Larry Birkhead, ex-boyfriend to the late Anna Nicole Smith and father to her lone heir, was cheered by Louisville residents as he entered the Barnstable Brown gala, the annual party where he met Smith in 2004.
Birkhead returned to his hometown, Louisville, from the Bahamas on Tuesday for the Derby week festivities, accompanied by his and Smith’s 7-month-old daughter, Dannielynn.
After Smith’s death in January, Birkhead was among several suitors who claimed paternity. Birkhead prevailed when tests showed he is the father, and he was allowed to leave the Bahamas with the baby this week.
He attended the party Friday as a celebrity in his own right. The annual event is a long-standing tradition hosted by sisters Patricia Barnstable Brown and Priscilla Barnstable that brings out celebrities and gawkers.
“It’s exciting, but it’s sad,” Birkhead said. “It’s a great party.”
He said Dannielynn was at home, getting to know his family.
“She’s doing great,” he said. “She’s eating well. She’s sleeping well.”
Celebrity watchers camped outside the party early and were pinned in behind metal barricades at the edge of the undulating green lawn. A heavy downpour soaked about 60 of them well before any celebrities showed up.
Worth the wait
Louisville resident Shawn Martin endured the rain with only a light fleece jacket. His devotion was targeted at one particular sports icon. Asked why he waited through the downpour, Martin said, “Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl out in the rain, and that’s who I came to see.”
The wait was worth it for Martin as he was able to see Manning arrive for the gala.
Other early guests to arrive were actress and model Jenny McCarthy, actress Cybill Shepherd, celebrity chef Bobby Flay, Olympic ski racer Bode Miller and actor Jerry O’Connell.
The sisters co-host the gala to raise funds for diabetes research at the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky.
Brown’s late husband, David E. Brown, was the inspiration behind the gala. After a long battle with diabetes, he died in July 2003.