At first, the pills were a way to calm the nerves, washed down with expensive champagne before she emerged from behind the curtains and did what she did best: be Anna Nicole Smith, basking in camera flashes and adoration.
But in her last months, the late model came to beg and demand the drugs, drinking a powerful sedative straight from the bottle, asking for her meds an hour after her last heaping dose as she sought a semblance of relaxation while grieving the loss of her son.
That was the downward spiral described by Smith's bodyguard in the first week of the criminal trial of the three people accused of illegally providing the model with dangerous quantities of prescription medication. Howard K. Stern, Smith's lawyer and boyfriend, and Drs. Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich face potential prison sentences if convicted.
Smith died in February 2007 of an accidental overdose in Hollywood, Fla.
On Friday, a defense attorney representing Stern aggressively grilled Maurice Brighthaupt, the Miami firefighter and paramedic who moonlighted handling Smith's personal security, accusing the hulking bodyguard of repeatedly changing his story between numerous television interviews, statements to law enforcement and court testimony.
Attorney Steve Sadow earlier told jurors in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom to question the bodyguard's motive, noting that he had received hefty sums in exchange for media interviews.
Under cross-examination by Sadow, Brighthaupt, also known as "Big Mo," testified Friday that he got more than $100,000 from "Entertainment Tonight" when he gave the TV program photos and an interview less than a week after Smith's death.
Brighthaupt testified that he saw both Eroshevich and Stern give medication to Smith, particularly toward the end when she was too weak to bring the drugs up to her mouth herself. He recalled seeing a "burnt spoon" — used to liquefy medication to be injected into Smith — in the bathroom. Stern explained that she was too weak to swallow, Brighthaupt said.
He also said Smith was drinking alcohol while taking the powerful drugs, something that Eroshevich implored her to stop, but Stern tolerated.
"He said Anna can handle it," Brighthaupt said.
Sadow, in his questioning, pointed out that in early media interviews Brighthaupt said he did not believe Smith was abusing prescription medications. Brighthaupt said that everything he said in the press interviews was lies and that he was trying to protect Smith's reputation.
Sadow also questioned why Brighthaupt, who said Smith was like a sister to him, didn't take the bottle of the sedative away from her when he became concerned that she was becoming obsessed with the drugs.
"I think about that every day, that I should have taken it from her," he said. "And so should everybody else."
His testimony is expected to continue Monday.