Visitors to the Bahamas can sunbathe, snorkel, golf, gamble and shop. Now there is a ghoulish new tourist attraction: touring the sites connected to deceased former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.
Since the larger-than-life Smith died on Feb. 8, many of the tourists who disembark from cruise liners at Nassau each day have been asking for the “Anna Nicole tour” as part of their day on New Providence Island, according to taxi drivers.
“It’s sad that she died but we don’t look at the negative. There are persons in the taxi industry who are making money because people come here asking to go to the house, the cemetery and the hospital,” said Burcil Anderson, a taxi driver waiting in a line of minivans at the port.
The Anna Nicole tour starts at Doctors’ Hospital in Nassau, where her son Daniel died in September just days after she gave birth to a daughter, Dannielynn. From there it weaves up to Lake View cemetery where he is buried in an unmarked grave and where she will most likely be buried too, lawyers permitting.
But the highlight of the tour is “Horizons,” the seaside home at the eastern end of the island that the pin-up shared with her companion Howard K. Stern and which he now shares with Dannielynn, Smith’s five-month-old heiress.
Both house and daughter are the subject of court fights.
The occasional fleeting glimpse of Stern being whisked through the gates is the closest most get to the drama. Stern is locked in a custody battle with Larry Birkhead, who also claims to be the girl’s father.
Florida resident Erica Elshoff flew to Nassau this week just to pay her respects to the former topless dancer whose estate could be worth millions one day because she was the widow of an oil billionaire. Elshoff arrived at the gates of the house in one of Nassau’s many for-hire stretch limousines.
“They (the media) are trying to make her like a slut but she was a strong woman in charge of her own sexuality and she had an addiction like millions of Americans,” she said, referring to reports that Smith overused prescription drugs.
This week the tour briefly acquired a new site when part of the legal battle moved to Nassau’s Supreme Court.
“Curiosity killed the cat,” said Canadian Vicky Murphy to explain why she took time out from her holiday to wait in the heat outside the courthouse where photojournalists jostled with tourists armed with cameras.
Among Bahamians, views differ on the blond celebrity’s life and death but the reality of the saga struck home when The Tribune newspaper splashed photographs of Immigration Minister Shane Gibson and Smith on a bed on its front page.
Both were clothed, and their friendship was public knowledge, but Gibson was forced to resign on Feb. 18 because of criticism that he fast-tracked her application for residency, a charge he denies.
The newspaper sold out and one enterprising Bahamian bought a stack of copies at their 75 cents cover price and sold them to tourists at the airport for $20 each, said Tribune staff.
The Bahamas competes for tourists with Caribbean nations so many view the publicity as a blessing, said Felix Bethel, political science professor at the College of the Bahamas.
“The story is being reconfigured in the Bahamian way. ’We are sorry that she is dead but look at the tourists!,”’ he said.