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APRIL 2007

The Death of Anna Nicole Smith

by Alex Miller-Mignone

The media firestorm unleashed by the death of a second-rate celebrity on 8 February 2007 was perhaps predictable, but somewhat surprising nonetheless. Anna Nicole Smith had always been a lightning rod for controversy and publicity—how many Playboy centerfold models have cases which appear before the US Supreme Court?

Born Vicki Lynn Hogan in Houston, Texas on 28 November 1967, Smith’s life can perhaps best be described by the title of an unpublished biography written by her sister: “Train Wreck.” Her father abandoned the family just after her birth, and her parents were divorced when she was less than two. It was her mother’s second marriage, and she went on to marry four more times; Smith’s father remarried twice.

Smith dropped out of high school in her sophomore year, working as a waitress at a local restaurant where she met her first husband, cook Billy Wayne Smith. They married in 1985. She was 17, he was 16; their son Daniel was born in 1986 and the couple separated a year later, though their divorce did not become final until 1993. Jobs at Wal-Mart and Red Lobster failed to support Smith and her child, and in 1991 she turned to exotic dancing and began vocal training. That autumn she answered a Houston newspaper ad for Playboy models and met oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall II. Her life took a dramatic turn.

Anna Nicole, Playmate of the YearChosen personally by Hugh Hefner as the cover girl for the March 1992 issue of Playboy, under the name of Vicki Smith, she became an instant sensation, noted for her voluptuous (though surgically enhanced) figure and stunning resemblance to 60's icons Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. By 1993, when she was chosen as Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, Vicki had metamorphosed into Anna Nicole, and later that year Guess Jeans hired her to replace supermodel Claudia Schiffer in their ad campaigns.

After meeting in the strip club where she worked, Smith and J. Howard Marshall,Anna and Marshall whose net worth exceeded one and a half billion dollars, began a relationship which culminated in their marriage in June 1994. Smith was 26, Marshall was 89. Despite the great disparity in their age and income, and the fact that they never lived together, Smith always averred that she married for love. Thirteen months later the groom was dead, and Smith was embroiled in an inheritance battle with her stepson, himself 28 years her senior, which continues to this day. Though both original litigants are now dead, Smith’s claim is being prosecuted on behalf of her infant daughter Dannielynn, and Marshall’s son J. Pierce Marshall’s claim is upheld by his widow.

The see-saw legal wrangling saw rulings both in favor and against Smith’s claim, which was based, not on Marshall’s will, but on an oral contract Smith claimed her late husband had made with her. At times she joined forces with another of Marshall’s disinherited sons to wrest part of the inheritance from Pierce. A Texas probate jury denied Smith’s claims, but a 1996 bankruptcy filing in California following an employee’s successful sexual harassment suit brought that state’s judiciary into the fray. In September 2000 a California bankruptcy judge awarded her almost half a billion dollars from Marshall’s estate. However, the Texas probate judge supported the earlier jury finding and struck the bankruptcy judgment down in July 2001. The conflicting rulings forced the case into federal court. In March 2002 a federal judge vacated the California bankruptcy court’s decision, reducing Smith’s award to $88 million. This ruling was itself reversed on appeal at the 9th US Circuit Court in December 2004, when a three-member panel stated that the federal courts had no right to overturn the Texas probate court’s original decision.

At this point the Bush administration intervened. Anxious to extend federal jurisdiction over state probate courts, Bush directed the US Solicitor General to bring the matter before the US Supreme Court, which on May 1, 2006 ruled unanimously that Smith did have the right to challenge the state probate ruling in federal court. This did not award a share of the inheritance to Smith directly, but merely allowed her to pursue her claim on the federal level, which she has done. Her stepson and opponent J. Pierce Marshall died June 20, 2006, but the family has continued to pursue the legal battle.

After her initial successes with Playboy and the Guess Jeans modeling contract, Smith’s career consisted mainly of publicity from her legal troubles and eccentric persona. She was featured in a few poorly reviewed films, but was predominantly fodder for late night comics and tabloid magazines, ultimately securing nothing but cameo roles as herself. In the late ‘nineties her weight became an issue, and the once-sveldt celebrity, who had never quite overcome her white-trash roots, became an object of derision.

