Anna Nicole Smith almost didn't make it into the pages of Playboy, the magazine revealed this week.
In their new collector's issue "Anna Nicole: The Playboy Years," which is on newsstands now, the magazine's staff and contributors shared candid memories of the late model, including near-death experiences, bizarre behavior, weight issues and how at least one photographer didn't want her in the magazine.
"I rejected her Playmate test," Arny Freytag, Playboy senior contributing photographer, recounts in the new issue. "She had a great face, but she was overweight. I said she should lose a few pounds and maybe we'd test her again."
Freytag was overruled, and Anna Nicole went from test subject to star. A few months after sending in her pictures, Smith made her debut as a cover star of their March 1992 issue. It appears, according to the magazine, Smith had trouble with her weight even back then.
West Coast photo editor Marilyn Grabowski suggests Anna Nicole was at least 160 pounds for that shoot, though she claimed to be 20 pounds less on a data sheet.
"Anna had appetites," makeup artist Alexis Vogel says. "She loved fried chicken, pies, cakes. She'd tell her limo driver to pull over — 'I need a coconut lemon cake.' "
Smith's appetite for substances like drugs and alcohol were heavy too, magazine insiders suggested. Anna Nicole reportedly drank bottles of champagne on shoots according to one Playboy editor. After her marriage to J. Howard Marshall, Elite Models co-founder Monique Pillard said Smith was also taking prescription drugs for pain in her back.
Smith died of an accidental overdose Feb. 8 in Hollywood, Fla. Chloral hydrate, a sleeping medication was found in her system. That medicine also was found in the system of her idol, Marilyn Monroe, upon her death. According to Playboy's associates, Smith almost had more in common with Marilyn, nearly dying in the bombshell's home 14 years ago.
"She almost died in 1993," Grabowski says. "I called her, and she was slurring her words. 'I'm in the Jacuzzi,' she said. The phone went dead."
Bill White, manager of Playboy Studio West, reports Anna Nicole had been drinking too. After they were unable to reach Smith on the phone, White drove to her house.
"The place was sparsely furnished with pictures of Anna and Monroe on the walls. And out in the Jacuzzi I found Anna, naked, humming along with Marilyn. There was a wine bottle three-quarters empty nearby . . . The maid said she had been in there all morning. We got her out, and it wasn't easy," White said.
"Anna Nicole: The Playboy Years" is on newsstands now. A program, "Playboy Remembers: Anna Nicole Smith," premieres on Playboy TV on Wednesday.