When last seen by America, Anna Nicole Smith was locked in a seven-year legal battle over her late husband’s Texas oil fortune.
The former Playboy Playmate, who has yet to collect a dime, has decided it’s time to get back to work.
So instead of seeing Smith in courtroom footage on the evening news, viewers can peep at her bizarre world when E! Entertainment Television debuts “The Anna Nicole Show” on Sunday at 10 p.m.
The 13 episodes are an attempt by E! to cash in on the celebrity-reality craze initiated with great success by MTV’s “The Osbournes.”
“We’ve been trying to figure out what we can do with Anna because we know there’s this fascination that people have with her,” said Mark Sonnenberg, E! executive vice president of entertainment. “When ‘The Osbournes’ came out, it was a no-brainer to us. Let’s put the cameras on her and let’s do a show.”
Since May, cameras have been trailing the 34-year-old former stripper and Guess? model from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed. Among the scenes captured are Smith telling her black toy poodle to stop passing gas, and the buxom blond looking into her shirt and saying, “Hello, down there.”
“I haven’t had sex in two years,” Smith grumbles on camera.
Later, she has a twinge of regret.
“That’s one of those things you say that you wish you didn’t,” Smith says later in an interview. She says she isn’t dating anyone at the moment.
Another embarrassing moment occurred when Smith forgot to turn off the microphones in the bathroom.
“At first, it was kind of crazy, but now I’ve learned to live with my crew,” she says.
Advertising spots for the show say, “It’s not supposed to be funny
Smith says she realizes E! is probably making fun of her, but she plays the good sport. “My life is funny,” she said. “Things happen to me all the time, and it just is funny.”
The channel first encountered Smith when it chose to make a 1997 “E! True Hollywood Story” about her. She didn’t participate in the episode, which was later expanded to two hours and is still shown.
“She was very honest, she did not like the ‘True Hollywood Story,’ ” Sonnenberg said, noting that the episode still doubles or triples its viewer total with each airing. When the channel asked to talk with her about a series, “we didn’t know if she was going to come in and tell us off.”
Instead, an eager Smith said yes, relieved at the prospect of doing something other than sitting in courtrooms.
“It was just the perfect time for me to get out,” she said.
A bankruptcy court ruled in December 2000 that Smith was entitled to $475 million of her late husband’s fortune. A federal judge reduced that to $88 million this past March, but the son of J. Howard Marshall plans to appeal.
Marshall was 90 when he died in 1995, 14 months after marrying Smith.
She doesn’t plan to discuss him on the show. “I’d like to keep that private,” she said with a straight face.
Viewers can tag along as Smith goes bowling, hits the batting cage, checks out Hollywood parties, visits the dentist and takes driving lessons.
“I’ve always had a driver, so I’ve never gotten a license,” she said.
Like any celebrity worth her salt, Smith is surrounded by an entourage. Howard K. Stern (not the radio host) is her attorney; Kim Walther is her purple-haired assistant; and Daniel is her 16-year-old son from her first marriage, to Billy Smith, whom she worked with at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia, Texas.
“I love my mom, but I hate the cameras,” announces Daniel, who, along with Stern, is the most normal-looking of the bunch.
And Smith hardly goes anywhere without Sugar Pie, the Prozac-popping poodle with her own therapist.
“If I go out somewhere, she won’t eat and she won’t drink and she just shakes until I get back,” Smith said. “She’s just crazy about her mom.”
Walther is more than a dedicated employee; she sports a tattoo of Smith on her left arm.
“I wanted to have something that down the road I would still be happy with, and she’s a great person,” said Walther, whose duties include grocery shopping, paying bills and picking up Daniel from school.
While Smith awaits the outcome of her legal battles, she plans to get back into modeling and write her memoirs.
The woman who admires, and resembles, Marilyn Monroe and Christie Brinkley hopes the show gives her some credibility and boosts her acting career. She has had small roles in several TV shows and movies.
“People will see that maybe I have a little talent and will start to take me seriously as an actress,” she said.