Guests: Tom O‘Neil, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Rachel Sklar, Susan Risdon, David Caplan, Robi Ludwig
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Certainly, Andy Warhol‘s quip about 15 minutes of fame seemed to be tailored as tightly to Anna Nicole Smith‘s oversized personality than any other public figure in recent memory, but her 15 minutes as a small-town Texas girl, the Playmate of the Year, extended another 15 minutes for marrying money—we‘re talking really, really big money—while her groom was just months away from his deathbed. And then another 15 minutes, and another, until Anna Nicole Smith‘s unseemly and unruly 15 minutes turned into 15 years and took her from Hef‘s mansion to the United States Supreme Court.
Tonight, a tragic end to the life of Anna Nicole Smith, the 39-year-old former “Playboy“ Playmate and current media obsession found dead after collapsing at a Hard Rock hotel in Florida. Smith was a new breed of celebrity who was famous simply because she was famous. She was, in short, Paris—before Paris was Paris, and America couldn‘t get enough of the TV reality show, the tantrums, the tragedies, the diets and the untimely deaths. Perhaps as a distraction from a disastrous war or an unsettled world scene or from a scandal-ridden Washington. But for whatever reason, Americans loved watching as the celebrity world and pop culture world became one long-running reality TV show, even when the cameras were turned off.
Let‘s go now to NBC‘s Mark Potter. Mark is live tonight in Hollywood, Florida. Mark, what‘s the very latest?
MARK POTTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, good evening to you. Anna Nicole Smith‘s body has been moved from the hospital behind me to the medical examiner‘s office in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We‘re told by officials there that the autopsy to determine the cause of her death will begin tomorrow morning.
This whole event, this dramatic event today all began early this afternoon, when Anna Nicole Smith was found unconscious in her hotel room. Efforts to revive her there, though, failed.
POTTER (voice-over): The first distress call came from room 128 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, where Anna Nicole Smith checked in with her husband on Monday. She was a frequent guest at the hotel and was here now to buy a boat. Her personal nurse alerted the hotel operator that there was a problem and they needed help. And then a 911 call was made.
CAPT. DAN FITZGERALD, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA, FIRE DEPT.: We started an IV. We pushed all the medications. We (INAUDIBLE) EKGs. We attempted pacing her, which would be an external pacemaker for the heart. And we had electrical capture but no mechanical capture, which means we couldn‘t get her heart beating.
POTTER: With paramedics on the way, people in her room desperately tried to help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 1:45, all I know is that her bodyguard administered CPR to her.
POTTER: But the bodyguard and paramedics were unable to get her to respond and they rushed Smith to the trauma center at Memorial Regional Hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was covered up. You couldn‘t see her because she was covered up. They just—they wheeled her in.
POTTER: But in the emergency room, doctors there were also unsuccessful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 2:49 this afternoon, we were advised by hospital personnel that Anna Nicole Smith had died.
POTTER: Anna Nicole Smith was a flamboyant model and former Playmate of the Year. Her life was chronicled in real time on a cable reality show. In 1994, she married oil tycoon Howard Marshall, who died at the age of 90, and she claims he planned to leave her his multi-billion-dollar fortune. The fight over his estate ended up in court.
ANNA NICOLE SMITH: Can you please redo the question without yelling at me? Because you‘re scaring me.
POTTER: The battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where she won that argument, but the case itself remains unresolved. Meanwhile, Smith suffered a devastating personal tragedy in the Bahamas last year, when shortly after giving birth, her 20-year-old son, Daniel, died of apparent drug complications. Even after that, her soap opera life continued when her lawyer, Howard K. Stern, announced he was the father of her newborn child.
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: So you are the father.
HOWARD K. STERN, ANNA NICOLE‘S ATTORNEY: Yes, sir.
POTTER: But now Smith‘s ex-boyfriend says he is the father and demanded a paternity test.
So now her life has ended, but the media spotlight is still ever bright. As part that ME‘s investigation, by the way, there will be toxicology tests done. That‘s normal procedure, but that can take some time. We‘re told that the medical examiner himself, Dr. Joshua Perper (ph), will hold a news conference sometime tomorrow afternoon to update people on at least his preliminary findings, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Mark, what else is going on in the investigation, other than an autopsy?
POTTER: Joe, there is another phase that involves the police. The Seminole police, who represent the reservation upon which the Hard Rock cafe sits, are the lead investigators, but they have also called in the Broward County crime lab people. They are the big experts in this area. They have the lab, the expertise.