Oddly, Smith chose to showcase this low point in her fortunes with a reality show on E! cable network, "The Anna Nicole Show," which chronicled her troubles with money, substance abuse, dating and weight control. Toward the end of her show’s two-season run, she was picked up as spokesperson by weight loss company TrimSpa, which reportedly helped her lose 80 pounds. Back at her Playboy fighting weight, Smith began to do awards show appearances and celebrity guest spots, but was unable to gain traction in her career.

2006 was a banner year for Smith. In May came the Supreme Court decision which breathed new life into her legal struggles. In June, her longtime rival Pierce Marshall predeceased her. September saw the birth of her daughter and the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, within days of each other. Smith had retreated to the Bahamas to avoid a court-ordered DNA test to determine her daughter’s paternity. Her son’s death, from a fatal combination of prescription drugs, occurred in her hospital room just three days after her daughter’s birth. Smith was devastated, reportedly jumping into Daniel’s grave at his funeral.

Smith and Stern Although Smith declared that her long-time attorney, Howard K. Stern, with whom she underwent an informal (and not legally binding) commitment ceremony in September 2006, was Dannielynn’s father (and he was so listed on the Bahamian birth certificate) this was disputed by her former boyfriend, entertainment photojournalist Larry Birkhead. Birkhead went so far as to file a paternity suit, and after Smith’s death requested an emergency DNA sample from her corpse, which was denied. Also in the aftermath of her death, several other men came forward to advance a claim to fathering the infant who might now be worth half a billion dollars, including Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Frederic Prince von Anhalt, who alleged a ten-year affair with Smith; Alexander Denk, Smith's former bodyguard; Mark Hatten, who lived with Smith for two years; and Ben Thompson, the realtor who sold her the Bahamian mansion to which she had retreated (and whose claim was discarded when it was discovered he had undergone a vasectomy). Not to be outdone, Smith’s sister stated that Anna Nicole had told her the child was conceived with frozen sperm from her late husband, Marshall.

For several days prior to her death on 8 February, 2007, Smith had been experiencing flu-like symptoms, and reportedly had a temperature of 105 the night before she died. Paramedics were called to her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, to find her unresponsive; CPR and intubation were attempted, to no avail. Smith was pronounced dead on arrival at Memorial Regional Hospital. Ironically, Smith, who often likened herself to Marilyn Monroe, died in Hollywood (Florida) and was initially reported to have also died of a drug overdose, though no illegal drugs were found in her hotel room. Although the cause of death has still not been officially determined, some form of pneumonia is suspected. [*]

Almost immediately, more legal wrangling ensued. In addition to the ongoing paternity challenge and battle over the Marshall inheritance, the validity of her commitment ceremony with Stern, the ownership of her Bahamian mansion, the legality of her will, the custody of her child, and the disposition of her remains have all been disputed.

Her burial finally occurred March 2 in Nassau, Bahamas, with the coffin, draped in pink sequin-studded velvet with tassels and feathers and borne in a white stretch limo, laid to rest beside her son’s grave at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens. The private ceremony at the Mount Horeb Baptist Church was attended by 300 invited mourners and hundreds more lined the procession’s route. The church was filled with roses in Smith’s favorite color of pink; a special gown was commissioned by Stern for her funeral, pink with rhinestones and lace, with a heart embroidered on the bodice. Smith’s mother is still petitioning for the return of both her daughter’s and grandson’s remains to Texas, and for custody of her infant granddaughter.

Anna Nicole Smith is a virtual case study in Black Hole energies, with all the dramatic ups and downs, sudden changes of fortune, and larger-than-life qualities typical of strong galactic contacts. Born 28 November 1967, Smith’s Sun is enmeshed within the Black Hole at 5 Sagittarius, and one need barely scratch the surface of her life to see its effects.

Smith essentially created herself from nothing, a common Black Hole Sun circumstance. The name change is also typical of such individuals, who have the chameleon-like ability to adapt and present themselves in whatever manner best supports their goals. Smith’s breast augmentations, though hardly a rarity, speak to this desire to be something she was not by birth, as does the obsessive modeling of her persona on that of her idol, Marilyn Monroe, significantly another celebrity made up of whole cloth, right down to her name (Monroe was also a Black Hole Sun).

