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Playboy Founder Remembers Anna Nicole

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," April 4, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Fifteen years ago, Anna Nicole was also interviewed by "Playboy." What was she like before the fame, fortune, scandal and then tragedy? You've never seen this tape before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) tell me your name.

SMITH: My name is Vickie Smith, and that's who I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

SMITH: I was born in Houston, Texas, but kind of back and forth to Houston and Mexia, so — but I was born in Houston.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so you are a Texas girl?

SMITH: I'm a Texas girl 100 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

SMITH: When I was little, I was very tomboyish. I played with the guys, climbed trees. I really didn't grow up with any girlfriends. It was all boys.

Mexia's a real small town. I really don't know the population, but there's nothing to do. There's no movie theaters. There's no bowling.
You ride up and down the street — it's called a drag. You go up and down the street and drink beer and talk.

A perfect Texas evening is going and having a steak and a baked potato and going country dancing, going two-stepping. You just do "One, two, one," all the way around. And you can twirl and do all kinds of spins. And y'all's two-step is, like, "One, two, three, one, two, three." And that's our fast waltz. That's the difference. But it's really fun, ya’ll need to learn.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Anna Nicole was "Playboy's" Playmate of the Year in 1993. Her appearances in the magazine sent her on fast and furious rise to stardom. "Playboy's upcoming May issue is a tribute to Anna Nicole.

A short time ago, Hugh Hefner, "Playboy's" founder, went "On the Record."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Hugh, April 6, Anna Nicole Smith makes her fifth cover of "Playboy" magazine. And next week on the 11th, Playboy TV is doing a special on Anna Nicole Smith. How important has she been to "Playboy?"

HUGH HEFNER, "PLAYBOY" FOUNDER: Well, I don't think that we would have fully appreciated the impact that she had until her demise. I don't think that anybody was prepared for the remarkable response and reaction to her death. I think she's always been — she was Playmate of the Year, a major Playmate, but I don't think that any of us really anticipated either the death or the reaction to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Her first cover was March 1992. When you first met her, was she Vickie Lynn Marshall or Anna Nicole Smith, or do you even remember?

HEFNER: She was Vickie. She was Vickie Smith to begin with, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you actually meet her in '92?

HEFNER: I met her when she became a Playmate. And I certainly met her. I don't remember that, but certainly, when she became the Playmate of the Year, we held, you know, a major event, as we always do, a major press event here at the mansion. And she was bigger than life from the very beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEFNER: Each year, we have a copper engraving made from the actual cover for the Playmate of the Year, and I want to present this to you with a great deal of love.

SMITH: Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, Marilyn Monroe was also, I mean, a hugely important part of the "Playboy" history. She was the first cover back in the early '50s. And at one point, Anna Nicole said that that was her idol or that's someone she emulated. Were they at all alike or anything similar about them?

HEFNER: Well, you can certainly see some parallels, without question. I mean, both came from dysfunctional families, fueled by, you know, the dreams of celebrity connected very much to Hollywood, and variations on the theme.

I think that the fact that Anna Nicole was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe was obvious from the very beginning. She talked about it in the very beginning, and I think that that obsession was very, very real and there from the outset. I think what we could not have anticipated was the tragedy of the life that — and the ironic aspect of it that she died in her 1930s — I'm sorry, died in her 30s from a drug overdose, just as Marilyn did.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anna Nicole was on four covers. This will be her fifth, the one on April 6 that comes out. Is four covers — is that a lot, or have other women been on the cover that many times?

HEFNER: Not too many. No. I think Pam Anderson holds the record. But no, not too many. And you know, a curious phenomena from the very beginning with Anna Nicole. She came from a small town in Texas and lived large, bigger than life, from the very beginning.

She came alive in front of the camera. And that is very obvious in this tribute that we've done in the upcoming issue. The camera loved her and she loved the camera.

