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Anna Nicole buried in Bahamasin ceremony fit for a queen

March 5th, 2007 11:21 am by Associated Press




NASSAU, Bahamas - Her coffin covered in a pink rhinestone-studded blanket, Anna Nicole Smith was buried Friday as she lived: extravagantly dressed in a designer gown and surrounded by a small cadre of competing admirers.


The reality TV star was mourned at a lavish memorial service, but while her body was laid to rest, the fight over the former Playboy Playmate's baby daughter - and a potential multimillion dollar inheritance - remains very much alive. Her companion Howard K. Stern, her mother Virgie Arthur and her former boyfriend Larry Birkhead are battling for custody of 5-month-old Dannielynn.


Smith's mahogany coffin, topped by the pink blanket with rhinestones spelling out her name, was carried into Mount Horeb Baptist Church as hundreds of tourists and fans watched from behind steel barricades guarded by police. Some in the crowd cried out "Anna! Anna! We love you!"


Inside the church, Smith's favorite color was on display. Pink roses and flower arrangements lined the aisle and adorned the altar, where organizers placed two photos of the blonde bombshell - including one showing her in a shimmering white gown and striking a Marilyn Monroe-like pose.


There were fewer than 100 guests at the service, even though an organizer said about 300 - including an "Entertainment Tonight" camera crew - had been invited. Rock guitarist Slash, formerly of Guns N' Roses, was among the guests, and country singer Joe Nichols performed two songs, guests said.


Arthur, Birkhead and Stern took turns eulogizing the 39-year-old Smith, who died last month in a Florida hotel.


"It was pretty tough. The funeral itself was a mixture of emotions, there was a lot of crying and laughing," Birkhead, wearing a pink tie, told MSNBC after the service.


He also referred to comments Stern reportedly made at the service about the legal fight over custody of Smith's daughter.


"We were all given equal amount of time and that's how he chose to spend his time. I wouldn't have used my time that way. ... It doesn't make anything better," Birkhead said.


Kathryn Beranich, a supervising producer on Smith's reality TV show, said she thought Smith would have been happy with the ceremony. "I think she wouldn't have been pleased with the division between her biological family and the extended family she created and loved," she told The Associated Press.


Smith was later buried next to her 20-year-old son, Daniel, who died in September of an apparent drug overdose while visiting Smith in the hospital after she gave birth. "Entertainment Tonight" said she was buried with an urn containing some of the ashes of her late husband, Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II.


Onlookers, a mixture of Bahamians and tourists, spontaneously broke into the hymn "When Peace Like a River" as the white hearse and the rest of the funeral cortege reached the cemetery. Some in the crowd booed Smith's mother when she arrived, though she had been cheered earlier by the crowd outside the memorial service.


In a last-minute bid to halt the burial, Arthur, who wanted her daughter buried in her native Texas, sought to have Supreme Court Justice Anita Adams grant her custody of Smith's body, but the Bahamian judge denied the request just before the service began, according to Lilliemae MacDonald, the judge's secretary.


Smith was buried in a custom-made gown, said organizer Patrik Simpson of Beverly Hills, Calif.


Some tourists were amazed at all the security and media.


"I'm just incredulous at all the fuss," said Christie Rathgaber, a 59-year-old nurse from Columbus, Ohio. "She was not a world figure. She was not a queen. She was not a president. She was not anything. ... It's just way over the top."


The legal wrangling that began with Smith's death won't end with the funeral: There is pending legal action over custody of her daughter, who stands to inherit a fortune, and over ownership of a Bahamas mansion Smith used to establish residency in the islands last year.


An official inquest into the death of Daniel Smith in the Bahamas is also pending.


Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward Country medical examiner, said he will announce Anna Nicole Smith's cause of death next week. She died on Feb. 8 in a Florida hotel room. "This was a complex case," Perper said. "It was an unusual case from a medical point of view."


Smith married Marshall in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Smith could pursue her claim in federal court.

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