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Photos: Anna Nicole Smith

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  1. Texas teen

    Anna Nicole Smith's photo is seen in a 1985 Mexia (Texas) High School yearbook under the name Nikki Hart. School officials say Smith went by the name Nikki Hart during her brief tenure there. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Short, tragic life

    The cover of the June 1993 Playmate of the Year issue of Playboy magazine featured Anna Nicole Smith. Smith, the pneumatic blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale -- jeans model, Playboy centerfold, widow of an octogenarian billionaire, reality-show subject, tragic mother -- died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, after collapsing at a Hollywood, Fla., hotel. She was 39. (Playboy) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She had drive

    Smith holds a Texas license plate that reads "PMOY 93" (Playmate of the Year). (Time & Life Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Happy husband

    Millionaire J. Howard Marshall II made headlines in 1994 when he married Smith. She was 26 and he was 89. He died Aug. 5, 1995, when he was 90. Smith and Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, battled over Marshall's estate. The boy next to Marshall is Smith's late son, Daniel. (Sipa Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Daniel's short life

    Smith and her son Daniel, 13, leave a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, 1999. His body was found in the Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. A coroner's report ruled the death was caused by an overdose of anti-depressants and methadone. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fighting for her share

    Smith listens in court in Houston with her attorneys Tom Cunningham and Howard Stern on Monday, Oct. 2, 2000. Sixteen jurors, four of them alternates, were seated to hear the lawsuit where Smith laid claim to a share of the oil fortune of her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall II. Smith married the Texas oil tycoon in 1994 and he died the following year. Stern later reportedly married Smith and claimed to be the father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. (Steve Ueckert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Back to work

    Smith is surrounded by members of KISS at the conclusion of the Lane Bryant show featuring plus size fashions in New York on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002. The legendary rock band gave a live performance throughout the runway show, which kicked off New York Fashion Week. (Robert Mecea / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Activist

    In this handout image from PETA, Smith poses as Marliyn Monroe for a 2004 ad campaign titled, Gentlemen Prefer Fur Free Blondes. PETA's Michael McGraw said in reaction to Smith's death, "She was a great friend to animals and used every opportunity to speak out against senseless cruelty." (PETA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hot pink

    Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week in New York on Feb. 12, 2004. (Matthew Peyton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Always outrageous

    Smith feigns a "wardrobe malfunction" before announcing Rikku in "Final Fantasy X-2" as the Hottest Character award winner during "G-Phoria -- The Award Show 4 Gamers" in Los Angeles on Aug. 1, 2004. (Jim Ruymen / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Strange behavior

    Smith waves during an appearance backstage during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia on July 2, 2005. The production company behind the concerts claimed in a lawsuit against Trimspa Inc. that its reputation was damaged by Smith's attire and conduct. Smith, a spokesperson for Trimspa, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Wowing the Supremes

    Smith and her lawyer Howard K. Stern leave the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2006. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that Smith could continue her claim for part of her late husband's fortune. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Home sweet home?

    Smith holds her daughter Dannielyn Hope and poses with Stern and "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Mark Steines at the couple's home in the Bahamas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. Businessman and former boyfriend G. Ben Thompson threatened to evict Smith from her Bahamas home, claiming she wasn't making the mortgage payments. (Entertainment Tonight via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. No sign of trouble

    Smith watched a boxing match from near ringside at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2007. She died Feb. 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A mother mourns

    Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, center, and her husband James Arthur, left, embrace as the coffin of Anna Nicole leaves a Bahamas church on March 2, 2007, as the former Playboy model headed to her final resting three weeks after her death. A throng of Bahamians, tourists and media crushed behind police barriers as the pink-laced white coffin was carried into the Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas, for a funeral ceremony closed to all but 300 invited guests.The church was reportedly filled with pink roses, and sources close to the funeral said Smith's body was clad in a gown and tiara. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Laid to rest

    Locals stand before the grave of Smith at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas, on March 2, 2007. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'I told you so!'

    Larry Birkhead rejoices after hearing in a Bahamian court on April 10, 2007, that he has been proven to be the legal father of Smith's baby, Dannielynn. Birkhead later hugged Howard K. Stern, who had been acting as the baby's father. (Christine Aylen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Derby day with daughter

    Birkhead and Dannielynn feed a pony at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, April 28. 2010. Birkhead, a Louisville native, first met Anna Nicole at a 2004 party around the famous horse race. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 2/9/2007 2:53:41 PM ET 2007-02-09T19:53:41

Anna Nicole Smith, the curvaceous blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale — Playboy centerfold, jeans model, bride of an octogenarian oil tycoon, reality-show subject, tragic mother — died Thursday after collapsing at a hotel. She was 39.

She was stricken while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and was rushed to a hospital. Edwina Johnson, chief investigator of the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office, said the cause of death was under investigation and an autopsy would be done on Friday.

Just five months ago, Smith’s 20-year-old son died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.

Seminole Police Chief Charlie Tiger said a private nurse called 911 after finding Smith unresponsive in her sixth-floor room at the hotel, which is on an Indian reservation. He said Smith’s bodyguard administered CPR, but she was declared dead at a hospital. Later Thursday, two sheriff’s deputies carried out at least eight brown paper bags sealed with red evidence tape from Smith’s hotel room.

On Friday, a source told AccessHollywood.com that an employee of Smith found her in her room at the hotel, pulled back a sheet covering her, and that she appeared to have choked on her own vomit.

