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Howard K. Stern, Anna Nicole Smith
Brett Coomer  /  AP
Anna Nicole Smith smiles as she walks to the courthouse with Howard Stern, her attorney, in this file photo from Oct. 2, 2000, in Houston. Howard K. Stern claims he is the father of Anna Nicole's baby, Dannielynn.
Access Hollywood
updated 2/15/2007 7:07:31 PM ET 2007-02-16T00:07:31

Back in 2004, Howard K. Stern was often seen as nothing more than Anna Nicole Smith’s coat man.

Now, three years later, Stern is in the middle of a legal battle for Anna’s daughter and her fortune.

But the question is… who is Howard K. Stern?

“I kind of wear two different hats for Anna Nicole. One is lawyer and the other is friend,” Stern told Access Hollywood’s Tony Potts back 2002.

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And sometimes those duties included doggie handler. When Anna Nicole visited with Tony on the NBC lot in 2002, Howard stood nearby watching Anna’s pooch.

Born in Los Angeles in 1968, Howard Kevin Stern met Anna Nicole Smith in the mid-1990s, when his law firm was handling her modeling contracts. When Anna was fighting for her late husband’s fortune, Howard presented Anna’s direct examination at the trial.

Howard was right by Anna’s side every step of the way. Although he still has an apartment in Santa Monica where he operated a business called Hot Smoochie Lips , Inc., his law firm dissolved about the same time he became a co-star on “The Anna Nicole Show” on E!

But things weren’t always rosy between Howard and Anna.

“We’ve had some knock down drag out fights,” Stern told Tony.

“Oh God. He’s like my brother,” Anna added. “All we do is fight.”

“Why is that?” Tony asked.

“Just because we’re so close. I think any two people who are really close, they fight and anybody who says they don’t is either lying or just in denial,” Howard replied.

But is it good for an attorney to get that close?

“People have different theories on it. For me, I think it’s definitely good. I think my representation is much stronger because of it,” Stern explained.

And Howard clearly enjoyed the newfound attention. He even co-starred (albeit in drag) with Anna Nicole in the 2003 movie “Wasabi Tuna.”

In September 2006, after the death of Anna Nicole’s son Daniel, Stern told Larry King that he and Anna had been hiding a romantic relationship for quite awhile.

“Anna and I have been in a relationship and we love each other,” Stern told King.

But Anna’s longtime friend Jackie Hatten found that hard to believe.

“She swore to me, ‘I will never be with this person. He is not attractive to me. I do not find him appealing,’” Hatten revealed to Access Hollywood.

In 2002, Anna talked to the other Howard Stern about her relationship with Howard K. Stern.

“Did you ever have any sexual feelings for Howard K. Stern?” the shock jock asked Anna.

“I just couldn’t,” a candid Anna replied. “The next day I probably wouldn’t be able to look at him.”

Howard’s brother, private school principal Gary Stern, went on the “Today” show to defend his brother.

“My brother cared deeply, deeply for Anna Nicole,” Gary said.

But too many questions still remain.

Was Howard always secretly in love with Anna Nicole or was he just a man who got caught up in her glamorous lifestyle?

Perhaps in the tragedy of Daniel’s death, Anna and Howard found comfort in each other and truly fell in love. Or perhaps Howard was the Svengali-like controller responsible for Anna’s downfall.

We may never know.

Copyright 2013 by NBC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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