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Episode Guide

Episode 20:
“What a Drag!”

Co-starring with a cadre of cross-dressers in a kooky kidnapping caper concerning Sugar Pie, Anna Nicole gets cast in her best movie role ever: playing herself. And Howard lands the same part.
(Aired April 20, 2003)

The Anna Nicole Show

Following up on her theatrical training as outlined in Episode 16, this installment continues Anna Nicole's bid for a comeback in the world of acting. Now she's moving beyond TV sketch comedy appearances and rehearsals with Danny Bonaduce to return to motion pictures for the first time in seven years.

Anna Nicole starts things off with a clip of her last film, the craptacular 1996 epic Skyscraper, with her dramatic rendering of the immortal line, "Well, excuse me for still believin' in Sunday walks in the park and little babies!" There's no getting around it, her old movie roles have all been quite dreadful. But it's not really her fault; the real problem is that the filmmakers haven't known how best to exploit her particular talents on the big screen. Not even the brilliant Coen brothers could figure out what to do with her. But the producers of her new project seem to understand: you gotta let Anna Nicole be Anna Nicole.

The Anna Nicole Show "Since I came out of retirement," she says, "the offers that came in just didn't seem to fit." And then she got the script for an independent feature called Wasabi Tuna. From the first reports about this movie, it sounded like Anna Nicole would be playing herself in a minor cameo role. But it turns out that she's the entire inspiration behind the story. As she says, "It was based on me and Sugar Pie!"

The plotline of the "crazy action/comedy" involves a group of bumbling kidnappers who think they're stealing Sugar Pie, for some reason or another, although they actually end up with a different dog. When a gang of drag queens who revere Anna Nicole learn about the supposed abduction, they go on a mission to return "Sugar Pie" to their heroine. Wacky mixed-up hilarity ensues. Wasabi Tuna probably won't be an Oscar contender, but I'm thrilled that anyone would undertake a Hollywood production that's all about Sugar Pie. Wow. This sort of thing completely disproves the notion that The Anna Nicole Show has destroyed Anna Nicole's career and eradicated her popular appeal. Nonsense! Before the show started, nobody would have ever written a script about her dog getting kidnapped, much less greenlighted it. The cult of Anna Nicole is now stronger than ever.

Along with Howard and Kim, she has a meeting with Wasabi Tuna's filmmakers to negotiate her appearance in the film. It's obvious they couldn't really make this movie without her, but there are still details to be agreed on. You might expect the brains behind such a bizarre production to be a flamboyantly gay John Waters-type, but it's actually two normal-looking women: writer/producer Celia Fox and director Lee Friedlander.

Howard and Kim are slated to play themselves in the movie, along with Anna Nicole and Sugar Pie, and Howard proposes giving their gang a more prominent plot thread throughout the story instead of a quick cameo. We don't find out how successful Howard is with this script suggestion, but Anna Nicole ends up filming at least three scenes. And Howard has to do his big scene in drag, dressed as Anna Nicole.

The gang gets invited to open auditions at a West Hollywood club, where dozens of hopeful transvestites tried out for a role in the movie. The local city council also proclaimed this day, February 18, 2003, to be "Anna Nicole Smith Day," in recognition of her being "a great friend of the West Hollywood community and the broader gay and lesbian community."

The Anna Nicole Show What is it with Anna Nicole and gay guys -- especially those who enjoy wearing dresses? "Anna is the kind of iconic character that gay men love and they can grab onto, and identify [with], and they can kind of want to be," Celia Fox offers. Myself, I like to think of Anna Nicole as an icon for heterosexual guys as well, but I gladly welcome my gay comrades in annanicology. Better they should idolize her than Liza Minelli or Barbra Streisand, I say.

Anna Nicole watches in her throne of honor, with her bandaged leg propped up and Sugar Pie in her lap, while the drag queens show their stuff. They are vying for one of the film's four Anna Nicole impersonator roles, a group of characters who call themselves the Santa Annas. Each member has his/her own code name, a la the Spice Girls: Champagne Anna, Brown Sugar Anna, etc.