They went through the hotel room today, looking for any evidence. They will be processing that and then will be sharing whatever information they find there with the medical examiner and with the Seminole police, who, as I said, are leading this investigation into the cause of death. So there are three different agencies, at least, looking into why she died today.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you so much, Mark Potter. Greatly appreciate it.
Here now let‘s bring in Tom O‘Neil from “In Touch Weekly,” investigative journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell—she‘s also the author of the upcoming book “Secrets Can Be Murder”—and the Huffingtonpost‘s media editor Rachel Sklar.
Tom, we begin with you. Take us behind the scenes with what happened today in Hollywood.
TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”: Well, let‘s actually go back to Monday, when she arrived in Florida presumably to shop for a boat, says Howard. She had a fever, flu. He said it kind of crested and broke yesterday. At one point, she fell and hit her head against the bathtub. That‘s how sick she was. And today, of course, around 1:45, she was discovered by this nurse, who then summoned a bodyguard, who gave her CPR. She was unresponsive. She was dead by the time she got to the hospital, is the consensus.
SCARBOROUGH: And Tom, there had been some reports out today, some wire reports following this story, that talked about how she had attended a boxing match in January in this same area, or just a month or so ago, and that she was completely out of it, one observer was quoted as saying. Was this considered a shock? Does she have a history of drug usage?
O‘NEIL: Well, she certainly has a history of being out of it, Joe. I have never seen her in a coherent state on the many red carpets that I have observed her in Hollywood. And I hate to say it because she was very well liked by everybody who actually knew her, but there was a sense of inevitability about this in Hollywood today. People shrugged their shoulders and said, You know, I‘m not surprised.
SCARBOROUGH: Jane, would you concur with that? This is a woman who went to the Betty Ford clinic and had been fighting substance abuse for some time, right?
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, CELEBRITY JOURNALIST: Well, yes and no. To me, it was shocking in that she seemed almost invincible. She has endured on the public stage scandal after scandal, humiliations, lawsuits, the tragic death of her son, the birth of her daughter, a paternity battle, all of these things, just a swarm of lawsuits, and yet she seemed to keep on going through it all.
So in a sense, you kind of got the feeling that she was invincible. And then for her to die so mysteriously and unexpectedly today, it was a shocker for many. Although on the other hand, it did have a sense of inevitability about it because of the lifestyle that she led and the fact that she was so out of it, as we‘re saying so often.
SCARBOROUGH: And that lifestyle made her life just seem like train wreck TV. Why were Americans so taken by this story?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think that she was one of the last of the renegades. We live in a time of conformity, where we‘ve all got to get somewhere on time and we‘ve got kids and obligations, and this is a woman who did everything her own way. I would say she was terminally unique. She broke all the rules and managed to survive.
I mean, imagine this, a high school dropout, who was a teen mother and then a stripper, meets an oil tycoon billionaire, marries him, ends up going all the way to the Supreme Court, ends up with her own reality show, is a “Playboy“ Playmate. This life story, this trajectory, this arc of her life was so fascinating, it really got into our collective hard drive.
SCARBOROUGH: It really did, sold a lot of tabloid magazines along the way. And let‘s take a look at what Anna Nicole‘s attorney had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON RALE, ANNA NICOLE SMITH‘S ATTORNEY: I just feel, you know, horrible about Dannielynn, that her mom is not around. And Anna was a great mom. And I don‘t care what you hear, she was a great mom. And you know, I don‘t want to go into that—maybe I will, but not right now.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) there are rumors that it was a drug overdose (INAUDIBLE)
RALE: You know, I‘ve heard all that. It‘s a bunch of nonsense, you know, and that‘s one of the reasons why I‘m talking. I—we haven‘t had an autopsy. You know, I‘m not there. I don‘t want to say my personal opinion, but I believe it‘s nonsense, and anybody who makes statements like that without knowing anything further—they don‘t know, and they shouldn‘t be speculating.
I can tell that you Anna had some flu symptoms the last couple of days. She had a fever, you know? I know that this whole thing has caused stress, and I‘m hopeful, like I said, that nothing precipitated her death because of the stress because that will make me more angry because I can talk for hours about how I think that this case has been mishandled in the press.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Rachel, the press, certainly—I don‘t know if they mishandled it or not, but they‘ve been obsessed with Anna Nicole Smith for some time. Today when the news broke, all the cable networks provided wall-to-wall coverage, as we‘re doing here tonight. It seems strange that Americans are so obsessed with this one woman‘s story and this death, when you have young men and women fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. Why are Americans so obsessed with this former stripper‘s life and now death?
RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, I don‘t think it‘s a question of being obsessed with her on an ongoing basis, but there‘s just been a lot of news about her lately. This woman just—she kept on coming back with different stuff, and unfortunately, it was tragedy after tragedy. The death of her son was shocking and heartbreaking, and it was under very mysterious circumstances. She married her lawyer shortly after that. And now this.
I think that Anna Nicole Smith has just—she‘s been kind of a mainstay in American popular culture since she broke out in those Guess ads, you know, I guess a decade-and-a-half ago. And I think that—so to a certain extent, she‘s a familiar person. She‘s someone who‘s been around. And she definitely is—she‘s reinvented herself with the reality show, the controversy over her marriage to J. Howard Marshall. Anna Nicole Smith has been a mainstay. I wouldn‘t say that she‘s been, like, a day-to-day obsession, but just when the news about her has broken, it‘s been followed, yes. Absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: And why is that? Why are Americans—is this the Paris Hilton syndrome, where bad behavior is rewarded?
SKLAR: Well, actually, what I think is interesting and different about Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton—Paris Hilton is definitely, I think, a train wreck and someone that you kind of—you see as a sheer celebrity. Anna Nicole Smith—I think it was Tom mentioned earlier that she was very well liked. She did have a very likable persona. You even got the sense that even in that reality show, that definitely was—you know, it made me uncomfortable to watch at times, you got the sense that she was being exploited, but you never got the sense that she was exploiting herself or that she was, you know, calculating or gunning for the fame. There did seem to be a happy-go-lucky genuineness about her. So to that extent, perhaps that connected.
SCARBOROUGH: And Tom O‘Neil, the result (INAUDIBLE) may be a part of her that people that did follow the story liked, the fact that it was a rags-to-riches story. Talk about this small town Texas girl, who got all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court for some very strange reasons.
O‘NEIL: Yes, your analogy to Paris Hilton and this point, combine those and you‘ve got it, Joe. She is Paris Hilton, someone who‘s famous just for being famous, and a train wreck and a slob and a mess and—but somehow still successful, despite it all.
The difference is Paris comes from privilege, and Anna Nicole came from a little town in Texas. And she struggled her way all the way to the top. She kept losing it. She‘s been through bankruptcy. She went through this marriage to a billionaire, who, by the way, said many times that he loved her, and she held off marrying him until she had had a couple of screen roles, until she had had the “Playboy“ success, just so that she wouldn‘t be perceived as a gold digger.
And of course, through all of this, this huge quest (ph), and then to get to the Supreme Court, as you mentioned, Joe, and she had the Bush administration on her side, fighting for her, and she won her case!
O‘NEIL: Really! That‘s the funny thing about it. And then she has never seen it resolved upon her death.
SCARBOROUGH: Never seen it resolved. It just kept going on and on. And I suspect now, the lawyers, Jane, are going to continue fighting this battle. And the question is, Where does the money go? Now you‘ve got a paternity battle that—you know, if she ends up winning this after her death, there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be going to her child, and by extension, one of these alleged fathers. So what happens next?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It‘s absolutely astounding. It‘s so convoluted. But the bottom line is because the son of the oil tycoon also died, you essentially have two estates now battling for these many, many millions of dollars. His estate was worth $1.6 billion. And even the attorneys fighting Anna Nicole estate say that she could walk away with at least $88 million.
And at the center of it all is this little 5-month-old girl, and nobody knows for sure who the daddy is. That is why the paternity issue is such a huge issue. There are a lot of cynics who think the paternity issue is really a money issue and that people want to become the daddy of this child because she could be an heiress worth at least $88 million one day.
SCARBOROUGH: And there are 88 million reasons for these men who are fighting to be the father—recognized legally as the father, to continue their battle.
We‘re going to be talking about this poor 5-month-old baby coming up next. Tom O‘Neil, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Rachel Sklar, stay with us, because coming up next: The tragic news of Anna Nicole Smith is made only worse when you stop and think about that young daughter. We‘re going to take a look at what lies ahead for the small child already the center of a very nasty custody battle that could be worth close to $100 million.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I‘ve been hearing a lot of gossip in the papers, She‘s pregnant, She‘s pregnant, She‘s pregnant by some guy. Well, let me stop all the rumors. Yes, I am pregnant. I am happy. I‘m very, very happy about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: That was Anna Nicole Smith last year, announcing that she was pregnant. Now, six months after her daughter‘s birth, it‘s still unclear who the baby‘s father is. Anna Nicole‘s attorney is heading to court tomorrow for an emergency paternity hearing to discuss DNA testing requested by Anna Nicole‘s ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who claims he‘s the baby‘s father. But now Howard K. Stern, Smith‘s lawyer-turned-husband, is claiming he‘s the father.
