SCOTT MORRIS: Astronaut, Centerfold offer compelling cautionary tales

A pair of tabloid tales went mainstream this week, when the Astronaut and the Centerfold set tongues wagging as though it were the second coming of O.J. Simpson.

From late-night comedians to the guy in the next cubicle, Lisa Nowak and Anna Nicole Smith have been THE topics of conversation.

Let's start with Nowak, a woman who's spent her life piling achievement upon achievement. She's been a Navy test pilot, and she's among the elite few to get a God's eye view of this great Earth we call home.

With those accomplishments, she has earned our collective admiration. She's been on humanity's vanguard, pushing herself while expanding the idea of what's possible for the rest of us.

But we're not talking about her because of the lofty heights she's reached. We're interested because she allegedly drove from Texas to Florida in a diaper so she could confront and possibly kidnap – or possibly kill – a romantic rival.

They call her the “Astro-Nut,” and she was everywhere until Thursday when Anna Nicole Smith died in Florida. All of the sudden, TV news started showing Playboy magazine cover spreads and talking about “TrimSpa, baby.”

Smith was famous for being famous, though her marrying a wrinkled billionaire probably had something to do with our interest. She seemed to relish the role of professional tabloid fodder.

Here's a telling detail: Astronaut and national hero Buzz Aldrin went on TV to speak well of Nowak, while soft-core porn king Hugh Hefner released kind words about Smith.

It may seem the only thing these women have in common is timing, but there's more both lives illustrate separate but compelling cautionary tales.

In Nowak's case, you can go back to Greek mythology to find Icarus. He fashioned a pair of wings and attempted to reach the heavens, but the sun melted the wax holding the wings together and Icarus crashed from his great height.

For Smith, let's add her to the legion of good-looking, unbelievably wealthy people who appear to lead unhappy lives. She had her share of “fun,” but it's doubtful she ever knew peace or contentment. Maybe there was a deep, spiritual side to the woman, but good luck finding anyone in Las Vegas or Vatican City to take that bet.

There's a chance Nowak could recover from her fall and exchange her role as Icarus for the part of the prodigal daughter. The lost may still be found.

Death is the doorway to the mystery of mysteries, so who knows about Smith?

If Smith's in a place where she knows what's been going on since her death, she's probably ticked off about dying but tickled we're still talking about her.

Basically, we've got a live woman who wants us to shut up and a dead woman who would want us to keep gabbing.

Nothing's going to stop these rich, multifaceted stories from circulating, except the one thing that brought them together: time.

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.