Tuesday, February 13, 2007

She Took A Lot of Pills (and Died)

While I’m not sure I’d call the recent passing of Anna Nicole Smith a media frenzy, it’s good to see that all the “tasteful” people out there are disjointed over the story receiving a sizable share of coverage. Yeah – we need more shit stories about Iraq on top of the half dozen we’re already hearing every day. And global warming … that’s one you never hear about it.

What these “tasteful” people aren’t realizing is that the Anna Nicole Smith story goes much deeper than the tawdry face value, somehow tapping into that age-old American myth of the crossroads. Only this time, when a scrawny, flat-chested teenage Anna Nicole met Satan on some dusty rural road late one night near the Texas/Louisiana border, she gave him head, and Satan came silicone, blowing her breasts up to Triple D’s, turning her brown hair blonde. A personal stylist magically appeared by the Stop sign. An aged billionaire’s wheelchair creaked in the distant night, a siren song to the now voluptuous but still fairly innocent girl from Texas. A shit stream flowing by the side of road sounded like a thousand cameras clicking. She thanked Satan, whose tail smacked her perfect ass as she ran down the road, to make a collect call at the nearest all-night convenience store to her agent, getting a lap-dance back at her Houston strip club, instructing him to call back that field rep from Playboy about getting a new set of test shots to Christie Hefner.

Years later, after numerous rises and falls, an ongoing battle for millions from the dead billionaire’s understandably pissed-off family, her son dies mysteriously in her hospital room after she gives birth to a child whose father is still in question. Probably a potent mix of chemicals and bad timing. She follows suit a few months later in a hotel room at the Hard Rock Café in Hollywood, Florida, despondent despite being thin and sexy again. In the ambulance crew that takes her body away, a small red tail protrudes from the pants leg of one of the attendants, and Satan quietly honors the contract, as he always does, whether it’s a dusty road at two in the morning, or a press conference with national coverage in front of a hospital.

There will always be room in our cultural spotlight for beautiful blondes with big tits – at least, I hope there always will be. Anna Nicole was the kind of girl you’d see painted on the side of a B-52 bomber in World War II. Winking slyly from a movie screen. Showing you the full monty in a magazine spread. It helped that she was a nymphomaniac. You liked the idea that she was getting laid constantly. You pictured her hotel room having a foyer with a guy dressed like a chef, another guy in a sombrero, and a hot chick in a French maid’s outfit, all waiting patiently for the fun to begin.

The male masturbatory mind isn’t such an unfathomable place to be: it makes brutal sense. I certainly spanked the monkey a few times over Anna Nicole – if you’re a straight guy or a lesbian, I’m willing to bet you have, too. And I’d wager that unless you’re completely physically unappealing, someone out there has probably ravished you in that forbidden mental place a few times, too. An OK-looking woman at work bends over the right way: that’s new material for the sub-conscious libido. It happens all the time, with obtainable and unobtainable images. It’s an honest place, a lot more honest than we tend to be when our mouths move, and senses of shame and decorum kick in.

And you better believe this woman was a queen in that deeply personal place men have in their minds. Some guys resent that and call her white trash, or poke fun over how fat she let herself get on that dumb reality show. Some guys get her image tattooed on their biceps. My brother told me one guy at work was despondent to the point of tears, the guy worshipped her. Most of us are smarter than that; we don’t fall in love with unobtainable spank material. That may be one of those odd American things. People watch car racing on TV, they think they can drive their SUVs at 70 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, and the rest of the world will be fine with that. They go to a movie, they talk out loud, because they can’t differentiate between their living room and a public theater. And sometimes they can’t tell the difference between a masturbatory fantasy and a train wreck they should get down on their knees and thank God they are no way involved with. Some of us make ourselves a little too “at home.” Still, I have a begrudging respect for that guy who works with my brother – to weep over the death of a woman you only masturbated to is going way out on a limb on a tree most of us can’t even admit to climbing.

If I was musically-inclined, I’d write a song about her. A bouncing rockabilly sounding number, none of this “Candle in the Wind” bullshit. Robbie Fulks gets very close with his great song “She Took A Lot of Pills (and Died).” He wrote the song in 1996, it gets some of the facts wrong in this recent scenario, but otherwise the song nicely details the shooting-star myth, the passing of Anna Nicole being only the most recent chapter. There will surely be more beautiful women in the future rising from poverty to fame in roughly the same way, living a rollercoaster life thereafter, and checking out way too soon. Beautiful men, too – the song could have just as easily been about Elvis.

So, all the tasteful folks can go back to their self-importance, crank up the NPR, with its wind chimes, subtle whimsy and muffled red-wine farts. But there’s something more quintessentially American in the passing of a simple country girl who blew up her body so big that the whole world took notice, then blew away on strong winds she lost control over. If it makes you feel any smarter, think Gatsby gazing at the green light at the end of the dock. To quote old F. Scott from the book: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further ... and one fine morning. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

(Just in case shit like this doesn’t cross your mind while watching the E Channel.)

1 comment:

Andy S. said...

Another great, if somewhat gruesome, song on the same topic is Nick Lowe's "Marie Provost" from the Jesus of Cool (aka Pure Pop for Now People) album. It's actually based on the true story of silent film actress Marie Prevost, who met with a self-inflicted end at the age of 38. I've always thought of Robbie's song as a companion piece to Nick's.