Behind his back, though, she continued to see an older butch lesbian she’d been dating off and on for several years, as well as several men. Sex occupied an odd purpose in her life: She seemed often to give it for reasons that had little to do with her personal pleasure, and when she had it she typically demanded it take place in the dark. She wrote in her diary, “I hate for men to want sex all the time. I hate sex anyway.” Though much would be made of her multiple partners, Manning would later testify that J. Howard was aware and tolerant so long as she was available for him first.
She became an international phenomenon. She scandalized Scandinavia, where giant billboards of her posing provocatively for H&M led numerous drivers to run off the road. Norway’s Parliament debated their legality. In the spring of 1994, she cut short an international tour after being mobbed in Singapore. When she returned home, J. Howard proposed yet again, telling her she’d saved his life and that he wanted to take care of her and her son forever. At last, she agreed.
Their wedding took place on June 27, 1994, in the White Dove Wedding Chapel. Sitting in his wheelchair, wearing a white tuxedo, 89-year-old J. Howard watched as his 26-year-old bride walked down an aisle of white rosebuds. He’d tried to stand, but his legs buckled. When it was time to kiss the bride, Anna Nicole leaned down to kiss him. Afterward, once white doves had been released into the sky, she delivered heartbreaking news: She needed to catch a plane out of town immediately for a photo shoot. Her new husband sat crying in his wheelchair. Blowing him kisses, she rushed away with her bodyguard, who would later claim the two had sex in a hotel room that night.
News of the wedding leaked and then gushed. They were an easy punch line. David Letterman ran a Top Ten Anna Nicole Dating Tips (No. 10: “Forget the personal ads, try the intensive-care unit”). But the notoriety was paying its own dividends. Anna Nicole was cast in a series of movies, including The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3. J. Howard flew to Los Angeles to spend time with her. They wanted to start a family, and at one point consulted a fertility specialist.
“I don’t love anyone but I’ll find someone just to get preg. Is that so bad.”
Back in Texas, Pierce was scrambling. He’d learned of the wedding and hired private detectives to trail them in Los Angeles, for fear they’d visit a lawyer to make changes to J. Howard’s will. When J. Howard returned home, Pierce presented, for his father’s signature, several legal documents whose contents he misrepresented (J. Howard could no longer read without the assistance of his one-foot-diameter magnifying glass). Unwittingly, he relinquished all control of his estate.
In December 1994, J. Howard, staving off pneumonia, flew to Los Angeles. He was still infatuated (he had been calling her dozens of times a day), but by this point Anna Nicole’s drug use was intensifying, and she was preoccupied. When he arrived, she was in bed, and he decided to join her. He told his driver, “Well, hell, just throw me in bed next to her.”
“Oh, no, Paw Paw,” she reminded him. “You know you don’t get up in bed with me. You pee the bed.”
For much of his visit, she was unavailable. For Christmas he gave her a teddy bear wearing a gargantuan emerald pendant; she gave him a nose-hair trimmer. Later, during an evening out, there was confusion about who was caring for him, and he was left outside in heavy rain.
When J. Howard returned to Texas, his condition worsened. In January, Anna Nicole visited him at his house. She stayed up with him through the night, spooning chicken broth into his mouth, despite an order that he be fed only through a tube. When he began choking, she became hysterical. He lost consciousness and had to be revived en route to the hospital.
Pierce reacted swiftly and coolly: He assumed temporary guardianship of his father and cut her off completely, forwarding her bills directly to her. For a few years now, she had been spending—and, at the end, demanding—upwards of six figures per month. She was caught off guard. She became desperate.
When J. Howard was released from the hospital, she visited again. She took off her shirt and bra and climbed atop him, shoving her breasts in his face: “Do you miss your rosebuds?” she pleaded, a tape recorder in her hand, urging him to repeat out loud his promise to take care of her and her son. He was unable to speak. Finally, Pierce hired several armed guards, significantly limiting her access to her husband. Some on his staff claim he expressed regret for having married her.