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Newsletter March 2007, page 1

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Page 1 - Anna Nicole Smith and the Death Benefit

Page 2 - March Madness and Sports Illustrated

Page 3 - Top Sellers in February

Page 4 - Site Updates, Collections For Sale, Advertising Opportunites

Newssletter March 2007 - page 1

Anna Nicole Smith and the Death Benefit by Rick Gagliano - 3/2/07.

February was an interesting month, highlighted by the sad and untimely death of blonde bombshell, Anna Nicole Smith.

Smith, born Vicky Lynn Hogan, was already married, divorced and with a son in 1991, when she first met billionaire J. Howard Marshall. She was working as an exotic dancer at a strip club in Houston after a brief stint as a waitress at a local Red Lobster.Playboy March 1992 Anna Nicole Smith cover

The octogenarian Marshall (who was already in his 80s) befriended the 5'11" buxom blonde and convinced her to take acting and modeling lessons. Marshall paid for the career-changing instructions (and the breast implants) and he and Smith hit the big time when she burst onto the national scene as an eye-popping Guess? Jeans model, replacing Claudia Schiffer as the image for the popular woman's casual clothier.

Soon afterwards, Vicky Smith became a covergirl (March 1992) and then playmate (May 1992) for Playboy magazine, eventually winning honors as Playmate of the Year in 1993 (June 1993). [The magazines are displayed at right in chronological order]Playboy May 1992 Anna Nicole Smith playmate.

In the 4-5 years that followed, Smith appeared in special issues, calendars and videos for Playboy and had a number of featured appearances in the magazine along with roles in a number of movies, including The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult in 1994, To the Limit (1995) and Skyscraper (1996).

During that time, she married Marshall, who died in 1994. His death touched off a lengthy legal struggle with Marshall's son which would eventually land Smith a starring role before the justices of the US Supreme Court. In May, 2006, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Smith's favor, granting her the right to sue in federal court for a portion of the Marshall estate. The case continued in the 9th Circuit and is still under litigation.Playboy June 1993 Anna Nicole Smith playmate of the year

In 2002, Anna Nicole starred in her own reality show, The Anna Nicole Smith Show on E! network. The show was never short on black humor, as the ditzy and overweight Smith cowed and cooed for the camera in sickening episode after episode. The show was eventually canceled in 2004 due to low ratings, though the producers and Anna Nicole agreed to separate for what they called "creative differences."

During the show's run, Smith took on the role of spokesperson for the dietary drug, TrimSpa, and lost 69 pounds, most of it in 2003.

Story continues below

In 2006, Smith gave birth to a baby girl, named Dannielynn, at Doctors Hospital in the Bahamas, though the identity of the father is unknown. Three days later Smith's son Daniel was found dead in Anna Nicole's hospital room. Following two autopsies, Zoloft, Lexapro and methadone were found in Daniel's body, but the exact cause of death was never definitively asserted.

Less than 3 weeks later, Smith exchanged rings and vows with attorney Howard K. Stern at an informal "commitment" ceremony aboard a ship in the Caribbean.

On February 8, 2007, Anna Nicole was found dead in room 607 of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The cause of death is still not public knowledge, though insiders and tabloid commentaries suggest that drugs - similar to those found in her son Daniel - were the likely cause.

Since her death, it's been a feeding frenzy of titillation for the tabloids and cable "news" shows. To many, the non-stop coverage of her death and the aftermath has, much like Smith's life, been more like theater of the absurd, complete with mysteries, claims, counter-claims, crying judges and inconsolable fans.

It's a national pastime for Americans to glorify, vilify and over-indulge on celebrities, but in the strange case of Anna Nicole Smith, it seems somehow fitting that she would die larger than life, just as she lived.

The craziness following Anna Nicole's death resulted in what's known in collecting circles as the "death benefit." Copies of her Playboy magazine covers - most of which could have been purchased in the $2-5 range beforehand - were selling on eBay and elsewhere for upwards of $25-40 and more.

It happens whenever a person of celebrity dies and especially when that person is a Hollywood type. Prices for anything bearing an image of the person skyrocket for a week or two, then settle down again. Savvy sellers unload their cache on rabid buyers, all too eager to part with princely sums for what they consider a valuable collectible.

In Anna Nicole's case, the most popular items were the June 1993 Playmate of the Year issue and the newsstand special in which she was the solitary feature. Sadly for the recent buyers, these issues will likely never approach the values they paid.

Buyers in the clutches of the "death benefit" clench are simply misguided. Sellers of such items in these times are... well, opportunistic.

The "death benefit" scenario is somewhat sad to watch, though from a seller's perspective, it's just business, as morbid as the case may be. Some people simply must have that collectible, and sellers can't be blamed for taking whatever the market will bear.

Anna Nicole Smith will be buried soon, her mystique gone to dust with her. For some of us involved tangentially in this business, her final farewell cannot come soon enough.

Related links:

Anna Nicole Smith in Wikipedia

L. A. Times article with chronology of her life.

Anna Nicole Smith filmology

Anna Nicole Smith's will.

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