Anna Nicole Smith is in limbo. Her baby is in the Bahamas. And, suddenly, Zsa Zsa Gabor is in the picture.
Just another day in the surreal life—and sudden death—of Anna Nicole Smith.
One day after Smith was found dead in her Florida hotel room, lawyers battled in court over the star's DNA, the mother of the deceased made a move that portended a potential new challenge and, to make sure nobody got bored, Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband stepped forward to say that he might be the father of Smith's infant daughter.
"It's such a cliché, but it is such a perfect storm of events," estate-planning attorney Christopher Cline said Friday. "I've dealt with all of them. I've never dealt with all of them at once."
The day began in a Los Angeles courtroom with an emergency hearing over the parentage of Dannielynn Hope, Smith's five-month-old surviving child.
The hearing was called by the camp of photographer Larry Birkhead, Smith's ex-boyfriend and the first man to publicly declare himself to be Dannielynn's father.
Birkhead's side was seeking almost-immediate DNA samples from the deceased Smith. The judge denied the motion. But he did order Smith's body be preserved until at least Feb. 20, when another hearing will be held.
Birkhead attorney Debra Opri suggested Smith's DNA was needed to ensure that a "bait and switch" wasn't pulled with Dannielynn's DNA test, which the court earlier ruled was to be completed by Feb. 21.
Smith attorney Ron Rale called the "bait and switch" argument "a bunch of nonsense." He thought even less of Birkhead's emergency hearing.
"I thought it was extremely disrespectful to be in court today," Rale told reporters. "To face this hearing right after Anna Nicole died."
Neither Birkhead nor Howard K. Stern, the longtime Smith attorney who is named as the father on Dannielynn's birth certificate, was present.
Birkhead was in Los Angeles but was too "devastated" to attend, Opri said.
Stern was in Florida, where Smith died at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.
Dannielynn, the focal point, was absent, too.
The infant, who did not accompany her mother on the ill-fated Florida excursion, was in the Bahamas, where Smith lived most of the final months of her life. She was said to be in the care of a Smith friend.
Joining Dannielynn on the Caribbean island, if not in person, was her maternal grandmother, Virgie Arthur.
Fresh from her Good Morning America appearance, Arthur checked in with Bahamian police Friday, TMZ reported. The woman, who was long estranged from Smith, was said to be "check[ing] all her options" with regard to the custody of Dannielynn.
Then there was Gabor's eighth husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, who told the Associated Press he would sue—for visitation rights? for custody?—if either Stern or Birkhead is awarded custody of Dannielynn.
There was no word on what von Anhalt would do if, say, Arthur ended up with the girl.
And there was no word on what Gabor, now 90, had to say about what von Anhalt had to say.
In any case, von Anhalt, who wed Gabor, an original celebutante, in 1986, claimed Friday that he carried on a decade-long affair with Smith after meeting her in New York in the 1990s.
In von Anhalt's mind, and per his math, he, not Stern or Birkhead, is Dannielynn's father.
"If you go back from September," von Anhalt told the AP, "she wasn't with one of those guys, she was with me."
Von Anhalt, whose age is as iffy as his status as a royal—although he's believed to be in his late 50s or early 60s—was so taken with the former Playboy Playmate, he said, that he once considered not divorcing Gabor but adopting Smith. (Coincidentally, per a 1986 People profile, van Anhalt came by his princely status in 1980 when, in the prime of his adult life, he was adopted by an elderly princess.)
The Smith adoption was scuttled, von Anhalt told the AP, when Gabor refused to sign off on the buxom bundle of joy.
If the adoption had gone through, von Anhalt could have found himself in the odd position of trying to establish paternity rights to his own grandchild.
The von Anhalt development, though delicious, is a minor storyline, legal experts say, in the epic number of issues surrounding Smith's much-litigated life and soon-to-be-litigated legacy.
At the time of Smith's death, the star was engaged in the ongoing battle over the parentage of Dannielynn; the ongoing battle over the millions of J. Howard Marshall, Smith's late oil-tycoon husband; and various other lawsuits, including one filed last week against her and the weight-loss company she endorsed.
Smith's death doesn't wipe out any pending litigation. The celebrity's estate, for instance, can choose to continue the fight with the Marshall clan and seek the nearly $90 million awarded to Smith in the case by a California court.
Said Cline, a partner in the law firm of Holland and Knight: "These are all fairly simple matters generally."
Specifically, in the Smith matter, there is one question, that until answered, makes everything fairly complicated: Who is Anna Nicole Smith's estate?
Who is in charge?
Is it Stern? Is it Dannielynn? And if it is Dannielynn, who is Dannielynn's father or legal guardian?
"This is really a probate issue," Austen Parrish, an associate professor of law at Southwestern Law School, said Friday. "The first question is, what does her will provide, and is her daughter the successor?"
This is assuming, of course, that Smith left a will.
"If she had thought this through ahead of time," Parrish said, "she probably would have had an attorney create a trust for her daughter."
In the event of a trust, Parrish said, Dannielynn, not Dannielynn's father, would be in control of Smith's estate.
To Cline, the ultimate matter of who is in charge won't be addressed until another practical matter is addressed: Whose laws apply?
Will Smith be viewed as a resident of Los Angeles, where she worked and lived for years? Or perhaps as a resident of the Bahamas, where she moved during her pregnancy last year?
Give it time, and still even more questions pop up, such as: What if Stern, who exchanged commitment vows with Smith last September, declares he was his longtime client's legal husband?
"There's a kaleidoscope of issues that bounce off each other," Cline said.
Cline even sees a scenario where Stern and Birkhead split the Smith estate. In that one, Birkhead is deigned Dannielynn's father, Stern is deigned Smith's legal husband, and there's no valid will to offer its opinion on who gets what.
"So, you can see this is a chain reaction," Cline said.
The way Cline sees it, there's one sure way to limit the fireworks.
"If everybody has the best interests of that poor little girl," Cline said, "then a lot of these issues will start to fall into place."