1967 - 2007
11:00 PM, Feb 11, 2007 • By LARRY MILLER
WE'RE ALL PART of the pop culture world. Whether you think you are or not, whether you want to be or not, no matter how aloof and superior you feel, even if the Atlantic and Foreign Affairs are the only things you keep in your bathroom, you're as much a part of the celebrity culture as the booker on The View. Deal with it. As Gregory Peck said to David Niven in The Guns of Navarone, "You're in it now . . . up to your neck."
That doesn't mean you can't be out of the loop. And truth be told, you can't be much farther out of the loop than I am. I've never seen Survivor, or American Idol, or the dancing show. My wife, on the other hand, who's the most brilliant person I know watches all of them. She's watching one now, and it's just loud enough for me to hear the roiling host introducing a high-stakes, high-tension, someone-will-get-thrown-out-of-here-but-not-me segment urged on by edgy, needy music. I can't hear his actual words, but you know that's what he's doing. The whole thing probably wouldn't annoy me as much if I thought they hired real violinists.
Of course, The Divine Mrs. M. is not alone in eating up these shows. A large part of our country watches them, too, and loves them, and relaxes with them, and is entertained by them; and these are all virtues. I'm glad for everyone on both ends.
We're all part of it, though, on some level, and that's the point. It seeps in. We all see, we all hear; and this may be fanciful, but, in a way, even if you and I are sworn, detached non-observers, we're also right in the curl of the tidal wave that carries our pop-stars racing along, faster and faster, toward their own shores of good or ill.
AFTER PRINCESS DIANA was killed in that terrible accident, I couldn't help but feel that most of the people who mourned so histrionically were the same ones who'd spent the decade before salivating over every photograph taken by the very people who chased her to her death. Well, all right, I suppose. We all have a lot to be forgiven, because, you see, like it or not, we're all part of the mob. No: We are the mob.
No one who wasn't in a fugue state for the last year could have missed the most recent, and it turns out final, iteration of Anna Nicole Smith's public life. In the last year she had a daughter born and a son die. Her lawyer decided to come around the other side of the desk and take her in his arms, and, you know what? They seemed happy, and I hope they were. Then an ex-boyfriend took time off from eating Cheetoes to sue somebody for something, but what does it matter anymore?
Similarly, you had to have known she married the rich old guy a dozen-or-so years ago and was unpleasantly embroiled ever since with his first loving family over--what a shock--the money. When I heard the old fellow passed away, I read about his son suing her over the will, and I remember thinking, "His son? What is he, 60?" Sixty-seven, it turns out, and he's gone now himself. Since yet another of the heart-broken offspring has gallantly appeared to pick up the cudgels and continue contesting it, I'd like to offer two choices of what I think is some pretty good advice: (1) Get a job. You didn't earn that money and you don't deserve it. And, by the way, every penny of it should go to Anna Nicole's daughter. Or, (2) Try your best to get reincarnated as a sexy woman.
I guess I'm biased though, because I've got a story about her. I had a chance to meet her and like her. And I mean like, not like.
I DID the Tonight Show back in '93 or '94, and she was on it. Leno came in before and said, "She's a nice girl. See you out there." And she was. I've never had the slightest problem digging the different gifts people bring to show business and beauty is a gift as much as anything else. Anyway, it was a good show. And, frankly, sitting next to her wasn't exactly a chore.
But that's not the story. The story happened just a month or two later.
My wife and I were invited out to dinner with two friends of ours, other writers. We were newly married and they took us to one of the fanciest places in town. There were a couple of well-know folks there, but the place was so swank that no one even noticed. Then, very suddenly, the room got quiet. Hushed, in fact. My back was to the door, and my wife said, "Oh, wow . . ." and tapped me, and I turned, and, of course, you know who came in and stopped the presses.
Anna Nicole Smith, in a shattering red gown to the floor. And everything else you'd imagine goes with it. The newspapers I've seen in the last couple of days haven't printed any of her pretty pictures. They use the ones of her much heavier, or eating something, or sad, or coming out of court with her mouth twisted in the middle of a sentence. I'd like to have seen one of those Guess jeans ads instead.