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Larry Birkhead won custody of daughter Dannielynn, now 3, after a bitter fight, but said he has since established a friendly working relationship with Anna Nicole Smith’s former attorney, Howard K. Stern, who contested his paternity. He said he feels Stern didn’t have “anything to do” with Smith’s death.
TODAY contributor
updated 5/13/2010 10:07:19 AM ET 2010-05-13T14:07:19

She is a perfect little girl, with rosy cheeks and blue eyes and blond hair and ruby lips. Which is hardly surprising: Her mother was Anna Nicole Smith.

At the moment, little Dannielynn Birkhead is oblivious to how famous her mother was and how many tabloid covers she graced and how many paparazzi pursued her and how much controversy she left in her wake and how she died of a drug overdose.

For one thing, she’s just 3 ½ — too young to understand much beyond the reality that her daddy says her mommy’s in heaven. Besides, she’s sound asleep at the moment, in the comforting arms of her father, Larry Birkhead, who’s talking about the little girl with TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in New York.

‘A wild ride’
Dannielynn was just 5 months old when her mother died. Birkhead had to go through a custody battle that was decided by a DNA test to prove that he was the girl’s father and get custody of her.

“It’s been a wild ride, but we’re settled. There’s always drama, there’s always headlines, there’s always things that pop up,” Birkhead told Vieira. “But we’re happy. She’s a happy baby, and we’re moving ahead.”

Smith, a model, reality TV star and stunningly beautiful former Playmate of the Year, had declared bankruptcy before her death in 2007. At the time, she was living with her lawyer and partner, Howard K. Stern, who had also claimed paternity of Dannielynn.

Stern and two of Smith’s doctors are scheduled to go on trial in August on charges of providing Smith with the prescription drugs that killed her. In the meantime, he is the executor of her estate.

Birkhead was initially at odds with Stern over the issue of paternity. But, he told Vieira, the two are now friends.

“I don’t think he had anything to do with Anna Nicole’s death,” Birkhead said. ‘If anyone wondered if he would harm Anna or Dannie, I would say you’re crazy. She basically was his life and still is to this day.”

Marriages and money
Smith was married twice. The first time was as a teenage high school dropout in Texas. The second was to Texas oil billionaire J. Howard Marshall, whom she married in 1994 when she was 26 and he was 89.

Marshall died a year later, leaving nothing in his will to Smith. She sued, and the case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court. An initial award of $88 million was thrown out, and Dannielynn, Smith’s lone heir, has gotten no money from Marshall’s estate.

Image: Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith
At the time of her death, Anna Nicole Smith was living with her attorney, Howard K. Stern, who claimed paternity of Dannielynn.
To provide money for Dannielynn’s education and future, Birkhead has agreed to auction off clothing, artwork, furniture, a car, a doggy bed and other memorabilia once belonging to Smith. The auction is to be conducted by Julien’s Auctions on June 26 at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Smith was an artist, and one of her paintings being auctioned is a whimsical portrait of Bubbles, one of the Powerpuff Girls of cartoon fame, her eyes bloodshot, smoking a cigarette.

“It’s a dazed and confused Powerpuff Girl,” Birkhead remarked as he and auction owner Darren Julien showed off some of the items, including a full-length fur coat and a skimpy pink showgirl’s costume that Smith wore to a Halloween party at the Playboy Mansion.

Good and bad
These are also things that Dannielynn is not yet aware of, just as she’s not aware that her mom died of a prescription drug overdose.

Slideshow: Anna Nicole memorabilia

“Luckily she’s not Googling yet,” Birkhead joked. “She’s still just a kid. There will be the time when she’ll learn things about her mom. But they’re not all bad things. Her mom was a great individual. She did a lot of things for charity. She was happy, she loved kids. Even though she had a tragic death, she loved life. There are happy things I can tell her about.”

Birkhead said it won’t be until his daughter goes to school that she will start to hear some of the more controversial things about her mother.

Dannielynn was named after Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel, who died of a drug overdose just days after the girl was born. This is another unhappy detail about her family that she will learn someday, and Birkhead will have to deal with.

Image: Larry Birkhead, Dannielynn
Charlie Riedel  /  AP
Larry Birkhead said he tries to have playdates for Dannielynn, but it’s difficult in the glare of publicity.
But not yet. “She’s like any other kid, except there’s a lot of attention on her,” Birkhead said. “We try to do the playdates like any other family. Sometimes it’s difficult. People pop cameras out.”

Although he spends significant time in Los Angeles, Birkhead has his roots in Kentucky, and he goes there to find peace.

“We have a house that I’m just finishing in Kentucky,” he said. “She’s going to start preschool soon, and hopefully have a quiet life, as normal as she can, and just be happy.”

Dannielynn is aware that other kids have moms and she doesn’t.

Slideshow: Anna Nicole Smith “She has these playdates where she sees other kids with moms. She sees cartoon characters with their mothers. She’s curious,” Birkhead told Vieira. “Down the road, when she starts school, it’s going to be a little more difficult. I think that’s when I’ll turn to some expert help. I’ve never been through a situation, obviously, like this.

“I’ll just do the best I can with the knowledge that I have and support from friends and family.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Birkhead: Stern didn’t cause Anna Nicole’s death

  1. Closed captioning of: Birkhead: Stern didn’t cause Anna Nicole’s death

    >>> to wear chico's. what life is like now for anna nicole smith 's daughter , danny loin. she is here, along with her father, larry birkhead . we'll talk to them in a moment, but first, here's nbc 's natalie morales .

