In the preliminary announcements about The Anna Nicole Show, I distinctly recall the assurance that the program would sidestep the issues of the star's late husband and the legal battle over his estate. The show is meant to be her escape from those things, we were told. How surprising, then, that the second episode is all about J. Howard Marshall II, featuring a special guest appearance by his mortal remains. Anna Nicole explains that her new house wasn't a home until the day she brought her husband over. Or half of him, to be precise.
The show opens with a moving crew hauling in Anna Nicole's other possessions. Poor Kimmie has to do her share of heavy lifting as well. The diverse assortment of Anna Nicole stuff being moved includes life-size statues of black panthers and a pink "Hello Kitty" television set.
Howard the lawyer shows Anna Nicole some snapshots from the Guess? party they attended in the last episode. She's delighted that Howard's necktie is wrenched over to the right side in the photos (apparently because she did that to him deliberately), but she's less enthusiastic about her own appearance. "God, look how porker pig I was there!" she moans. It's interesting that she called herself "fat ass" before the party and dislikes her appearance in the photos, but during the party she behaved as if she were the sexiest woman alive. Although I wish she could be more accepting of her weight all the time, this supports my view that the glamorous Anna Nicole persona is a different person from the real-life Anna Nicole. When she's wearing the persona she expresses no hang-ups over her body and doesn't care what anybody may think about her, but the real Anna Nicole has her human insecurities to deal with.
In another revelation, Anna Nicole tells us, almost incomprehensibly, with her fingers in her mouth, "I'm not slurring my words, it's my retainer." A retainer? Aha! Could this be the true reason why she sometimes speaks clearly and sometimes sounds stoned: not drugs, not dementia, but a dental appliance worn part-time? The mysteries continue...
Anna Nicole graces us with an impromptu performance of Shakespeare from her balcony, and then it's time to meet her new interior designer. His name is Bobby Trendy. He drives up to Anna Nicole's house in a convertible sports car, California license plates "B TRENDY." Bobby breathlessly expounds on the critical importance of having "luxurious and sumptuous fabrics," and asks Anna Nicole if she likes "leopard." Oh, you better believe she does! So he suggests an 8- or 10-foot-tall sofa covered in leopard skin, with wheels so she can move it around. "That sounds perfect," Anna Nicole says. Obviously she has found the right decorator for her.
Anna Nicole shows Bobby the portrait of Larry King she has painted as a gift for the iron horse of American broadcasting, whose show she will be appearing on. This artistic side of Anna Nicole is fascinating, and I hope we get to see her painting and doing more creative works in future episodes.
Moving on to less cultured matters, Anna Nicole also lets Bobby witness Sugar Pie's obsession for having physical intimacy with a teddy bear. "One time Sugar Pie saw me f***ing this guy, and the next day it's like she just started doing it," Anna Nicole explains. "And she's pretty good at it." Um, okay then.
Bobby takes Anna Nicole to his West Hollywood store, Bobby Trendy Designs, so she can touch and feel his wares. The place is a wonderland of tacky excess incarnate, like a warehouse of leftover decor from Moulin Rouge and the Liberace estate. Anna Nicole is in heaven. I didn't think there could be any such thing as the 10-foot-tall leopard sofa Bobby was raving about, but right here it is: a 10-foot-tall leopard sofa. Who knew a sofa could be taller than it is wide? And covered with wild animal skin prints on silk, no less? Eccentric celebrities have to buy their crazy zillion-dollar home furnishings and stuff somewhere, I suppose. Bobby Trendy probably has no trouble finding customers with Anna Nicole's decorating tastes and budget in the L.A. area.
He makes an excellent dramatic foil for Anna Nicole, because he's even more wacked-out than she is. When he recommends a custom chair and set of throw pillows with her picture printed on them, she stops and questions whether people would think she's conceited. Yes, Anna Nicole is cast as the voice of reason and temperance! Bobby Trendy is returning in the next episode, and if the E! producers are smart, they'll make this guy a recurring character. Anna Nicole and the gang need to take him along on a trip to the go-cart track or someplace, and just watch the hilarity ensue. To borrow one of Bobby's own favorite expressions, he's fabulous!
Next up, Anna Nicole and Kim go shopping for sexy lingerie. En route to the store, they play a round of Punch Bug. This, of course, is the classic driving game involving Volkswagen Beetle sightings and the subsequent assault and battery of one's opponent. Things get ugly when Kim calls "Punch Bug" on a new-style Beetle. Anna Nicole insists that only original VW Bugs qualify for the game, but Kim thinks otherwise. The situation rapidly escalates into an exchange of filthy name-calling, and then the boss pretty much beats the crap out of her uppity assistant. It is evident that Anna Nicole is a very physically powerful woman, probably stronger than she realizes. I definitely wouldn't want to get on her bad side.
The ladies have patched things up by the time they arrive at the trashy lingerie store, which is called... Trashy Lingerie. Oddly enough, it's just down the street from Booby Trendy's place on La Cienega Boulevard. Now, at this point in the episode, it's heart attack time for me. Anna Nicole Smith trying on lingerie is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. It's very cool that she was actually able to find lots of lovely unmentionables in her size, without having to go to "Trashy Big Gals" or something. That's pretty amazing, considering that Trashy is a mainstream lingerie boutique situated in the land of the size zeroes. According to the store's web site, all their garments are exclusively designed and sewn by hand in-house, so three cheers to Trashy Lingerie for trashing it up in plus sizes!
