NASSAU, Bahamas — Anna Nicole Smith, her coffin covered with a rhinestone-studded blanket and her portrait on the church altar, was mourned by family and friends Friday during a funeral service before a white hearse took her body to the cemetery.
The mahogany coffin was carried into the white-columned Mount Horeb Baptist Church, as hundreds of tourists and fans watched from behind steel barricades guarded by Bahamian police. Some in the crowd cried out “Anna! Anna! We love you!”
Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, arrived in a white stretch limousine with an entourage of about 10 people. She wore a black dress and waved to the cheering crowd.
Smith’s casket was closed and the pews were festooned with pink flowers, said Yvonne Gibson, one of the guests. There were fewer than 100 guests, even though an organizer said about 300 — including an “Entertainment Tonight” camera crew — had been invited.
Slideshow: Anna Nicole Smith The TV program reported on its Web site that guitarist Slash, formerly of Guns N’ Roses, was among the guests, and country singer Joe Nichols had been expected to sing two songs requested by Smith’s boyfriend, Howard K. Stern: “I’ll Wait for You” and Dolly Parton’s “On the Wings of a Dove.”
Smith’s body was then taken to the Lakeview Memorial Gardens for a private burial with a smaller group of invited guests, said Richard Milstein, the court-appointed advocate for Smith’s 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn. Onlookers, mostly Bahamians, spontaneously broke out into the hymn “When Peace Like a River” as the white hearse arrived.
Boos for Smith's mother
Arthur, who had been cheered earlier at the memorial, was booed as she arrived at the cemetery. The guests disappeared under a green tent covering the gravesite amid tight security. Smith was being buried in a tiara and custom-made, beaded gown, said organizer Patrik Simpson of Beverly Hills, Calif.
Smith’s grave is next to that of 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 Smith would be also buried with an urn containing some of the ashes of her late husband, Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II.
Simpson’s partner, Pol Atteu, has designed more than a dozen gowns for Smith, including the one in which she was to be buried, he said. Simpson said Wednesday the ceremony would reflect Smith’s buoyant personality.
Gazing at the ranks of TV cameras and security outside the memorial service, Christie Rathgaber, a tourist, was amazed.
“She’s got a presidential kind of media frenzy going on,” said the 59-year-old nurse from Columbus, Ohio, who happened by the scene while waiting for nearby shops to open. “I’m just incredulous at all the fuss. 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.”
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Legal wrangling to continue
The legal wrangling that began with Smith’s unexpected death at age 39 won’t end with the funeral: There is pending legal action on the custody of Smith’s daughter, who stands to inherit a fortune, and on ownership of a Bahamas mansion Smith used to establish residency in the islands last year.
In a last-minute bid to halt the burial, Arthur sought to have Supreme Court Justice Anita Adams grant her custody of Smith’s body, but the Bahamian judge denied it, according to Lilliemae MacDonald, the justice’s secretary.
“Her soul is at rest now. I am satisfied,” said Tanisha Grant, a local restaurant owner who was friends with Smith and attended the funeral.
An official inquest into the death of Daniel Smith in the Bahamas is also pending.
Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward 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’s mother had wanted to bury her daughter in her native Texas, and fought last week’s court ruling that gave control of the body to Milstein, who agreed with Stern that the former Playboy Playmate wanted to be buried next to her son, Daniel.
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.
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