Larry Birkhead, the photographer embroiled in a legal tug-of-war over Anna Nicole Smith's baby, says he never doubted that he fathered the little girl whom he knew only from photos in tabloid magazines.
“I knew when I looked at her she was mine. I said, ‘That's my baby. She looks like me. She's mine,’ ” Birkhead said during an exclusive interview with “Access Hollywood's” Tony Potts. “There was not a doubt.”
Birkhead, 34, at times choking back tears and sometimes openly crying, spoke about his relationship with Smith and his ongoing fight with Howard K. Stern over paternity of five-month-old Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.
The interview was taped in the Bahamas, where Birkhead is fighting in court to compel a DNA test to counter a birth certificate listing Stern as the father of the child who stands to inherit Smith's millions.
Birkhead became the most emotional when he described saying his final goodbye while viewing Smith's body in a Florida morgue last week.
“There was something she made me say every night before she went to sleep,” Birkhead said, tears spilling down his cheeks. “I said, ‘Good night my sweet Anna baby.’ That's what she wanted me to say to her every night before she went to sleep.”
Birkhead said he was seated in a dentist's chair on Feb. 8 when a television brought him the news that Smith, his 39-year-old former girlfriend collapsed and was rushed to a South Florida hospital.
‘Somebody save her’
“My phone was in my pocket. It just started going crazy. I knew something was going wrong,” Birkhead recalled through his tears. “I got to a friend of mine and he said, ‘We don't want you to hear about this on television, but it doesn't look good.’ I kept saying no. I said, ‘No! Save her! Somebody save her.’ ”
The medical examiner has yet to rule on the cause of Smith's death, which touched off a bizarre courtroom battle for control of her remains. Late last week, Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin awarded custody of the body to Dannielynn's court-appointed guardian, but Smith's estranged mother appealed the ruling and got a higher court to stay the decision on Monday.
He recalled the day last winter when he realized that Anna Nicole Smith was pregnant.
“She just had this different look about her. It was really weird because her skin, everything looked different,” Birkhead said. “Everything was weird. As soon as she went to sleep, I took my hand and I went over and kind of felt. I just laid my hand there because I knew at that moment she was pregnant .... She said, ‘Yes, we're having a baby.’ ”
But it wasn't long after that when Smith abruptly moved to the Bahamas with Stern, her longtime friend and attorney. Birkhead said he first laid eyes on Dannielynn when he viewed low-resolution images Smith and Stern sent to tabloid magazines to see if they were interested in purchasing photographs.
Birkhead did not discuss unconfirmed news reports that he got to meet and hold Dannielynn for the first time over the weekend. He also did not mention a deal reportedly under consideration in which he would get custody of the baby and Stern remains the administrator of Smith's estate.
Birkhead said that when Dannielynn gets older, he wants her to know about her mother and hopes he can counter the negative images of Smith in the press with his own fond memories of the former model and star of her own television reality series.
“I just want her to know all of the good stuff. I want her to know that she was a great person,” Birkhead said. “She was a loving person. She loved kids.”
More of the interview will air on “Access Hollywood” Tuesday night. Check local listings.
— John Springer, contributor for TODAY