A month before The Anna Nicole Show debuted, a report went around that Anna Nicole was going to compete against Howard the lawyer in an eating contest at a Las Vegas buffet, in a segment for the series. But the event was canceled, reportedly because Anna Nicole's teeth were hurting after recent dental work. This change of plans sparked unfounded rumors that E! was forcing Anna Nicole to go on a diet. The gossip-mongers may have to rethink their conspiracy theory now that we've seen the third episode.
I was terribly excited to learn that there would be an eating context on the show, after all. I'll make no bones about it: I like big girls, and I like to watch big girls eating lots of food. Anna Nicole Smith pigging out is to me just as appealing as a striptease. So yeah, I was expecting the eating contest to be the best episode ever. And it's a pity that I was disappointed by the way things turned out.
As Howard explains, the backstory here is that he and his law partners had an eating contest with Anna Nicole years ago, after he first met her. Anna Nicole won, but there was some unspecified controversy surrounding her victory. Now, at last, they're going to have a rematch. And this time Daniel and Kim are getting dragged along.
The chosen venue for this culinary battle is Mazzarino's, an Italian family restaurant in Sherman Oaks. The contestant who eats the most without conceding or throwing up will be the winner. The stakes, as mandated by Anna Nicole: all three losers will get their faces painted with make-up, get their hair done up or have a wig put on, and go roller-skating. Note that this penalty would really only be a punishment for the two male contestants. Maybe Anna Nicole isn't a stupid as people think.
But the problem with this eating contest isn't the wagering, It's that no one's heart seems to be in it. There's the grudge match element that could have been engaging, but you never really feel convinced that Anna Nicole and Howard are out for blood vengeance. One gets the sense that this was a day when Anna Nicole wasn't in the mood to do anything, but the E! crew coerced her and the gang to go have a wacky adventure anyway. She's just not very enthusiastic about the whole idea, and goodness knows poor Daniel doesn't want anything to do with it. But the show must go on...
The contest begins with four small pizzas and four orders of manicotti. The competitors dig in with gusto, but there is no fire or joy in their gluttony. I was hoping to see Anna Nicole touting her formidable eating prowess with more swagger and bravado. The sight of her stuffing her face would at least have been erotically stimulating if she had moaned with pleasure or shown that she was enjoying herself, but she stoically packs it away without so much as a smile. It may simply be, as Howard says, that Anna Nicole is very competitive and absolutely hates to lose. Her urgent drive to win the contest overrules any incidental sensual gratification the Italian feast may have to offer.
Near the end of the manicotti round, Kimmie is the first warrior to capitulate. Anna Nicole is getting sweaty and uncomfortable. When she gets up to go to the bathroom with Kim, Howard's hackles are raised with suspicions that Anna Nicole intends to throw up in secret. He and Daniel listen at the ladies' room door, and we hear what sounds like Kim burping and groaning. And that's all.
Whether he's joking around or not, Howard insinuates that Anna Nicole has puked when the girls come back to the table. The accusation makes Anna Nicole detonate with blind rage. Things get very ugly. "If you can't trust me, what the f*** are you doing in my life?" she bellows. In the middle of this tense scene, the waiter brings out round three: four plates of meat ravioli. Anna Nicole and Howard are too angry to continue. In the background you can see Daniel eat a teensy bite of ravioli with a sneaky grin, and this technicality is enough for his mom to declare our most reluctant entrant the winner of the contest.
The bitter argument between Anna Nicole and Howard continues on the street outside Mazzarino's. She tries to explain that this is about more than just an eating contest -- it's about friendship and trust. As we glimpsed in her Punch Bug dispute with Kimmie last episode, the one thing Anna Nicole will not tolerate is being called "a f***in' liar." I also have to think her pride is wounded in a personal way by Howard's specific indictment, since bingeing and purging must surely be anathema to Anna Nicole. Whatever she puts down stays down, by golly.
To get away from Howard and cool off, Anna Nicole and Kim go to the tattoo parlor. Anna Nicole is getting the panorama on her right calf touched up, and Kim is getting her boss's autograph added to the portrait on her left arm. As far as my private enjoyment of this episode is concerned, it's out of the frying pan and into the fire. I hate Anna Nicole's tattoos and I sure don't wish to observe her getting more of them. So that's all I have to say about that.
The situation turns much more entertaining when Kim decides on the spur of the moment to get her tongue pierced. The procedure is gruesome to witness. The funny part is when Kim tells us she changed her mind and wanted to stop the piercing at the last minute, but with her tongue clamped down there was no way she could tell anybody. The piercing guy just thought she was scared, and plunged the needle right on through. So remember, kids, if you're getting your tongue pierced, be sure you've got a panic buzzer or an air horn or something in your hand in case you chicken out.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Howard and Sugar Pie are on hand to receive a delivery from our favorite interior decorator: Bobby Trendy! This guy is a complete riot. He's decked out in fancy Chanel sunglasses, shiny lip gloss, and a sheer leopard scarf that he dramatically tosses over his shoulder numerous times. Directing his delivery crew as they haul in Anna Nicole's bedroom furnishings, Bobby can barely contain himself over how unbelievably beautiful everything is. He invokes the adjective "luxurious" no less than seven times.
"Normally I just pick up the phone," Bobby says, grabbing a box off the truck, "but for Miss Anna Nicole Smith, I'll pick up the whole package!" Marveling at a large ream of silken fabric his movers are hauling, he proclaims, "I love well-hung draperies!" After a beat, Howard replies, "You probably like 'well-hung,' huh, Bobby?" I swear, sometimes it's hard to tell this isn't a scripted sitcom.
It's interesting to watch Howard's interaction with Bobby Trendy. Anna Nicole was completely under Bobby's spell and ready to go along with his wildest suggestions, but Howard isn't going to take any bullshit. Howard gets pissed when he finds out at the last minute that Bobby doesn't provide box springs to go with Anna Nicole's mattress. He gives Bobby a hard time over his overly slow delivery schedule, and you can see Bobby getting a little miffed. We get to see how Howard has to handle the behind-the-scenes dirty work to fulfill Anna Nicole's needs and wishes for her.
Bobby and Howard get everything ironed out, and Howard is delighted with the day's delivery. Anna Nicole's bed may not have box springs yet, but it's laden with about a dozen giant pillows of silk and velvet. "She'll love the pillows," Howard says. One can't help but note that Howard acts more like he's referring to his girlfriend or wife than his client. As each of them says in this episode, you can tell that Howard and Anna Nicole really are best friends.
And of course, they kiss and make up in the end. Anna Nicole explains that her troubled background of suffering abuse and betrayal has left her wary toward the issue of trust. "People in my life, in and out of my life, have always been untrustworthy, and have always hurt me," she says. "I don't have anybody in my life but him and my purple-haired assistant. It's very hard to earn my trust."
So maybe this wasn't my personal favorite episode of The Anna Nicole Show, but that's okay. Maybe this was as much a test for me as it was for Howard. For better or for worse, through botched eating contests and tattoo sessions, Anna Nicole has earned my devotion and trust. Besides, I'll take a half hour of her doing anything over a full week of the rest of the crap that's on television, any old time.