Anna Nicole Smith has a very complicated family tree. She‘s been married twice. She‘s been divorced. She‘s been widowed. She‘s had two children, a 20-year-old, Daniel, who died recently, and a new baby, Dannielynn. So what will happen to her new baby?
Jane Velez-Mitchell and Tom O‘Neil are still with us. And let me ask you, Tom, to take a swing at that. What in the world could happen to this 5-month-old? Where does it go, and where does the possibly $88 million to $100 million go that may follow it?
O‘NEIL: Well, a Bahamian court ruled today that temporary custody of the child is in the care of Howard Stern because his name is on the birth certificate. But if that is, you know, just established to be not true, then of course, the baby will be in the custody of Larry Birkhead. Remember, there were three court decisions so far in this case. While one of them was for $88 million and another one was for zero, the very first one was for more than $400 million in her favor. So at this point...
SCARBOROUGH: So we could be talking about a custody battle...
O‘NEIL: A half a billion dollars.
SCARBOROUGH: ... worth almost half a billion dollars. Where is this baby right now?
O‘NEIL: The baby is in the Bahamas, in the care of ,quote, unquote, “a friend.” That‘s all we know.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Jane Velez-Mitchell, can you shine a light on what we‘re going to be seeing going forward here, and who some of these key players are who may take over this baby‘s estate that could be worth anywhere now we hear from $88 million to almost half a billion dollars?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Joe, there‘s always a possibility that neither of these two men is the father, that someone else is the father. So it‘s extraordinarily complicated. The reason I say that is another man in a declaration had said that Anna Nicole had claimed to him that he was the father, and he said, Sorry, honey, that‘s not possible. I had a vasectomy.
So it‘s a very complicated case. Now, I will say this. The reason why there was so much suspicion over Anna Nicole‘s claim that Howard K. Stern, her lawyer/companion/possible husband, was the father is that she refused to take the paternity test. If you‘re so absolutely sure that Howard is the father, why not submit to the testing and get it over with?
So there was suspicion there. And the courts just ruled yesterday that Anna Nicole Smith had until later this month to finally complete that testing before she tragically died today. So I think it is up in the air, and I have a lot of concerns over this 5-month-old child. I mean, she needs to be taken care of tonight, and I don‘t think it should be left to the assumption that everything‘s OK. I think that authorities in the Bahamas should absolutely make sure that this child is being cared for.
SCARBOROUGH: Why don‘t we—let‘s take a look at what Larry Birkhead, Anna Nicole Smith‘s ex-boyfriend, said on our show last October about his relationship to Anna Nicole‘s baby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY BIRKHEAD, ANNA NICOLE SMITH‘S EX-BOYFRIEND: It needs to be told to the American public that I am the father of this child, and all his—
Howard Stern‘s lies need to stop right now.
There‘s absolutely no way that Howard Stern is the father of this child. He knows. I know it. And that‘s all there is to it. He challenged me on live television to get an attorney, and so I have taken him up on his offer. And it‘s time to get to the bottom it, and we will soon see all the lies surrounding this circus that he‘s taken and he‘s made out of my birth of my baby daughter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Tom, do most people that know this story, that are close to this story, believe that we just saw the father of this child talking?
O‘NEIL: Yes, pretty much. If you follow the chronology of their romance and you go back in time to the baby‘s birth and back then nine months, it‘s pretty clear that he‘s probably right. And then this case gets much more ugly because remember what Larry Birkhead has said all along here, in that he said this isn‘t a fight over money, this isn‘t even a fight over that little girl and who gets custody of her, it‘s a fight over her life because he‘s claimed all along that the little girl was born a methadone addict and that Anna Nicole was an addict and that she had passed it on to this child. And he said, I‘ve got to get this baby out there to save her life.
And gee, guess what they found in the bloodstream of little Daniel, you know, who died at the age of 20 back in September? They found methadone and they found two other drugs both ended up present in his system. And that was the toxicology report issued by the family. So on March 21, there‘s actually going to be an inquest in the Bahamas, where all of their officials are going to reveal what they have found. So we may yet have a very different story here.
SCARBOROUGH: And certainly, there have been some reports that some of those—when you‘re talking about the passing of the 20-year-old son, there are some suspicions that Howard K. Stern may have been involved in supplying that also, according to TMZ. But again, that‘s what makes this custody value so ugly right now.
