Playboy centerfold, jeans model dies after collapsing at Fla. hotel
She married an oil tycoon in 1994.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) -- Anna Nicole Smith, the pneumatic blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale -- Playboy centerfold, jeans model, bride of an octogenarian oil tycoon, reality-show subject, tragic mother -- died Thursday after collapsing at a hotel. She was 39.
She was stricken while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and was rushed to a hospital. Edwina Johnson, chief investigator for the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office, said the cause of death was under investigation and an autopsy would be done today.
Just five months ago, Smith's 20-year-old son, Daniel, died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.
Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said a private nurse called 911 after finding Smith unresponsive in her sixth-floor room at the hotel. He said Smith's bodyguard administered CPR, but she was declared dead at a hospital.
Dr. Joshua Perper, the chief Broward County medical examiner who will perform the autopsy, said if her death was from natural causes, the findings would likely be announced quickly. He cautioned, however, that definitive results could take weeks.
Through the '90s and into the new century, Smith was famous for being famous, a pop-culture punchline because of her up-and-down weight, her Marilyn Monroe looks, her exaggerated curves, her little-girl voice, her ditzy-blonde persona, and her over-the-top revealing outfits.
Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. On her reality show and other recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.
A former Smith attorney, Lenard Leeds, told the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ that Smith "always had problems with her weight going up and down, and there's no question she used alcohol." Leeds said it was no secret that "she had a very troubled life" and had "so many, many problems."
Smith attorney Ron Rale told The Associated Press that he had talked to her Tuesday or Wednesday, and she had flu symptoms and a fever and was still grieving over her son. He dismissed claims her death was related to drugs as "a bunch of nonsense."
"Poor Anna Nicole," he said. "She's been the underdog. She's been besieged ... and she's been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she's endured."
The Texas-born Smith was a topless dancer at a strip club before she entered her photos in a search contest and made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992. She became Playboy's playmate of the year in 1993. She was also signed to a contract with Guess jeans, appearing in TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads.
In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, owner of Great Northern Oil Co. In 1992, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at 550 million.
Marshall died in 1995 at age 90, setting off a feud with Smith's former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over his estate. A federal court in California awarded Smith 474 million. That was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court.
The stepson died June 20 at age 67. But the family said the court fight would continue.
Smith starred in her own reality TV series, "The Anna Nicole Show," in 2002-04. Cameras followed her around as she sparred with her lawyer, hung out with her personal assistant and interior decorator, and cooed at her poodle, Sugar Pie.
Smith's son died Sept. 10 in his mother's hospital room in the Bahamas, just days after she gave birth to a daughter. An American medical examiner hired by the family, Cyril Wecht, said he died accidentally of a combination of methadone and two antidepressants.
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