The same unnamed source claimed that Smith took what was referred to as a "children's sedative," and had "kept passing out" before her death.

Dr. Joshua Perper, the chief Broward County medical examiner who will perform the autopsy, said if her death was from natural causes, the findings would likely be announced quickly. He cautioned, however, that definitive results could take weeks.

“I am not a prophet, and I cannot tell you before the autopsy what I am going to find,” he said.

Through the ’90s and into the new century, Smith was famous for being famous, a pop-culture punchline because of her up-and-down weight, her Marilyn Monroe looks, her exaggerated curves, her little-girl voice, her ditzy-blonde persona, and her over-the-top revealing outfits.

Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. On her reality show and other recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred and she seemed out of it. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.

“Undoubtedly it will be found at the end of the day that drugs featured in her death as they did in the death of poor Daniel,” said a former attorney for Smith in the Bahamas, Michael Scott.

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Another former Smith attorney, Lenard Leeds, told the celebrity gossip Web site TMZ that Smith “always had problems with her weight going up and down, and there’s no question she used alcohol.” Leeds said it was no secret that “she had a very troubled life” and had “so many, many problems.”

“She wanted to be like Marilyn her whole life and ironically died in a similar manner,” Leeds said. Monroe died of a drug overdose at age 36 in 1962.

Smith attorney Ron Rale told The Associated Press that he had talked to her on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she had flu symptoms and a fever and was still grieving over her son. He dismissed claims her death was related to drugs as “a bunch of nonsense.”

‘She's been the underdog’
“Poor Anna Nicole,” he said. “She’s been the underdog. She’s been besieged ... and she’s been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she’s endured.”

The Texas-born Smith was a topless dancer at strip club before she entered her photos in a search contest and made the cover of Playboy magazine in 1992. She became Playboy’s playmate of the year in 1993. She was also signed to a contract with Guess jeans, appearing in TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads.

In 1994, she married 89-year-old oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, owner of Great Northern Oil Co. In 1992, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $550 million.

In a 2005 interview with ABC Smith recalled meeting Marshall at what she called a “gentleman’s club’ in Houston. “He had no will to live and I went over to see him,” she said. “He got a little twinkle in his eyes, and he asked me to dance for him. And I did.”

Marshall died in 1995 at age 90, setting off a feud with Smith’s former stepson, E. Pierce Marshall, over whether she had a right to his estate.

A federal court in California awarded Smith $474 million. That was later overturned. But in May, the U.S. Supreme Court revived her case, ruling that she deserved another day in court.

The stepson died June 20 at age 67. But the family said the court fight would continue.

She starred in her own reality TV series, “The Anna Nicole Show,” in 2002-04. Cameras followed her around as she sparred with her lawyer, hung out with her personal assistant and interior decorator, and cooed at her poodle, Sugar Pie. She also appeared in movies, performing a bit part in “The Hudsucker Proxy” in 1994.

After news came of Smith’s death, G. Eric Brunstad Jr., the lawyer who represented Marshall, said in a statement: “We’re very shocked by the news and extend the deepest condolences to her family.”

In a statement, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner said: “I am very saddened to learn about Anna Nicole’s passing. She was a dear friend who meant a great deal to the Playboy family and to me personally.”

Smith’s son, Daniel Smith, died Sept. 10 in his mother’s hospital room in the Bahamas, just days after she gave birth to a daughter.

An American medical examiner hired by the family, Cyril Wecht, said he had methadone and two antidepressants in his system when he died. Low levels of the three drugs interacted to cause an accidental death, Wecht said. Last month, a Bahamas magistrate scheduled a formal inquiry into the death for March 27.

Meanwhile, the paternity of Smith’s now 5-month-old daughter remained a matter of dispute. The birth certificate lists Dannielynn’s father as attorney Howard K. Stern, Smith’s most recent companion. Smith’s ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead was waging a legal challenge, saying he was the father. An emergency hearing in the paternity case was scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles.

Lawyers were expected to discuss an emergency motion filed by Birkhead’s attorney seeking DNA from Smith’s body, Rale said. The reasons for the motion were not immediately clear, but an attorney for Stern, James T. Neavitt, was frustrated.

“There’s no question about her being the mother,” he said. “So what’s the purpose of the DNA testing? Why do they need her DNA?”

Debra Opri, the attorney who filed Birkhead’s paternity suit, said Birkhead “is devastated. He is inconsolable, and we are taking steps now to protect the DNA testing of the child. The child is our No. 1 priority.”

The legal complications of Smith’s estate could take years to unravel, an expert said. Christopher Cline of the law firm Holland and Knight, who is an estate planning specialist, said he has never seen a case “with more moving parts.”

Outstanding questions include not only the paternity of her daughter, but if she died with a will and how her death will affect the lawsuit pending against the Marshall estate. It also wasn’t clear where she legally lived when she died.

“It’s a really large legal quagmire,” Cline said.

Smith was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on Nov. 28, 1967, in Houston, one of six children. Her parents split up when she was a toddler, and she was raised by her mother, a deputy sheriff.

She dropped out after 11th grade after she was expelled for fighting, and worked as a waitress and then a cook at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken restaurant in Mexia.

She married 16-year-old fry cook Bill Smith in 1985, giving birth to Daniel before divorcing two years later.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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