Shock, disbelief, untimely, heartache. All words used by friends, Family and colleagues as the sad saga of Anna Nicole Smith took a tragic final twist Thursday.
Smith, 39, collapsed in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital at 2:49 p.m. after all efforts to revive her failed.
Just as her actions in life attracted attention wherever she went, her passing elicited dozens of reactions from those who knew her best. (Review Smith's life in pictures in our photo gallery.)
"Today, Anna Nicole Smith's grief-stricken and tumultuous personal life came to an end," said TrimSpa CEO Alex Goen said about his company's main spokesmodel, whose name has become practically synonymous with the diet pill purveyor. The always curvaceous Smith had credited TrimSpa for her slimmed-down figure, which she happily showed off in commercials and in public.
"Anna came to our company as a customer, but she departs it as a friend. While life for Anna Nicole was not easy these past few months, she held dear her husband, Howard K. Stern, her daughter, Dannielynn Hope, her most cherished friends, beloved dogs, and finally, her work with TrimSpa," Goen said in a statement.
(While Smith and Stern swapped vows in a commitment ceremony in the Bahamas in September, no official marriage took place. "We love each other and it's been going on for a very long time and because of my relationship as her lawyer, we felt it was best to keep everything hidden. And we've done a pretty good job of that," Stern told Larry King several days beforehand, while announcing that he was Dannielynn's father.)
Continued Goen: "Anna knew both the joy of giving life and the heartache of losing a child. We pray that she is granted the peace that eluded her more recent days on earth and that she find comfort in the presence of her son, Daniel."
Daniel Smith died at age 20 on Sept. 10, three days after Smith gave birth to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. The infant has been at the center of an increasingly litigious paternity battle brought by Smith's ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead. The L.A.-based photographer insists that he is the father of the little girl, as opposed to Stern, who has been registed as Dannielynn's dad on her birth certificate.
A hearing has been scheduled for Friday to discuss what should be done now as far as a paternity test is concerned. On Wednesday, the day Dannielynn turned five months old, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Schnider set a Feb. 21 deadline as the date by which Smith needed to submit Dannielynn for DNA testing.
An inquest in the Bahamas into the circumstances surrounding Daniel Smith's death had been set for Mar. 27; toxicology reports have suggested that the young man died from an accidental prescription drug overdose.
"From my professional exposure to Anna Nicole, I can say she was always personable, down-to-earth and driven. All in all, a joy to have as a client," said Wayne Munroe, the Bahamian attorney who was representing Smith in matters related to her son's death.
Before Smith became a bull's-eye for controversy, however, she was really just known for being blonde, busty and beautiful.
Hugh Hefner chose the former exotic dancer for the March 1992 cover of Playboy, after which she posed for the May 1992 centerfold (under the name Vickie Smith—she was born Vickie Lynn Hogan) and went on to become 1993's Playmate of the Year. Hefner also immediately weighed in on the loss of one of the more famous personalities to emerge from the pages of his magazine.
"I am very saddened to learn about Anna Nicole's passing," Hefner said in a statement. "She was a dear friend who meant a great deal to the Playboy family and to me personally. My thoughts and prayers are with her friends and loved ones during this difficult time."
Buoyed by her Playboy success, Smith was also tapped to replace Claudia Schiffer as the go-to Guess Jeans girl. Smith starred in a string of the high-profile brand's signature black-and-white print ads.
"This is a very tragic and sad day," Guess co-CEO Paul Marciano said. "Personally, I feel she did not survive the loss of her son Daniel, who was the love of her life."
A sentiment echoed by Smith's immediate family. "On behalf of the Hogan Family, we are saddened and heartbroken by my sister's death. No matter what our differences have been over the years, Anna was still our blood and she will be missed terribly. She was a woman who was determined to get out of her small town in Texas and make a name for herself," Smith's half-sister, Donna Hogan, said in a statement.
"We feel that the death of her son left her deeply saddened, a sadness she hid from everyone. As a mother of three children, I am anguished by this tragic event and the fact that her new baby daughter Dannielynn Hope is now without a mother."
Smith tied the knot with oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, 63 years her senior, in June 1994. The litigation over his estate, set in motion after Marshall's death in 1995, has dragged on to this day. Smith's main sparring partner in the drama, Marshall's son E. Pierce Marshall, died last June at age 67, but his relatives were still battling Smith over what she felt was her rightful inheritance from her late husband's $1.6 billion estate.
The Marshall family issued this statement Tuesday: "Our family was shocked by the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith. We wish to express our sympathies to her family in this difficult time…Out of respect to her friends and family we will reserve comment on the litigation at this time."
Smith's other pursuits over the years included acting (her most memorable role perhaps being that of a sperm-bank nurse/gun moll in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult), activism and just being zany Anna Nicole, a role she milked to perfection in her reality series The Anna Nicole Show and in numerous public appearances.
"For those of us who worked closely with Anna Nicole and got to know the woman behind the public persona, this is devastating news," E! Networks senior VP Jeff Shore said. "She was a sweet person who adored her son, made us laugh and cry with her, and who was never afraid of what others may have thought of her. There will never be another like her, and I already miss her." (E! Online is a division of E! Networks.)
"She was a great friend to animals and used every opportunity to speak out against senseless cruelty," PETA spokesman Michael McGraw said in a statement. Smith starred in multiple ads for the animal rights group, sometimes posing with her beloved dogs.
"A longtime vegetarian who had slimmed down into a stunning beauty when she stopped eating meat, Anna Nicole spoke out against Iams because of its cruel animal tests, spoke up for baby seals bludgeoned to death for their fur in Canada, and posed as Marilyn Monroe in one of PETA's most striking ad campaigns, 'Gentlemen Prefer Fur-Free Blondes.'
"It is a tragedy when anyone passes away before their time, but with Anna Nicole, animals have lost a true hero and PETA has lost a good friend. We will miss her."