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Friday, April 13, 2007 | I miss Gerald Ford.

I don’t know if he was a great president, but he sure had a great line when he said, “Our long, national nightmare is over.”

Problem is, he said it about 33 years too early, and for something as petty as Watergate.

After all, a petty third-rate burglary for a crook like Richard Nixon doesn’t really qualify as a national nightmare. At least not compared to something like the battle over who really fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s baby.

That is a national nightmare I’ve been relishing for weeks and now that it’s over, I’m at a loss over how to spend my time.

No longer can I torture my co-workers by singing “Candle In The Wind” with lyrics rewritten especially for Anna Nicole … “Goodbye Anna Nicole/ Though I never knew you at all/ Everyone claims they’re the father of your baby/ Even that prince, Frederic Von Anhalt…”

Oh, sure, I could spend my time getting involved with serious news, like that pension thingie, but no one working for the local unions ever posed for Playboy so, to me, it’s a yawner.

And I guess I could pay closer attention to how Jerry Sanders is selling off San Diego assets to his rich pals, but, as my wife points out, he’s not as cute as Larry Birkhead.

I was really living there for a few weeks when Anna Nicole news was front page stuff. It was a tabloid journalist’s dream and I’m that tabloid journalist.

Let me explain: When I’m not cementing my reputation as San Diego’s second-funniest and least knowledgeable columnist, I write weird news stories for Wireless Flash News Service, an international news wire that supplies wacky stories for Jay Leno, David Letterman and The New York Post.

If I didn’t have the tabloid mentality before taking the job, I do now. So I am not exaggerating when I say the day she died was the equivalent of Sept. 11 to bottom-feeding journalists such as myself.

I remember it like it was just a few months ago. Oh yeah, it was a few months ago.

My fellow reporters heard the news right before our deadline and it was one of those situations where we had to crank out a story quick — without copying our competition or rehashing other newswires.

We racked our brains looking for an angle, when one of my staff writers noticed all the postings by bloggers who now felt guilty about their cracks about Anna Nicole Smith.

Believe me, some of those names that Anna Nicole was called make the stuff Don Imus said about the Rutgers women’s basketball team sound like compliments, so maybe a little guilt was in order.

But I digress: Out of that little news tip, we found a grief expert who offered suggestions on how guilty bloggers could get past the tragedy and move on with their lives.

Some of the guy’s suggestions included holding a wake where Anna’s fans could look at old issues of Playboy and watch reruns of her E! Network reality show, and then after all the cheap yuks, have a moment of silence to recognize that “this woman who made herself look like a buffoon had a tragic life.”

Ah, good times.

I also remember the day before Anna Nicole’s funeral when I called an etiquette expert to ask about proper funeral manners.

I asked her, “They’ll probably have a moment where people who knew Anna Nicole can discuss their memories of her. Considering this is a funeral, is it proper to mention how much fun they had partying with her? Or how much she liked doing tequila body shots?”

There was a moment of silence from the expert, who then suggested it might be better to make general things like, “We had fun times together,” than specific stuff like, “We were so wasted that time she wore the clown makeup.”

And just last week, I spoke with Anna Nicole’s sister, Donna, who, in one breath, professed her love for her sister and, in other, mentioned that she just wrote a book about her sister titled “Train Wreck.”

My, that’s touching.

Ms. Hogan told me she’s no fan of Howard K. Stern, but, strangely, believed he should have some visitation rights to Dannielynn even if he weren’t the father because “Anna wanted him in her life.”

She is, of course, a fan of Larry Birkhead and, not surprisingly, isn’t so hot on Prince Frederic Von Anhalt.

To me, Anna Nicole Smith’s story isn’t the American Dream but it is a parable that shows that with a little luck, pluck and nip and tuck, a woman can grow up and leave her mark on Bahamian history.

Just like boomers know the finer points of history regarding their heroes, the Beatles and Elvis Presley, future generations will be able to recite the Anna Nicole story in minute detail.

And characters who were connected to her like Stern, Birkhead and even that prince who married Zsa Zsa Gabor will take on a mythical quality of their own.

I feel sorry for Dannielynn for not growing up with her mother, but, as a couch potato, I look forward to the day when she hosts daylong marathons of her mom’s reality show on cable TV.

If I were Larry Birkhead, I probably wouldn’t continue the fight for Anna Nicole’s fortune. All that money screws with your head and Dannielynn will probably benefit from a good family more than all that money.

I am impressed by Birkhead and believe he sincerely wants to do the right thing. That was why I was impressed when the paternity DNA results were announced, he and Stern hugged it out in a manly way.

Maybe some of the battling politicos in town need to adopt a “What Would Larry Birkhead Do” philosophy in their dealings with each other.

If that happens, perhaps, Anna Nicole’s death won’t have been in vain.

David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer whose favorite Anna Nicole Smith movie is Skyscraper, where she plays a gun-wielding helicopter pilot. And, no, it isn’t very good. He can be reached at moyemail@cox.net. Agree? Disagree? Send a letter to the editor.

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