Does Anna Nicole Smith corrupt everything she touches, even in death, or is she just a magnet for sleaze?
Everybody who crossed paths with the late pin-up and reality TV star seems to want to make a buck on her celebrity. Personal attorney Howard K. Stern is looking for a cut of the Marshall fortune, probable baby-daddy Larry Birkhead cashed in on her photos, mother Virgie Arthur is selling out to the tabloids, and Broward Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin was apparently auditioning for his own TV show last week during the burial hearings.
But what about Dr. Joshua Perper (or "Dr. Pepper," as Judge Larry misnomered him during the hearings)? Is the esteemed Broward County Medical Examiner whose candor and willingness to answer questions endeared him to the nation during the ANS soap opera trying to cash in on the case, too?
Last week, while Anna Nicole's corpse cooled in a refrigerator in his office, the Boca Press released Perper's new book, "When To Call The Doctor ...". Here's how the press release starts out:
"Dr. Joshua Perper, expert Broward County Medical Examiner, performed the autopsy on Anna Nicole Smith. Dr. Perper is available for interviews about the autopsy he performed on the body of Anna Nicole Smith and his new book, "When To Call The Doctor..."
It concludes: "Due to the recent sudden deaths of Anna Nicole Smith and her late son, the timeliness of this book makes it an invaluable resource for everyone."
So it certainly appears the good doctor is angling for Anna to give him a bump in book sales. But when the Pulp questioned him about it today, he immediately denied that was the case...
"I don't want any appearance that I am using [the Anna Nicole Smith autopsy] as a prop to advertise my book," he said. "I am not using my professional or county involvement to sell the book."
When I brought up the wording of the press release from his publisher, he seemed surprised. "I am going to [press agent Sara Chikovsy] just now to tell her not to do that," he said. "I made it clear to them just as I did to you that I didn't want that to happen."
All right, Dr. Perper, I'm gonna give you a pass on this one. It's weird times and it's only human nature to become affected by what you so aptly termed "celebritis."
"We are very engrossed with celebrities," Perper told me. "You can call it celebritis. Some have it acute, some mild, some chronic, some severe. It interferes with your normal activities."
I couldn't resist asking him about Judge Larry, who repeatedly lauded Perper as "brilliant" during last week's chaotic hearings. What did he think of the performance?
"I think he was more emotional because of his background," the M.E. averred. "When you deal with family court and divorces and you know how nerve-wracking these things are. Obviously this exprience over the years would make a judge more sensitive to those issues. I thought he tried to do the best job he could under the circumstances."
Perper didn't have a whole lot of time to talk. He's getting ready for a trip to the Bahamas with Anna Nicole's body, as ordered by Seidlin. He says it's the first time he'll ever watch over a body he's autopsied outside his offices in Dania Beach. "I haven't done it before. But I don't think this is celebritis, I think the judge became very involved in this case and he wants to make sure his orders are carried out in proper fashion."
He says he thinks the trip will occur Monday or Tuesday, most likely the latter, and Anna will be buried shortly after that next to her son Daniel in the Nassau. That's assuming, of course, that everything goes smoothly and no more symptoms of celebritis infect the proceedings.