Tom, O‘Neil, Jane Velez-Mitchell, stay with us.
When we come back, more of this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. We‘re going to go live to Smith‘s hometown for a look back at her humble beginnings. And later, the money trail left behind. What happens to the Marshall millions that Anna Nicole has been fighting for so many years?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can confirm that Anna Nicole is deceased. I don‘t have the cause right now. Obviously, there‘s going to be an autopsy. It‘s just shocking. I don‘t know anything more right now, and I‘m trying to find out, just like you guys are. But it is confirmed that she has passed away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: The news of Anna Nicole‘s death today was felt across the country, but especially in her hometown of Mexia, Texas. Susan Risdon from NBC station KXAS is live tonight. Susan, I understand there was always sort of a mixed reaction to Anna Nicole Smith. What‘s the reaction down there right now, and what was it like when the news broke this afternoon?
SUSAN RISDON, KXAS: I mean, a lot of people are shocked and saddened. She was known as Vickie Lynn Hogan when she lived here in Mexia. It‘s a small town of about 6,500 people. This is where she grew up. And we‘re live in front of Jim‘s Crispy Friend Chicken, and this is where Anna Nicole Smith was a waitress. And in 1985 is when she met Billy Smith. He was a cook here. The two got married. The next year, they had Daniel, and then divorced. And then Anna Nicole and Daniel moved back to Houston.
But some people are saying that she kind of went under the radar when she lived here. She went to Mexia high school, did not graduate. She was not involved in any extracurricular activities. They say she had brown hair, looked very differently than she did, you know, recently, and that they really know her as the waitress here at this chicken place.
And the owner didn‘t talk on camera. He did release a statement saying that they‘re shocked and saddened by the news and that their condolences go out to her family. But some people are upset. We got a cool reception from others, saying that, when she obtained her celebrity status, she only came back here to Mexia once and never helped out the struggling town financially—Joe?
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Susan Risdon. Thank you so much.
Now, do you know, is there—does she have any relatives left down there or any people that still feel a special connection to her?
RISDON: Well, we‘ve heard that she still has an aunt that lives in the town, but we were unable to find her. We did go to Billy Smith‘s house today, but his mother opened the door and then shut it. I think that they‘re obviously upset about the news and did not really want to talk to the media.
So we‘ve been looking for some relatives. We even tried to find a yearbook picture. She wasn‘t in any of the yearbooks. We‘re trying to track down a picture of what she looked like when she lived back in this small town, and we weren‘t able to find that.
But a lot of people are just really upset, especially what happened with Daniel, who was born here, and then, you know, she has this newborn son, and just—they want to hear what the cause of death is. So, you know, it is sad here. It‘s kind of a mixed reaction here in Mexia.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Susan Risdon from KXAS-TV.
She‘s live in Mexia, Texas, hometown of Anna Nicole Smith.
Coming up on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a look at the death of Anna Nicole‘s son, Daniel, and how it affected the final months of her life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE LOPEZ, ACTOR: She was, you know, obviously troubled, through her history of her short life. And, you know, it‘s unfortunate she lost her son, and she just had a baby, so our hearts go out to her just as a human being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to a special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the death of Anna Nicole. You know, the last few months of Anna Nicole‘s life were spent mourning the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel. He died suddenly back in September in Anna Nicole‘s Bahamas hotel room, just three days after she gave birth to her daughter.
An autopsy revealed that Daniel had the lethal combination of methadone and two other antidepressants in his system, which caused a fatal heart attack. So what impact did the death of Anna Nicole‘s son have on her final months and, of course, her final past few days?
Here now is Dr. Robi Ludwig. And still with us, “Star” magazine‘s David Caplan.
David, talk about that relationship between Anna Nicole and her 20-year-old son and how, when he died, a part of her died with him?
DAVID CAPLAN, “STAR” MAGAZINE: Absolutely. A part of Anna Nicole‘s world completely collapsed when Daniel died. Daniel was really more than just, you know, a son to Anna Nicole Smith. So, of course, when a parent loses a child, it‘s heart-wrenching, it‘s gut-wrenching.
But we even saw this when Anna Nicole Smith had a reality TV show on E!, this really special relationship the two of them had. He was Anna Nicole‘s best friend. He was Anna Nicole‘s confidante. So when he died, Anna Nicole was just absolutely devastated, and she lost someone who she had been bonding with for years, one of her best friends.
They talked about men together. I mean, there were even quirkier episodes which a lot of people, you know, raised a few eyebrows over, like Anna Nicole Smith would walk around naked around Daniel at their home. So these two had such a special bond. And when it happened, Anna Nicole—it just devastated her. And she really lost it. And no one else, not even Howard K. Stern, could ever fill that void.