    >> dannielynn was just five months old when her mother died setting off a heated custody battle. now more than three years later she is a happy toddler and her father is making plans for her future. at just 3 1/2 years old, dannielynn birkhead has been in the spotlight her entire life. the daughter of the late "playboy" model anna nicole smith , dannielynn was born into life exposed to drugs, death and legal battles that continue to this day. in 2007 , anna nicole smith died from an accidental drug overdose , just days after her giving birth to dannielynn . anna nicole 's lawyer, howard k. stern , took the fight for custody of dannielynn to court and lost.

    >> when you compare dannielynn 's life to a few years ago when her mother just died, there was this huge fight over the paternity and there is a big question of who the father was, you look at her life now, there is a lot of stability, a very strong father in larry and life seems to be pretty good for dannielynn right now.

    >> reporter: but in march, a federal court ruled anna nicole 's estate is not entitled to $88 million left by smith's late husband , billionaire oil magnet j. howard marshall .

    >> the ruling essentially meant that dannielynn , who is the sole heir to anna nicole smith 's estate would not get any money . we're talking a lot of money .

    >> reporter: now in an effort to raise money to support her, dannielynn 's father, larry birkhead , is set to sell off some of the ex-model's memorabilia at an upcoming auction in las vegas . but the glare of the spotlight may return to dannielynn later this summer when stern, her mother's former attorney and two of the doctors who treated her, go on trial for charges of illegally supplying smith with the prescription drugs that killed her.

    >> this is going to be very dramatic and it is going to put anna nicole smith right back in the headlines.

    >> by the way, that trial is set to begin on august 4th in los angeles . meredith ?

    >> natalie, thank you very much . larry birkhead is here along with his sleepy daughter , dannielynn . good morning to you. we mentioned before you were out last night seeing " mary poppins ." she obviously had a good time and is sleeping in this morning. it's been over three years since anna nicole was found in that hotel in florida . you gained custody of dannielynn after a rather drawn out custody battle with her attorney, howard k. stern , sort of thrown into this role of being a single dad. what's this been like for you?

    >> it's been a wild ride but i'm settled and there's always drama, always headlines, there's always things that pop up, anna nicole and keeps the memory kind of fresh. it is kind of hard to move on. but we're happy and she's happy baby and -- tired but happy. we're moving ahead .

    >> what is day to day life like for you guys?

    >> she's like any other kid. except there is a lot of attention on her and we try to do the play dates like any other family . sometimes it is difficult, people pop cameras up and do things. but we have a house that i just finishing in kentucky. she'll start preschool soon. hopefully have a quiet life and as normal as she can. just be happy.

    >> she's going to start preschool soon which means she's going to start asking a lot of questions, if she hasn't already about her mom, where her mom is, what's happened. what have you told her about her mom?

    >> originally you try to be as child-friendly as you can. first i started with mommy's in the clouds, now we'll graduate to mommy's in heaven. she has these play dates where she sees other kids with moms, she sees cartoon characters with their mothers. she's curious. right now we just keep it as friendly as we can and i think down the road, with her starting school it is going to be a little more difficult. i think that's what i'll turn to some expert help to help me. i've never been in a situation obviously like this, of this magnitude. i just do the best i can with the knowledge i have and with support from friends and family . they try and help me.

    >> i was going to say, because anna nicole 's life was at times extremely complicated and very troubled. those are things that are documented, that she at some point is going to see it or wonder about it, someone will say something to her.

    >> luckily she's not googling yet. she's just still a kid. there will be the time when she'll learn things about her mom. but, again, they're not all bad things. her mom was a great individual and she was -- she did a lot of things for charity. she was happy, she loved kids. even though she met a tragic death, she loved life and there were many things that -- happy things that i can tell her about her mom.

    >> over the course of the past three years, larry, you've been criticized from time to time for being on the cover of a lot of magazines, being on a lot of entertainment shows. especially in the beginning we saw a lot of you with your daughter . do you think you were unfairly criticized? do you understand where that came from?

    >> well, i guess everybody's going to be criticized for something. i don't think that -- think there was such a soap opera and there were so many people that were rooting for one person or another and there was a ton of interest. so to me, i tried to find a balance of allowing people's curiosity to be met, but also at the same time shielding her. i think i've done a great job. i don't see her nearly as much as you do other celebrity children . she's rarely anymore seen and that's one of the reasons why we traveled back to kentucky and kind of the safe haven where you don't have all of that. but, you know, i just realize you're going to get criticized for something at all times. i just do the best job i can do as a father.

    >> you also traveled to l.a. a lot because you're still dealing with the estate on a constant basis. that means you're dealing with howard k. stern who is the executor. now he is going to go to trial for -- accused of supplying the drugs that killed anna nicole . do you feel he should continue to be executor? is there anything you can do about that?

    >> well, at this point, the estate 's moving along as needed, and at some point if there's any reason why he shouldn't be or -- you know, i think that he's been charged in the media as being guilty already. he think he and the doctors have their day in court . if it leads to something else other than not guilty , then i think at that time we have to address it. at this time we have a working relationship where he has been -- we had the paternity struggle, but then on the estate level and business, he actually has become a friend and at this time -- i don't think that he had anything to do with anna nicole 's death. obviously. but --

    >> you don't.

    >> i don't. i think some of his interests in her might have clouded some of his judgment as far as the paternity battle being resolved and that whole issue. but i think as far as if anyone were to ever tell me he'd harm anna or daniel, that would be crazy. that basically was their life. and still is to this day, he's still working for the estate , still doing things. there is a lot of things in the headlines about the judgment and they're continuing that whole fight on to the supreme court as far as i know.

    >> you're standing by him, at least for the time being .

    >> well, you know, i've been a witness. i've cooperated with the authorities and i've told them everything that i know. their attempts to try to build a time line . if that were to lead to something down the road, then i'm open-minded as far as that goes. but at this point, i've seen nothing to the contrary that he would do anything to harm them.

    >> when we come back, we'll show you some of the


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