Five sad and shocking details revealed in the Anna Nicole Smith documentary
(Credit: Netflix)


Five sad and shocking details revealed in the Anna Nicole Smith documentary

Born Vickie Lynn Hogan in Houston, Texas, Anna Nicole Smith’s dizzying ascent to fame in the 1990s and her subsequent tragic downfall became a cautionary tale over time, which has now been covered by Netflix. The modern feminist discourse has been kinder in remembering her even though she was written off as nothing more than a gold digger and breathless bimbette when she was alive.

The recent Netflix documentary, directed by Ursula MacFarlane (who made Untouchable on Harvey Weinstein) and produced by Alexandra Lacey, Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me tries to humanise the complicated woman who styled much of her public persona on Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood’s archetypal tragic star.

Whether the documentary succeeds in its endeavour to demystify the woman behind the glamorous facade is a different discussion. Still, it does make a few shocking and heartbreaking revelations about the former Playboy Playmate and model’s life and death.

Five things we learned from the Anna Nicole Smith documentary

Smith met J Howard Marshall at a strip club

Smith started as a dancer in a Texas strip club, where she met her second husband, oil tycoon J Howard Marshall, in 1991. Smith was already a mother at 18, having been married at 17. As per the documentary, Marshall grew increasingly infatuated with Smith before eventually marrying her in 1994, when she was 26 and he was 89. This infuriated Marshall’s adult children. 

But Macfarlane noted to Netflix that those who were close to Smith and Marshall vouch for the authenticity of their relationship, “Everyone we spoke to who actually witnessed their relationship, as opposed to people just chattering and gossiping about it, said they genuinely loved each other and were good for each other.”

She didn’t receive a dime from the Marshall family

After J Howard Marshall died in 1995, it turned out that he had not included her in his will. But she claimed he had verbally promised her half his estate, estimated to be worth $1.6 billion at the time. 

Marshall’s son E. Pierce Marshall disputed these claims, and after years of litigation, it was eventually settled that she wasn’t entitled to anything. Smith had teamed up with Marshall’s other son, J. Howard Marshall III, who was also left out of the will. But ultimately, they were both unsuccessful in claiming their stakes.

She never recovered after her son’s death

On September 10th, 2006, three days after Smith’s daughter Dannielynn Birkhead was born, her 20-year-old son Daniel died of an accidental overdose of methadone and antidepressants. A similar fate awaited Smith when she passed away only five months later on February 8th, 2007. Smith’s then-partner, Howard K. Stern, had told the media, “At Daniel’s funeral, she had them open the coffin and tried to climb inside. She said that ‘If Daniel has to be buried, I want to be buried with him.’” 

A close friend of Smith, Pol’ Atteu, who was also her designer, told Netflix, “She was a wreck. She was incoherent. She couldn’t talk. She didn’t wanna live. Daniel was the reason why she wanted to get out of Mexia, Texas. Everything that she did was for Daniel.”

Smith overdosed on nine prescription drugs

She was found unresponsive on February 8th, 2007, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The local police had ruled her death “an accidental overdose”. A toxicology report revealed that she had chloral hydrate in her system—a sedative and hypnotic medication used to treat insomnia—along with clonazepam, lorazepam, oxazepam, and valium. Chloral hydrate tends to become increasingly toxic when combined with these prescription drugs. The report suggested Smith had also taken Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Topamax (topiramate), which can block sodium channels and are believed to enhance the sedative properties of chloral hydrate and benzodiazepines, potentially intensifying their effects.

However, eight of the 11 drugs that were found in her system were not even prescribed to Smith but to Stern by Dr Khristine Eroshevich. As per the Psychiatric Crime Database, on February 8th, 2021, Eroshevich had to surrender her medical license to the Medical Board of California due to charges of gross negligence.

Her mother and friend claimed Smith fabricated many life events

Smith was mainly brought up by her mother Virgie Hart-Arthur. She was estranged from her biological father, Donald Hogan, whom she reached out to after she had garnered fame from her modelling work and Playboy stint. Smith met him in 1993, along with her half-brother Donnie Hogan, who claimed that when he was 16 years old, his father had told him that he raped his wife’s sister when she was still a minor. Donnie mentioned, “I wanted Vickie to know the truth. My father is not the type of guy you want to be alone with, or say or feel safe. You’re not gonna feel safe. I mean he’s a monster.”

A friend of Smith’s from her strip dancing days, Missy Byrum claimed that Smith had confided in her that her father had tried to have sex with her shortly after they met. The documentary failed to cross-examine Donnie’s claim that he and his father had no idea who Smith was but ended with a rather jarring twist. According to Byrum, who spoke to Macfarlane, and an old TV interview with Hart-Arthur (who died of cancer in 2018), Smith fabricated stories of her childhood trauma. “She would tell these stories about what a horrible childhood she had,” Hart-Arthur said in the interview. “I asked her one time, ‘Why do you tell such lies?’ [and] she said, ‘I wish you could just understand—I make more money telling sad stories than I make telling good stories.’”