag of chips with the title “White Trash Nation” over her picture. And most publications quickly fat-shamed her or criticized she was from Texas and had an accent. Now, people are coming to the defense of Lizzo and Melanie Lynsky when there are criticized for their appearance.
Maybe it’s because the New York cover shoot resulted in a lawsuit as Smith was told it was supposed to be an all-American look with glamour shots. It was settled out of court and New York‘s legal department wouldn’t allow it to be discussed. Smith became popular during the heroin chic era, which isn’t mentioned here. There were so many angles Macfarlane could’ve taken but she went the E! True Hollywood Story route.
What do you think? Please comment.