SCARBOROUGH: And she really couldn‘t—I understand she couldn‘t really trust anybody else in her life. She felt like they were all after her money.
CAPLAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: It was basically—she felt like it was she and her son against the world?
CAPLAN: No, definitely. I mean, so many people around Anna Nicole Smith betrayed her. Let‘s just look last year in November, when Laurie Payne, a former friend of Anna Nicole Smith, filed a deposition in a Los Angeles court, saying that Anna Nicole had been on methadone while she was pregnant with her daughter, and all these other sort of charges and accusations. I mean, what type of friend would ever say that? So that was such a perfect example of how people in Anna Nicole‘s life had betrayed her time in and time out again.
SCARBOROUGH: And so, Dr. Ludwig, when somebody like Daniel dies, you have a woman who seems to be, at the very least, in a very frail psychological state, when you have the one person that‘s sort of the pillar in that life taken away, what kind of impact does that have? What kind of impact do you think that had on Anna Nicole?
DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Yes, I mean, it‘s such a sad situation, because each prior to Daniel‘s death Anna Nicole seemed to live such a self-destructive life. It was almost like a train wreck unraveling. So you almost wonder if she had some kind of death wish.
And then you have her best friend, perhaps the only person that she really trusted, died. And don‘t forget she is, after all, his mother. And the worst thing that can happen to any mother is to have a child die. I‘m sure she felt tremendously guilty that she could not protect her son and that, perhaps, felt responsible for his death in some way, because many parents feel that it is their job to protect their children from harm and harm‘s way. And that didn‘t happen in this case.
And if she did not have the proper coping skills to deal with that intense pain—and given what I observed, that‘s what I would imagine was the case—then it‘s very possible that she went into a self-destructive mode, perhaps, of drugging herself into a situation where she perhaps killed herself unknowingly.
SCARBOROUGH: And, you know, a lot of people are saying actually that Anna Nicole‘s lawyer and lover, Howard K. Smith, had recently been accused of providing—Stern—had been recently been accused of providing drugs to Daniel Smith before he died. He denies any involvement, and this is what he told the “New York Post.” Quote, “I would never hurt Daniel in any way, and to implicate me on that, that‘s just despicable, absolutely despicable.”
David, what kind of impact, though, does that charge have? And it‘s been going around for some time that the investigators were looking into Howard K. Stern and the possibility that he provided the drug that could have killed her son. Does that make her feel even more responsible, possibly for his death?
CAPLAN: And absolutely. You‘re dealing with two issues here, one that Anna Nicole would have issues of huge guilt, because this is someone who Anna Nicole Smith brought into her son‘s life, was Howard K. Stern. And, essentially, at the end of the day, she likely felt, you know, a little bit responsible for this death, if that is the case, that Howard K. Stern was providing her son with drugs.
And, second of all, yet again, it‘s another sign of betrayal by someone in Anna Nicole Smith‘s life. Howard K. Stern, she said, was her confidante, let alone her lawyer, was her confidante, and then, essentially, her husband, after they had a commitment ceremony. So, again, she just felt extremely betrayed, extremely just given the run around.
And it‘s a horrible feeling. And compounding all those emotions, Anna Nicole Smith was in a horrible state of mind her last few months.
SCARBOROUGH: Robi, how concerned are you about this 5-month-old baby who is somewhere tonight, possibly in the Bahamas with somebody that nobody knows?
LUDWIG: Well, I think it‘s really important, in order for this daughter to have a good and secure life, she needs to be in secure hands, people who can love her, people who can tell her about her history in a positive way, because this child‘s not going to have any memory of her mother. So it‘s super important, whoever is the caretaker, it‘s someone who is responsible, and able to love her, and provide a safe home that isn‘t, you know, surrounded by people who are unhealthy.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thank you so much. And stay with us, Dr.
Ludwig and David Caplan.
Also, stick around, coming up next on the special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” the unanswered question left behind after Anna Nicole‘s death: What will become of the Marshall millions, possibly up to half a billion dollars? The epic legal battle now gets even more complicated, with a 5-month-old baby in the middle of it. That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about?
ANNA NICOLE SMITH, FORMER MODEL: My husband spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on me; $100,000 is not a lot of money to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pardon me, $100,000 is not a lot of money to you?
