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FROM THIS EPISODE

Rest in Peace?

This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and feeling, gosh, I'm overdue to add my voice to all the others on the passing of Anna Nicole Smith.

I'll keep it brief: Rest in peace, Anna Nicole.

As if that were likely, considering the battle she leaves behind for custody of her six-month-old daughter who, of course, stands to inherit Anna Nicole's fortune, and whose paternity is in heated dispute.

Oddly, for everyone following this sad, squalid story, Anna Nicole hasn't really passed. Hasn't died. Hasn't gone anywhere. She's as present as ever, vamping in those photos and archival videos. She's simply giving her audience a new story twist.

But for me there's nothing new.

I see her, like I have all along, as a plus-size striver who landed her version of the American Dream -- Playboy cover, rich husband, a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court! She even scored that series on E! Entertainment, a reality show where she seemed way too zonked out to be much acquainted with reality. (Nice work if you can get it.)

Hard to explain? The Anna Nicole Smith Phenomenon was never about her, argues a friend of mine. For those fascinated by her, Anna Nicole is all about what we see in ourselves: our unrecognized star quality, our fateful excesses. She was each of us, swallowed up in self-love and self-loathing, writ large.

Or so says my friend. But I don't know about that. What I do know is, in death, her story has never been more alive and well, or more hungrily feasted upon by the media...even as I have done my best to ignore it all.

I have watched almost none of the TV coverage which, along with serving as a Godsend for the likes of Entertainment Tonight, in the first couple of days after she died filled roughly half the airtime of CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

You know, I didn't even see that sobbing judge -- although I did catch him parodied on Saturday Night Live.

So maybe you ask, Why wasn't I doing my job as a television critic, glued to Anna Nicole TV by the hour?

Well, at the risk of sounding disrespectful or highfalutin, there were other things I thought were more important to be watching and writing about.

Meanwhile, I spent a lot of free time sequestered in a screening room judging entries for a TV news competition. I and the rest of the judging panel viewed programs on AIDS, poverty, political corruption, war, racism, environmental crises, and also some fun stuff.

These screening sessions gave me a timely wakeup call that there are really important things going on out there, with measurable implications on our lives, events whose outcome we can maybe do something about.

Another thing. Just a couple of days after Anna Nicole's death at 39, a friend of mine died, also too young. He wasn't someone I was close to anymore. I hadn't seen him in more than a decade. Still, he occupied an indelible piece of my past. He was someone I shared other friends with. So, even having long been distant from him, I felt his death, however understated and out of view.

Which brings me back to Anna Nicole Smith, whose role as a public figure remains, post-mortem, what it was before: an audience-pleasing diversion.

It's the sort of diversion I don't want. But still...I will pay her the respect of crediting her death as one more reason for dismissing her: Life, as she reminded us so painfully, is just too short.

This is Associated Press TV Writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW.


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