Smith used the attractive qualities of her Black Hole Sun to great effect, becoming the erotic fantasy material for literally millions of men with her Playboy layouts. Although she never created a great, or even memorable, film or television role, she maintained a high celebrity profile for well over a decade, based on a nonexistent body of work. Her face and figure were her stock in trade, and she traded well, snaring one of the richest men of her native Texas.

Similarly, her spokesperson talents, portrayed for Guess Jeans and TrimSpa, showcased her ability to attract and ensnare others with her film presence and persona. Even at the level of remove created by celluloid and print, she had the power to manipulate and persuade, both typical Black Hole Sun attributes. Smith eventually became a cult figure through her reality series, which showed an appalling side of the celebrity, seemingly permanently drugged out and incapable of managing her life. Again, the Black Hole’s power to compel attention, and its obsessive need for it, ruled her existence but gave her the inner fortitude to keep on fighting for her goal, even when true success must have seemed hopeless.

Of course her legal battles are textbook examples of Black Hole energies, illustrating their advanced level of instability and unpredictability, which bounced her from success to failure and back again in her fight for the Marshall inheritance. This type of roller coaster, see-saw activity, this sense of now-you-have-it, now-you-don’t, is a common manifestation for the Black Hole native, often to the point where this hectic, fast-paced turnover becomes the norm.

Her legal troubles are further described by the incidence of her 4 Virgo Jupiter, governing court rulings, also conjoined a Black Hole and in tight square to her Sun. Additionally, natal Saturn, ruling lawyers and the legal process itself, at 5 Aries retrograde is in a tight Grand Cross with Black Holes at 4 Cancer and Capricorn and the Quasar at 5 Libra. The Black Hole elements of this configuration speak of frequent reversal and an uncertain outcome, but the exact opposition to the Quasar indicates ultimate success, which unfortunately has not been realized at the time of her death, but the struggle for which will continue in her absence.

All three of Smith’s “money planets” make dramatic Deep space contacts—Venus at 20 Libra is square to the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, Jupiter conjoins a Black Hole at 6 Virgo, and Pluto at 22 Virgo is squared the Galactic Center and the Quasar at 26 Gemini. The effects on her financial status of Venus and Jupiter are variable with Black Hole uncertainty, but hold the potential for both windfall profit (as in the half-billion-dollar inheritance from a 13-month marriage) and major loss (as in her bankruptcy filing). It is Pluto’s position which sets the seal on the deal, allying the Quasar’s achievement-oriented energies with the high visibility and global reach of the Galactic Center contact. Finally, when all is said and done, Smith’s estate should get those millions she fought more than a decade for, and we will surely hear of it.

Anna Nicole Black Hole Jupiter allied with the Black Hole Sun is also the source of the dramatic weight fluctuations which dogged her, and her ability, when focused, to recover lost ground and resurrect an image that many who saw her in the late ‘nineties thought was gone for good. Black Hole Sun natives frequently undergo extreme weight loss or gain throughout the life, and Jupiter’s appetites added fuel to the fire, also conferring that larger-than-life presence which others found so compelling.

Her notorious drug use and the glamorous visual persona she so assiduously cultivated can be seen in a tense T-Square from natal Neptune at 24 Scorpio in exact opposition to the Black Hole at 24 Taurus and squared the Quasar at 25 Aquarius. The Black Hole tempted substance abuse, which drained much of her energies, and the Quasar gave her image star power, however little substance was evident to back it up. Neptune also conjoins Mercury at 19 Scorpio, and Smith was noted for her breathy, zoned-out communication style, part Marilyn Monroe throwback, part chemically-induced.

Black Hole Venus often manifests as love or marriage with persons seen by others as somehow unsuited to the native, and sometimes in ways considered shocking or wholly inappropriate. Such was certainly the case with Smith’s marriage to Marshall, 63 years her senior. The “Love Goddess” image she built for herself, modeled on Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, is another manifestation of this Venus and its power to attract; aspected by a Black Hole in Capricorn, the focus of Smith’s femininity was her business life—in essence, love was her business.

