Larry Birkhead, whose DNA confirms his contention he fathered the baby of the late Anna Nicole Smith, says he is relieved and hopes to put his two-month ordeal behind him quickly so he begin bonding with his infant daughter.
“The truth is the truth,” Birkhead, a 34-year-old California photographer, said during an exclusive interview Wednesday on TODAY. “It was bound to happen. It seemed like it was forever. Yesterday was just a great day for me and Dannielynn.”
Birkhead emerged from a courtroom in the Bahamas on Tuesday to announce to a cheering crowd that DNA tests confirmed to a “99.999 percent” certainty that he fathered the now seven-month-old girl. Smith’s lawyer and boyfriend at the time of her death, Howard K. Stern, accepted the finding, hugged Birkhead and said he would help Birkhead fight any custody battle for Dannielynn Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur of Texas, might press.
Birkhead told TODAY host Meredith Vieira that the two-month court battle with Stern, whose name appears on the child’s birth certificate as the father, placed a great stress on him. The burden was lifted by the DNA finding, said Birkhead, whose eyes filled with tears as he descended the courthouse steps Tuesday, telling the crowd, “I told you so!”
“[It was] just a sense of relief this was on its way to be over. We don’t know what is ahead, but just to be named the father,” Birkhead said. “It was almost like being an Academy Award with a sealed envelope and they release the name, and you are waiting to hear. To have that heavy weight off your shoulders is just incredible. It was just a magical moment.”
Anna Nicole knew he was the dad
Birkhead was a little known name until Anna Nicole Smith overdosed on prescription drugs Feb. 8 in Florida and died, leaving Dannielynn without a parent and questions about the identity of the father and future heir of Smith's millions.
Birkhead, Stern and several other men, including actor Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, claimed to be the father. Competing legal proceedings were launched in California, Florida and the Bahamas, where Smith and Stern moved last July. Smith’s 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, died of a drug overdose in the Bahamas in September, three days after Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern was born.
Smith always knew Birkhead was the father, he insisted Wednesday, but for reasons known only to Anna Nicole Smith she listed Stern as the father on Dannielynn’s birth certificate.
“Yes, Meredith, she knew,” Birkhead told Vieira. “There were reasons why we had our clashes in our relationship, but we both knew. That is why I was so steadfast in maintaining the whole time I was the father.”
Birkhead said that there is a place in Dannielynn’s life for Stern, Arthur and anyone else who legitimately loves the baby, and he does not plan to interfere with those relationships.
“There's only one dad, and I have no problem with anyone who has good intentions being allowed to see the baby and be part of the baby's life,” Birkhead said.
Giving her everything she needs
As for the near future, it could be as long as 30 days before custody of Dannielynn is formally transferred to Birkhead. He says he is ready to accept Dannielynn into his life, and care for her for the rest of hers.
“I'm looking forward to giving Dannielynn everything that she needs, and all the love and support, and to being a dad,” he said. “I can't wait for that day. She has lots of toys and a nursery ready for her. She has everything she's going to need and all I have to do is give her the love, and that's what I'm ready and prepared to do.”
In the long-term, Birkhead said he knows that Dannielynn will find out one day all about her mother — the former stripper, Playboy centerfold, model and reality TV star who was widowed by elderly oil tycoon and who finally died of a drug overdose — and he'll have to “delicately” put Anna Nicole Smith's life into perspective.
“I’ll just let her know her mother was a great lady and try to put the pieces together for her in an appropriate way,” Birkhead said.