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Gabriel Rotello

Gabriel Rotello

Posted: September 15, 2006 01:33 PM

Anna Nicole and Daniel and Us


A few years ago I produced a documentary for Showtime called "Dark Roots: The Unauthorized Anna Nicole." Reviewers called it a scathing, devastating expose of the former centerfold and reality star, but frankly, it wasn't that hard to scathe and devastate. Anna's bad behavior made it easy.

Still, one thing always struck me about Anna Nicole Smith while I interviewed her friends and family for that film.

Despite the huge number of bitter enemies she had made - including discarded childhood friends, discarded family members, discarded former lovers, and the family of her deceased millionaire husband - virtually all of them reluctantly admitted one undeniable fact: Anna Nicole was a deeply devoted mother who passionately loved her son Daniel, lived for him, sacrificed for him, and placed him at the center of her life.

Most of Anna's critics also reluctantly agreed that despite his mother's chaotic life, Daniel had turned out surprisingly well: Then 17, he was a normal student and avid high school athlete who seemed genuinely well adjusted, even serious, and who was, in turn, devoted to his mother.

I was certainly no fan of the mother, but I was saddened by the death of the son this week. And I'm equally saddened to watch the media use his death to take cheap shots.

According to reports, Anna kept trying to resuscitate Daniel after medical workers gave up. Reports also say that she had to be heavily sedated afterwards, and was disoriented when she awoke.

Both reports seem understandable for a parent who had just given birth and who then witnessed the unexpected death of a 20-year-old child.

But these reports have been twisted, predictably, into lurid headlines - even on this blog - of an Anna Nicole who was so "drugged" she "forgot" her son had died. The implication being, it was just one more wild weekend for that whacky freak, Anna Nicole.

The temptation to snicker is apparently overwhelming. But it should be resisted. Daniel's death, whatever its cause, must be unbearable for his mother. To use it as a means to poke fun says more about the mockers than the mocked.

Don't get me wrong: Media hounds like Anna deserve all the scrutiny they invite. And the mystery of Daniel's death makes it a legitimate subject of media attention.

But attention is one thing, snickering is something else. No grieving mom deserves that. Even if her name is Anna Nicole Smith.