I think that one of the things that's curious about her is that she is a classic example of the unique nature of celebrities today. Today, you don't have — you don't have to accomplish a great deal to be a celebrity. A celebrity is defined to some extent simple by simply being a celebrity. As tragic as her death is, she certainly went out in style because celebrity and attention was a major part of what it was all about for her. She grew up in a very small town with big dreams, and in a very real sense, they came true.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Playboy magazine made Anna Nicole a star 14 years ago. The upcoming May issue is a tribute to her. Here's more of our talk with Playboy's founder Hugh Hefner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Why couldn't she convert the success that she'd enjoyed on your magazine and celebrity into a different life? I mean that has turned out tragic, but what happened?

HEFNER: Well, I think it's more than one thing. First and foremost, there was a question in terms of the very nature of her talent. I mean, she certainly was not as much as she'd been identified with Marilyn Monroe, she was not Marilyn. But, there is a tragedy, of course, you know, similar tragedy and more so in the death of Marilyn Monroe. But I do think that talent is one thing, character is something else. And I think that there were obviously a series of bad choices in terms of lifestyle, friends, associates. And you can do that even when you're at the absolute peek of celebrity. I mean, character comes into play.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you suspect a drug issue at all with her at any point?

HEFNER: Well, in the period that I knew her, in other words, I knew her best, obviously, in the early days, when she was appearing with some regularity in the magazine. I saw her last at a party here at the Playboy Mansion for our 50th anniversary, about four years ago — three or four years ago. And she was in a very good mood and was not under the influence. I have certainly seen her at other parties here where it was obvious that she'd been drinking. But, you know, the more serious problems and certainly the remarkable number of drugs that she seems to have taken right before her death is certainly nothing that I was aware of.

VAN SUSTEREN: Was she smart?

HEFNER: Was she smart?

VAN SUSTEREN: Smart, yeah. A good business woman? Shrewd?

HEFNER: Street smart, you know, not well educated, but street smart, yeah.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you saw her at the Playboy Mansion, the 50 year anniversary, was she with Howard K. Stern? Do you know who he is?

HEFNER: I do know who he is. No, I have never met him. I don't think that he was here. She was with a gentleman who represented her for a period of time, and also represents, as a matter of fact, the estate of Marilyn Monroe. And she was here at the same time Bettie Page, the iconic pinup queen and playmate from the 1950's. And Pam Anderson was also here at the same time. I think they took — well, they did, they shot a photograph together which appears in the magazine.

VAN SUSTEREN: When did — who told you Anna Nicole died or how did you learn?

HEFNER: I heard it on the television on the news.

VAN SUSTEREN: And, then what, I mean, your thought?

HEFNER: Well, you know, a tragedy, but as the same time, it came in, you know, in the context of a series of events that suggested, you know, after the fact, it was clear that she was grieving for the loss of her son. The son died in similar circumstances. And I think it's difficult to separate the one tragedy from the other. I think the one is connected to the other.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there some sort of, you know, as you think back at Anna Nicole's life, I know tragic is a word that we all come up with, is there another way to describe her, a side we don't know?

HEFNER: Well, I think that she lived very much the life that she wanted to live and would be very, I mean, who could have guessed, that you know, I think that she went out at the absolute height of her celebrity in a very strange and curious way. The death and mystery surrounding that event, you know, have been — she was on the front page of the New York Post probably, you know, 15, 20 times in the last two months and it isn't over. The curious combination of the circumstances of the death and other facts related to the paternity and the questions related to the money, you know, keep this thing alive a very strange way.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is she a victim or was she sort of the architect of her own destiny? I mean, if — when you — as someone who knew Anna Nicole, did you think this was a victim or is this someone who's just totally in charge her life no matter how derailed it's ultimately going to be?

HEFNER: I think a little of both. I think a little of both. Again you get down to the question of character and choices. But at the same time, somebody in a position like Anna Nicole will be taken advantage by other people. But, I would say that by and large she gave as good as she got. She would be very pleased, you know, with all the tragedy and the loss of the son, and such, I think that she would be very pleased by this remarkable public fascination with the life. You know, she went out in her terms, big time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Playboy magazine's tribute to Anna Nicole will hit newsstands this Friday. The playboy.com website will honor her as well, and Playboy TV will air a special Anna Nicole tribute next Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.

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