Fame and Infamy Surround Anna Nicole Smith

ByABC News
November 16, 2005, 9:58 PM

Nov. 17, 2005 — -- For the past decade, fame and controversy have followed Anna Nicole Smith -- from the cover of Playboy magazine, to her infamous cable TV reality show, to her gig as a weight-loss supplement spokesmodel.

But it was her marriage to Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall that some say made her infamous. When word got out that the love of Smith's life was 63 years her senior, many dismissed her as a gold digger.

"She's a sex machine, likes to have sex as often as 10 times a day," joked Jay Leno on the "Tonight Show." "Probably a habit she picked up married to that 90-year-old billionaire."

But thanks to home movies, family photos and personal accounts, "Primetime" was able to take a look inside the couple's much publicized marriage to see what this May-December couple was really like.

Smith and Marshall met 16 years ago at Gigi's Cabaret, a Houston strip club where Smith worked as a dancer.

The billionaire was on the rebound, having recently lost his second wife as well as his long-time mistress, who was -- ironically -- a flamboyant former stripper herself.

"He had no will to live," said Smith. "I went to see him and he got a little twinkle in his eyes and he asked me to dance for him. And I did."

Marshall liked Smith so much, she says, that he tried to grab her breasts and thus began their courtship, complete with dates to a fancy Houston country club.

"To tell you the truth, the first time, it felt a little embarrassing," said Smith. "But from there, I didn't care what nobody thought."

The money he was giving her -- from $1,000 to $5,000 in cash -- may have helped. He also showered her with gifts worth nearly $6 million, including cars and a 15-acre ranch outside Houston.

During the relationship she was named a Playboy Playmate, won a lucrative modeling contract with GUESS jeans, and bit parts in films such as "Naked Gun."

But the real jackpot for Smith came with her marriage and the amazing promise that she says her husband made to her.

"Anything he could do that made her life better ... he would do it," said Elaine Tabers, Smith's aunt. "Sometimes she didn't have to ask, he would just do it."

Tabers was living with her niece on the ranch as her assistant. She says Smith helped her husband, then 88 years old, feel like a kid again, like when they took a spontaneous trip to Bali.

"He said, 'You know, I've never been on a vacation where I did not work,'" recalled Tabers. "He said, 'This is the best vacation I've ever had; I've had so much fun and everything.' He said, 'I've done things I've never done in my life.'"