SMITH: No. My husband just threw money at me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: It was a made-for-tabloid legal battle, but Anna Nicole Smith‘s life was tragically cut short today. She left behind the famous court battles, over hundreds of millions of dollars in inheritance, a class-action lawsuit, which accused the “Playboy” playmate and TrimSpa of misleading consumers, and a newborn daughter whose status is still up in the air, leaving the lawyers to sort out the question: What happens to that long money trail she left behind?
With us still, Jane Velez-Mitchell and David Caplan.
Jane, talk about all pf these lawsuits that she had going for so many years. It certainly had to add an awful lot of stress to her final months. But also, I guess the question is, had she lived to be 70 or 80 years old, would these things be resolved? They‘ve been going on forever it seems.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Joe, I don‘t think you can underestimate the role that stress may have played here. The stress that she was living under was intense, and it was like the walls were closing in on her, problem after problem.
As has been reported, an inquiry, a public inquiry was scheduled in the Bahamas for next month into the death of her son. Now, that‘s like a mini-trial. She was supposed to testify. And, of course, the big question in that trial: Where did Daniel get the methadone? He had just arrived from the United States to visit his mom in the hospital, because she had just given birth a couple of days earlier. He was not known as a druggy. He was known—his reputation was as a clean-cut kid. So where did he get that?
It has been reported—a former friend of Anna Nicole‘s had said publicly, in a declaration, that she observed Anna Nicole taking methadone and Xanax during her pregnancy. Now, that has not been in any way substantiated. But imagine the pressure of living under all of that, meantime, a paternity battle going on to determine who the father is, meantime, a battle over a $1.5 billion estate, meantime, a class-action suit. It‘s enough to make anybody overcome with stress.
SCARBOROUGH: David Caplan, we talk about, again, this Marshall family, $1.5 billion over a custody battle. You know, the Marshall family released this statement. They said, quote, “We understand that many of you will be asking questions concerning the ongoing litigation with Anna. Out of respect to her friends and family, we will reserve comment on the litigation at this time.”
But, David, this legal battle has been going on for a long time, because again, it could concern up to half a billion dollars, and it will continue for a long time, won‘t it, even after her death?
CAPLAN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this case has been sort of a legal rollercoaster. Last year, Anna Nicole Smith was awarded—I think it was about $474 million. That was overturned. Then another court decided she Anna deserve her sort of day in court. This has been going back and forth with the courts.
And, with all due respect to the Marshall family, they send their best wishes and their best regards to Anna Nicole Smith‘s family, but, listen, they didn‘t want Anna Nicole Smith to have the money when she was alive. I really doubt they want her estate to have that money now.
SCARBOROUGH: Does she have a will, do you know?
CAPLAN: I‘m not sure if she had a will. But, I mean, any proceeds will definitely go to, obviously, her daughter now, and maybe even her mom, since she‘s alive, as well.
SCARBOROUGH: Jane, what about a relationship with her mother? Any other relatives out there that could share some of this money with the baby? Or would it go straight to the child?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It‘s a really good question, Joe, a very big question. Did she have a will? And, if she did, did she say, “I want Howard K. Stern to have custody of the child?” Because that could give him a leg up in a battle.
Separate from the paternity test, there‘s also the issue of, if that paternity battle is not resolved either way for one of those two men, could the grandmother, Anna Nicole‘s mom and the grandmother of this little baby girl, get involved and possibly get custody?
She had a very troubled—Anna Nicole Smith did—with her mother, a very troubled relationship. The mother, in fact, had expressed concern about Anna Nicole‘s state of mind very recently, really expressing worry publicly that something could happen to her. So it was kind of prophetic, in a very tragic way.
So there are so many factors involved, it would be very interesting to see if, in fact, Anna Nicole had a will and what was said in it.
SCARBOROUGH: And, David, if she is—if she does have a will, and if she does leave custody of the child to Howard K. Stern, obviously, a lot of questions are going to have to be answered about the passing of Anna Nicole Smith‘s 20-year-old son and the methadone and who supplied that.
Can you tell us about the investigation into Daniel Smith‘s death? Is Howard K. Stern suspected of providing that methadone?
CAPLAN: I mean, absolutely. Howard K. Stern will be one of the people called to the inquest, which currently is scheduled for March 27th in the Bahamas. The chief magistrate, Roger Gomez, in Nassau has said it will go ahead, and, you know, Anna Nicole Smith was actually supposed to be part of this inquest.
And what we‘re going to find out is everyone who had contact with Daniel, from even the moment he flew from California to the Bahamas, will be interviewed. They even want to interview flight attendants on the airplane to the Bahamas to see, was he taking alcohol? Was he taking drugs on the airplane? Every single thing they want to look into.
