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Sudden death of wannabe Marilyn

Hollywood (Florida), Feb. 9 (Reuters): Anna Nicole Smith, the small-town Texas girl turned Playboy Playmate who fought all the way to the US supreme court over her billionaire husband’s estate, died suddenly yesterday at the age of 39.

Smith, a voluptuous platinum blonde who grew up idolising the late screen legend Marilyn Monroe, was pronounced dead at a Hollywood, Florida, hospital.

Her mother, Virgie Arthur, said drugs may have contributed to her daughter’s sudden death. Asked what happened to her daughter, Virgie Arthur, said on ABC’s Good Morning America programme that said Anna “had too many drugs”. “I tried to warn her about the drugs and the people she hung around. She didn’t listen,” Arthur said. “She was too drugged up. The last interview I saw of her, she was so wasted.”

A favourite subject of the tabloid media, Smith was rushed to the hospital after a private nurse who had apparently been alone with her in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino telephoned a hotel operator to ask for medical help. “I can confirm that she is deceased. It's as shocking to me as to you guys,” Smith’s attorney, Ronald Rale, said. Her lawyer and husband, Howard K. Stern, “obviously is speechless and grieving”, Rale said.

An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death, which came at a time of grief and fresh legal wrangles for Smith.

Just five months ago, Smith’s 20-year-old son from her first marriage, Daniel, died in a Bahamas hospital three days after she gave birth to her daughter, Dannielyn Hope Marshall Stern. She then quickly became embroiled in a paternity suit over the baby girl filed by an ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead.

Smith was ordered to have her infant daughter undergo a paternity test, and on Wednesday, the day before her death, a judge set a February 21 deadline for completion of that test. Smith had said Stern was the father.

Within hours of Smith’s death, Birkhead’s lawyer Debra Opri sought an emergency order for DNA tests on the body as part of the paternity battle.

The hotel told reporters Smith had checked in on Monday and was scheduled to leave today. Her daughter was not with her and sources said the child was being cared for in the Bahamas.

Born Vickie Lynn Hogan and raised in the small Texas town of Mexia, about 130 km south of Dallas, Smith grew up saying she wanted to be like Marilyn Monroe, who came from a troubled childhood to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Monroe was found dead at the age of 36 by her housekeeper on August 5, 1962. The cause of death was listed as an overdose of sleeping pills.

Smith also had a difficult childhood and was dogged by talk of addiction to drugs, including prescription painkillers, that was fuelled by her slurred words and unusual behaviour at awards shows and other public events.

“I actually went into a coma, you know. I almost died,” she had said once.

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