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A tycoon, a bodyguard -- even a prince

The leading characters in the Anna Nicole Smith legal drama

February 18, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith: With her blow-up-doll curves, the former stripper and Red Lobster waitress became a Playmate of the Year and Guess jeans model before marrying a billionaire octogenarian, who died 14 months later, leaving her to fight over his estate with his adult son. That legal battle went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. During the filming of her reality show, Smith said she had two audiences: "large women and college boys." She died Feb. 8 of unknown causes at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

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J. Howard Marshall II: The oil tycoon was an early-bird patron at a Houston strip club where Smith worked. He married her in 1994 at age 89 and died the next year, leaving an estimated $1.6-billion estate and the probate frenzy du jour. "The light of my life," Marshall called Smith, according to one of her many lawyers.

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E. Pierce Marshall: J. Howard's son, he died last June after devoting 11 years to battling Smith over his father's fortune. His wife, Elaine, will carry on the fight.

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Dannielynn Smith: Smith's 5-month-old daughter, born in the Bahamas, the presumed heir to whatever fortune Smith might now possess or posthumously win. At least five men, including Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, have claimed they are her father.

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Alexander Denk: Smith's former bodyguard, who claims to have had an ongoing affair with her and wants to raise Dannielynn if she is his daughter. "A lot of times we laid on the bed together, like when she was five months pregnant, and talked about it," he told Larry King. "I said, 'Anna, she needs a strong hand in the house here.' "

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Daniel Smith: Smith's son from her first marriage to a Texas fry cook, who attended North Hollywood High School and Los Angeles Valley College. He was a semi-regular on "The Anna Nicole Show," notable for seeming decent if slightly beleaguered. He died last year at age 20 while visiting Smith in her hospital room after Dannielynn's birth. He reportedly had antidepressants and methadone in his system. An inquest is pending.

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Larry Seidlin: The Broward County Circuit Court judge overseeing where Smith's body goes. So far he has shown a penchant for off-the-cuff, if not vaguely strange, comments. "We want to preserve the beauty and model figure of Miss Smith," Seidlin said. "Beauty was important to her."

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Howard K. Stern: A lawyer and Smith's perpetual sidekick and enabler at least since "The Anna Nicole Show" premiered in 2002, in which he follows her with a bemused look as she slurs her way through interviews and shares raunchy details about her life. Stern announced that he was Dannielynn's "proud father" on "Larry King Live" and is listed as her father on her Bahamian birth certificate. He is fighting to have Smith's body buried in the Bahamas, where he wants to retain custody of the baby and act as the executor of Smith's estate. On Smith's mother: "Anna, she just despised that woman, despised that woman. As long as I have one breath left in my body, that woman will not see Dannielynn."

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Larry Birkhead: Smith's photographer ex-boyfriend is squaring off with Stern in Los Angeles to prove who is Dannielynn's father. He successfully fought to get the Florida court to have a DNA sample taken from Smith's body so he could be sure that no one switched babies if Dannielynn's DNA is extracted. "Our daughter, Dannielynn, is a constant reminder of the love we shared and the life that we desired," he posted to his website after Smith's death.

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Prince Frederick von Anhalt: The bejeweled husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and a German prince of disputed title and age. Two days after Smith's death, he claimed he had had a decadelong affair with her and could be Dannielynn's father. Asked by the Associated Press how he hid the affair from his famously tempestuous wife, he said, "You can have an affair in 10 minutes." He filed a paternity claim in Santa Monica last week. On why he came forward: "I could never rest, I could never sleep, knowing that someone out there could be my child."

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Vergie Arthur: Smith's estranged mother, who went on CNN's "Nancy Grace" in October suggesting that her daughter, who was born Vickie Lynn Hogan, and Stern were to blame for Daniel's death. Arthur wants her daughter's body buried in Texas. About Dannielynn, she says: "I do have a problem with her being with Howard Stern. I had a daughter and I had a grandson. And he was there. When both of them died, he was there. Now, I only have a granddaughter left. And now, he has her, and I'm afraid for her."

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Source: Joe Mozingo, Times Staff Writer

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