Regular readers of this blog know that I've had this fascination with Anna Nicole for some time. It all started back in '01 or thereabouts, when at Trash Fest, somebody (probably Paul "The Fly" Lawson, master of horrific puns) suggested that I be "Patti Nicole Smith." Like Anna Nicole, I was at the peak of my fatness, and I agreed that it would be milk-snorting-out-my-nose funny if I were to get all dressed up like Anna Nicole, and sing Patti Smith's greatest songs. God bless the Aimless Blades for having the chutzpah to be the band, who barely had to learn the songs, as Patti was already ingrained in their persona, but they were still loaded up with enough sardonicism to be able to laugh along. Yeah, this was me at my fattest. I'm not even going to publish what I weighed. And I could be all bitter about it, or, I decided I could say to myself, "Well, if I'm going to be a fat blonde with big tits, (the first two things usually outweigh everything else, EXCEPT for fat), who has a punk rock history, I might as well put on a tacky dress, sing a punk icon's songs while looking and sounding like a trainwreck of a pop culture icon, while appearing at an event called Trash Fest, and get some laughs out of it."
C'mon, sing along with Patti Nicole Smith: "In heart, I am Moslem. In heart, I am an American artist. AND I HAVE NO GUILT!" (The Aimless Blades sort of chickened out of the rest of the song that follows that intro, but in retrospect, I can't blame us. It really is hard for us guilty white folk to use the N-word, especially that many times.)
But we did "Dancing Barefoot" and "Land" (the boy looked at Johnny and did Johnny ever want to run!) and "Because The Night." And of course, "Gloria," if only to be able to drawl out meanacingly, "Jesus died for someone's sins, but not mine," in Anna Nicole's voice, insisting, "My sins are mine they belong to me. ME!!!!"
We all got away with it because who in the underground crowd doesn't love Patti Smith? And the only way I was ever going to get away with doing Patti was in parody. I'm not that serious enough a stage performer, and my thing is not deep poetry, to be able to ever pull off Patti seriously. So I already had this gratitude to Anna Nicole for giving me the chance to do Patti, even if it was with a horrible white trash persona. You'd be amazed what you can accomplish in costume. (Just ask David Bowie!)
Before that, I knew very little of Anna Nicole except that she'd been a centerfold, wife of a ridiculously rich and old man, and had let her weight go in recent days. I normally had no time for persons of this low-class ilk. But since I was going to parody her, I knew that the elements of good parody required accuracy. So I went and did my research and watched her show and learned her voice, her mannerisms, her everything. And to my feminazi horror, I realized that, well, I liked her.
I liked her for the same reason I like Cher: she didn't give a shit what anybody thought of her and her behavior. She was who she was and in true subgenius mode, fuck 'em if they can't take a joke. She seemed like a fundamentally nice person, fun to be around, all that. Let's face it, she had one good thing going for her and girlfriend played it. OK, she wasn't going to come up with the cure for cancer. She knew that. No, she was going to make her money with her moneymaker, and she did. I happen to be one of those people who believe she was entitled to some of her late husband's $$$$. He knew what he was buying, they agreed on a price, and the deal was sealed.
And then she got fat. And that's when I really loved her, because with Anna Nicole, being fat changed nothing.
She still didn't give a shit what people said and thought about her. She just went on living her life, being the ditz she was, still commanding attention, still being Anna Nicole. She even got herself a show, and an entertaining show it was. That was when I started saying (and I've said it here often on this blog), "…And as Anna Nicole has taught us all, it matters not that you are fat."
And then she decided she didn't want to be fat anymore, and she stopped being fat. I don't know if it was Trimspa or whatever, but she was this inspiration, this "I let myself go and now I'm back" I saw her have, triumphantly strutting in those Trimspa commercials. I don't care about the methodology -- we each have our own and we have to find our own. But there she was, looking gorgeous and not fat. Because she decided to be not fat anymore. That's power. That's a skill I still have to learn.
And I chose to say "not fat" instead of thin because that's the other wonderful thing about Anna Nicole. She was never a size 0. Or a size 3 or 5 for that matter. She was always a big girl. A big, powerful, commanding presence of a woman, too much woman for some. Bigger than Tyra even. Right up there with the greatest of them all, Size 12 Norma Jean.
And that is also some of the sadness about her, and her passing. The name changes. The "costumes." The personas. That Anna Nicole was a name to make her more glamourous, like Marilyn's was more glamouous. That part of us didn't take ourselves seriously as beautiful, as desirable, that we had to put on these new names, these costumes, like I had to do as Patti Nicole. That if we didn't have our fat to cover up and protect us from harm, from people seeing the "real us" at least we had our costumes, our "personas", our name changes.
And so I cheered with her when she lost her weight. And I cheered with her when the Supreme Court rules that she deserved her day in court. And as a mom, I cried with her when her son died, while wondering how she was handling this with postpartum hormones raging about. And I realized that we're all in this sisterhood together, this miasma of fat-fighting, mothering, trying-to-be-both-a-girl-and-woman, trying to figure out exactly where our person and our personas meet, sisterhood.
I still hate to admit that I had a lot to learn from a white trash, poorly educated, ditzy whore from George Bush's neck of the woods, but Vickie Lynn Hogan, you did teach me a very important lesson. You are who you are, and it matters not that you are fat.
Rest in peace, girlfriend.