The candidates put their best readings on lines like, "Don't move, motherf***er! I'm here to save Sugar Pie!" For some reason, Anna Nicole impersonators almost always say "Sugah Pie," which they maybe think sounds like a Texas drawl, even though Anna Nicole pretty much always pronounces her R's. Sugar Pie calmly witnesses all these strange men ranting and carrying on about her without even barking. Clearly, she's not convinced. None of the drag queens is terribly impressive in his characterization, but of course it's futile for the ultimate incarnation of femininity to be emulated to any degree by a mere male.

Next we cut to Anna Nicole's first day on the set of Wasabi Tuna. She gets up early and gets her makeup done at home, and we get our first glimpse of Troy Shook, her new makeup artist. Troy seems to have replaced Angie Ford, who was a fixture on the show until the slapping incident in Episode 16. I hope that dumb argument isn't the reason why Angie left.

Once she's ready for the movie cameras, Anna Nicole remembers one of the harsh realities of big-time Hollywood acting: "It'd been so long since I did a movie, I forgot how much waiting around there was." The production staff calls Howard to let him know they won't be needing Anna Nicole until later in the day than originally scheduled. This does not go over well with the would-be starlet. "I could've at least had a good two hours of sleep this morning, and I've been yanked out of my bed and put in makeup," she grumbles. The movie crew is no help at all, with their suggestion that she could go back to bed for a little while: "I can't just go to sleep on cue." Now there's a classic exclamation that ranks up there with "I can't eat over $600 worth of food."

Anna Nicole bides her time by practicing her lines with Howard ("Mr. Ling, is that you?") and cleaning off her black pants with a lint roller. Finally they get the call, and the gang heads for the movie set. Accompanying our stars is Pol' Atteu, Anna Nicole's fashion designer. He has been listed in the show's credits many times as supplying her wardrobe, but this is his first appearance on the show. Hats off to Pol' for all his fine work making her look so damn sexy.

In their shared dressing room, Howard and Anna Nicole go over the cue cards for their scenes and discuss some premeditated ad-libs. The script has Howard telling her that he has burned a pie, and she responds, "Goddammit, Howard! Not again!" (making a reference to the unfortunate events of the Holiday Special, of course). Anna Nicole wants to embroider her dialogue by saying "Not again, you f***ing bastard!" Or maybe "You f***ing asshole!" She can't make up her mind until she decides "I say asshole more."

Then Howard gets word from the producers that she can say "you asshole" but not "you f***ing asshole," since they have to watch the number of F-words in the movie to get the desired rating. Anna Nicole is indignant at having her creative input squelched. "Isn't this my -- Sugar Pie movie, and bein' here, right? Right? So why can't I have the f*** and it be taken away from Kim?" Who knows why the script would have had Kimmie using the F-word, since she's not much of a curser. I think she's only been bleeped on the show one time (Episode 9), and that was when she was passing along some profanity Bobby Trendy said. Anyway, it finally gets worked out so Anna Nicole is allowed to say f*** instead, and all's right with the world.

Again, the gang is left to wait and wait some more before the movie crew is ready for them. Anna Nicole pretends to throw a prima-donna hissy fit because the flowers left in her dressing room aren't fragrant enough. At least I think she's pretending. Howard notices that her black pants are covered with lint again, and since Pol' has taken the lint roller somewhere else, Howard obligingly wipes off her butt manually. "Oooh, Howard, brush me off," Anna Nicole coos excitedly. It's funny that they fret so much over how those pants look, since she never ends up doing a movie scene in them.

Sitting on Howard's lap, Anna Nicole taunts him about his impending transformation into drag. "You're gonna have to tie your d**k around to the other side of your butthole," she explains. He had apparently not been warned about that part of the bargain and says there's no way he's doing that. Anna Nicole insists that drag queens have to do that to prevent unsightly bulges in the front of tight dresses. "You want your b***s and d**k to all be hanging out like this?" she asks, cupping her hands in front of her crotch.