Mars at 27 Capricorn conjoins a Pulsar and forms a Grand Cross with three Black Holes at 27 Aries and 28 Cancer and Libra. This certainly expresses Smith’s sexual energy perfectly—no less than three Black Holes could account for the extraordinary impact Smith’s sexual charisma had on virtually all who saw or met her in her heyday. At times almost achingly beautiful, at others a downright drab, Smith’s sexual appetite seemed apparent, and much of her celebrity was built upon sex. One could argue that sex was her career, again with the Capricorn influence of the Mars placement. It also describes the bizarre pairing with Marshall, not to mention the plethora of reputed fathers of Dannielynn who have made themselves known since Smith's death. Mars with a Pulsar guarantees that whatever her peccadilloes, we’ll be hearing about them. Pulsars are informational in nature, and often indicate heightened Media involvement or interest. With her Mars on a Pulsar, Smith’s affairs were always considered newsworthy, and she had a natural ability to dominate the media with her sexuality.

Anna and Son Daniel That this Venus and Mars are in square aspect indicates that for Smith, love and sex were very different things, and often didn’t mesh. This conforms with some of her intimates’ opinion that no matter how many lovers she took, the only person she ever truly loved was her son Daniel.

A quick glance at Smith’s chart in comparison with that of the US shows why the public has fed so heartily at this funeral banquet (besides the fact of the media force-feeding them), and reveals a startling connection. Smith has two natal planets in exact conjunction with US chart points. Her Pluto at 22 Virgo is on the USA Neptune, and her Mars at 27 Capricorn is on the USA Pluto and a Pulsar. In astrologic shorthand this spells out a national fascination (USA Neptune) with her death (Smith’s Pluto) and the lifelong media (Pulsar) obsession (USA Pluto) with her sexual persona (Smith’s Mars).

Anna Nicole On the day of her death, the Sun joined Neptune in the sky at 19 Aquarius, in exact square to her Scorpio Mercury and applying to oppose transit Saturn at 21 Leo retrograde. Here Saturn plays the part of Death, messenger Mercury bringing news of her passing via the Neptune-ruled medium of television. Transit Pluto on the Pulsar at 28 Sagittarius is yet another indicator of a major media story concerning death, and exactly squares her natal Uranus at 28 Virgo, representing the suddenness and unexpected quality of the demise. That Uranus trines her Mars and is opposed the Black Hole at 28 Pisces which would host a solar eclipse in six weeks’ time.

Anna Nicole Smith, who once graced the cover of a New York Magazine issue titled “White Trash Nation” (pictured in a short skirt and cowboy boots, eating chips), was a bizarre American mix of glamor and gutter, a veritable microcosm of her times, long on image and short on substance. Salon Magazine’s Cintra Wilson may have best captured Anna Nicole’s Black Hole qualities and the implosion that was her life in her posthumous comparison of Smith with her idol, Marilyn Monroe:

“When she was able to suppress her demons enough to pull herself together and look her best, she was fabulously gorgeous. ... [but] she was not so much a candle in the wind as a bonfire in a hailstorm. The real similarity between Anna Nicole and Marilyn was their shimmering tension—an unsettlingly powerful physical beauty, collapsing in real time. She was entropy porn at its finest.”

* On Monday, 26 March 2007, more than six weeks after her death, Broward County Florida Medical Examiner Joshua Perper announced that the cause of Smith’s death was an accidental overdose of prescription medications, citing the sleep aid chloral hydrate as the major contributing factor, but including several antidepressant and antianxiety drugs as well as methadone for pain relief. The transit Sun at 5 Aries was exactly conjoined her Saturn, opposed a Quasar and trine her 5 Sagittarius Sun, finally shedding light on her demise; Mercury at 7 Pisces opposed natal Jupiter and a Black Hole and squared her Sun; Mars conjunct Neptune at 21 Aquarius (a drug-related death) and Saturn at 18 Leo both squared the natal Mercury/Neptune conjunction.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photo
Alex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.

His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at