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Anna Nicole Smith Gives Amy Gerhartz a Big Break

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Remember her name: Amy Gerhartz.

Gerhartz is the voice behind the moody snippets of the 1980 song "Fame" that were heard during the trailer for Anna Nicole, Lifetime Television's original movie about the late Playboy and Guess model Anna Nicole Smith. The minute-long spot featured clips of actress Agnes Bruckner -- wearing prosthetic breasts -- as the troubled blonde bombshell, along with a single line of dialogue: "The price of fame, huh?" The rest was Gerhartz.

The trailer helped the movie draw 3.3 million viewers when it aired on June 29, making Anna Nicole Lifetime's most successful original movie so far this year. The popularity of the trailer -- which, a week after the movie aired, had garnered more than 240,000 YouTube views -- sent Gerhartz and producer John Roberts back to the studio to record a full version of the song, which has now been released on iTunes. (A video will also be released shortly.)

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"Even though Amy sang the entire song to my piano 'scratch track' in our first session, we only created a 60-second full arrangement," said Roberts, an Atlanta-based songwriter and TV-music composer, who had tapped his friend Gerhartz for the trailer job. "We still had to build the 3:38 version." One thing that needed to be added along with guitars, bass, drums and strings: the word "fame." Vedia Ayvaz, the creative director for on-air Lifetime marketing who chose the song for the trailer, listened to a few iterations before asking Roberts and Gerhartz for a version excluding that important word. "We had a sound bite from the movie with Anna Nicole acknowledging the price of fame," Ayvaz said in an email. "As soon as we heard the 'fameless' version of the track with the bite in place, we knew we'd hit a chord... Watching the trailer, you long to hear that one lyric, you anticipate it's coming, the spot keeps building to it and so when you get to the end and you hear Anna's haunting bite, the sadness of her life really resonates. It leaves you wanting to know more about her story."

Gerhartz was familiar with the basic story, if not every detail, of Smith's tumultuous life: the voluptuous Texas stripper who married an oil billionaire 63 years her senior and, after his death, took the fight over his estate to the Supreme Court. The top model whose descent into drug addiction was captured on reality television. The death at age 39 from an accidental overdose of prescription medications in 2007, five months after her 20-year-old son died from drugs in the hospital room where Smith had just given birth to a daughter. The daughter who was the subject of a custody battle by two of the men (there were more) who claimed paternity.

What Gerhartz was not familiar with was the song "Fame," which was performed by Irene Cara for the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, and which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song before the 31-year-old Gerhartz was born. Roberts wouldn't let her listen to the original version. Instead, "I watched the trailer, and did my own vocal interpretation," Gerhartz said, adding, "I don't think either one of us knew the viral impact it was going to have ... we would have recorded the whole song the first time through if we had known!" The unsigned, "100 percent independent" singer/songwriter -- who plays piano and guitar and compares her "pop soul" style to that of Jason Mraz and John Mayer -- saw increased purchases of her own music on iTunes before the complete version of "Fame" was released. "I've been working on music for 10 years now so it's like 'Woo! Finally!'" she laughed. As a performer who normally writes her own lyrics and music, she's amused but gratified to think a cover tune could be her first big break. "I think artists always want one of their songs to be the thing that everybody loves, but at the same time, this is a great song. I'm happy," she said. "I think the tone of the song and the way the song is sung is very similar to something I would do for myself."

Roberts, the producer, agrees. "It's almost like an extension of her soul." He said of Gerhartz, "She wanted to own it. And do it. And she really nailed it ... I'm so looking forward to working with her on more music soon because she's a star."

  • "Fame" by Amy Gerhartz and John Roberts is available on iTunes here.
  • You can follow Gerhartz on Twitter at @AmyGerhartz.
  • Anna Nicole, the movie, will re-air on Lifetime on Wednesday, July 10, at 8 PM ET.