At long last, it's time for Anna Nicole and Howard get put into their makeup and dresses. This answers the question of when Howard shaved his goatee, which makes a helpful turning point for sorting out the twisted chronology of Season Two. Howard also gets his hair cut and styled, which makes no sense, since the plan all along was to put him in a blonde Anna Nicole wig. Maybe it's all a conspiracy to subject Howard to maximum torture.

And he does do some big-time whining throughout the beautification process, out-bitching even Anna Nicole. She grabs a video camera and tapes his hair styling, imploring him to confess to his parents that he's coming out of the closet. Howard refuses to put Leon and Bea through any undue stress with such a prank.

"Oh, you're such a pussy-whipped f***er from your parents," Anna Nicole chides.

"I'm pussy-whipped by my parents?" Howard says. "Think about what you're saying!"

Meanwhile, Pol' takes Kimmie to wardrobe to find a costume for her to wear. The scene in the movie is a Halloween party, so anything goes. Pol' points out some frilly and feminine outfits, and Kim shrinks from them in fear. The thought of dressing up in girly clothes is just about as horrific for Kim as it is for Howard. She ends up putting on a regal, velvety Henry VIII costume, which somehow looks just right for her.

Back in the dressing room, Howard and Anna Nicole are badly getting on each other's nerves. With his hair pulled up in a top knot awaiting a wig, Howard looks like "a drag-queen samurai." Anna Nicole is now outfitted in a towering headdress of pink and black feathers that makes her look like a cross between Mae West and a Vegas showgirl. While Howard keeps grumbling, she tries to give him a few pointers on how to act "womany." He doesn't seem too interested.

When Howard finally gets into his blonde wig, everyone seems to agree he makes a surprisingly cute drag queen. Sugar Pie chimes in with some perturbed barks. "Sugar Pie, that's Howard," Anna Nicole assures her. Howard fumbles into a strapless dress, whether with or without his package strapped down (I'd just as soon not know), and we're ready to shoot.

The actual filming seems to go much more smoothly than the interminable preparations. The big scene is set at a poolside Halloween party, where Anna Nicole delivers a few different takes of "Dammit, Howard! Not again, you f***ing asshole!" Then we cut ahead to another scene of the gang at a Chinese restaurant (Mr. Ling's place?), and a third scene of Anna Nicole taking a bubble bath. It looks like Wasabi Tuna will be a really fun movie. Celia Fox offers effusive praise for her star: "Anna came in as an actress, not a diva, did her work, was cool, had fun, was likable, and that's what it's about."

Anna Nicole herself expresses mixed emotions over the experience. "It felt great to be in a movie again, and I was born to play that character," she says. "But I gotta tell you, that was the longest day of my life. And it'll probably be a while before I do another movie again."

As much as I love to see her anywhere possible, it would be fine with me if she would satisfy her acting bug and realize she should spend her time on things she's better at. Like modeling. And painting. And believe it or not, singing. I understand she sings a song on the Wasabi Tuna soundtrack, and from her little-known recording of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," I can testify that she's a far more talented vocalist than you might imagine.

Please, Lord, anything to prevent her from doing Skyscraper II.

Anna Nicole Says...
"It made me feel great to have drag queens dress like me."
"There's too many f***s."
"We had reviewed my lines, and solved some of their script problems, but they weren't even ready for me to go into makeup yet."
"You're not gonna be a man for long, lady."
"Unless you've got a small baby d**k, Howard. Then it doesn't matter."
"Look at you gettin' shy now all of a sudden! What, are you gettin' a hard-on from all this talk? Howard has a hard-on!"
"I mean, Howard is my best friend, and I had to tell him to shut the f*** up."
"You don't have to be gay to learn how to wear a f***in' dress."
"Are you gonna have cue cards tomorrow?"

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