The life of Anna Nicole Smith, chapter after chapter of which was tailor-made for tabloids, came to an end Thursday, after she mysteriously collapsed at a hotel in Florida and died.
Smith, 39, was found unresponsive while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., according to her attorney, Ron Rale. She was rushed to a hospital.
Edwina Johnson, chief investigator of the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, said the cause of death is under investigation, and an autopsy will be done today.
A voluptuous topless dancer with Marilyn Monroe-ish appeal, she made it into the pages of Playboy magazine in 1992 and did ads for Guess Jeans. Her scandal-littered tale started with her marriage to an octogenarian billionaire. After his death, she waged a legal battle for his fortune all the way to the Supreme Court.
Smith’s notoriety, personality and oddball lifestyle led E! to create a nonscripted series about her in 2002. The show, filled with episodes about her ditzy behavior, ran for two seasons.
In 1994, the year after she was named playmate of the year, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, the head of oil-based Koch Industries, which is part of a family fortune worth at least $400 million. He died in 1995, setting off a 11-year feud with Smith’s former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over whether she had a right to his estate.
A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million; that decision was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court in her battle with her former stepson.
The stepson died June 20 at age 67. But the family said the court fight would continue.
More recently, Smith’s ballooning figure and up-and-down weight became a subject of public fascination. But she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement.
Although her film and TV career was not extensive, she is perhaps best known on film for her role in “The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.” She also produced two feature films in which she starred, “Skyscraper” in 1997 and “Illegal Aliens” in 2006.
She had a bit part in “The Hudsucker Proxy” in 1994 and guest starred on TV’s “Veronica’s Closet” and “Ally McBeal.” Smith also appeared in the video for Bryan Ferry’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
On Sept. 10, Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, died in his mother’s hospital room in the Bahamas, just days after she gave birth to a daughter.
A medical examiner hired by the family said he had methadone and two antidepressants in his system when he died. Last month, a Bahamas magistrate scheduled a formal inquiry into the death for March 27.
Meanwhile, the paternity of Smith’s now 5-month-old daughter remained a matter of dispute. The birth certificate lists Dannielynn’s father as attorney Howard K. Stern, who had checked in with Smith on Monday at Hard Rock.
Smith’s ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead was waging a legal challenge, saying he was the father.
Debra Opri, the attorney who filed his paternity suit, said Birkhead “is devastated. He is inconsolable, and we are taking steps now to protect the DNA testing of the child. The child is our No. 1 priority.”
Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan in Houston and married Bill Smith in 1985, giving birth to Daniel before divorcing two years later.