Shortly after she was tattooed, Anna turned to Sandi and asked, "What do you think I should do?"
Sandi didn't have to do the math. "I'll never be able to support you like Howard can," she conceded. Anna was just glad Sandi was so reasonable about it. But maybe they could work something out. Would Sandi be interested in posing as the maid? No, said Sandi, she would not be Anna's "damn maid."
The wedding, on June 27, 1994, was a legendary affair at Houston's White Dove Wedding Chapel. The old man arrived at the altar without a prenuptial agreement, and Anna trod over white rosebuds to get to him. When she announced that important modeling business would preclude their wedding night, Howard wept. Don't be sad, Anna reportedly said. "You know it's you I love." And she hurried away with her bodyguard, who would later claim he was ravished.
"I just had them lifted up a little," Anna told Sandi the last time she saw her. It was about four months after the wedding, and Anna had just gone in for another boob job. Sandi nursed Anna until she began eating again and taking her pills. She took the stitches out around the nipples, and when Anna was healthy enough to begin ravishing her driver, Sandi announced through the bedroom door that she was going home.
"I can't believe you're leaving me when I need you most!" were the last words she heard.
Life, after the wedding, became more complicated for Anna. The old man turned out to have a son named Pierce who didn't share his father's affection for women like Anna. Shortly after the wedding, Pierce got the old man to surrender his power of attorney. Pierce cut off Anna's $50,000-a-month allowance and posted armed guards between his father and his father's wife.
Anna insists that she nonetheless managed to perform for Howard what she called her "wife duty." When he expired in August 1995 at the age of 90, he was by all accounts a happily married man.
Anna, as she has said, entered a prolonged period of despair. She tried to fill the void in her life with food. She ate Twinkies and Ho-Hos and Dream Pies, and "everything," she told one magazine, "that wasn't trying to eat me." She overdosed a couple of times. She called Oliver Stone a "fucking asshole," waggled a naked breast at Bruce Willis, and threw up at Dolly Parton's feet. Her weight ballooned to well over 200 pounds, and from her Guess? contract, she went to Lane Bryant and a lesbian porno movie. Anna consumed virtually everything she had, except a half-billion-dollar claim to Howard's estate. When she filed for bankruptcy, it became the business of the court to determine her wealth.
She arrived in federal bankruptcy court in L.A. in November looking every bit the beautiful victim of grief. She was slimmer than she had recently been, and her breasts were restrained behind a conservative blue suit. Hobbled by a back injury, she leaned on her lawyers and dabbed her eyes. Pierce's side seemed at a loss. They tried to portray the widow as a gold digger, but she either wept at their questions or professed not to understand. On several points, she was clear. No, she had not retrieved the old man's ashes; cremation was "really disgusting." Yes, she was faithful to Pawpaw. And though she couldn't remember which day she was married, she was sure it was one of the most important in her life.
"I believed when I married my husband that I was entitled to half of what he had," Anna Nicole testified.
There were charges that Pierce had altered documents to save the fortune. There was testimony that Howard was very happy with Anna and very angry with Pierce for his intrusion. The argument, in essence, was that a deal was a deal. He was rich and she was pretty, and their marriage was no different from many high-society marriages. The rich guy was a lot richer, and the trophy wife was more stacked, that's all. Now, the judge will decide how much it's worth to be probed by 90-year-old appendages.
Anna Nicole put on her dark glasses and walked out of the courthouse, past the gathered reporters. Until the judge rules, lawyers wanted to keep her as quiet as possible and wouldn't let her discuss Sandi Powledge. Back in Winnsboro, though, Sandi can tell things are going to be okay for Anna. She used to hope that Anna would come back and get a job like hers -- "butt-wiper" in a nursing home -- and they could live together like a regular lesbian couple. As Sandi admits now, "that'll probably never happen."