And Howard K. Stern is definitely one of their star witnesses that they want to have at this inquest. And the inquest is going to be in excess of 20 people, the chief magistrate said. It‘s going to be very interesting to see what happens. And in light of Anna Nicole‘s death today, I think a lot more people are very suspicious of Howard K. Stern.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt about it. Thank you so much, Jane Velez-Mitchell, David Caplan. Stay with us. Still ahead on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, looking back at Anna Nicole‘s life, from a small town in Texas, to playmate of the year, to the United States Supreme Court. Like so many Americans, we‘re fascinated with her tabloid life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She really was not the healthiest person in the world. I remember she was always going in and out of hospitals, so I don‘t know. I mean, you know, she‘s too young, obviously, to die of old age, natural causes. So I don‘t know. But I‘m not shocked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back to this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. She was mainly famous for being famous, the ultimate celebrity in today‘s celebrity-obsessed culture. So what made Anna Nicole Smith fascinating to so many people, specifically people who read tabloids?
Still with us, David Caplan and Rachel Sklar. David, why the obsession with Anna Nicole Smith? Why have the cable shows, and even the broadcast news shows, and certainly the morning shows tomorrow, why are they all focused in on this story, and why are they going to be providing a lot more time to Anna Nicole Smith than the war in Iraq and the possible coming war with Iran?
CAPLAN: Well, you know, America has fallen in love with Anna Nicole Smith over the years since she really came onto the pop culture scene.
SCARBOROUGH: Do they love her, or are they laughing at her, or do they love her? What‘s the deal?
CAPLAN: People love Anna Nicole Smith, because she really is the perfect rags-to-riches story. A lot of people sort of see her as the underdog. She came from, as we‘ve already spoken about, humble beginnings in a small town in Texas, and, all of a sudden, sky rockets to fame, lands in “Playboy,” has her own reality TV show, the face of Guess Jeans.
And she was always so strong throughout the whole—her whole career, really, and her whole life. So people, they fell in love with her because, no matter what—and she knew that she was criticized nonstop, and she just kept doing it.
And another thing I just want to add is that a lot people keep saying to me today, oh, you know, Anna Nicole Smith was a bit of a train wreck. Now, she had bouts of being a train wreck, and, honestly, that‘s what people love, unfortunately, to see. They love reading stories about that.
But Anna Nicole Smith always got back on those tracks, so to speak.
And she would just keep doing something. She‘d have great success in it. And then, sure enough, she‘d maybe have sort of a bout with “train-wreck-dom,” and that would happen. So it was very sad, but people loved her, and she just really found a place in America‘s heart. And you know what? Channeling Marilyn Monroe never hurt.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Rachel, of course, she seemed to die tragically like Marilyn Monroe. Can you explain why—well, let me ask you this. Are you surprised by the attention that her death has received, not only today and tonight, but what it will certainly receive tomorrow morning on all the morning talk shows?
RACHEL SKLAR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Well, actually, Joe, that‘s sort of a two-part question. And here‘s why. Initially, I was surprised at the interest, just because, I mean, it really just wiped everything else off the front page. You know, crazy astronaut in diapers, Nancy Pelosi on the plane, like, all of it off the front page. And you know what? It supplanted everything else. On the Technorati top 10, it was number one. Lisa Nowak was number 10. It was just dominated.
SCARBOROUGH: Why is that? Why is it that Anna Nicole Smith, and Paris Hilton, and people like this are always the most e-mailed stories, always the stories that Americans are most fascinated by?
SKLAR: Well, I mean, it‘s like David was saying. There was the fascination. There was the familiarity. There was the fact that you‘ve seen them over and over and, you know, there was a reality show, and there‘s that train wreck element.
But what I think is actually interesting and why I think this story will remain in the news, is that all the issues that are coming out, it‘s actually a really complex situation, with the question of what‘s going to happen with the baby. The baby‘s in the Bahamas. Are there questions of Bahamian law versus U.S. law and the conflicts of law there, how the fortune is going to play out, the custody battle. These are all things that have yet to be decided, and really it‘s actually a pretty complex mystery. And again...
SCARBOROUGH: For better or for worse, would you call Anna Nicole Smith an American icon of the early 21st century?
SKLAR: I mean, again, that would really depend on how strict a definition of “icon” you were using, but, yes, she definitely—she was a pinup, she was a television star, she was a celebrity. I would say she was an icon.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, thank you so much. Greatly appreciate it, Rachel, as always. And, David, thank you, too.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. But coming up next, an MSNBC special on the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Thank you for being with us. Good night.
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