Anna Nicole tries on a bunch of different outfits, looking especially adorable in a Little Bo Beep ensemble. The sequence makes my head swim. But in the midst of all this bliss, there is a pang of disappointment for me when Anna Nicole says this in a voiceover: "One thing I miss about modeling is dressing up in all this sexy lingerie and all this sexy gear that they give you to dress up in."
Here I've been defending her from people who call her a "former model" and pointing to her ongoing work as a plus-size model for Lane Bryant. But now it looks like she too considers her modeling days to be over. That's a shame. I'm beginning to think she only continues her occasional association with Lane Bryant because she has friends at the company and it's a way to make some money. It seems like Anna Nicole doesn't embrace being a plus-size model or wish to pursue it. I wish she would reconsider. She could get loads of great work as a plus-size model if she went after it -- like doing a campaign for Trashy Lingerie, for example.
In one red negligee, Anna Nicole refers to her breasts as her "puppies," and says, "Stay down, Bob and Stan." These nicknames threw me for a loop, because this creates some unidentified connection between her and David Letterman. Dave used to have two dogs named Bob and Stan. He is also fond of saying a strange phrase, which I have assumed was from an old TV show or something: "Hi, Bob. Hi, Stan. How's the go going?" And now Anna Nicole makes a reference to puppies with those names? I searched the Internet for a common source for the names Bob and Stan as a humorous expression, and I got nothing. Unless I'm missing something, this is either a giant coincidence or Anna Nicole possesses a geek-level familiarity with Letterman trivia. If anyone can unravel this enigma, please send me your enlightenment.
When she's done shopping, Anna Nicole gets a ride from Kim... but not in the car. While Kim is seated in a chair at the lingerie shop, Anna Nicole straddles her lap, facing Kim. "I like to pretend that Kimmie is one of those bouncy rides," Anna Nicole explains. "So I put a quarter down her shirt and she bounces me. I think Kimmie likes it when I bounce, 'cause she bounces back." Vocalizing an off-key rendition of "The William Tell Overture," Kim has the same expression on her face that I would have if Anna Nicole Smith were bouncing on my lap: complete erotic delight. One must wonder if Kimmie's devotion to her employer has more than a professional dimension...
Back at the ranch, Howard, Kim, Daniel and Anna Nicole watch her recorded Larry King Live appearance on TV. It's too bad we didn't get to see the behind-the-scenes events at the taping, but instead we get to watch Anna Nicole watching herself. When she sees herself ditzing out in response to one of Larry's questions, Anna Nicole shakes her head with a shameful grin and says, "Stupid!" She reacts stone-faced when Larry turns the interview to the subject of her late husband.
And this serves as a segue into the final segment: the moving of the ashes. For the benefit of the uninitiated, Howard the lawyer explains the strange dispensation of J. Howard Marshall's remains. (Since we're dealing with two different Howards here, I'll try to stay specific.) Anna Nicole wanted to bury Marshall, but his son Pierce wanted him cremated. In the end, a court ruled that Marshall would be cremated, and the ashes were divided between Anna Nicole and Pierce. Now Anna Nicole has to transport the urn containing her half from the old house to the new house, and the task is an emotional ordeal for her.
We see Howard the lawyer comforting Anna Nicole before the journey. She's wearing bright red lipstick, and he's got a big red lipstick smear on his cheek. For the second time this episode, we're left to ponder the unspoken sexual dynamics between Anna Nicole and her associates.
Anna Nicole carries her husband's urn inside a leather case, and solemnly takes it on a tour of the new home. She addresses the remains as "Howard" and speaks as if she's showing a living person her house. Taking the case into her bedroom, she announces, "Here's where we live!" She carefully removes the urn from its case and installs it in its new resting place: on top of her television. (A big-screen set, not the "Hello Kitty" TV.)
Daniel walks into his mother's bedroom and asks where Howard is. She points to the urn and says, "He's over there. We brought him home today." Daniel replies, "Oh, right." I believe he was interested in the whereabouts of Howard the lawyer rather than his late step-father, but he was too considerate of Mom's emotional state to clarify himself. He's a good kid.
In the closing scene, we see a much more cheerful Anna Nicole contemplating her belly button. She shows off her new navel ring and mentions that she's thought about getting a tattoo around her belly button, like a ring of flowers. Oh God, I hope she forgets that idea. She has too many tattoos already on her legs and backside, and if she puts any on her yet-untainted arms or belly, I will become very depressed.
A lot of people have made wisecracks about Anna Nicole's theatrics in transporting her husband's remains. Pierce Marshall even issued a statement condemning the episode: "I think the public will conclude that this plus-sized model [how bitterly ironic that he would employ this term as a slur against her] and her lipstick-covered attorney don't have an ounce of decency or credibility between them."
Speaking as one member of the public, I conclude differently. Anna Nicole's ceremony may have been eccentric, but it seemed like a genuine and respectful outpouring of emotion to me. Anna Nicole wasn't being a drama queen for the cameras, she really felt it. And none of us has the right to judge any differently.