Back in the day, random folks like me were able to publish on the Huffington Post. We didn’t get any money for this, just exposure. Seeing as it’s hard to pay the phone bill with “exposure” it’s probably best that the arrangement came to an end. But every so often, I remember I have a little HuffPost archive, and I think, “Damn, I better republish all that stuff on my own blog before it disappears forever.” So here’s a piece from July 8, 2013 — exactly eight years ago — that I wrote after I was hypnotized by the break-the-Internet cover of “Fame” used in a Lifetime trailer for a television movie about late model/reality star/Supreme Court case Anna Nicole Smith.
I was so enthralled by the 60 seconds of music that I was compelled to track down singer Amy Gerhartz and ask all about how one gets chosen to cover an Oscar-winning movie theme song for Lifetime. (Fascinating factoid: Amy wasn’t familiar with the song!) In 2021, it’s clear that the viral moment didn’t make Amy a household name the way I hoped it would. But maybe it still had a big impact on her career. I’ve always used the word “hypnotized” to describe my reaction to Amy’s version of “Fame” — not just in the first paragraph of this post, but also in 2013. When I looked up Amy’s Instagram just now to see what she’s doing, I was startled by her bio: “Singer-Songwriter • Speaker • Mindset Coach • NLP Practitioner • Hypnosis Practitioner.” OMG! No wonder I felt compelled to write about her! Her number is also in her bio, so hit her up if you need a movie-theme song or a hypnosis session.
Anna Nicole Smith Gives Amy Gerhartz a Big Break
Wendy Brandes, Contributor, Fine jewelry designer and blogger
07/08/2013 01:16 pm ET
Remember her name: Amy Gerhartz.
Gerhartz is the voice behind the moody snippets of the 1980 song “Fame” that were heard during the trailer for Anna Nicole, Lifetime Television’s original movie about the late Playboy and Guess model Anna Nicole Smith. The minute-long spot featured clips of actress Agnes Bruckner — wearing prosthetic breasts — as the troubled blonde bombshell, along with a single line of dialogue: “The price of fame, huh?” The rest was Gerhartz.
The trailer helped the movie draw 3.3 million viewers when it aired on June 29, making Anna Nicole Lifetime’s most successful original movie so far this year. The popularity of the trailer — which, a week after the movie aired, had garnered more than 240,000 YouTube views — sent Gerhartz and producer John Roberts back to the studio to record a full version of the song, which has now been released on iTunes. (A video will also be released shortly.)
“Even though Amy sang the entire song to my piano ‘scratch track’ in our first session, we only created a 60-second full arrangement,” said Roberts, an Atlanta-based songwriter and TV-music composer, who had tapped his friend Gerhartz for the trailer job. “We still had to build the 3:38 version.” One thing that needed to be added along with guitars, bass, drums and strings: the word “fame.” Vedia Ayvaz, the creative director for on-air Lifetime marketing who chose the song for the trailer, listened to a few iterations before asking Roberts and Gerhartz for a version excluding that important word. “We had a sound bite from the movie with Anna Nicole acknowledging the price of fame,” Ayvaz said in an email. “As soon as we heard the ‘fameless’ version of the track with the bite in place, we knew we’d hit a chord… Watching the trailer, you long to hear that one lyric, you anticipate it’s coming, the spot keeps building to it and so when you get to the end and you hear Anna’s haunting bite, the sadness of her life really resonates. It leaves you wanting to know more about her story.”
Gerhartz was familiar with the basic story, if not every detail, of Smith’s tumultuous life: the voluptuous Texas stripper who married an oil billionaire 63 years her senior and, after his death, took the fight over his estate to the Supreme Court. The top model whose descent into drug addiction was captured on reality television. The death at age 39 from an accidental overdose of prescription medications in 2007, five months after her 20-year-old son died from drugs in the hospital room where Smith had just given birth to a daughter. The daughter who was the subject of a custody battle by two of the men (there were more) who claimed paternity.
What Gerhartz was not familiar with was the song “Fame,” which was performed by Irene Cara for the soundtrack of the movie of the same name, and which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song before the 31-year-old Gerhartz was born. Roberts wouldn’t let her listen to the original version. Instead, “I watched the trailer, and did my own vocal interpretation,” Gerhartz said, adding, “I don’t think either one of us knew the viral impact it was going to have … we would have recorded the whole song the first time through if we had known!” The unsigned, “100 percent independent” singer/songwriter — who plays piano and guitar and compares her “pop soul” style to that of Jason Mraz and John Mayer — saw increased purchases of her own music on iTunes before the complete version of “Fame” was released. “I’ve been working on music for 10 years now so it’s like ‘Woo! Finally!’” she laughed. As a performer who normally writes her own lyrics and music, she’s amused but gratified to think a cover tune could be her first big break. “I think artists always want one of their songs to be the thing that everybody loves, but at the same time, this is a great song. I’m happy,” she said. “I think the tone of the song and the way the song is sung is very similar to something I would do for myself.”
Roberts, the producer, agrees. “It’s almost like an extension of her soul.” He said of Gerhartz, “She wanted to own it. And do it. And she really nailed it … I’m so looking forward to working with her on more music soon because she’s a star.”
- “Fame” by Amy Gerhartz and John Roberts is available on iTunes here.
- You can follow Gerhartz on Twitter at @AmyGerhartz.
By the way, the entire Anna Nicole Smith Lifetime movie is now on YouTube. It’s very respectful — and Agnes Bruckner as Anna Nicole is charismatic — but the movie is too short to capture the epic tragedy of Anna Nicole Smith’s 39 years of life. I feel like this story deserves to be revisited, especially in light of the new insight into the life of Britney Spears, whose obvious personal pain was mined for dollars and mocked as a train-wreck during the same era. Watching the movie today, with Jeff Bezos’s surging wealth in the news yet again recently, I’m especially struck by the meanness and absurdity of the decade-plus-long legal battle undertaken by the son of J. Howard Marshall, Anna Nicole Smith’s elderly billionaire husband, to keep Marshall’s estate from her. It would have made so much more sense, financially and otherwise, to settle for a few million, but billionaires gotta billionaire, and by that I mean they have to act like complete shit. Ironically, E. Pierce Marshall died unexpectedly in 2006, the year before Anna Nicole did, aged just 67 compared to his dad’s 90. I looked for him on the Find a Grave website, but apparently the location of his ashes is unknown. Too bad. I was hoping to see a headstone chiseled with the words “You can’t take it with you.”